Turkey Sausage Stuffed Game Hens

Sausage Stuffed Game Hens5
Game Hens are generally too small to stuff efficiently, so these are spatch-cocked and laid on top of the stuffing to bake. One hen serves two and makes a comforting and elegant main dish. Perfect for a cold, wet winter evening.

2 20 oz. Game Hens, Spatch-cocked
2 cups stale bread cubed
4 oz turkey breakfast sausage cooked and crumbled
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup finely diced celery
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
salt and pepper to taste

1. Season the Game Hens. Saute the sausage and crumble. Set aside.

2. In the oil, saute the onion, garlic, celery, and walnuts. Return the sausage to the same skillet

3. Add the chicken broth, bread cubes and poultry seasoning. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

4. Place the cooled stuffing in an oven proof casserole. Lay the halves over the stuffing and season as desired

5. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Check for doneness (juices should run clear).

6. Remove from oven, cover with foil and keep warm until serving. Goes well with minted peas.

Servings: 4

Cooking Times
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes

Oven Temperature: 350°F

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/4 of a recipe (11.4 ounces).
Percent daily values based on the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition information calculated from recipe ingredients. One of the recipe’s ingredients was not linked. This ingredient is not included in the recipe nutrition data.

nutrition sausage stuffed game hens

Recipe Type: Main Dish

Chicken Pot Pie to Cure What Ails You

chicken pot pie4

Making this comfort food classic for myself. My holiday cold has now lingered into February, and each time I think it’s finally gone, seems to show up yet again with a new assault on my immune system and my sanity. Time for drastic measures!

The point of this dish is symptom relief, not a beauty contest, there’s no need to fuss about making the top crust look like a fruit pie. I have some homemade puff paste in the freezer, so I’m just rolling it an approximate size and laying it on top of the filling. It will draw in during baking, but that’s OK. It’s also fine to use biscuits as a topping, or a grocery store pie crust. Even toast or mashed potatoes. What we’re after is the healing property of chicken!

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, cut into small dice
1 tbsp garlic, thinly sliced
2 stalks celery, chopped
6 medium mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 lb cubed boneless chicken thighs
1 large carrot, diced
2 large potatoes, diced
1 cup chopped green beans
1 cup frozen green peas
2 small tomatoes, chopped
1 tbsp powdered chicken bouillon mix
2-3 cups water
1/4 tsp ground white pepper
1/2 tsp dried tarragon
2 tbsp cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup water
4 oz Homemade Puff Paste or Phyllo pastry sheets

1. In the olive oil, saute the garlic, onion, celery and mushrooms. Add the chicken and cook till opaque.

2. Add the remaining ingredients (EXCEPT the cornstarch and puff paste). Boil gently for 15-20 minutes.

3. Stir in the cornstarch mixture and cook, stirring until thickened (2-3 minutes). Pour into oiled baking dish.

4. Roll our the puff paste, trim, and use to cover the chicken filling.

5. Place dish on a baking sheet to catch spills. Bake at 350 for 30 to 45 minutes until the crust is golden.

Servings: 6

Cooking Times
Preparation Time: 40 minutes
Cooking Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour and 25 minutes

Oven Temperature: 350°F

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/6 of a recipe (18.9 ounces).
Percent daily values based on the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition information calculated from recipe ingredients.

nutrition chicken pot pie

Recipe Type: Main Dish, Poultry

Asian Stir Fry Chicken

asian chicken stir fry 1

Set the chicken up to marinate overnight, and the next day you can have this dish meal ready in half an hour.

The Singapore Spice is optional. It’s a blend of black pepper, lemon peel, garlic, onion, turmeric, coriander, cumin, fenugreek, ginger, nutmeg, fennel, cinnamon, white pepper, cardamom, cloves, and cayenne.

This and many other wonderful spices and blends may be found online at http://www.penzeys.com.

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 tbs soy sauce (gluten-free)
2 tbsp olive or sesame oil
2 tsp molasses
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sesame seeds (white, black or mixed)
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp ground mustard
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp dried onion
1 tsp Penzey’s Singapore Seasoning OPTIONAL
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
1 lb broccoli florets, cut into small pieces
1 cup onion, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cup uncooked rice

1. Rinse and pat the chicken dry.

2. In a small bowl or ziploc bag, combine all soy sauce, olive (or sesame oil) and the spices. Mix well.

3. Add the chicken, making sure all the pieces are covered with the marinade. Refrigerate from 2 hours to overnight, turning occasionally.

4. Prepare the rice and keep it warm.

5. In a large skillet or wok, sauté the chicken, in it’s marinade, until cooked through. if it begins to burn, lower the heat. (Molasses will turn to caramel) Remove the chicken, but keep warm.

6. Adding additional oil if necessary, sauté the onion, mushrooms, and broccoli until crisp tender.

7. Return the chicken to the skillet and reheat, adding up to a 1/4 cup of water or chicken broth if things are too dry.

8. Adjust seasoning to taste. Serve over rice.

Servings: 4

Cooking Times
Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 25 minutes
Inactive Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 30 minutes

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/4 of a recipe (14.7 ounces).
Percent daily values based on the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition information calculated from recipe ingredients. One of the recipe’s ingredients was not linked. This ingredient is not included in the recipe nutrition data.

nutrition asain chicken stir fry

Recipe Type: Gluten-Free, Main Dish, Poultry

Dhedah’s Layered Alsatian Charcuterie

Alsatian Charcuterie6

Today is Dhedah’s (AKA Grandmother Glyn) opportunity to prepare a Sunday evening supper which I know will be a real crowd-pleaser with the family. It’s a slow cooked meat, sauerkraut and potato casserole that my Wisconsin born grandsons will demolish. If you don’t have hungry young men to feed, this is also a great way feed the neighborhood. Serve it with a vinegary cucumber tomato salad, mustard and a selection of pickles to add some balance.

Not low-calorie — but fairly low-carb if you skip to potatoes — but that would be an unforgivable act so far as my grandsons are concerned.

Alsatian Charcuterie1

2 oz thick slices bacon
2 lb. bone-in country pork ribs cut in 3 inch pieces
1 lb sliced onion
1 tbsp sliced garlic
1 lb skinless kielbasa, cut in 4 inch pieces
1 lb bratwurst, halved
10 oz smoked mini cocktail sausages
3 lbs sauerkraut, well-drained
3 lbs small red potatoes
2 tsp ground caraway seeds
salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large slow cooker with a searing function (I love my Ninja!) lightly brown the bacon. Remove the bacon and set aside. Drain and discard all but about 1 tbsp. of the bacon fat.

2. Meanwhile parboil the potatoes. Drain.

3. In the rendered bacon fat, lightly saute the ribs. Remove the ribs and set aside.

4. Add the onions and garlic and, and in the bacon fat, sauté until lightly browned.

5. Arrange the seared ribs over the onions and garlic. Top with half the sauerkraut. Season with half the ground caraway and salt and pepper to taste.

6. Arrange the brauts and kielbasa on the sauerkraut.

7. Top with the remaining saurkraut. Arrange the remaining mini sausages and browned bacon on top. Season with the remaining caraway seed, and salt and pepper to taste.

8. Arrange the parboiled potatoes around the edges of the casserole. Cover and slow cook for four to six hours on low.

9. Serve with spicy brown or dijon mustard, and a variety of pickles.

Alsatian Charcuterie3
Servings: 10

Cooking Times
Preparation Time: 1 hour
Cooking Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 5 hours

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/10 of a recipe (18.9 ounces).

Nutrition Alsatian Charcuterie

Recipe Type: Gluten-Free, Main Dish, Meat, Potatoes, Pasta, and Grains

Grilled Lamb Chops with Za’Atar and Pomegranate Molasses

With only five ingredients (plus salt and pepper) this dish is simple but delicious. To eliminate smoke and grease in the house, I grill these in a Staub grill pan on an induction burner on the screened porch. Cooking takes only about 10 minutes so outdoor cooking is possible, even in January. Both Za’Atar and Pomegranate Molasses are available online or from Middle Eastern markets. I enjoy shopping in the grocery section of Olive Branch Gourmet Foods in East Ridge, TN. 

Serve this with grilled asparagus and minted rice.

3/4 lb loin lamb chops (2-3 chops)
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1-2 tsp Za’Atar seasoning
1 tbsp extra virgin olive-oil
2 tbsp pomegranate seeds

1. In a quart size ziplock bag, combine the Za-atar spice, pomegranate molasses, olive oil.

2. Add the lambchops, seal and turn several times to cover the chops. Marinate about 2 hours (or overnight) turning occasionally.

za'atar marinade

3. Heat your grill or grill pan until very hot. (too hot to hold your hand over for more than a second or two.)

4. Cook the chops about 3-4 minutes per side for medium rare. Set aside to rest for five minutes.

5. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and serve.

Servings: 2

Cooking Times
Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
Inactive Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours and 15 minutes

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/2 of a recipe (6.3 ounces).
Percent daily values based on the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for a 2000 calorie diet.

Nutrition information calculated from recipe ingredients. 2 of the recipe’s ingredients were not linked. These ingredients are not included in the recipe nutrition data.

Nutrition za'atar lamb chops

Recipe Type: Low-Carb, Main Dish, Meat

King Cake For Epiphany

It’s an all day recipe, but it makes enough pastry and filling to freeze for later use.

King Cake For EpiphanyDOING IT THE HARD WAY.

Today, for the Feast of the Epiphany, I’m going to make a Gallette de Rois (King Cake). I’ll be using my vintage copy of Larousse Gastronomique for the puff paste recipe.

Step One Completed: mix 3 3/4 cups flour, 1 1/2 tsp salt and 1 cup water. Knead until smooth and elastic. Let rest 25 minutes (while I start packing up the Creche and some of the Santas).

Roll the dough into a large even rectangle. Place the pound (yes, pound!) of softened butter in the center. Fold to enclose. Chill for 30 minutes. (The recipe calls for a 10 minute chill, but I know from experience that’s for a French kitchen, not an American one, especially not in Chattanooga!)

King Cake 2

This step is repeated six times with a 30 minute rest between steps. A good time to read a book or catch up on the laundry. Roll dough into a long rectangle. Fold in thirds onto itself. Turn folded side down and chill for 30 minutes. Repeat for six turns.

King Cake 7

Make and chill the filling. You’ll need 3/4 cup almond meal ( I ground my own in the food processor.) 6 tbsp softened butter. 3/4 cup confectioners sugar. 2 eggs (reserve one of the yolks for the glaze. 2 tsp corn starch. 1 tsp.vanilla extract and 1/2 tsp almond extract.

Cream together the butter and sugar. Stir in the remaining ingredients and chill for one hour. Keep the remaining egg yolk in the fridge till needed.

Roll out 1/4 of the puff paste to make two circles. (Freeze the rest for another time). Spread about 1/2 of the filling to within an inch of one circle. (Freeze the rest of the filling for later use.) Moisten the edge. Place second circle on top. Press edge to seal. Using the back of a spoon, scallop the edge. Refrigerate one hour.

King Cake 13

Preheat oven to 375. Remove cake from refrigerator. Combine reserved egg yolk with a tsp milk. Brush this mixture over the top but do not let it drip over the edge. Use a knife to lightly score a decorative design. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

King Cake 14

And 9 hours later: C’est Fini

Braised Lamb Shoulder Blade Chops Provencal

Braised Lamb Shoulder Blad (2)

I can’t always find lamb at the nearest grocery store, so when it’s in stock I make sure to get it. These lamb shoulder blade chops are perfect for a braise with onions, celery, garlic, red wine and herbs de Provence. The temperatures are dropping once again and this will make for a very pleasant dinner.

1 lbs thick lamb should blade chops
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 tbsp chopped garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup dry red wine
2 medium carrots peeled and cut in 2″ pieces
1 large potato, peeled and cut in thick slices
2 tsp dried herbs de Provence
onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 275. Pat the chops dry and season with salt, pepper, powdered onion, powdered garlic and some of the herbs de Provence. Set aside

2. In the oil in an oven proof casserole, saute the onion, garlic and celery until golden. Remove to a bowl or plate.

3. Increase the heat till nearly smoking and sear the chops on both sides,

4. Quickly return the sauted vegetables to the pan. Add the carrots and potatoes. Sprinkle on the remaining herbs de Provence.

5. Pour the wine over all, cover, and place in the preheated oven, Cook, covered, 1 1/2 hours.

Servings: 2

Cooking Times
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours

Oven Temperature: 275°F

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/2 of a recipe (20.8 ounces).
Percent daily values based on the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition information calculated from recipe ingredients. 2 of the recipe’s ingredients were not linked. These ingredients are not included in the recipe nutrition data.

Amount Per Serving

nutrition braised lamb shoulder blade chop

Recipe Type: Gluten-Free, Main Dish, Meat

Winter Pork Ragout with Polenta

Pork Ragout1

It’s late afternoon on cold, gray, very rainy January 2nd afternoon. We appear to be the only family in the neighborhood whose holiday lights are still on (we keep them up through the 12 Days of Christmas) and I am especially grateful for their effectiveness in challenging the advancing dark. I’m still, slowly, recovering from a December chest cold and a lingering cough, but I’m snug and warm inside; and after having spent the day reading, am preparing a hearty, warming, supper from ingredients I have on hand.

