Tuesday, November 22, 2016


What dishes do you think of when planing your Thanksgiving dinner? For some of us, the celebratory banquet includes similar dishes year after year, such as roast turkey with stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes,  candied yams and pumpkin pie. When the Pilgrims invited the Wampanoag Indians in 1621 to the historic feast to celebrate their successful harvest, most of what we as Americans think of traditional Thanksgiving dishes were not on the menu. 

The first "Thanksgiving" was a three day festival of eating, hunting and entertainment and since no record exists of the feasts exact menu, historians can only surmise the details from writings of Edward Winslow, William Bradford and predictions based on the crops that were prolific at that time. Edward Winslow wrote in his journal that the Governor Bradford sent four men on a "fowling" mission in preparation of the event and that the Wampanoag arrived with the gift of five deer, so venison and some type of  poultry were likely consumed in addition to native fruits like plums, melons, grapes, and cranberries, leeks, wild onions, beans, and squash. Other English crops such as turnips, cabbage, parsnips, onions, carrots, parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme might have also been on hand. It is assumed that since the Pilgrim's sugar supply had dwindled at the time of the feast, that the meal did not feature pies, cakes or desserts so typical in our contemporary Thanksgiving celebration.

When I think of Thanksgiving, I think of comfort food. Turkey accompanied by carb rich side dishes - stuffing, candied yams, mashed potatoes, squash, and green beans swimming in a creamy mushroom sauce with fried onions. Thanksgiving without them is just not Thanksgiving. Typically we Americans eat an overabundance of these starchy comfort foods and by the end of Thanksgiving dinner feel drowsy, weighed down and just stuffed....like the turkey. This year I decided to give guests an alternative; a healthier,lighter side dish, full of flavor but also full of nutrients. It looks festive, has some leafy greens, goat cheese, dried cranberries and roasted carrots.

 Maple-Roasted Carrot Salad. I found this recipe in Ina Garten's new book "Cooking for Jeffrey". I'll let you know how it turns out and if  any of my dinner guests decide to give it a try. And remember...this is an alternative not a replacement. I will try the salad but I'm still looking forward to the traditional stuffing, potatoes and pumpkin pie! HAPPY THANKSGIVING!


2 Pounds carrots
Good olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2/3 cup dried cranberries
2/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice ( 2 oranges )
3 tablespoons sherry wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves - grated
6 ounces baby arugula
6 ounces goat cheese - medium diced
2/3 cup roasted, salted Marcona almonds


Preheat oven to 425 degrees
Trim and scrub the carrots. If the carrots are more than one inch in diameter, cut them in half lengthwise. Cut the carrots in large diagonal slices one inch wide and 2 inches long and place in a medium bowl with 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Toss well and transfer to two sheet pans. Roast for 20 minutes, tossing once, until the carrots are tender. Transfer all the carrots to one of the sheet pans and the maple syrup, toss, and roast for 10 - 15 minutes, until the edges are caramelized. Watch them carefully! Toss with a metal spatula and set aside for 10 minutes. 

Meanwhile, combine the cranberries and orange juice in a small saucepan, bring to a simmer, then set aside for 10 minutes. 

In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, garlic and 1/2 tsp salt. Whisk in 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Place the arugula in a large bowl and add the carrots, cranberries ( with their liquid ), goat cheese, almonds and the vinaigrette. Toss with large spoons, sprinkle with salt and serve at room temperature. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

J9'S COOKBOOK CLUB- Summer Sides and Apps

Do you love to read cookbooks and try new recipes? Want to talk about your triumphs and disasters and exchange advice and culinary ideas? Then join me this summer on August 25th at 7:00 pm for a new twist on book discussion:  J9's Books for Cooks Book Club.

The theme will be Summer Sides and Appetizers. All you have to do is find a cookbook from our vast cookbook collection and make the recipe of your choice. Then come in with the book and a sample of your creation and share your thoughts and ideas. If you need help finding the perfect recipe, just ask one of our librarians or use the book list of suggestions to help you.

In the spirit of my new cookbook club, I decided to get started on some ideas to support the theme. One of my all time favorite recipes is from Ina Garten. I know, I seem to always fall back on a recipe from Ina but if you've ever tried any of her recipes, you would know why.

Orzo with roasted vegetables is a full of flavor, easy to make crowd pleaser. And you can serve it at room temperature which is a plus when you are having a big party and you have limited space in your refrigerator. Grilled vegetables with orzo, feta, pine nuts and basil. So liight and refreshing and goes with almost anything at an outdoor barbecue or summer get together. It is also quite versatile. Sometimes I add zucchini or double the amount of vegetables and it comes out delicious every time!


1 small eggplant, peeled and 3/4 inch diced
1 red bell pepper - 1 inch diced
1 yellow bell peppers - 1 inch diced
1 red onion peeled and 1 inch diced
2 garlic cloves minced
1/3 cup good olive oil
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/2 pound orzo
4 scallions minced 
1/4 cup pignoli nuts toasted  ( I omit sometimes if I don't have them on hand )
3/4 pound feta cheese - 1/2 inch diced not crumbled
15 fresh basil leaves cut into chiffonade


1/3 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup good olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Toss the eggplant, peppers, onion and garlic with olive oil, salt and pepper on a large baking sheet. Roast for 40 minutes, until browned, turning once with a spatula. 

