Category Archives: Ingredient of the Month

Health—Bring it on for 2015!


Yodeling Marmots, Moscow Mule mugs and ginger—keeping you smiling in 2015.

Happy New Year! I hope you all celebrated in your style of choice. Traditionally, New Years Day is all about resolutions and hopeful proclamations, along with some contrition and possibly a Bloody Mary or two. Many years ago it was the day I committed to my one and only marathon, and now every year I am grateful I don’t have to commit to that again.

So yeah, resolutions can be a good thing, and health is a worthy goal. Attaining or maintaining it really does start in the kitchen. My brother-in-law (most awesome shopper of all time), gave me Thug Kitchen for Christmas. Tourette’s-like language is its marketing schtick, so be warned, but check it out if you can, and watch the trailer with headphones on or when the kids are gone. I love their no-excuses approach, and the proof that healthy, tasty food does not have to be fancy or expensive or hard to make. (I also like the Moscow Mule mugs that came with it. See Marmot’s perch).

I’ve been thinking a lot about health lately—about how good it is to have it, and how often I take it for granted. It has a lot to do with having spent both Christmas and New Year’s Eves toasting a sick kid with ginger ale, and the days before and between shuttling between the kitchen, bedroom and bathroom with wet cloths, thermometers, ice packs and all manner of fluids.

It wasn’t all bad. Our Christmas Day marathon of SNL reruns (which included introducing my son to Roseanne Roseannadanna and a predawn showing of “The Jerk”) was kind of fun and peaceful and reminded me that laughter really is the best therapy.

The best bonus of the whole deal was that I did not get sick, something I credit entirely to ginger. Yes, here is the point of this ramble, and the reason we chose ginger as the Ingredient of the Month for December. Throughout the long stretch of flu and ear infections I tried out every homeopathic remedy I could find. One desperate night I baked up some onion ear muffs (can you imaging your mother sneaking in at night to press hot onions on your ears?) and, when that didn’t help, garlic poultices. Lets all agree right here to not divulge that the “piece of thin, 100 percent cotton cloth” used to wrap the garlic came from a clean (I swear) item in my top drawer.

Anyhooooo none of it worked, though I did get a sincere “Nice effort, Mom.” 
What did work, at least for keeping me totally healthy, was ginger. Lots of ginger, along with Meyer lemons. (FYI the January Sunset magazine has a feature about Meyer lemons. My ship has come in!)

I’m hard core about ginger, sometimes slicing it and eating it raw. More often though I let it steep in hot water along with slices of lemon. I add honey if I need comfort, cayenne if I need strength and both if I ‘m needy all around. My sister recently turned me on to candied ginger, which gives baked goods and cocktails some exotic zing. Speaking of cocktails and mocktails let’s not forget the delicious role of ginger beer and ginger syrup. 

A hunk of ginger is cheap, easy to store, versatile and the least complicated health insurance you will ever have. And yes, we all need health insurance because, in the words of the great  Roseanne Roseannadanna, “It’s always something. If it’s not one thing it’s another.” Either you’re mouth’s on fire from chewing ginger or you’re wearing onion ear muffs all winter.

This year we hope to bring you good food, interesting food, all served up with a sense of humor and an understanding that gathering friends is supposed to involve more fun than stress. Happy 2015. Let’s do it up right!

How About Them Apples?

Full disclosure. This post is really an excuse to put up my favorite video clip of the season. Behold the way one chef dealt with a huge order of tarte tatins.   

If more men knew that this was a step in the process of making apple pie we’d have a whole lot more male pie bakers. And while we are on the subject of men and food prep, you might enjoy the exploits of our favorite Russian Food hacker  (the kiwi and the pomegranate hacks were news to me).

But power tools aside, this is also the right time to remind everyone of all the great things to do with apples. There are lots of them this year, though not really in our orchard, which is a mixed blessing. No hauling bushels and grain sacks full of apples to the cider maker, but no homegrown apple cider. There are, however, more apples than we can possibly use, and here are my favorite ways to approach the task.

For Snacks:

Best, of course, is just eating these crisp juicy apples, which are the ideal for taking on the road or the trail. But when you need something a little more interesting, get dipping. Peanut butter and almond butter are excellent, healthy options, as is vanilla yogurt or one of my faves, a mixture of ground flaxseed and cinnamon. If you really need to make the hard sell on apple slices serve them with Nutella or, even better, with homemade salted caramel Cholliesauce.