3 tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped carrot
1/4 cup chopped celery
1 tsp chopped garlic
1 lb boneless pork ribs, cut in half inch pieces
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp ground sage
1/2 tsp dried savory
1/4 tsp dried rosemary
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 1/3 cup dried instant polenta
2 tbsp butter (for the polenta)
4 1/2 cup water

1. In a heavy, lidded casserole, saute the chopped vegetables in the olive oil until crisp and lightly browned.

2. Remove the vegetables to a plant and in the same oil, saute the pork till lightly browned.

3. Stir in the salt, pepper, and spices. Return the veggies to the pan. Add the halved tomatoes.

4. Increase the heat and bring all to sizzle. Pour in the wine. Cover and reduce heat to low.

5. Let simmer/braise for up to 90 minutes. Remove lid and, if necessary reduce the liquid. Adjust the seasoning.

6. Prepare the polenta according to the package directions, and serve topped with the ragu.

Servings: 4

Cooking Times
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/4 of a recipe (20.2 ounces).
Percent daily values based on the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition information calculated from recipe ingredients.

nutrition pork ragout
Recipe Type: Main Dish, Meat

Spiced Lamb Meatballs with Mirepoix and Lentils

Lentil Lamb Meatballs3

Despite my best efforts I caught a cold over the holidays and am now barking like a seal. On the mend, my body now wants something spicy, earthy and warm.

This recipe calls for several unusual ingredients: ras el hanout spice mix, maqluba, and aleppo pepper. Don’t worry if you don’t have them. While they are all very reasonably priced and available at middle eastern markets or online, you may also substitute a mixture of curry powder, cumin, allspice, cardamom, cayenne and cinnamon (among others). there is no set recipe for these spice blends. The point is to find one that you enjoy, so don’t be afraid to experiment.

1 lb ground lamb
1 tsp dried mint
2 tsp ras el hanout, maqluba sice blend or curry powder
1/4 tsp dried aleppo pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup finely diced carrot
1/2 cup finely diced potatoes
1/2 cup finely diced celery
1/2 cup finely diced onion
2 tbsp extra virgin olive-oil
2 tbsp golden raisins
1/2 cup dried lentils
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 cup long grain white rice (steamed)

1. Partially cook the lentils in the chicken broth. (I do 10 minutes in an instant pot). Do not drain.

2. Combine the lamb with the spices. Form into medium sized meatballs and set aside.

3. In the olive oil, in a sturdy stove-top-to-oven lidded casserole, sauté the onion, potato, celery, carrot and raisins.

4. Nestle the meatballs in among the mirepoix veggies and brown lightly, turning once.

5. Top with the lentils and any remaining chicken broth.

6. Cover tightly and cook in a slow (350 degree oven) for up to 90 minutes.

7. Stir, adjust seasoning and serve over steamed rice.

Servings: 6

Cooking Times
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours

Oven Temperature: 300°F

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/6 of a recipe (8.4 ounces).
Percent daily values based on the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for a 2000 calorie diet.

Nutrition information calculated from recipe ingredients. One of the recipe’s ingredients was not linked. This ingredient is not included in the recipe nutrition data.

Nutrition lentils lamb meatballs

Recipe Type: Gluten-Free, Main Dish

Walnut Sage Tortellini

Walnut Sage Tortellini3

Super easy and quick. A filling winter supper dish, especially good for those evenings when you are already cooking for the holidays and don’t have the time or the energy for lots of preparation. Great with a dry white wine.

6 oz dried cheese tortellini
1 tsp chopped garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup walnut halves
1/2 tsp dried sage
1/4 cup shaved parmesan cheese
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
salt to taste

1. Boil the tortellini according to the package directions.

2. Meanwhile, heat the oil to medium in a skillet, Don’t let it smoke.

3. Lightly brown the mushrooms and walnuts. Add the garlic last and don’t let it burn.

4. Season with the sage, cayenne flakes and salt to taste.

5. Toss with the drained pasta, adding a few tablespoons of the cooking liquid, if desired.

6. Serve in shallow bowls, topped with the shaved parmesan.

Servings: 2

Cooking Times
Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/2 of a recipe (7.2 ounces).
Percent daily values based on the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition information calculated from recipe ingredients. One of the recipe’s ingredients was not linked. This ingredient is not included in the recipe nutrition data.

Amount Per Serving
Nutrition Walnut Sage Tortellini

Recipe Type: Main Dish, Pasta

Lamb Meatballs in Lemon Sauce

Lamb Meatballs Lemon Sauce3
We’ve had a 40 degree temperature drop in the past 24 hours, and it’s time for something warming and comforting, but not heavy or starchy. These meatballs are gluten-free and low-carb, and have a rich and creamy sauce; but for those whose meal is not complete without a grain of some sort, try them with rice.

For the Meatballs
1 lb ground lamb (grass fed is best)
1/4 cup ground nuts (I prefer pistachio, but use what you have)
1 small onion finely chopped
1 tsp garlic, finely minced
1 egg
1 tsp dried mint
1 tsp dried dill
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
salt and red pepper to taste
For the Sauce
3 eggs
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 quart chicken broth

1. Combine the first 10 ingredients and mix thoroughly. Chill for 1-3 hours.

2. When lamb is chilled, form the meat mixture into small to medium meatballs.

3. Meanwhile, heat the chicken broth to a slow boil.

4. Gently place the meatballs into the broth and cook till 10-12 minutes. Drain and keep warm.

5. Beat the three additional eggs in a medium bowl and add the lemon juice.

6. Temper the mixture with about a cup of the chicken broth.

7. Stir the lemon egg mixture back into the remainder of the chicken broth and heat gently to thicken the sauce.

8. Return the meatballs to the sauce and warm through. Serve at once.

Lamb Meatballs Lemon Sauce1

Servings: 4

Cooking Times
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
Inactive Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/4 of a recipe (15.7 ounces).
Percent daily values based on the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition information calculated from recipe ingredients. One of the recipe’s ingredients was not linked. This ingredient is not included in the recipe nutrition data.

Amount Per Serving
nutrition Lamb Meatballs in Lemon Sauce

Recipe Type: Gluten-Free, Low-Carb, Main Dish

Chicken Mole for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

A spicy, smooth and rich sauce bathes the shredded chicken as it simmers and fills the house with the aromas of chocolate, cumin, cinnamon and chili powder.

This dish is in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe on her feast day of December 12th. Patron of the Americas, she is said to have appeared to Juan Diego in 1531 near Mexico City.

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 cup chicken broth, reserved from cooking the chicken
2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup onion, finely diced
2 tsp garlic, finely minced
2 cups cherry tomatoes
2 tbsp raisins
2 tbsp shelled pumpkin seeds
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tbsp semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp each, ground cumin, oregano, chili powder and cinnamon
1/2 tsp each, ground cloves and pico fruta spice mix (Penzey’s spices)
1/4 tsp chipotle chili powder
1 tbsp chipotle in adobe sauce
1/2 tsp salt

1. Cook the chicken thighs in chicken broth. Reserve one cup of the broth. Cool and shred the chicken.

2. In a dry skillet, separately char the tomatoes and pumpkin seeds. Set aside.

3. Sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil.

4. In a small food processor, grind the onions, garlic, pumpkin seeds, raisins and tomatoes to make a paste.

5. Transfer to a medium saucepan and add all the remaining ingredients along with 1 cup of the reserved chicken broth.

6. Bring to a slow boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

7. Add the shredded chicken and cook over low heat for 2-3 hours.

chicken mole3

8. Adjust seasoning and with corn tortillas or over rice.

Cooking Times
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours and 30 minutes

nutrition chicken mole

Recipe Type: Main Dish, Poultry

Creamed Spinach


Everyone needs a good, quick recipe for creamed spinach. Here it is. You’re welcome.

16 oz frozen spinach (cooked and squeezed dry)
1 tsp dried buttermilk ranch dressing mix (I prefer Penzey’s)
1 1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 tsp chicken bouillon granules
2 tbsp grated parmesan
1/4 cup walnut pieces, pine nuts or sliced almonds.

1. Cook the spinach, drain and squeeze dry.

2. Combine the spinach, dry buttermilk dressing, bouillon granules, sour cream,

3. Spoon in to a lightly greased casserole dish. Top with the parmesan cheese and nuts.

4. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

5. May be prepared through step 3 and refrigerated until ready to cook.

Servings: 8

Cooking Times
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

Oven Temperature: 325°F

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/8 of a recipe (4.1 ounces).
Percent daily values based on the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition information calculated from recipe ingredients. One of the recipe’s ingredients was not linked. This ingredient is not included in the recipe nutrition data.

Amount Per Serving
nutrition creamed spinach

Recipe Type: Side Dish, Vegetables, Vegetarian

Jesus Cake (Syble H. Ruppe)

This was my mom’s recipe. She made it throughout the year, but always at Christmas when she also made fruitcake and all sorts of cookies and candies. I loved it as a kid and it remains one of my favorite desserts. I don’t know the origin of the name, but I always thought of it as Jesus’ birthday cake.

This recipe is simple and easy and provides a good opportunity for practicing mindfulness while cooking — especially if you do all the mixing and beating by hand. Light a scented candle, play some quiet holiday music, and, while you’re waiting for the raisins to cool, sip a cup of herbal tea.

I’ve left the directions and ingredients just as Mom wrote them out. Keep in mind that this recipe originated in the 1950’s, when Crisco was a cooking staple. So, if you’re loathe to use solid vegetable shortening, feel free to substitute butter.

The images are photos my sister, Robin Ruppe Rose provided (made from mom’s handwritten recipe files).

1 cup raisins
1/2 cup Crisco Vegetable Shortening (or butter)
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups plain flour (all purpose)
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 egg
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla

1. Grease an 8″ square pan. Start the oven at 350. Combine raisins, shortening and 1 cup of water. Heat to boiling point, reduce heat and simmer covered for 5 minutes. Let cool to room temperature. Sift dry ingredients together. Beat egg in medium size bowl. Beat in remaining 1/2 cup water and cooled liquid (from raisins.) Mix in dry ingredients. Beat until smooth. Stir in cooled raisin mixture. Bake 35-40 minutes.

Servings: 8
Yield: 1 8″x8″ pan

Cooking Times
Preparation Time: 45 minutes
Cooking Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour and 25 minutes

Oven Temperature: 350°F

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/8 of a recipe (5.5 ounces).
Percent daily values based on the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition information calculated from recipe ingredients.

Nutrition Jesus Cake

Recipe Type: Cakes, Pastries, and Desserts

Minted Lamb Meatballs with Creamed Spinach and Pomegranates

minted lamb meatballs

A dish for the Magi on their journey from the East to greet the Christ Child. This dish is not difficult, and if you have prepared a rich turkey stock from your Thanksgiving of Christmas bird, it is that much easier. If you don’t have the stock on hand, use a good chicken stock fortified with additional herbs.

You can make the meatballs as spicy or as savory as you like by adding additional spices (cumin, cinnamon, cardamom, etc.) It’s all good! Glyn

1 quart rich turkey or chicken stock
1 lb ground lamb
1/2 cup finely diced onion
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1 large egg
1 tsp dried mint
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 cup coconut milk (organic, unsweetened if possible)
10 oz frozen spinach (cooked and squeezed dry)
2 cubes chicken bouillon cube
1/3 cup sour cream
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds

1. Bring the stock to a boil in a deep saucepan. Reduce t a simmer and keep at a slow bubble

2. Combine the lamb, onion, walnuts, egg and seasoning and form into 12 or more meatballs.

3. Slide the meatballs into the simmering liquid and adjust the heat to keep the stock at a slow bubble.

4. Simmer 5 minutes then turn the meatballs. Cook another five minutes then reduce the heat to a bare simmer.

5. Meanwhile, cook the spinach in the bouillon cubes with enough water to cover. Drain completely, shaking the colander or seive to remove as much water as possible.

6. Combine the spinach with the sour cream and the nutmeg.

7. Spread the spinach mixture onto the serving plates.

8. Top with the meatballs and enough sauce to moisten.

9. Garnish with fresh pomegranates seeds.

Servings: 4
Yield: 12 Meatballs

Cooking Times
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/4 of a recipe (11.1 ounces).
Percent daily values based on the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition information calculated from recipe ingredients. 2 of the recipe’s ingredients were not linked. These ingredients are not included in the recipe nutrition data.

nutrition minted lamb meatballs

Recipe Type: Main Dish

Lamb and Lentil Stew (Instant Pot)

Ras El Hanout

Last week a friend who had just returned from Morocco gifted me with a collection of spices straight from the vendor in Marrakech. In addition to bags of green cardamom pods, cumin, curry, and sweet paprika, was a packet of Ras El Hanout. Ras El Hanout means “top shelf of the shop” and contains the best spices the vendor has to offer. In this case, the blend is a mix of 35 spices!!!

So on this damp, grey December afternoon, I am making a Lamb and Lentil Stew, adding carrots for color and dried barberries for their bright, tart notes.

