Kitchen Confidence

30 Days of Vitamix: Lemon Meringue Pie Smoothie

One of the best things about winter is citrus. Enjoying citrus on a cold, snowy morning is one of our digressions from "eating local." I have had lemon chess pie, lemon bars, and lemon meringue pie on my mind. Thanks to my in-laws, I have a big supply of beautiful, organic Meyer lemons. This is a delicious and healthy smoothie that evokes a lemon meringue pie, with a side of virtue.


Lemon Meringue Pie Smoothie

  • Juice & zest of 1 lemon, preferably Meyer
  • 1/4 C plain soy yogurt (you can use any plain yogurt you prefer)
  • 2 Tbsp oats
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1-2 tsp ground flax
  • 1/3 C frozen banana slices
  • 1/3 C frozen mango chunks
  • 1 tsp honey, or more to taste
  • 1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • handful of ice

Lemon meringue pie smoothie


  1. Buzz up the oats in the Vitamix first, for a smoother texture.
  2. Add fruit, mango for sweetness and banana for custardy texture. Yogurt also adds protein and smooth tartness.
  3. Add ground flax seed, ginger, lemon juice and zest, egg whites. (If you're worried about raw egg whites or immune compromised, omit or use pasteurized cartoned egg whites.)
  4. Top with a handful of ice and set your Vitamix on smoothie.





  • Did you know: heart healthy oats are a cinch to incorporate in smoothies? In this one, I buzzed up the oats first for a really smooth texture.
  • Egg whites are a good source of protein
  • Flax seed brings all kinds of nutrition- ALA or alpha-linoleic acid for one. Buy whole flax seeds and store in your freezer. I grind about a half a cup at a time and keep it in a shaker jar on the counter. Shake on/in smoothies, shake on oatmeal in the morning, salads at night.

Perfect Peanut Butter Cookies - Dipped and Salted and Wonderful

It's easy to love a site that delivers consistent recipes you can trust. There are a couple I turn to often, particularly if I'm making something I haven't made in awhile. I know I can trust their straightforward technique and reliable results. Elise Bauer's Simply Recipes is as advertised. Simply Recipes. Check out her chocolate crinkles. I have adopted her recipe as a regular in my rotation and I like to mix matcha powder in the confectioner's sugar. Michael Ruhlman also writes in a confident, clear voice and I enjoy the expert comments and his wife Donna Turner Ruhlman's beautiful photographs. Check out his All Strain cloths. I'm a new convert and I'll be writing about them soon so stay tuned.

Milk and _______

COOKIES - yes? YES. I favor savory and salty more than sweets, maybe that's why I cannot stop eating these peanut butter cookies. This is positively the best recipe I've found for peanut butter cookies. Many of my clients seek Kitchen Confidence help when they'd like to improve their health and their enjoyment of food. Sometimes they think it means they have to give up cookies like these.

PB Cookies2 4 (1)


Personally, I don't do deprivation well. If I try to deny myself something I like, I only wind up craving it more. Instead, I've worked on other things, like portion control and exercise. Another new rule is that any "junk" should be homemade. Much easier to control the quality of the food if you make it yourself. Cookies are a perfect example. Buy a box at the store and you're likely to get all sorts of salt and sugar and chemicals you don't need. And they won't be as satisfying as homemade. Ever.

When I bake cookies, I can not only omit the dairy, eliminate contact with tree nuts, for my allergies (very hard to control in store-bought); I can also use healthier flours and make just the cookies I want. The other thing you can do when you follow the "if I make it myself" rule is to freeze dough and just make a small batch at a time. Just because a recipe produces 6 dozen cookies doesn't mean I have to have 6 dozen cookies sitting around making eyes at me.

PB Cookies2 2 (1) PB Cookies2 1 (1)



I made a couple dozen for sharing and rolled the dough in parchment paper  and popped it in the freezer. When the next craving came on, I did some exercise first then sliced and baked one dozen. Inspiration and good dairy-free chocolate struck, so I melted, dipped and sprinkled with a little bit of crunchy Maldon Sea Salt.