Meanwhile, cook the orzo in boiling water for 7-9 minutes until tender. Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl. 

Add the roasted vegetables to the pasta, scraping all the liquid and seasonings from the roasting pan into the pasta bowl. 

For the dressing, combine the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper and pour on the pasta and vegetables. Let cool to room temperature and then add the scallions, pignolis, feta and basil. Check the seasonings and serve at room temperature. 



Wednesday, March 30, 2016


I always wanted to learn how to make pickles and preserves....maybe jar some fresh tomato sauce just when the tomatoes are most ripe and at their peak. I have all the supplies from my mom. I remember summers where she would come home with bushels of strawberries, pick out the perfect ones and make a whole winter's supply of strawberry jam; cooking the sugar and berries, boiling the jars and sealing the lids to preserve the freshness. We would eat strawberry jam all summer and winter!

A few weeks ago I decided to try a new food store. While perusing the produce department for salad ingredients, I stumbled upon cute, mini cucumbers. My first thought was to forget the salad (since they can be somewhat boring and redundant) and to use them for something not so ordinary. Pickles! Here is my chance to learn the process of pickling and use the supplies that have been packed away in my basement for years. Unfortunately canning takes a bit of time and since a lot of free time was lacking in my schedule and not knowing how long these little cukes would stay fresh, I decided to take a short cut and make quick refrigerator pickles. Obviously a shorter shelf life than if I canned them but tasty and very easy to make. I have an Aunt who practically pickles anything all summer, as long as the vegetables are abundant and fresh. She has a brine recipe for everything ... string beans, mushrooms, carrots, cauliflower... They're all good. I decided to use her recipe for bread and butter pickles so here goes:


  • Wash cucumbers well with cold water. Slice them and put them in canning jars that are clean and hot - just out of the dishwasher. ( I also sliced red peppers since I had them in the fridge)
  • Combine sugar,  vinegar, onions, salt and spices and bring to a boil on medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes.
  • Let cool for a couple of minutes and then ladle the brine over the cucumbers in the jar. Make sure to leave 1/4 inch space at the top. Cover the lids and then refrigerate. Shake the jars once a day to distribute the brine. 
You can store these in the refrigerator for up to 2 months but they won't last that long!

You can find recipes like this in the book Canning & Preserving with Ashley English

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


Remember a time when Mom told you to eat your oatmeal.....even made sure you devoured every last morsel? I bet you preferred those sugary loops instead? Oatmeal...yuck.... so thick and flavorless. I know why Mom was so insistent. Oatmeal, plain and simple is good for you! It is rich in fiber and if consumed as part of a low-fat diet, it can lower your cholesterol. Studies also have shown that it decreases the risk of high blood pressure because it is promotes good heart health. Oats are higher in protein and healthy fats and lower in carbohydrates than most other whole grains.

It's a new year and I'm not one for resolutions but this year I wanted to make a promise to myself that I could keep - incorporating more nutritious foods into my diet. Breakfast for me usually consists of multiple cups of coffee which we all know is not very healthy. I decided to add oatmeal to my morning routine since it has so many benefits and keeps you feeling full longer, enabling you to maintain a healthy weight. I started a search for oatmeal recipes and found one that I actually look forward to eating every morning! Overnight oatmeal or refrigerator oatmeal seems to be the latest craze. Oatmeal, Greek yogurt, milk, fruit and chia seeds shaken up and left to rest overnight in the fridge. There are recipes all over the internet with multiple flavor combinations and photos to match. Typically, refrigerator oatmeal is made in a pretty glass mason jar, looks similar to porridge and is eaten cold. I have tried a few combinations and haven't found one yet that I do not like! Some of my favorites are strawberry with vanilla, mango with almond extract, peanut butter and banana and apple cinnamon. Right now the blueberry with maple syrup is my latest obsession.

Chia seeds add an extra benefit to your oatmeal healthy morning meal. They are loaded with calcium, potassium, vitamin B and anti-oxidants; another plus if you want to add nutrients to your diet. They have a neutral taste so you can add them to almost anything. Chias absorb water and help you feel fuller longer. So why not add some chia seeds to your morning breakfast routine?

Mason jars 

Add all the ingredients and shake well and let sit in the fridge overnight.

Blueberry Maple Refrigerator Oatmeal

1/4 cup uncooked old fashioned oats
1/3 cup skim milk
1/4 cup non-fat Greek Yogurt
1 1/2 tsp dried chia seeds
2 tsp maple syrup
blue berries to fill the jar

Put oats, milk, yogurt, chia seeds and maple syrup into a 1 cup mason jar. Put the lid on and shake well until combined. Remove the lid and add blueberries and stir until mixed. Put the jar in the refrigerator overnight. Eat chilled the next morning.  ( will keep for up to three days )

You can find healthy recipes like this in Ellie Krieger's new book
 You Have It Made