If you don’t happen to have Ras El Hanout, try substituting a combination of your favorite spices such as curry, cumin, paprika, cinnamon and cloves to make your own variation.

You can also substitute chopped, dried cranberries for the barberries.

2 tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 lb lamb shoulder chops, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 tsp Ras El Hanout Spice* (see recipe notes)
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground paprika
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp dried onion
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground pepper
1 tbsp chopped garlic
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup sliced carrots
1 cup dried brown lentils
2 cups chicken broth
2 tbsp dried barberries (or cranberries)
1 tsp Ras El Hanout Spice
1 tsp dried cumin

1. Place the lamb cubes in a bowl. Combine the next seven ingredients to make a dry rub. Toss the lamb in this mixture and let sit for 5 minutes.

2. Turn the Instant Pot to sauté function and heat 1 tbsp of the olive oil. Add the lamb and sauté until lightly browned.

lamb and lentil stew3

3. Remove the lamb to a small bowl and in the same oil, sauté the chopped onion and garlic, adding more oil if needed.

4. Return the lamb to the pot on top of the onions.

lamb and lentil stew1

5. Add the lentils, carrots, barberries, chicken broth and remaining spices.

6. Turn the instant pot to pressure cooking mode and set for 15 minutes.

7. When the pressure cooking time ends, let the pot naturally release for 10 minutes, then open the vent to let it completely release.

8. Open the pot, stir, adjust seasoning, and keep warm until time to serve.

9. Serve alone or over rice.

10. Alternately, prepare the stew in a dutch oven on your stove top.

lamb and lentil stew2

Servings: 6

Cooking Times
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/6 of a recipe (6.3 ounces).
Percent daily values based on the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition information calculated from recipe ingredients.

nutrition lamb and lentil stew

Recipe Type: Gluten-Free, Main Dish, Meat


Tortellini and Chickpeas with Walnut Pesto Sauce

Tortelinni in walnut pesto sauce

Perfect for autumn on winter meals, this vegetarian dish is fancy enough to serve company but quick enough to put together in a hurry on a weeknight. You may use either chickpeas or cannellini beans, canned or cooked at home. If preparing your own from dried beans, I suggest cooking them in vegetable bouillon for enhanced flavor.

1 lb dried cheese tortellini
2 15-oz cans chickpeas or cannellini beans, drained
6 oz pesto (Barilla Basil and Pinenut or homemade
2 cups walnut halves
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
5 oz fresh arugula
1 dash salt and pepper (or to taste)

1. Drain the beans and set aside.

2. Add the olive oil, pesto and walnuts to a skillet. Heat to medium and sauté to lightly brown the walnuts,

3. Meanwhile cook the pasta and drain, reserving about a cup of the cooking water.

4. Add the beans and red pepper flakes to the pesto/walnut mixture.

5. Add the tortellini and stir gently. If needed, add some of the reserved cooking water.

6. Adjust seasoning, adding salt and pepper as needed.

7. Arrange the arugula on serving plates, top with the tortellini/walnut/bean/pesto mixture.

8. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and serve immediately.

Servings: 6
Yield: Six Main Course Servings or Eight Appetizer Portions

Cooking Times
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/6 of a recipe (9.7 ounces).
Percent daily values based on the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition information calculated from recipe ingredients.

tortelinni nutrition

Recipe Type: Appetizer, Main Dish, Pasta, Vegetarian

Glyn’s Shepherd’s Pie

Shepherds Pie1

Great Make-Ahead dish for your next dinner party. May be cooked and assembled in the morning then refrigerated until time to heat and crisp the topping for dinner. Vary the chopped vegetables, just be sure to cut them all to a fairly uniform dice. This version uses lamb, mint, thyme and red wine in the vegetable filling and is topped with allspice and mace mashed sweet potatoes and chopped chives. Serve with a simple lightly dressed salad (we like a tomato, cucumber and Arugula chopped salad).

3 medium carrots, peeled and cut in small dice
1 large parsnip, peeled, cored and cut in small dice
4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut in small dice
7 oz frozen baby peas
1 medium turnip, peeled and cut in small dice
2 cups chicken broth
2 tbsp olive oil
4 large mushrooms, chopped
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 medium stalk celery, trimmed and chopped
1 tsp minced garlic
1 lb ground lamb
1 1/2 tsp. dried mint
1 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tbsp A-1 Sauce
1/4 cup red wine
2 cups water
3 large sweet potatoes peeled and cut into large chunks
2 tbsp cornstarch
4 tbsp butter or margarine
1/4 tsp ground mace
1/4 tsp ground allspice
2 tbsp chopped fresh chives
salt and pepper to taste

1. Cook the potatoes, carrots, peas, parsnips, and turnips in the chicken broth until crisp tender. Drain, RESERVING the liquid.

2. Place the cooked vegetables in a large bowl and gently stir in the frozen peas.

Shepherds Pie 2

3. Sauté the mushrooms, onions, garlic and celery in the olive oil. Add the to cooked vegetables.

4. Saute the ground lamb. Drain and season with the mint, thyme, red wine and A-1 sauce.

Shepherds Pie31

5. Gently stir into the vegetable mixture.

6. Meanwhile, cook the sweet potato in the reserved vegetable broth, adding additional water if needed.

Shepherds Pie 4

7. Drain the sweet potatoes, RESERVING the liquid. Mash the potatoes and season with the butter/margarine, mace, allspice, salt and pepper. Adjust seasoning. Set aside.

8. Add the cornstarch to 2 cups of the reserved cooking liquid and bring to a simmer to thicken. Pour over the meat/vegetable mixture and stir gently to evenly distribute the sauce.

9. Divide the meat/vegetable mixture among six gratin dishes. Spread the mashed sweet potatoes over the pies, pushing it to the edge of the dish to seal. Refrigerate until ready to cook.

10. Bake the pies for 30 to 45 minutes in a 350 degree oven (or until the filling bubbles and the top is browned.

11. Top with chopped chives and serve.

Servings: 6
Yield: 6 Individual Pies

Cooking Times
Preparation Time: 1 hour
Cooking Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour and 45 minutes

Oven Temperature: 350°F

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/6 of a recipe (22.2 ounces).
Percent daily values based on the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition information calculated from recipe ingredients. One of the recipe’s ingredients was not linked. This ingredient is not included in the recipe nutrition data.

nutrition shepherd pie

Recipe Type: Gluten-Free, Main Dish, Meat

Glyn’s Holiday Fruitcake 2019

fruitcake 2

This cake is heavy on the fruit and light on the batter. Aside from the candied green cherries, all the ingredients are available year round in most supermarkets. I used dried fruit from Sun-Maid and Mariana. This cake will keep for up to a month in a cool dry place. Especially if you bathe it in brandy before sealing.

8 oz pitted dates, chopped
7 oz dried figs, stems removed and chopped
8 oz green cherries candied fruit
5 oz dried cherries
6 oz dried pineapple
8 oz brazil nuts
7 oz walnut halves
1 cup all purpose-flour
1 cup white sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp cloves
5 eggs
1/2 cup brandy (optional)

1. Grease and flour two loaf pans (4″x9″)

2. Combine all the fruit and nuts in a very large bowl (or dutch oven pot)

3. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom.

4. Add the dry ingredients to the fruit/nut mixture. Stir to thoroughly coat.

5. In a small bowl, beat the eggs and add to the fruit/nut/flour/sugar mixture. Stir thoroughly to moisten.

6. Divide the mixture between the two prepared loaf pans.

7. Bake at 300 for 1 to 1.5 hours, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

8. Cool in pans for 20 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. Cool completely.

9. If desired, pour 1/4 cup brandy over each loaf. Wrap tightly and store in a cool dry place.

Servings: 24
Yield: 2 loaf pans

Cooking Times
Preparation Time: 25 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour and 55 minutes

Oven Temperature: 300°F

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/24 of a recipe (3.1 ounces).
Percent daily values based on the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition information calculated from recipe ingredients.

nutrition fruitcake

Recipe Type: Cakes, Pastries, and Desserts, Dessert

Chocolate Cherry Gluten-Free Christmas Pudding


Notes from my kitchen on “Stir-Up Sunday”

This pudding began with a request from my daughter-in-law for a gluten-free Christmas Dessert. It’s based on a BBC Good Food recipe from several years back. But considering the work involved in converting the measurements and ingredients for American tastes, and making it Gluten-Free, it turned out to be easier to do my own recipe.

12 oz frozen, pitted dark cherries (reserve and freeze half for decorating the pudding)
1 pear, peeled and grated
1 cup raisins
1 cup golden raisins
3.5 oz whiskey or brandy
3.5 oz very dark chocolate bar
4 oz butter (1 stick)
2 large eggs
1.5 cups almond meal
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup finely chopped pecans
.5 tsp ground cinnamon
.5 tsp ground cardamom
.25 tsp ground ginger
.25 tsp ground cloves
.25 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tbsp dark cocoa powder

3.5 oz dark chocolate bar (semi sweet)
4 oz whipping cream
1.5 oz whiskey

.5 cup whiskey or brandy for aging

1. Drain the cherries. Cut each in half.

2. Add the grated pear.

3. Stir in the raisins (regular and golden).

4. Add the whiskey and stir well.

5. Cover and microwave for 3-5 minutes.

6. Add the melted butter.

7. Add the chocolate (broken in pieces.)

8. Let the fruit mixture cool to lukewarm.

9. In a measuring cup, beat the eggs with a fork, then stir into the fruit mix.

10. In another bowl, mix together the almond meal, brown sugar, spices, cocoa, and ground pecans.

11. Combine the dry ingredients with the fruit/egg mixture.

12. Pour into a buttered (lidded) pudding tin or heat proof bowl.

13. Top the pudding with a buttered round of parchment paper.

14. Seal firmly (either with the lid of the pudding tin or with aluminum foil if using a bowl).

Pudding 3

Steam the Pudding

1. I steam the pudding by placing the sealed tin in my slow cooker, adding boiling water to within two inches of the top, and cooking on the low setting for 6-8 hours. Check occasionally and add more boiling water as needed.

2. Alternatively, steam the pudding on the stovetop, placing it in a dutch oven, and filling the pot halfway with boiling water. Cover tightly. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and steam for 2-3 hours.

Store the Pudding

1. Let cool at room temperature, un-mold and baste with a few tablespoons of whiskey. Wrap well and let age in a cool dark space for up to ten weeks.

To Serve the Pudding

1. Reheat the wrapped pudding in a slow oven, or steam it for up to one hour.

2. Melt the second chocolate bar, add the double cream and whiskey or brandy to make the sauce Pour over the pudding and garnish with thawed dark cherries, and if desired, whipped cream.

Servings: 10
Yield: 1 Large Pudding

Cooking Times
Preparation Time: 1 hour
Cooking Time: 8 hours
Total Time: 9 hours

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/10 of a recipe (7.1 ounces).
Percent daily values based on the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition information calculated from recipe ingredients. One of the recipe’s ingredients was not linked. This ingredient is not included in the recipe nutrition data.

nutrition GF christmas pudding

Recipe Type: Cakes, Pastries, and Desserts, Dessert

Gigantes with Lamb Meatballs

Gigantes and Lamb2

Last week, I found a bag of gigantes (dried, Greek Giant beans) at the Olive Branch Deli and Restaurant. This recipe is my attempt to combine some of my favorite textures and flavors in one slow cooked meal.

1 cup large dried lima beans, or gigantes
2 cups water
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tsp garlic, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1 lb ground lamb
1 egg
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/2 tsp dried lemon peel
1/2 tsp oregano, divided
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
15 oz tomato sauce
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 thinly sliced preserved lemon (optional)

1. Soak the beans overnight in the two cups of water. Do not drain.

2. In a heavy duty, covered casserole, sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil.

3. Meanwhile combine the lamb, egg, bread crumbs and 1/4 tsp each of the oregano, lemon peel, garlic powder, and onion powder. Add salt and pepper to taste.

4. Shape the lamb mixture into about eight meatballs. Nestle among the onions and garlic. Brown lightly, turning once.

5. Combine the tomato sauce, presoaked beans. Add the remaining lemon peel, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, salt and pepper. Press on the beans to submerge, and if necessary, add a bit more water.

6. If desired, sprinkle a few slices of preserved lemon on top.

7. Bake at 300 for up to four hours, or until the beans are tender. Keep warm until serving

Servings: 4

Cooking Times
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 4 hours and 30 minutes

Oven Temperature: 300°F

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/4 of a recipe.
Percent daily values based on the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for a 2000 calorie diet. Nutrition information calculated from recipe ingredients. 2 of the recipe’s ingredients were not linked. These ingredients are not included in the recipe nutrition data.

Nutrition Gigantes and Lamb

Recipe Type: Gluten-Free, Main Dish, Meat, Vegetables

Devilled Eggs With Caviar and Smoked Salmon

Devilled Eggs1

This is my go-to appetizer for Shabbat Dinners or family Events. It’s really simple, and always extremely well received. I am told these are excellent, but as the unfortunate consequence of having been forced (as a child) to eat cold eggs with catsup, I wouldn’t know. Don’t be too concerned about the cost of the ingredients. A 2 oz. jar of Romanoff black lumpfish caviar can be found in most supermarkets for less than $9 and will keep, refrigerated for months. This recipe requires only one teaspoon so you can count on having enough for making this a dozen times. Concerning the smoked salmon, a 3oz pack of wild-caught sliced will cost even less than the caviar. Half of one slice in a will more than suffice for the devilled eggs, and I know you’ll find a use for the rest!