Big Thanks to David Leite, Founder of Leite's Culinaria - another of my favorite and very reliable sites. I had the pleasure of interviewing David years ago, around the time his first book came out. He was already quite well-known but could not have been nicer to talk to. I love his book. His site has one thing many sites do not have: testers! You KNOW a recipe he posts will WORK. This is culinary gold, especially for new or less confident cooks. Nothing irritates me more than when a client shows me a recipe they "failed" at - and I look at it and can instantly see it's a crap recipe. From an untested site.

I recommend these sites, this cookie recipe and don't worry about having cookies in the house. You know "Leite" is Portugese for milk? How perfect is that?

 Cookie PlatterPeanut Butter Cookies, Chocolate Crinkles, and Bourbon Orange Chocolate Truffles

Jam thumbprints in the back.

30 Days of Vitamix - Say hello to Red!

I like red for so many reasons. It's lucky. It's life. It can pull me out of blue. It's the color of World AIDS Day, the color of Women's Heart Health. And it's just plain sexeh.

Meet Red

There's my early Xmas/Birthday present: a Pro Series Vitamix in Candy Apple Red. I'm calling her "Red." She's strong. Powerful. Occasionally loud. Gets the job done. I think we're going to be good friends. I hope she'll last half as long as my old handmixer did. (see Ode to a Handmixer.) That little Black & Decker handmixer, bought my first year of law school just died. I mean, like last week. The Waring anniversary blender a couple weeks ago. I thought I could make do with the food processor but I'm telling you, I'm a fool in love.


There's Red. She's a beauty, isn't she?


As I registered her, I saw something about an affiliate program. Well, stay tuned on that.


I'm starting a new series here: "30 Days of Vitamix". I'll be including posts on using the Vitamix. I'll cover techniques, ingredients to know, tips, and recipes, including some healthy and some boozy inspirations. Frozen Negroni anyone?  Here's a taste of just some of the things we'll be writing about soon.



Vitamix Collage

Thanks to my wonderful husband for this terrific gift! A great addition to the family!

No Soggy Bottoms! One Perfect Pumpkin Pie with Meringue Topping for Thanksgiving

Who doesn't love pie? I do, and I have had to learn to make them at home since the advent of my dairy allergy. Impossible to eat one out. Pie without butter? Is it any good? Yes. Yes it is. This recipe represents the best of three different recipes and many years of hosting, preparing, feasting. I culled two techniques from the venerable Rose Levy Berenbaum, a crust I love from Amy Traverso and a meringue topping from David Leite. I'll share the full recipe below along with some other terrific tips I've picked up along the way. Won't you join me? Pull up a fork!

two apple pies
two apple pies

Apple Pies for a birthday girl


Strawberry Rhubarb 

sweet potato pie
sweet potato pie
pm pie
pm pie

One Pumpkin Pie to Rule Them All

Pie Nation, Pie Boxes and more

  • Crust Dust: If you're making a fruit pie, this tip from Pie it Forward is worth the book. Gesine Bullock-Prado makes beautiful pies and some of her best tips can be yours. A soggy bottom is not a good thing. Not in most situations and certainly not in pies.
  • If you're taking a pie to someone's house, the Pie Box is essential!
Pie box 2
Pie box 2

Large enough to accommodate an Emile Henry pie dish

Pie Rules

There are some rules I'd say are non-negotiable.

  1. Make sure the fats are cold, and stay cold.
  2. Work quickly, calmly and with authority. If the fats get warm then pop it back into the fridge
  3. Always let the dough rest before rolling it out. But wait - Dorie Greenspan doyenne of Parisienne food says maybe not? Leite's Culinaria's Renaee Schettler Rossi asks "WWDD"? What Would Dorie Do?

Hm. Seems we have been given permission to ignore some of the rules. I'M IN!

Unified Pie Theory

So here's my unified theory of pie. It's okay to break rules and pick the best parts of various recipes.