For Breakfast:

It’s time for apple cheddar scones. It just is. Trust me on this. For apple cheddar pancakes (thank you Doug Haney) thinly slice up some Granny Smith or Mac- like apples and cook them down. Slice up sharp cheddar. Add both to the pancake right after you pour it on the griddle and cook the cakes as usual. You know to top them with–only real stuff!

For Lunch:

Add thinly sliced apples to your sandwich, especially if it’s in turkey and cheddar or grilled cheese family. Make a frittata with chopped apples and cheddar. Make an apple/ butternut squash soup like this one , or my slacker no recipe version that I swear I will post soon.

For Dinner:

Dip them in Guinness Fondue. Serve up some pork tenderloin with homemade caramelized applesauce. See below.

For Dessert:

If you haven’t already made this Apple Cake, do it! If you don’t have the mojo to make the cake at least make the brown sugar frosting and just smear it on an apple and call it good. Really good. The frosting is totally easy and all-time delish. And, especially if your apples aren’t winning any beauty contests make a Joni Mitchell apple pie.

For Fun:

Finally, if you prefer to drink your apples, mix up some hard cider sangria and enjoy the season!

Caramelized Applesauce Plus

rosy applesauce

Rosy pink applesauce from tree to table with one little stop on the stove.

This came about as a total mistake, after I got distracted while making a batch of applesauce with the thin-skinned apples that come off my favorite tree.  It appeared to be yet another burned disaster, another charred pot headed to the graveyard, but it did smell pretty good. The happy result was Applesauce Plus, which is sweet without added sugar and prettily pink. It was an instant family fave.


  • As many tart, unpeeled red-skinned apples as you want.
  • Squeeze (or more) of fresh lemon juice.


Cut the cores from the apples and put them in a pot, barely covered with water. Boil until the water is thick and bubbly and the pot smells a bit like caramel. This takes a while, so you’ll want to ignore them for a while, but not be so far away that all the water boils away and you ruin your pot.

When the apples are sticking to the bottom just a bit and the pot smells really good, turn off the stove and let the whole thing cool. Smash the apples through a sieve or a food mill like this one (which is totally worth having), and add a squeeze of lemon. Enjoy it as is or on pretty much anything.

Tomato Jam, co-starring sugar and spice

spicy tomato jam

Tomato jam and all the fixin’s for an alfresco summer feast. As ever, bacon helps.

Oh yeah. We’re jamming on tomatoes because it’s the ingredient of the month. It’s a little early for many of you New England gardeners, but pretty soon we’ll be in full tomato overload, so I’m getting you prepped. Tomato cheddar pie, featuring big honkin’ full-sized red bombers will be coming at you soon. But let’s ease into tomato season, and give it some sass while we’re at it, with this sweet and spicy number.

 Let me first say that there’s nothing quite as perfect as a fresh tomato from the garden, so it feels a little sacrilegious to futz with fresh tomatoes in high summer. BUT, sometimes we go overboard, and just have too much of a good thing. When that happens, make this jam.

It adds some zing to a BLT (along with crunchy iceberg or romaine, not shmancy wispy greens) or any caprese type appetizer with basil and fresh mozzarella or my new best friend, burrata (thank you Jeanie!). Use it with a creamy base in bruschetta deconstructed, as an element of lunch deconstructed, put it in quesadillas, on pizza, over a poached egg or my favorite way, on a lusty piece of That’s Life Bread spread with avocado. It’s sort of like grown up ketchup, and you can dial the sweet and spice up or down as you see fit.

Ok, here we go.


3 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 pounds cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
3 Tbsp packed dark brown sugar
3 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
1 small shallot, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp red pepper flakes (or some finely diced jalapeno for extra cha-cha)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add tomatoes, brown sugar, garlic, shallot, vinegar, Worcestershire, red pepper flakes or jalapenos, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and cook, stirring until tomatoes are softened and lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Transfer to bowl and let cool to room temperature.

Bring It!

Bring this in your mason jar of choice, is a brilliant addition to any picnic, and an excellent contribution to any summer gathering, peace offering or gift basket.