6 eggs, boiled
1 tsp Dijon-style mustard
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/8 tsp onion powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp dried dill weed
1 tsp black lumpfish caviar
1/2 oz smoked salmon, cut into thin strips
dash sweet paprika

1. Boil, cool and peel the eggs. Halve the eggs and remove the yolks.

2. Mash the yolks with a fork and combine with the mustard, mayonnaise, onion powder, salt, pepper and dill.

3. Lightly spoon the egg yolk mixture into the egg halves. Top each with a strip of salmon and a few grains of caviar.

4. Sprinkle with paprika and serve at once or refrigerate, loosely covered, for up to six hours.

Servings: 12

Cooking Times
Preparation Time: 30 minutes

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/12 of a recipe (1.2 ounces).
Percent daily values based on the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition information calculated from recipe ingredients. 2 of the recipe’s ingredients were not linked. These ingredients are not included in the recipe nutrition data.

Nutrition Devilled Eggs

Middle Eastern Beef Stuffed Onions

beef stuffed onions7

This recipe was inspired by a technique used for rice stuffed onions in the cookbook “Jerusalem” by Sami Tamimi and Yotam Ottolenghi. It is my interpretation and application of that technique, using ground beef, barberries and pistachios.

“Beef Stuffed Onions” is a bit labor intensive, and requires what may be unfamiliar ingredients. But all are readily available either online, at specialty grocers or, in the case of the preserved lemons, are easily made at home.

Note: If a soupier dish is preferred, increase the amount of tomato sauce to one cup. Alternatively, for a more savory dish, substitute beef bouillon for the tomato sauce.

The aromas are spectacular, and as is often true of such methods, taste even better the second or third day.

Middle Eastern Flavors. Comfort Food. Autumn Main Dish. What are we waiting for?

1 lb ground beef
2 large onions
1 tbsp dried mint
1 tbsp Ras El Hanout
1 tbsp dried barberries
1 tbsp ground pistachios
1 tbsp roasted pistachios
1/4 preserved lemon
1 egg
1 large russet potato, peeled and cut in one inch cubes
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1 tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup tomato sauce

1. cut the stems from onions. peel and boil in salted water for 15 minutes. set aside.

2. remove and discard the inner flesh of the preserved lemon. Finely dice the skin and peel

3. slit one side of the onion halfway through. Carefully separate the onions into layers. About four layers per onion. Chop and reserve the inner sections of the onions to use in making the filling.

4. combine and thoroughly mix the beef, chopped onion, egg, mint, ras el hanout, ground pistachios, preserved lemon, salt and pepper to taste and the barberries.

5. holding one onion layer at a time in the palm of your hand, fill it with the beef mixture and place slit side down in oiled casserole.

6. scatter potato cubes around the stuffed onions.

7. add the pomegranate molasses to the tomato sauce and pour over onions.

8. bake one hour at 325. to serve, garnish with roasted pistachios and pomegranate seeds.

Servings: 4

Cooking Times
Preparation Time: 45 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour

Oven Temperature: 325°F

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/4 of a recipe (10.6 ounces).
Percent daily values based on the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition information calculated from recipe ingredients. 6 of the recipe’s ingredients were not linked. These ingredients are not included in the recipe nutrition data.
beef stuffed onions nutrition

Refried Meatloaf with Browned Onion Gravy


It was a cold, wet Saturday afternoon. With the wind blowing down the chimney, even the firewood was damp and the whole house smelled of peat. Naturally I was thinking of Scotland just when Will came in to tell me that of one Diana Gabaldon’s Claire and Jamie Outlander books was about to be made into a TV series. I immediately knew what to prepare for supper–something simple and hearty and worthy of a hungry clan chieftain and his time-traveling wife. Well, a girl can dream can’t she?

I had half a meatloaf in the fridge, so all I had to do was bring it to room temperature, dredge and fry it. The onions for the gravy could brown at their leisure, and the potatoes, sweet and white could be prepared while Will and I shared a wee dram. So we did.

In case you don’t have any meatloaf on hand, the recipe for that is included.

2 lbs ground beef (or meatloaf mixture)
2 eggs
1 large onion finely chopped
2/3 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 tsp oregano, dried
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
4 oz bacon, about 4 strips
1/2 cup additional tomato sauce

Refried Meatloaf
4 slices cold meatloaf
2 eggs, beaten with 1/4 cup water
2 cups breadcrumbs, gluten free if desired
1/4 cup cooking oil

Browned Onion Gravy
2 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup oat flour
2 cups beef-flavor instant bouillon
1 tsp soy sauce

For Meatloaf
1. Combine the meat, eggs, onions, oatmeal, tomato sauce and spices in a large bowl.

2. Mix well. Your hands are the best tools for this task.

3. Line a loaf pan with the bacon strips, press the meatloaf mixture into the pan and top with additional tomato sauce or catsup.

4. Bake at 325 for 90 minutes.

5. Drain the fat and juices and turn the meatloaf out onto a platter. Let rest for about 5 minutes for easier slicing.

6. Refrigerate leftovers for sandwiches or for refrying.

To Refry the Meatloaf

1. Dredge the meatloaf in beaten egg, then press into breadcrumbs.

2. Fry until golden and crispy and serve with onion gravy.

For Onion Gravy

1. Slowly brown the onions in the butter and olive oil (may take up to 30 minutes).

2. Remove the onions to a bowl, and in the same oil/butter mixture brown the flour till a deep golden color.

3. Slowly add the broth and stir constantly until thickened.

4. Return the onions to the skillet, add the soy sauce and season with salt and pepper.

Servings: 8

Cooking Times
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour and 40 minutes

Oven Temperature: 325°F

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/8 of a recipe (11.4 ounces).
Percent daily values based on the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition information calculated from recipe ingredients. 2 of the recipe’s ingredients were not linked. These ingredients are not included in the recipe nutrition data.

refried meatloaf nutrution

Recipe Type: Gluten-Free, Main Dish, Meat

Osso Bucco

What’s the difference between pot roast and Osso Bucco? If you think that one is braised beef and other is braised veal, then the difference is primarily one of price. Of course, the real difference is in taste and the taste of Osso Bucco is incomparable. Pot roast is a wonderful comfort food, but Osso Bucco is lush, aromatic, sensuous, and romantic. The meltingly tender marrow is especially good. Works well with risotto or polenta.

1 cup thinly sliced carrots
1 cup thinly sliced celery
1 large onion chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
4 veal shanks
1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt, oregano, thyme
1 bay leaf
pepper to taste
6 roma tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 tbsp finely grated lemon peel
1/4 cup parsley minced
1/4 cup freshly grated lemon peel

1. Try to purchase veal shanks that have a large central bone and lots of marrow.

2. Preheat the oven to 350. In a heavy lidded casserole, sauté in the butter until golden the onions, celery, carrots, and garlic.

3. Set aside. Dredge the veal shanks in flour, and in the same pan, add the olive oil and brown the shanks.

4. Season with salt, pepper, oregano, thyme and bay.

5. Combine the tomatoes with the onions, garlic, celery and carrots. Add to the veal shanks.

6. Add the wine, chicken stock, and the 1 tbsp of lemon peel.

7. Cover and bake at 350 for two hours, adding more liquid if needed.

8. Combine the additional lemon peel and parsley, using it as a garnish when you plate the dish.

Servings: 4

Cooking Times
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes

Oven Temperature: 350°F

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/4 of a recipe (20.9 ounces).
Percent daily values based on the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition information calculated from recipe ingredients.

osso bucco nutrition

Recipe Type: Main Dish, Meat, Veal

The Great Thanksgiving Day Seduction of 2013

Chef at work


In the Hebrew Scriptures, when the prophet Jeremiah realizes just what he has gotten himself into by agreeing to serve as God’s messenger, he laments “Oh, Lord, you have seduced me; and I have let myself be seduced!” I know just what Jeremiah is talking about…only my version is “Oh Norman Rockwell, Life Magazine, and Macy’s Parade, you have seduced me; and I have let myself be seduced!” Not that I am complaining, mind you. I have spent the last six decades running headlong into the seductive arms of this most American of holidays. This year is no exception, it’s the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and I have already been shopping, and cleaning and planning for weeks. I’ve even taken the week off so that I can re-produce all the signs and sounds and smells of the big day.

We’ve ordered a heritage turkey for which we will brave a nor’easter this afternoon to collect from the Farmer’s Market the next county over, and I’ve bought a glorious new roasting pan that more closely resembles a mirror than a kitchen tool, and a remote roasting thermometer. Well, William’s Sonoma WAS having a great sale, and after what the turkey costs ($9/lb), I’m not taking any chances! Besides, these heritage turkeys are supposed to taste just like the ones we had back in the 1950’s. (Did I mention that I am seduced by the holidays?)

But this year there’s a glitch. As I rifle through my favorite memories, choosing which ones to buff and polish and bring out for display, I realize that most of those aren’t mine. In fact, most of them aren’t anybody’s. But they’re so REAL, my heart insists! There was the time that we went over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house. Nope, that was a song I sang in grade school. I lived in the Deep South and so did Grandma. No snow. And we only visited during the summer.

OK, how about the time we watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade from the window of our Fifth Avenue Apartment? No…that was Natalie Wood in “Miracle on 34th Street.” Besides, the one time I did visit Macy’s in NYC on the day after Thanksgiving, was during a freak November heat wave. It was 70 degrees outside and the furnaces in the store were going full blast. Idyllic? Not so much.

But wait, there was the time that we flew home from Houston to North Carolina with two toddlers. The one my lap looked out the airplane window as we flew over the Mississippi and belted out, “Over the VIVER and through the boods” which he continued to sing for the remaining two and a half hours of the flight; thereby entertaining the rest of the airplane and providing them with their own somewhat dubious memories of the day.

And, every year for as long as I can remember, I have watched that parade on television. In a succession of homes and living rooms, from a tiny black and white TV with rabbit ears to a cable-fed HD flat screen. And every year I have loved it all – from the freight-car sized balloons to the inane canned commentary, to the high-kicks of the Rockettes (whose mother’s obviously never told them about the dangers of scanty clothing and bare legs in November).33333333333That was good – especially as it was always accompanied by the jostling of siblings or kids on the sofa, and the indescribable aroma of my mother’s turkey stock simmering on the stove. These days, it’s Will, and Rudy and me on the sofa. It’s lox and bagels and Irish Coffee. And, It’s very good.

Come to think of it, it’s all good. So this year, I am going to celebrate all the memories, and not worry so much about whose they are – or whether or not they’re real. Because all of them together are what makes me love it.
But, this year I am going to do it with as much mindfulness and gratitude as my oh-so-easily seduced heart can contain.

Stay tuned for more. I will be posting as I go…Today I make the cranberry relish and the cornbread for the stuffing. Tomorrow we brine the turkey, and start the stock. Then we are off and running…

So pour a glass of wine, light a spice-scented candle and start making memories. And remember, no matter what, it’s all good!


Today we have to do two things. Make the cornbread and the cranberry sauce.

If you are going to make the best southern style turkey dressing imaginable, you have to start with homemade cornbread. And it has to be stale. In our house it also has to be gluten-free. So make it today and by Thursday morning it will be just right to crumble with the other indescribably good ingredients you’ll be using. This recipe is modified to be gluten-free, so the texture will be slightly finer than normal. If gluten is not a problem for you, make it with 1 c cornmeal and 1 c white flour (omitting the rice and oat flours). It makes one 9×9 pan, but doubles easily if you stuffing and turkey and cooking a pan of dressing on the side.

1 ¼ c organic stone-ground corn meal
¼ c white rice flour
½ c whole grain oat flour
¼ c sugar (optional)
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
¼ c vegetable oil
1 c milk (or soymilk)
1 egg, beaten

Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl. Mix the wet ingredients together and add to the dry. Stir until the lumps are gone but don’t beat. Pour into a greased 9×9 pan and bake at 425 for 20-25 minutes. Turn out of the pan onto a rack. Let sit uncovered at room temperature for 24-48 hours. Crumble coarsely to use as a base for a cornbread stuffing. And if you want the recipe for the stuffing itself, here it is:

Cornbread Stuffing
1 recipe cornbread
1 qt hot turkey stock
1 large onion, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, minced
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 c pecan pieces
1 lb sage sausage
1 large granny smith apple, peeled and diced
4 oz butter
1-2 tbs poultry seasoning
Salt and pepper

Crumble the cornbread into a large mixing bowl. Crumble and cook the sausage. Set aside to cool then add to the mixing bowl. Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Saute the onion, celery, garlic and pecans until golden. Add to the bowl. Add the diced apple, salt, pepper and poultry seasoning. Stir all together. Moisten to your preference. Let cool slightly and use to stuff your turkey. Or bake in a buttered baking dish at 350 for 45 minutes or until crispy on top and heated through.