My favorite crust at the moment is from Amy Traverso's Apple Lover's Cookbook. The Double Crust pie is a winner. To that, I add Rose Levy Beranbaum's Pie & Pastry Bible. I use the cooked custard technique as well as her terrific technique of crushed gingersnaps to line the bottom of the pie. It helps prevent the dreaded soggy bottom, much like the Crust Dust above for fruit pies. If you can enjoy nuts add pecans to the gingersnaps. 4 (2") gingersnaps and 1/4 C pecan halves. I just use 6 Snappy Gingersnaps.

Also, cooking the pumpkin puree and spices, blending in the food processor makes for a smooth, rich filling.

Finally, I loved the addition of a meringue topping and all who enjoyed it agreed. I have Leite's Culinaria to thank for that inspiration. Pumpkin Meringue Pie. And if you need some pie crimping ideas, say no more.

GivingThanks Daily - Today's tips and recipes for a stress-free Thanksgiving

I've just put my pie dough in the fridge. Made crackers for pre dinner nibbles. (Pretzel crisps from Ivy Manning's great Cracker's and Dips book, a gift for anyone with food allergies who cannot find salty, crunchy snacks in the grocery store.) I'll do some other things tonight and work on tomorrow's post and last shopping list. Picking up the turkey tomrrow! How y'all doing? 

Today's To Do:

1. Create a List of Notes for Thanksgiving 2015 (done)

2. Make ginger snaps (done)

3. Make and freeze or can some cranberry something (done)

(okay, this post is a few days in the making...) 

Your New Cranberry Recipe:

This year I'm adding Cranberry-Raspberry sauce from Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Practical Pantry. More soon on that. For now, I'll just say, if you've had any thoughts about preserving, making jam, pickles, charcuterie or wondered what to do with those wonderful pantry items after you've created them, this is the book for you. If you've hesitated because you thought you might not be able to do this without someone showing you step-by-step how to do it; this is the book for you. If you thought you really didn't need one more canning book; this is the book for you.

I can't wait to share more with you. I've got a couple other things up my sleeve. For now, let me say this will be part of our Thanksgiving this year and I could not be happier. Many swooning cooks out there are splattering the pages of their copy of this book. Many are posting lovely recipes. I'm sharing this link from from Kate at SnowFlake Kitchen because her post includes a COCKTAIL which was one of the first things I thought of when I tasted this.  Come on who's got a new Thanksgiving cocktail using some cranberry sauce?


Cranberry 4

Sexy Sauce

For now, I promised to share my cranberry sauce recipe.  Remember the "I heart spreadsheets" post yesterday? Here's why #3 makes so much sense. Otherwise I may have forgotten that adding pomegranate seeds was a win.


Tomorrow: Pie tips

  • Crust dust
  • Breaking rules (AKA "WWDD")
  • Pumpkin pie to beat all pumpkin pies (I pull together three recipes for the single best, most awesome winning pumpkin pie)


More Links for You


Are you a traditionalist - same menu every Thanksgiving or a try something new type? I've been dying to try an Asian or a Southwest version. Have to do it on one of the other 364 days of the year though.

What are you working on this Thanksgiving?

I heart spreadsheets. For Thanksgiving? You Bet!

Structure binds anxiety.

Sage words from my past life as a corporate trainer.



Your Grocery List

I love a spreadsheet for this sort of planning. I actually have two. One is the daily to do items. On it the left most column is the menu, the days between today and Thursday across the top. In each cell is the buy/make/prep note that gets the whole shebang done at the right time.

I have a second list/spreadsheet for groceries. It's so easy to forget if you need 4 eggs for one thing and 8 egg whites for another, you won't have 6 whole eggs left for the strata on Friday. Placing the menu on the left column, it's easy to scan and take a quick inventory of all that you need so you don't over-buy in a grocery shopping daze (8 lbs of butter "just to be safe" will take up precious space in your freezer, trust me on that one).

Your To Do List

Remember yesterday's advice about delegating? This will help you clarify all the things you want, in a perfect world with 36 hours a day, to be done before next Thursday. And, it will help you let go of all the things that you really can let go of. For example, my late night craft project might suggest a need for a glue gun. This is beyond ridiculous. Off the list! It's a great feeling to vanquish the demons that threaten to undermine you.

Don't forget to add actual notes to remind yourself to work out. Take a walk is a nice thought, but it's much more likely to happen if it is on the plan, in the calendar, staring at you from the list.

Your 2015 List

Why start now? Because you'll forget on Friday all the little things that worked or didn't, the mental notes you made to do X the day before, to add more herbs to this, less clove to that, which new dish was raving success or one to never try again. Hat tip to Cheryl Sternman Rule for the excellent advice on this one.

Create a list NOW (yes now) to post on the fridge or somewhere handy, to keep a running tally of reminders for next year. You will thank me later.

Some of my items from last year's list:

  • Calibrate Thermapen.
  • Alsace Cremant goes well with appetizers, priced well, bright crisp flavors great with tiny rich bites (like the turkey liver marsala mousse) and oysters. (Apparently I made a turkey liver marsala mousse last year, must've been a last minute improv because I have no recollection nor recipe!)
  • Shaved fennel, green apple, celery salad better to serve in small dishes than big bowl.

At the bottom of the list: Place a reminder in calendar for October 1 (or April or May 1 if you're pitching stories for Thanksgiving) to have the reminder on the calendar gives you a fighting chance at avoiding last minute panic next year. 


Next up:

  • Pie tips and recipes.

Thanksgiving 2014 - This Year's Theme: Relax. Recipes, Tips, Ideas to Help you Enjoy GivingThanks


Many people are in full countdown mode and the onslaught of Thanksgiving  is approaching hurricane force: posts, tweets, recipes, emails, newsletters. I want to encourage you to calm down, take a deep breath and if any of this helps, I’m happy.

This name reversal popped into my head as I was thinking about people worrying about "the whole perfect Thanksgiving thing." If we focus on the Giving Thanks part rather than the frenzy must-be-perfect event part, we can calm the noise. In a nonsecular, gratitude and appreciation mode, let's call it GivingThanks instead of Thanksgiving.

  • Don’t forget Kitchen Confidence can be yours. Like a personal trainer to help you up your game in the gym, I can come show you skills you’ll use for a lifetime, recipes that’ll make your friends and family swoon- in the comfort of your own kitchen. All for the price of a night out on the town.

sage 1

 Did you know sage can be easily preserved by drying in a microwave or regular oven?

Important things to focus on:

  • It’s about gratitude and enjoying our connection to others. Celebrating abundance. Football. Food and maybe overindulging.
  • It’s not about being perfect. If you are a giant sweaty stressball when you guests arrive, they're going to feel uncomfortable. If you're an amped-up boozy dictator “sit here” “do this” “eat that” you're no fun. Many of us choose “friendsgivings” to avoid the traumas of forced family fun.
  • If people at your table care more about the spot on the glass or the dustball in the corner, I'm hereby giving you permission to cross them off the list next year.

So, how to relax in the face of the tidal wave of new recipes to try, new craft projects to find time for, the urgings to create the perfect tablescape?

Plan the work, work the plan

Do three things today that will pay dividends next week. Now is the time to:

1. Make your menu. What are the dishes you must have on the menu? For us, it’s Turkey, Dressing/stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, bourbon sweet potatoes (AKA Jack’s Killer Sweets), gravy, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie.

Thanksgiving tends to be a menu that writes itself. Many of us long to try new inventive recipes or twists on classics while many at the table want the meal to be exactly the same as it is every year. Here’s one compromise: Make all the longed for classics, just as you always do. People do crave familiar routines and these create a sense of tradition that reinforces the ritual we love. Allow yourself to add one new dish to try if you’re so inclined and IF you can do so without stressing yourself out. We tried the sage butter sweet & white potato casserole one year and liked it so much, it got adopted. Yes, that means we have three potato dishes but if you have potato lovers at the table and more than a few, not a problem. We’re a small group this year so I may skip this.

Recipes for vegetarians, vegans, and others.