Preparing Thanksgiving Dinner can be a bit labor intensive, but remember…these dishes are all very basic and require only your love and attention to turn out fabulously. Homemade cranberry sauce is almost ridiculously simple to make, so add a few of your own touches and make it your own. I love this stuff, but since I cannot tolerate the sugar, my satisfaction comes from seeing everyone else dig in!

Cranberry Sauce

1 bag fresh cranberries
2 c sugar
2 c water

(Traditional Method)
Combine the sugar and water. Bring to a boil and cook for about five minutes to make a syrup. Add the cranberries. Bring back to a boil. Reduce heat to a slow boil and cook until the cranberries pop open. Remove from the heat and let cool to warm room temperature. Cover and Refrigerate.

(Glyn’s Method)
1 bag fresh cranberries
2 c sugar
2 c water
Grated rind of one orange
1 c raisins
2 cardamom pods
1 2” stick cinnamon
¼ c whiskey or brandy

Put everything except the liquor into a large saucepan. Mix well and bring to a boil. Reduce heat slightly and cook for about 10 minutes or until all the cranberries have popped open and the sauce is starting to thicken. Remove from heat and stir in the whiskey. Cool to warm room temperature. Refrigerate until set (about three hours).


The turkey was ordered in early November. I am told that some buyers have to wait over a year to get a heritage turkey. I happened to be at the Farmer’s Market the day they announced there were nine as yet un-reserved turkeys, so I put down a $40 deposit and started dreaming of the applause as Will and I brought the perfect turkey to the Thanksgiving Table. Last week the email arrived telling us where to go to collect the turkey. We were also told to bring the balance of $110. Yes, this 17lb turkey was due to ring in at $150.00!

After some confusion about which of the two drop-sites we should go to, I was told to expect further email instructions later in the week. The location was in a city park one county over and we were admonished that we would need to bring cash or a check and to be on time. I started to wonder if this was a perhaps a slightly more sinister arrangement than I had imagined.

Tuesday was pick-up day. The weather was awful and getting worse as an early winter storm bore down on us. No snow was forecast, but the roads were slick and the traffic was heavy. Still, nothing was going to dampen my enthusiasm. Because of the weather and my notorious lack of navigational skills (I have been known to get lost between the kitchen and the laundry room, Will came along riding shotgun. We arrived at the appointed spot and found –NOT A SINGLE SOUL. No cars, trucks, vans, or perplexed customers. Nada. I called and left a plaintive message with the vendor.

Ever resourceful, I drove to the local whole foods store, thinking they would know where the rain location was. They didn’t, but they knew where the winter/indoor site was normally held. Meanwhile, Will had googled the vendor and found a Face Book post announcing that they had been onsite at the Farmer’s Market with an truckload of turkeys for over an hour. I could see the supposed site from the car. It remained obstinately vacant.

We set out toward the purported indoor venue and had gone about two blocks when I saw a collection of rain-soaked pavilions and panel trucks in a parking lot. “That looks like a Farmer’s Market”, I said, and cut a sharp left. Sure enough, the city park had TWO parking lots.

I parked and we dashed across the lot to a spot where turkeys and cash were changing hands under umbrellas. My heart raced; the heritage bird of my dreams was nearly mine! Except it was the wrong vendor. “Last tent on the right” a woman in a hooded jacket said. “Look for the guy in the Aussie hat.” Down we went, where we were greeted by a down-under accent and a row of coolers full of turkeys. I stepped up smartly and announced our name….which was not on his list.

I don’t know who was more concerned at that point, me or the rain-soaked Aussie. He showed me the list, got on the walkie-talkie back to the farm, and muttered something about “It’s probably on its way to ____. We can maybe get it to you tomorrow.” I stood there, my lip trembling, while Will said something about this being the last time we shopped with these folks. At which the Aussie started rummaging through the coolers just in case the turkey was there even though it wasn’t on the manifest. And low and behold, it was. The problem having been that I had used my hyphenated last name when ordering, and which was on the list. (Ever the gentleman, Will waited until the transaction was complete and we were back in the car to suggest that we might want to reconsider which name/s we used for purchases.) Even better, the turkey turned out to be even bigger than the one I had ordered – though the Aussie threatened to charge me an extra $10 for giving him a heart-attack. We paid, dashed back to the car and battled our way home through the deepening dark and worsening traffic. No worries! I had my turkey and all was right with the world.


At the end of yesterday’s installment, we had just arrived home with the heritage turkey. Rudy-the-Schnoodle’s nose had started twitching the moment the door opened, and had I been faster with the camera, I could have gotten a shot of him standing on his hind legs sniffing at the counter. We put the turkey in the fridge and settled in for the evening.

This morning I assembled the ingredients for the turkey stock, chopped the veggies and put them into the crock pot. Then I opened the double plastic bagging and pulled out the turkey. My first surprise was that the neck on this turkey was much longer than usual and that the skin of the neck was intact to the base of the waddle and still attached to the bird. OK…that’s a new one. The neck went into the stock. I decided to wait until after brining the bird to decide what to do with the skin.

The second surprise was the size of the liver (both lobes) and the heart – huge, plump and lean. Into the stock pot with those as well. I removed the tail and several other fat pads and added them to the pot.

By using boiling water, I gave the crock pot a head start on the heat. Once everything had been at an active simmer for about an hour, I reduced the heat to warm. The stock will simmer for the rest of the day and overnight, though I will have strained it before going to bed. I love waking up to the scent of turkey stock wafting throughout the house.

Turkey Stock
1 very large (or 2-3 medium onions) coarsely chopped
2 large cloves garlic, smashed
2 large carrots, cut into 2 inch lengths
3 ribs celery (leafy parts included) cut into 2 inch lengths
6 whole cloves
6 small or 3 large chicken bouillon cubes
1 tbs poultry seasoning
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
Neck, giblets and tail from turkey
3 quarts water (boiling)

Combine all in a crockpot or stock pot. Bring to a boil, skim, reduce heat and simmer for 3-4 hours, removing the giblets and liver after 30 minutes. Strain and discard the solids. Refrigerate the stock or keep it at a slow simmer until needed, adding water/bouillon as necessary.


This part proved to be much more challenging — Mainly because a heritage turkey is not shaped like a conventional, hormone enhanced and liquid injected bird. First of all, it’s much longer. Unlike the neatly folded limbs of a conventional turkey, these guys’ legs are not demurely bent at the knee. The bird looks like it met its end during the leg-lift portion of an exercise class. And at 17 lbs, it is not top-heavy; it’s long and very well proportioned. As my nephew would say, “it’s buff.” You can believe it when they tell you it was running around the farm yard 48 hours ago. Which means, I am told, that it will cook more quickly and evenly than the Mae West variety.

The extra length also means that it will not, repeat not, fit into the huge pot I normally use for brining. I will spare you the details, but suffice it to say that before we got the turkey into the salt water-filled brining bag inside an ice lined cooler, Will had to change clothes and I had to mop the kitchen floor.

Of course the cooler would not fit into the refrigerator, so I wrestled it onto the side porch thinking it would certainly be cold enough to stay there overnight. Will came back downstairs, freshly attired in dry clothing and I said “The turkey is on the porch till tomorrow. There is no way that a raccoon can carry it off.” To which he said, “You wanna bet? A raccoon could rip through that in a heartbeat.”

Do you have any idea how much a 17 pound turkey in a cooler full of ice water weighs? Anyway, the turkey, safely ensconced in its purple vinyl cooler, is now resting comfortably on the kitchen floor.

It is 1:30pm on the day before Thanksgiving. I’m still elated about the heritage turkey and know it’s going to be fabulous, but I am exhausted, my neck hurts and it’s still 4+ hours till the sun is over the yard-arm….it’s got to be 5:00pm somewhere!


At last the big day was here! We had moved the turkey back into the kitchen so that the raccoons could not carry it off, and I left the crock pot of turkey stock simmering at a very low heat overnight. The stuffing was cooked and cooling. (Never stuff a turkey with hot stuffing). The turkey was drained and dried and coming to room temperature. After watching the parade on TV and enjoying our annual breakfast of lox and bagels, it was time to put the heritage turkey to the test.

I carefully, and lightly stuffed the cavities of the turkey. That was a bit of a surprise because this turkey had been butchered in such a way that the flap which normally covers the neck opening and folds under the body of the turkey was facing in the wrong direction. The flap was there, but there was no way to secure it. So I used metal cocktail skewers to secure the flap but there was no way to connect it to the skin on the breast…hhmmm, that could be a problem.

Once the turkey was stuffed and trussed it went into the roasting pan. Most of it did, that is. Remember how I mentioned that this turkey’s legs were sticking straight out? Well, that meant that they extended over the end of this very large and expensive roaster by about two inches. Never mind, I tied the ends of the drumsticks together, poured in the hot stock and slid it into the oven.

Oh, did I mention the new thermometers? There were two of them…one remote and one old fashioned kind. They went in, too – one in the breast and one in the thickest part of the thigh. I didn’t want to take any chances with this bird! After the 20 minutes at 400, I reduced the heat to 300 and went on to preparing the rest of the meal. The instructions had said to allow 2 ½ hours for the turkey, plus resting time.

Less than an hour into the cooking, the remote thermometer announced “Your food is ready” in a very authoritative voice. It said the internal temp of the turkey was now 150 degrees. (It was supposed to finish cooking while it rested) The old fashioned thermometer didn’t speak to me, but it read the same. 150 degrees. I could not believe it. So I moved the thermometers to another part of the turkey – twice. Each time the temperature registered at a higher point. When they both registered 180 I nearly had a meltdown. (Do you remember the scene in Julie and Julia when Julie is lying on the kitchen floor crying and kicking like a two year old?) Now I know my oven runs a bit hot, but this was ridiculous. The only reason I didn’t kick and scream was that the turkey was still a very pale shade of beige – and that was after I had put butter under the skin and rubbed olive oil and seasoning on the outside.

At that point I removed the thermometers, raised the heat to 325 for another two hours and decided to trust my gut. After 5 decades of cooking I was not about to give my guests food poisoning for Thanksgiving. I continued cooking it until the juices in the thigh ran very light pink, took it out and let it rest while we had drinks and starters.

It was a beauty when it came out of the oven. Golden brown, crisp and smelling terrific. That’s when I had the second huge surprise of the day. The breast meat was perfect, but the thighs…well, they did not look done – at all – and the juices were bright pink, not clear. But the carvers insisted it was fine, so we ate the breast meat and the drumsticks and decided to put the rest into the stock pot for later. And what we ate was very, very good! I recounted the details of the great seduction to my guests, who roared with laughter, and promised me a place in their pantheon of Tall Tales of Thanksgiving Hilarity. An award no doubt aided by the consumption of copious amounts of Single Malt before dinner.

That night, I was still worried about the color of those turkey thighs and their proximity to the parts we had eaten, and I didn’t sleep well at all. I kept waiting for the text or phone call that my guests were violently ill in the emergency room. But no calls came, and the funny thing was that when I drained the stock the next day, the meat which had literally fallen off the bone into the pot, was still so pink it was almost red.

The stock, by the way, was fabulous, and I am convinced, made the best albeit most expensive soup on the planet. (Not to mention the most incredible turkey risotta!)

So, that is the last chapter in the saga of the Great Thanksgiving Day Seduction of 2013 – the heritage turkey. It was not the perfect turkey, and it was not the perfect meal, and it was a very expensive experiment, but it was great fun, very tasty, and as Will said, “well, we learned something!” Who knows what will seduce me next year?!


Seared Tuna with Tarragon Mayonnaise

seared tuna with tarragon mayonnaise Israeli salad and raisin pistachio pilafSeared Tuna with Tarragon Mayonnaise

The wonderful thing about having your own herb garden (or a really well-stocked spice cabinet) is that you can put together a gourmet meal in record time. This meal includes seared tuna steaks with tarragon sauce and an Israeli Salad. So, if you have spent the day working on something other than dinner, and find yourself planning a meal at 6pm, this is for you.

And trust me, there is no better or faster and fail-proof recipe for homemade mayonnaise. I found the technique on the internet after just about trashing the kitchen trying to use a whisk-till-you-drop recipe. (The Last Appetite). It requires an immersion blender and about 2 minutes to produce. But, if you’re just not up to making your own mayonnaise, use commercial and tarragon and garlic

NOTE: Although it cooks very quickly, if you don’t have a first rate exhaust fan, this dish can smoke up the kitchen. Weather permitting, I cook this in a grill pan on an induction hot plate set up on the porch.

8 shushi grade tuna steaks (6oz each
2 tsp olive or sesame oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 whole egg
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp prepared dijon mustard
3/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp garlic clove, crushed
1 tbsp tarragon leaves (or 1 tsp dried)
1/4 tsp salt


1. Place the egg, mustard, salt, lemon juice, garlic, tarragon and oil in the beaker that came with your immersion blender. Insert the blender attachment all the way to the bottom of the beaker and process on high until it becomes mayonnaise (probably about 30 seconds…maybe a bit longer. This makes about a cup so cover and refrigerate anything you don’t use. It will keep for several days.


1. Brush the tuna with oil. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Let sit while you heat the grill or skillet. It needs to be very hot!

3. Sear the tuna for about 90 seconds per side.

4. Let sit for 2-3 minutes, then slice on diagonal.

5. Serve with the tarragon mayonnaise on the side.

Servings: 8

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/8 of a recipe (2.3 ounces).
Percent daily values based on the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition information calculated from recipe ingredients. One of the recipe’s ingredients was not linked. This ingredient is not included in the recipe nutrition data.

Recipe Type: Fish and Shellfish, Low-Carb, Main Dish, Seafood

Chattanooga Chew-Chew

chattanooga chew chew 3

If you like cooking with kids, this is a recipe that children six to eight years old can handle with ease (and adult supervision, especially with the instant pot). The grandsons were here for the afternoon, so Elijah, Eddie and Dhedah (me) made this dish for a supper for Mom after she’d had an especially long and busy day. It’s called Chattanooga Chew-Chew as a pun on the name of the local train. Besides, it has lots of crunchy and chewy ingredients.

1 lb ground beef
1 pkg taco seasoning mix
1 cup onion chopped
1 can tomatoes with green chilis
1 can canned black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup rice, (not instant)
1 cup water
8 oz cheddar cheese grated
1/2 cup salsa
1/2 cup sour cream
1 avocado, cut into 1/2-inch dice
13 oz tortilla chips
salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder to taste

1. Brown the ground beef and onions. Add the taco mix and 1/2 cup water. Simmer. Keep warm.

2. Cook the rice and beans, tomatoes and 1 cup of water in the instant pot on the rice setting. Use manual release.

3. Combine the cooked rice, tomato and bean mixture with the meat.

4. Taste. If more seasoning is needed, add salt, pepper, cumin and chili powder. Mix well.

5. Serve over tortilla chips and garnish with salsa, sour cream and cheese.

Servings: 8

Cooking Times
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/8 of a recipe (11.3 ounces).
Percent daily values based on the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition information calculated from recipe ingredients. 2 of the recipe’s ingredients were not linked. These ingredients are not included in the recipe nutrition data.

chattanooga chew chew nutrition

Recipe Type: Main Dish

Rich Chicken Stock

rich chicken stock

Over the years, this stock has garnered impassioned requests for the recipe, pleas for adoption, and on at least one occasion a proposal of marriage. Hands down, it’s the BEST chicken stock you’ll ever taste. Ridiculously easy to prepare, it fills the house with all the aromas of comfort food and is an incredible base for all your soups, gravies and stews.

No prep to speak of. Basically, everything goes into the pot as is. No peeling, trimming or slicing. Keeps three days in refrigerator or freezes up to six months.

If using a crock pot or slow cooker, cook on high until it comes to a boil, then reduce to low and cook six to eight hours. Also works in making turkey stock. Just add turkey neck and giblets, additional water and adjust seasoning to taste. At Thanksgiving, I start this is the afternoon of the day before, strain before bedtime, then let it cook on low overnight.

3 lbs chicken thighs (bone in, skin on)
8 cups water
2 medium onions (unpeeled, cut in half)
5 cloves garlic (small, whole, unpeeled)
3 stalks celery (whole or halved)
2 large carrots (unpeeled)
1 knob fresh ginger root (about one inch long, unpeeled)
8 whole cloves
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp powdered chicken bouillon
2 tsp poultry seasoning (optional)

1 Place all ingredients in a dutch oven or stock pot. Or use a slow cooker and extend time to 6 hours.
2 Bring to a boil. Skim if necessary.
3 Reduce heat and simmer at least 3 hours. Strain, discarding solids.

Nutrition Rich Chicken Stock

Servings: 8
Yield: 2 quarts
Degree of Difficulty: Easy
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours and 20 minutes
Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/8 of a recipe (11.2 ounces).
Recipe Type
Poultry, Soups, Stocks and Sauces

Brussels Sprouts Pomegranate Slaw

Brussels Sprouts Pomegranate Slaw

This autumn slaw combines sweet, sour, and earthy flavors in one make-ahead dish. Best at room temperature, it can be prepared several hours in advance. For the best flavor, but sure to blanche the Brussels Sprouts.

For ease in releasing the pomegranate seeds, roll the fruit on the counter to loosen, then cut into quarters and remove the seeds over a bowl of cold water. The seeds will fall to the bottom and the pith with float and is easily removed.

For Argon Oil, substitute Walnut or Sesame Oil.
For Baharat Spice, use equal amounts of cinnamon, cumin and paprika.
For Dried Barberries, substitute dried, chopped cranberries
For Pomegranate Molasses, use regular molasses

1 cup pecan halves, toasted
1 lb Brussels Sprouts, sliced and blanched
1/4 cup dried barberries or cranberries
1 cup pomegranate seeds
2 tbsp Culinary Argon Oil Walnut Oil
4 tbsp extra virgin olive-oil, first cold pressed
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses or regular molasses (unsulfured) 3 tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 tsp Baharat Spice or 1/3 tsp each cinnamon, cumin and paprika
1/4 tsp curshed garlic
1/4 tsp dried orange peel
2 tsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste

For the Salad
1 In a dry skillet, toast the pecan halves. Reserve
2 Trim and slice the brussels sprouts. Blanche for 2 minutes, then place in ice water to stop cooking.
3 Soak the Barberries (or cranberries) in very hot water for 5 minutes. Drain.
4 Remove the seeds from one pomegranate. Will yield about 1 cup. Be sure to remove any pulp or pith.
5 Combine the sprouts, barberries and pomegranate seeds in a salad bowl.
For the Dressing
1 Using a mortar and pestle, combine the garlic and the Baharat (or spices) to make a thick paste
2 Combine the paste with the oils, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, orange peel and sugar.
3 Add he salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed,
1 Toss the salad ingredients with the dressing.
2 Add the toasted pecans.
3 Rerigerate or leave at room temperature (up to several hours) for the flavors to meld.
4 Best served at room temperature.
Servings: 6
Degree of Difficulty: Easy
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 2 minutes
Total Time: 32 minutes
Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/6 of a recipe (5.5 ounces).
Recipe Type
Gluten-Free, Salad, Side Dish, Vegetables, Vegetarian

Potato Kugel with Cream Cheese, Chives, and Walnuts

Created this when looking for a potato casserole that could stand on its own as a weeknight supper. It’s filling comfort food without being too heavy. The nutmeg in the creamy sauce and the toasted walnuts take the flavor up a couple of notches.

2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup walnut pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 tbsp extra virgin olive-oil
8 oz cream cheese with chives, softened
4 oz Swiss cheese, diced into 1/4-inch cubes 1/2 cup half-and-half or light cream
1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
6 medium red potatoes, thinly sliced
1/4 tsp salt and pepper (or to taste)
1 pinch garlic powder

1 In a medium sauce pan, sauté the walnuts in the butter. Drain on paper towel, season with salt, pepper and garlic and set aside. Wipe the sauce pan clean.
2 Using the same saucepan, saute the garlic and shallots in the olive oil over medium heat.
3 Reduce the heat and stir in the cream cheese until melted.
4 Add the half and half and stir until blended.
5 Add the swiss cheese and stir until melted.
6 Season with the nutmeg. Taste, and add salt and pepper if needed.
7 Slice the red potatoes about 1/8 inch thick.
8 Coat the bottom of a small oval casserole with a bit of olive oil.
9 Arrange half the potato slices, slightly overlapping.
10 Pour half the sauce over the potatoes.
11 Repeat with the remaining potatoes and sauce,
12 Cover the dish tightly with foil, place it on a foil covered cookie sheet and bake at 350 for one hour.
13 Remove the foil, and briefly broil the casserole until lightly browned.
14 Top with the reserved toasted walnuts.
15 Serve with a green salad and a crisp white wine.
Servings: 4
Yield: serves 4 as a side dish or 2 as a main course
Degree of Difficulty: Moderately difficult
Oven Temperature: 350°F
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes

Recipe Type
Gluten-Free, Main Dish, Potatoes, Pasta, and Grains, Side Dish, Vegetarian

Chicken Tagine: The Goose and Brisket

This Middle Eastern Stew is slow cooked and very savory. It calls for preserved lemon, Ras El Hanout and Maklouba. If you don’t have these, feel free to improvise with fresh lemon, cinnamon, cumin, cayenne, turmeric, curry, cardamom and the like. Just use the spices you like. Prepare this in a tagine on your stovetop, If you don’t have a tagine, a slow cooker will also work. It’s very easy to make your own preserved lemon, but it’s usually available in the international department of a good grocery store. Ras El Hanout and Maklouba are both available online from Middle Eastern shops.

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive-oil, first cold pressed, divided
1 large onion sliced
1 large red bell pepper, sliced
3 small red potatoes
1/2 cup canned kidney beans, drained
2 chicken thighs
1/4 tsp salt 1/4 tsp cayenne or aleppo pepper
1 large clove garlic, sliced
1/2 tsp Maklouba
1/2 tsp Ras El Hanout
6 green olives
1 small preserved lemon
1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
1/3 cup water

1 Place 1 tbsp in the bottom of your tagine
2 layer the sliced onion on the bottom
3 add the sliced red bell pepper
4 season with salt and pepper
5 add the chicken and season with salt, pepper, ras el hanout and maklouba
6 add the kidney beans
7 add the olives, preserved lemon and cilantro
8 mix the remaining oil with the water and pour around the edge
9 place the bottom of the tagine on a heat diffuser on your stove top on
medium heat
10 cover with the top of the tagine
11 cook on medium heat until you hear the contents simmering (about 20
12 reduce heat to low and cook for about 75 minutes. Check occasionally
adding a bit more liquid if needed. the sauce should be thick.
13 serve with bread and a salad.
Servings: 2
Degree of Difficulty: Easy
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour and 45 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours and 5 minutes

Recipe Type
Main Dish, Poultry

Chicken, Apricot and Chickpea Stew

chicken apricot chickpea stew

Yes, I know it’s been a LONG TIME since my last post, but that’s another story all together. (Besides,the re-learning curve on my recipe program is really steep!) Anyway, here’s what I’m up to today…

Perfect for a gray autumn or winter day, this slow-cooked stew is sweet and savory comfort food. Serve with rice or couscous and a medium dry red wine. Ras El Hanout is a North African spice mix. The name literally means “top of the shelf” and is made from the best spices to be found in any shop (sometimes as many as 50!) Most blends contain at least the following: ginger, cloves, black pepper, turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, and all spice,


6 bone-in skin-on chicken thighs

1 cup mushrooms coarsely chopped

1 large onion, sliced

3 cloves garlic, chopped

6 dried apricots, halved

2 tbsp dried barberries

2 tbsp ras el hanout spice blend

1/2 cup water

1 15-oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

Salt and pepper, to taste


1 Season the meaty side of the chicken thighs liberally with the Ras El Hanout

2 Brown the chicken thighs, skin side down, in a multi purpose cooker (I use a Ninja) or on your stove top in heavy bottomed, lidded casserole. Remove the chicken and set aside.

3 Lightly saute the garlic and mushrooms in the rendered chicken fat.

4 Change the setting to slow cook, If using a casserole on a stove top, turn the heat to a low simmer.

5 Layer the sliced onions over the mushrooms and top with the chicken thighs (skin side up).

6 Sprinkle on the halved apricots, the barberries, and the remainder of the Ras El Hanout.

7 Carefully pour the water down the side of the pan, taking care not to displace the spices, apricots or barberries.

8 Scatter the chickpeas around the chicken and press them gently into the liquid.

9 Cover and cook very slowly for up to six hours. Can also be prepared in a 250 degree oven.

Servings: 6

Oven Temperature: 275°F

Preparation Time: 30 minutes

Cooking Time: 6 hours

Total Time: 6 hours and 30 minutes

Stuffed Artichoke Bottoms with Shrimp, Capers and Marinara Sauce (serves 4)

stuffed artichoke bottoms

Stuffed Artichoke Bottoms with Shrimp, Capers and Marinara Sauce (serves 4)

Prep the Artichokes
2 cans artichoke bottoms drained and rinsed (about 8-10 artichokes)
Juice of 2 lemons (added to 4 cups water)

Soak the rinsed artichoke bottoms in the lemon juice and water for at least one hour.  Drain

Prepare the Marinara Sauce
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 15 ounce can diced tomatoes
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp each basil, marjarom and oregano
Kosher salt to taste
1 tbsp capers, drained

Sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil.  Add the tomatoes and spices (but not the capers) and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes.  Using an immersion blender, puree the sauce.  Stir in the capers. May be made in advance and reheated.

Stuff the Artichoke Bottoms
8 artichoke bottoms (prepared as above)
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 grated parmesan cheese
1 egg
1/4 tsp basil
1/4 tsp dried tarragon
Salt and red pepper flakes to taste

Lightly beat the egg.  Add the cheeses and spices and mix thoroughly.  Lightly mound the stuffing into the artichoke bottoms.  Place on a lightly oiled sheet of aluminum foil and bake at 425 for 10-12 minutes or until puffed and golden.  Transfer to individual oven proof au gratin dishes.

Prepare Shrimp
1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined

Return the Marinara Sauce to a slow boil.  Add the Shrimp and cook until just pink (about two minutes. Spoon the shrimp from the sauce and arrange around the artichoke bottoms on the au gratin dishes.

Use the remaining sauce to lightly nap the shrimp and the artichoke bottoms.  Sprinkle with additional grated cheese.  Place in the middle of a 425 oven for about 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated and the cheese melted.  Serve at once.

Holiday Sweet Bread: Challah


Challah:  Holiday Fruit Bread

This is a wonderfully fragrant, moist and yeasty bread.  Lovely to look and even better to eat!  Give yourself plenty of time to enjoy the process from mixing to kneading to baking and serving.  Glyn

 1/4 cup dried apricots diced
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup Granny Smith apple diced

1/2 cup boiling water
2 1/2 tsp dry yeast

1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter (melted)

2 Duck Eggs (or 3 XL chicken eggs)
1 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
4 cups all purpose-flour

1 egg (for brushing)
1 tbs. sugar

  1. Soak the cranberries and apricots in the boiling water for 20 minutes. Drain, reserving both fruit and water.
  2. Let the water cool to warm. Measure. If needed add additional warm water to make 1/2 Cup.
  3. Pour the yeast onto the warm water and stir.
  4. Combine the duck eggs, sugar, salt, butter, cinnamon and cardamom. Mix well.
  5. Stir in the yeast and water.
  6. Add the reserved fruit and 1 cup of flour
  7. Gradually add the remaining flour to create a slightly sticky but manageable dough.
  8. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead 10 minutes, adding additional flour if needed smooth elastic dough.
  9. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turn to oil both sides. Cover with dish towel and place in an oven with light on.
  10. Let rise till doubled (about 1 and 1/2 hours)
  11. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
  12. Shape the dough as you wish. Braided, spiral, round loaf, or small individual loaves. Place on baking sheet.
  13. Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with 1 tbs. sugar.
  14. Let rise again for 30 minutes.
  15. Preheat Oven to 350.
  16. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped.
  17. Cool on a rack. Serve warm, toasted or at room temperature.

Servings: 12           Yield: One Loaf

Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
Inactive Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 3 hours

Oven Temperature: 350°F

Nutrition Facts

Serving size: 1/12 of a recipe (3.6 ounces).

Calories 293.7
Calories From Fat (20%) 57.74
Total Fat 6.54g 10%
Saturated Fat 3.07g 15%
Cholesterol 128.8mg 43%
Sodium 219.7mg 9%
Potassium 130.71mg 4%
Total Carbohydrates 51.7g 17%
Fiber 2.58g 10%
Sugar 8.82g
Protein 6.83g 14%

Braised Oxtails

Braised Oxtails 4

Here’s a variation on Osso Bucco made with oxtails rather than veal or beef shanks. It’s a lovely, savory, slow-cooked main dish perfect for a cold winter day. And if you don’t have time to make it all at once, do the active part in the evening, refrigerate over night, and cook on low in a slow cooker for 6-8 hours the next day.
You can use either red or white wine with this dish. Just make sure its a dry wine.
To keep it gluten-free, serve with polenta or rice. Otherwise, use your favorite noodles.
Bon Appetit!

2 tbsp olive oil
3 lbs beef oxtail
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 1/2 cups chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrot 1 tbsp chopped garlic
1 tbsp tomato paste (or dried tomato powder)
1 cup dry wine (red or white)
salt and pepper to taste

1 Preheat the oven to 300 F.
2 Pat the oxtails dry.

braised oxtails 1
3 In a heavy, lidded casserole, heat the olive oil to medium high.
4 In batches, sear the oxtails on each side. Remove to a plate.

Braised oxtails 2
5 In the same pan, saute the onion, garlic, carrot and celery until lightly browned.

braised oxtails 3
6 Remove from the burner and stir in the tomato powder or paste.
7 Return the oxtails to the casserole, placing them on top of the vegetables (in one layer if possible).
8 Add the wine.
9 Cover tightly and place in the pre-heated oven if you are cooking it all in one day.
10 Cook slowly for two hours,
11 If you are cooking in two stages, refrigerate overnight and use a crock pot or slow cooker the next day to complete.

Servings: 8
Degree of Difficulty: Moderately difficult
Oven Temperature: 300°F
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 25 minutes
Inactive Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours and 35 minutes
Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/8 of a recipe (6.2 ounces).
Recipe Type
Gluten-Free, Low-Carb, Main Dish, Meat

Nutrition Braised Oxtails

What to do with the left-over bubbly?


beef in champagne 1

Beef in Champagne

Like many cooks and entertainers, I tend to over-shop at holidays. This year, in addition to a half-full bottle of completely potable California “Champagne,” I found myself with a pound and a half of Crimini mushrooms, a quart of whole cream, assorted nuts and cheeses, and enough produce to stock a small market. Much of it will keep long enough to see us through this week, but the mushrooms were staring down their “use-by” date, and the champagne (even when stored with a spoon in the neck of the bottle to preserve the bubbles) was loosing it’s charm.

Enter Beef in Champagne — a gluten-free, low-carb riff on beef burgundy (or stroganoff). It takes about two and half hours to prepare but it also sits for four hours. So if you get it into the oven in half an hour and set your oven to go off after two hours, you can leave and then reheat it at dinner time.

To keep things low-carb, serve it with mashed cauliflower or spaghetti squash. Or, if your New Year’s resolutions permit, serve with potatoes or over noodles.

Pair it with a nice salad, and a crisp dry wine — even champagne!


4 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 lb stew beef chunks, cut intoi inch cubes
2 cups sliced yellow onions
4 cloves garlic, chopped
18 oz mushrooms thickly sliced 1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
1/4 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/4 tsp black pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups Champagne or White Wine
1/2 cup sour cream (OPTIONAL)

beef in champagne3

1 Heat half the olive oil in a heavy sauce pan or oven proof lidded casserole.

2 Sauté the onion and garlic until translucent and slightly golden in color. Remove to a bowl.

3 Turn the heat to medium high. Add the mushrooms to the pan and sauté until they have released and re-absorbed their liquid — about 15 minutes.

beef in champagne2

4 Season with salt, pepper and thyme. Remove to a bowl.

beef in champagne4

5 Pat the beef cubes dry. In the same pan, add the remaining olive oil and sear the beef. If it is too moist to sear, just cook until the liquid evaporates.

beef in champagne5

6 Return the onions, garlic and mushrooms to the pan with the beef, Stir well.

beef in champagne 6

7 Add the champagne and let it bubble for a moment or two.

beef in champagne 7

8 Lower the heat, cover tightly and simmer for two hours. (Or bake in a 275 degree oven.)

9 Let sit for up to four hours (or overnight in the fridge.)

10 Reheat before serving, cooking down the sauce to your preference.

11 For an even richer dish, stir in a half cup of sour cream.

beef in champagne 1

Servings: 4
Degree of Difficulty: Moderately difficult
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 2 hours
Inactive Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 6 hours and 15 minutes
Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/4 of a recipe (14.8 ounces).
Recipe Type
Gluten-Free, Low-Carb, Main Dish, Meat

Nutrition Information:

beef in champagne 8.jpg

A Body and Mind in Sync

solstice quote

First Day of Winter. December 21st. 3:30pm on the eastern edge of the central time zone. It’s grey, foggy and wet. The dusk is so deep that the holiday lights have come on. Today is the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere; a moment when the wheel of the year turns again toward the lengthening of days and the coming of Summer.

In previous years, I was at work on this day. I would have noted the ever earlier sunset and perhaps have driven a bit more carefully on the way home through the wooded hillside of Pennsylvania; conscious of the altered routines and challenged circadian rhythms of my fellow creatures. But the Solstice would have remained an external phenomenon. It would not have had the power to alter my daily rounds.

Today is different. I have walked these hours through a liminal landscape. My brain has been aware of the time of day, the events on the calendar, the household chores at hand. My body, however, has insisted that I listen to the rhythms within. I have been sitting quietly. Reading, thinking, deeply aware…deeply at peace. And when after lunch I felt the pull of sleep, I did not fight it. Wrapped in an afghan, I stretched out on the sofa and slept, allowing my body and brain to operate for once in tandem, cradled and motionless in the arms of the gathering dark.

Today is a special day. My heart, body and genetic memories know it. They always have. But today, my mind has known it too, and joining my spirit, has entered into the deep peace of winter.

This is good. Very Good.

Scrooged: Misanthropes Among Us


Unlike most other adaptations of Dickens’ Ebeneezer Scrooge, Bill Murray’s portrayal of Frank Cross in “Scrooged” leaves us with little doubt as to his basic character. This Scrooge is not just a misanthrope, he’s a jerk. There may well be all sorts of mitigating circumstances in his past, but the fact remains that this guy actively enjoys bullying, humiliating and generally riding roughshod over everyone in his path. In fact, his redemption, when it comes, is not achieved by his learning something about human decency. Nor is his heart softened by the realization of his connections to the lives of others. Frank Cross has to be terrorized into rejoining the human race.

Thing is, it works. Which makes me wonder…

Spiritually speaking, what would it take to put the fear of God into most of us?  Not in the sense of punishment, eternal damnation and all that stuff. In the long run, those things never work; they just temporarily change our behavior.

Fear, in the biblical sense, refers to awe and reverence. In that context, to fear God means learning (among other things) to recognize our place in the creator/creature relationship and to respond appropriately. It takes us down a few notches in our estimation of our own centrality in the universe. It also has the effect of reminding us of the necessity of others in our journey through life. It’s hard to become fully human all by yourself.

But becoming fully human is exactly what we have to do. It won’t be easy and because few of us are naturally altruistic, we might have to start from the perspective of enlightened self interest instead. After all, unless we learn to get along, we’re likely to destroy ourselves and our world. But maybe, together, we can learn to offer each other the respect we deserve, and to reverence the image of the divine which we all bear. What a great Christmas Gift that would be.

It’s A Wonderful Life

wonderful like

Unintentional narcissism seems to be the abiding sin of our age. We are so wrapped in in monitoring how we feel, what we need or want, or what others think of us that we seldom stop to think about what our presence might mean in this world.

We don’t do it because we are selfish. Most of the time, we’re not even aware that we are doing it. We are narcissists because we are afraid. Afraid that we are not good enough. Afraid that no matter how hard we work or deeply we love, loss and sorrow are only a heartbeat a way. It’s a very effective method of wasting time and never quite engaging reality. It’s also a humdinger of a way to live and die without ever recognizing that life is wonderful — even when we don’t know it. Even when we are to tired, or worried, or angry to notice, this is still a wonderful life.

Because life is wonderful all on its own. And as George Bailey comes to know, while that wonder is enhanced by our presence and participation — especially in the our impact on the lives of others — life’s wonderfulness is not contingent on our efforts. In other words, we don’t have to make life wonderful. It just is.

So today, let’s all throw our hands in the air, take a deep breath and jump headfirst into the wonder. It’s there for us, just waiting to be noticed.

Movies in Advent ~ White Christmas

white christmas1

We watched White Christmas last night, and today I am wondering just what it is that makes this film so enduringly endearing.

In a word, “Values.”

Yes, it’s nostalgic, simplistic, dated, and corny. The romantic angle is implausible. The plot concerns Christmas only in that it takes place over the holiday season. It doesn’t even endorse our culture’s obsession with consumerism and Rockwellian family gatherings. But it does remind us that those who have endured and survived genuine hardship most often have the best sense of perspective.

Because the main character of the film is not any one person. It is the relationship forged in the forced community of an army at war. These folks have been tried in the fires of world-threatening conflict, and the experience has taught them the value of friendship,loyalty,and respect.

So when a group of hoofers and grunts give up the comforts of a fireside Christmas Eve to say “thank you”, we understand. Maybe we even get a bit teary.

Unlike the fear-based, comfort-driven and often selfish motives of modern life, “White Christmas” celebrates real human values. We need that more than ever.

Stealth Christmas

20151214_120739No one gets upset if you say “Merry Christmas” in our neighborhood.  No one is offended if you don’t, either.  It’s not that we don’t care about such things, it’s that we care enough to let folks be.  We also do some pretty cool stuff around the holidays.

For example, someone has been doing some stealth decorating on a little pine growing in an empty patch of wooded lot on the side of the road.  Each day, the little tree grows more festive.  First a star, then some red garland and some icicles.  last night someone added some battery operated lights, and today there’s a pile of ornaments on the ground at the base of the tree.

As it turns out, there is more than one “someone” involved.    I surprised one of them when I stopped by to take a photo today.  He confessed to placing the icicles on the tree, but wanted to give others the credit for everything else.  “We just enjoy it,” he said.  “Thanks for appreciating it

I do appreciate it!  Not just for the holiday cheer, or the neighborhood beautification, but for the obvious joy of the effort.  Folks care enough to do something good, and to do it anonymously.

That’s the real spirit of Christmas.




Our Lady of Guadalupe


Today is the feast of our Lady of Guadalupe for whom I hold a special devotion. On this day, I am reminded of the importance of sensible evangelism, especially when ministering with indigenous peoples. The truth will be recognized and embraced by those who are seeking the holy. We need never impose our metaphors at the cost of theirs. Our job is to present the good news and to allow the holy spirit to present the resonances to those to whom we speak. Our Lady of Guadalupe wears the garb of the Americas, and in doing so has led millions to her son. There is a message and a lesson for us all in that .


There’s Always a Bigger Fish

big fish

I’ve been reading Claire North lately, especially the Game House novellas. Her premise revolves around the concept of gambling/gaming as a means of taking charge of one’s own life. Perhaps we wish to escape a violent or abusive relationship. Maybe what we really desire from life is the security of having power over a nation’s political and economic life. Maybe we are just plain bored. In every case, if we are shrewd, patient and willing, the House will provide a game for us. If we win, we grow more powerful; if we lose, we risk the loss of whatever we hold most dear. The House knows what we value and just how to prod us into making and accepting ever more risky wagers.

And if that is not sufficiently sinister, the House awards winners with the services, even lives, of lesser Gamers who have lost enough to have become indentured players. They are the game pieces awarded to those more adept at playing the Game.

Despite the House’s claims that every game is fair and balanced, and the ubiquitous presence of white robed “umpires” to assure that the rules are obeyed, everyone knows that the games are “fixed.” Still, the lure of success is addictive, and the house keeps upping the ante for those who believe that they can win.

But, as Obi Wan Kenobi once quipped, “there is always a bigger fish,” and every player is also a piece in someone else’s game.

The thing about good fiction, and Claire North/Catherine Webb’s fiction is excellent, is that it provides a mirror into our own lives. Along with affluence and the relative comfort provided by the pursuit of success, often come boredom, a craving for more, and an indifference to that fact that once we begin viewing life as a game, we run the risk of ceasing to be people. We all become pieces on the board.

Faith offers an alternative. The cost and promise of faith is liberation. True, it is a risky business to be free, for then we may no longer blame anyone else for our problems. But being free also provides an extraordinary gift – that of perspective – of knowing one’s place in the universe and of recognizing the ultimate poverty of using others to make ourselves feel better.

The truly free know that one of the surest ways to die is to live in dread of the arrival of a bigger fish. Such a zero-sum game mentality will ensure that the greater predator will always find and in the end, devour us. The truly free know that true love, power, and strength appear in the most unlikely places – even in mangers.

Advent offers us freedom. It invites us to step away from the game, and to enter into life.

Balance and Perspective




This time of year we have to organize our lives around the possibility of being fogged in.  Fog around here can be so dense that you literally cannot drive.  And if you are out and suddenly encounter an unexpected patch, you’ll need a spotter in the passenger seat with the door ajar to tell you how close you are to the edge of the road.  Sometimes it’s so bad that when you come to an intersection you have to listen for traffic before inching forward.  Life on the edge of the Cumberland Bluff requires planning and cooperation.


It’s a bit foggy today on our little spot of the bluff – maybe a 6 out of 10.  Not so much that I can’t drive, but enough to make me concerned about just how foggy it is between here and the market.  And that is a problem because I’m out of coffee and the presence of coffee in my life is non-negotiable.  I could call a neighbor to see how foggy it is where they are, or I could post on the community news page to ask about the traffic, but again, that would only tell me how bad it is in that particular spot.  There is only one way for me to find out.  I will have to venture forth into the fog…but carefully.


That’s a good metaphor for finding our path through life.  We can rely on the witness of others, which is often invaluable but inevitably partial; or we can find out for ourselves.  Eventually we realize that there are times when the only way we can get what we get to where we need to be is to step out the door and into the fog.  In doing so, we may discover that the densest of fog dissipates just around the bend in the road.  Of course, we also run the risk of stepping off the edge of the cliff!  That’s why we need the perspective of others, balanced by our own experience.  Because life is not as simple as we would like. Choices are difficult.  Opinions are cheap and abundant.  It is easy to lose our footing, and even easier to lose our way by abdicating responsibility for making our own choices.

Dancing Toward Christmas

father christmas

I was an English major before I was a pastor, and sentimental as it is, I really like the writing of Charles Dickens. Mind you, no one would who’s actually read them would suggest that his works are overtly Christian. (He was most certainly influenced by the Social Gospel of 19th century Anglicanism, but he’s definitely not a proponent of orthodoxy.) Which is why I find it all the more interesting when film versions of “A Christmas Carol” give even so much as nod in the direction of the church – think Patrick Stewart stopping by the local parish for a few rousing carols before heading off to dinner with the family. For Dickens, the redemption of Ebeneezer Scrooge is clearly secular and humanist.

So, when in the final scene of the Albert Finney musical version of the tale, over-the-top prodigal Scrooge is transformed into Father Christmas and leads the parade of street urchins, tradesmen, bell ringers and Morris Dancers through the streets of London, we hardly need the insertion of vicars and choir boys to tell us what is going on. But the screenwriters and directors obviously thought it would provide a fitting touch, so they did.

Thereby providing us with a wonderfully ironic example of how when the church is out of touch with the people, the parade may just have to come to the church.

Two world views collide. And when the raucous celebration of Christmas, led by the greatest reprobate of all, confronts the precise piety of staid and proper worship, guess which prevails. It takes a moment or two for the choir boys to break ranks and join the parade, but they do. Even the nonplussed vicar manages a bit of modest (if out-of-tempo) participation. And, at least for a moment, the world is a better place.

Just saying….

Waddesdon Tabernacle

Advent Afternoons: Because Sometimes Things Really ARE Complicate

My sister, Deborah Ruppe-Rogoff, sent me a link from the British Museum’s Waddesdon Bequest collection, last night and asked me to write about it. She was intrigued by the complexity of the Tabernacle’s artistry, and the obvious love, talent, and devotion of its creator. I agree.

I am also struck by a couple of other things.

First, this extraordinarily intricate and beautiful piece is Christian in its theme, but it came to the British Museum in the late 19th century as a bequest from a Jew. It had for centuries been part of private collections, but Baron Ferdinand Rothschild was not just a collector. He was also a philanthropist and realized that things of beauty should be shared as well as preserved. The medieval creator of this piece might well have hated the Baron for being a Jew. But a Jew and his family preserved the artist’s work and made a gift of it to the world. There’s a lesson there.

Second, in contemporary parlance, a Tabernacle is often a house of worship or a liturgical fixture which houses a sacred object (a Torah Scroll, the Reserved Sacrament, etc.) But in its origins the word described the place where the Shekinah/Presence of God dwelt. In fact, Scripture speaks of God living with, travelling with, in fact, “tabernacling” with the people.

So the word is not only a noun, describing the place where the Holy dwells, it is also a verb.

In a time when it is so tempting and so easy to objectify our faith, to remove it from the realm of action, or to permanently enshrine it in an object, a place, a person or an event, we need to remember that. Faith must never be static, it is active and mobile.

Third, this artifact is a thing of beauty, whose full glory is only revealed by opening it up, examining its intricacies and entering into its mystery. But that isn’t all. As the curator points out, you have to be able to put it back together again; and that must be done with care and attention to how the various parts fit and work together. Otherwise we do violence to it, and to its creator.

In Advent, we are invited to prepare a dwelling place for God. We set our crèches, and decorate our homes and churches. But we are also asked to prepare our hearts. Advent provides us with an opportunity to explore the divine intricacies of God’s presence in the world, and to open our hearts and minds to the miracle before us. We live in a world that desperately needs to be opened up, understood, and appreciated. But the task must be undertaken with the utmost attention to what we are doing, to whom we are doing it, and in whose name and on whose behalf we are acting.

Peter Paul and Mary

Light One Candle: Don’t Let the Light Go Out

Hanukkah began at sundown last night, and it seems especially appropriate as we Christians enter the second week of Advent and light the second candle on our wreaths, to remember that light is not ours alone. As a metaphor, light is central, not just to this time of year, but to celebrations of faith throughout the world.

So, In a day and age when so many things conspire to quench the light and destroy hope, this song is a wonderful reminder of the power of faith, action and memory. It’s message is timeless, and contains a lesson for all of us.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h1cRXgDFiSs (Peter, Paul and Mary)

Light one candle for the Maccabees’ children
With thanks that their light didn’t die
Light one candle for the pain they endured
When their right to exist was denied
Light one candle for the terrible sacrifice
Justice and freedom demand
But light one candle for the wisdom to know
When the peacemaker’s time is at hand

Don’t let the light go out
It’s lasted for so many years
Don’t let the light go out
Let it shine through our love and our tears

Light one candle for the strength that we need
To never become our own foe
And light one candle for those who are suffering
Pain we learned so long ago
Light one candle for all we believe in
That anger not tear us apart
And light one candle to find us together
With peace as the song in our hearts

Don’t let the light go out
It’s lasted for so many years
Don’t let the light go out
Let it shine through our love and our tears

What is the memory that’s valued so highly
That we keep it alive in that flame?
What’s the commitment to those who died
That we cry out they’ve not died in vain?
We have come this far always believing
That justice would somehow prevail
This is the burden, this is the promise
This is why we will not fail

Don’t let the light go out
It’s lasted for so many years
Don’t let the light go out
Let it shine through our love and our tears

Advent Afternoons: Every Year Is A Jubilee

shepherds why

Since retiring we often worship at the local Methodist Church, which is literally in our neighborhood. We like it: the preaching is excellent, the congregation is friendly and welcoming, and because Methodists are not compelled to wait until Christmas Eve to sing carols, we’ve been singing and studying Christmas carols this Advent. Today the chosen carol was “Angels we have heard on high.” The sermon focused on the line, “Shepherds, why this jubilee?” Why, the townspeople wondered, were these particular folks, largely unwashed and unlearned, chosen to share the good news of the birth of Jesus? What did they do to be chosen to start the party? Why indeed.

Thinking about this carol this afternoon, I am further struck that the choice of the word “jubilee” in the text of this old French song is precise and essential. Bearing such good tidings was more than ample cause to be jubilant. These shepherds were most likely neither poets nor philosophers, but they would certainly have understood the idea of Jubilee. And for them it would have been far more than a festival, party, or celebratory event. Jubilee was an extraordinarily important, though frequently ignored, concept to our ancestors in the faith. It was the time, once every 50 years, when debts were to be forgiven, slaves and prisoners freed, and lands held as collateral restored to their owners. It was a time of liberation. For folks like shepherds, living on the edge of society, such respite from the weight of their worlds would have been great news. And even if it didn’t really happen (human beings being what we are), the theme of jubilee represented hope, and the promise of better times to come.

Like Advent. Every year we return to our spiritual roots in hope that this year, when the baby arrives, we will recognize him, worship him, and imitate him. Jesus is the ultimate expression of our jubilee, but his appearance is not limited to twice a century. He is with us every day. Every moment is an example of liberation. Every year is a Jubilee year.

Perhaps that is why we continue to sing, and to hope, even when the experience of our daily lives tries to convince us that we are only dreaming. Maybe it is because deep in our hearts, we all feel the tug of the angelic message. Maybe we all want to be shepherds, doing our best to trust the assertion that God is with us, while making our way to Bethlehem to share the news with others.

Advent Afternoons: The Eve of St. Nicholas


On the Eve of St. Nicholas

My grandsons love St. Nicholas, but they’ll run away screaming if Santa Claus comes into view. After all, Santa is a big, loud critter who sees and knows all and sends out elves to sit on your shelf and tattle on you, while St. Nicholas is a church-sanctioned saint who protects children (also sailors, brewers, pawn brokers and others) and leaves chocolates in your wooden shoes.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m 65 and I still believe in Santa. But I can also understand how the idea of being under behavioral surveillance by some huge hairy dude who can either make your day or take away your toys can be a bit unsettling to toddlers, especially when they are still learning to navigate the world of parental and societal regulations.

Sad, then, isn’t it, when we understand God the same way? Be good, believe the right things, follow the rules and you’ll go to heaven. If you don’t, well, you’ll get what you deserve and it won’t be fun. Hard to get excited about that.

Thankfully, that’s not what our faith (or the season of Advent) is about. Among other things, Advent is about imitating St. Nicholas. As a fourth century Bishop in Turkey, he was known for his attention to the needs of others. He was able to understand that the best way to help folks look forward to and prepare for the coming of Christ was to be Christ-like himself. He helped the helpless, the vulnerable and those who might not have been on the A-list for Christmas invitations. And most of the time he did it anonymously. (By the way, that part about hanging your stockings on Christmas Eve. Legend has it that he tossed coins through an open window to help impoverished and dower-less sisters. He didn’t sneak into their home, and he didn’t climb down a chimney. The coins fell into their socks as the laundry hung near the fire to dry.)

Anyway, St. Nicholas is a huge part of Advent. He embodies a spirit of eternal love and hope while we live here in the mean-time. That’s why we need folks like St. Nicholas. We need to be able to trust in goodness and to look forward with joy to the presence of God in the world. We need to be able to rejoice in the presence of the divine in the face of an infant. We yearn to be safe, warm, loved and sheltered. And, truth be told, we want to be able to make other people feel that way.

So, for Nicholas and all the Saints of God, we give thanks!

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