2. Finalize your guest list.

Tips for being a good guest/good host. Now is the time to figure out what food allergies, intolerances you may be dealing with. If a guest has some issue you are not sure you can safely address, have the discussion now and ask them to bring something they can eat and share.

A word about being a good guest:

  • do not show up with food you need to prep. The host will be busy in the kitchen and every square inch of the kitchen, every burner is likely to be occupied.
  • do not bring additional guests unless you are invited to do so first by the host
  • do offer to bring extra serving bowls, glasses, chairs or ask if there’s something they could use help with the day before.LINK:

Tips for handling prickly situations at the holiday table.

3. Delegate tasks.

You need to divest yourself of the notion that you must do it all. Let go of that now. I mean it. You will have your hands full and a stressed host makes a stressful party. You deserve to enjoy the day and your guests deserve to enjoy your company too.

Things that are easily delegated:

  • Cleaning - hire a service to clean a day or two before; or enlist family members to chip in a little extra
  • Flowers or centerpiece (if you feel you need one) I like edible centerpieces. No room on the table anyway. How about a big bowl of fall fruits, apples pears, pomegranates, persimmons. Add drama by plopping them in a tall vase.
  • Wine/booze - everyone who sells beverages wants to tell you must have the perfectly stocked bar now. I’m seldom one to stand between friends and drinks, but in the spirit of simplifying: forget it. Select one good wine that people can drink before or with the meal. Choose one cocktail that’s easy to make (many can be mixed ahead in a pitcher) and offer guests a glass of wine or this year’s cocktail. Boom. If you’d really love to have that new amaro you tried last week but don’t have it int he budget, ask a guest to bring a bottle. After dinner drinks, done.a word about punch: it’s a great idea for serving a large crowd but unless you have a punchbowl and the room in the fridge/freezer to store ingredients and make ice molds, this can be an added stress in the guise of a helpful hint. I have no punchbowl, nor do I have room in the freezer or fridge.
  • PIE - I’m going to tell you that a delicious pie IS within your reach. I will teach you how in a Kitchen Confidence class. BUT, if you feel stressed about it and cannot fathom how or when: there are options: Community Servings; Bread and Salt. Dessert: done! Good deed: done! JJ Gonson's Cuisine en Locale team has a slew of sides, or the whole shebang if you want to have someone else do the cooking for you.

Today's to do items:

1. purchase extra zip top bags and large containers for food prep and leftovers

2. sniff and toss old spices

3. finalize guest list, menu


Tomorrow: Dishes to make ahead

  • Cranberry relish - recipe
  • Thanksgiving spice
  • Pie doughs
  • Gingersnaps and other cookie dough to slice and bake - recipe
  • Stock
  • Simple chocolate truffles
  • Rolls
  • Marinated mushrooms
  • Chex mix

roast turkey

Aprons inspire - Kitchenwares, Chef Scelfo & Yours Truly in the Boston Globe

How excited was I when none other than @SchmattaHari herself asked me if I'd like to share my opinion on aprons? Pretty darned excited. First of all it's Jill Radsken, smart, funny journalist and owner of the best twitter handle ever. Second, "share my opinion" are probably my three favorite words, maybe even as exciting as "dinner is served." Seriously, though. I'm now on the same page of the  The Boston Globe  with one of the best chefs in town, Chef Michael Scelfo, AND my favorite and most loyal sponsor, KitchenWares -- on the same page! 



Aprons inspire a jump-start in the kitchen - Food & dining - The Boston Globe.

Feels good. Now I better get a fancy new apron, don't you think?

CIS Chix, A Step in the Right Direction, Towards Dinner. My Chat with National Geographic's The Plate

I was delighted to speak with Charlotte McGuinn Freeman and Maryn McKenna of National Geographic column, The Plate. Bring Back Home Economics: Three Food Writers on Teaching People to Cook – The Plate: Maryn McKenna.

The three of us were inspired by the success of Leanne Brown's Good and Cheap, a cookbook designed to address the needs of people receiving public assistance, showing them how to cook on an extremely limited budget. See Could You Eat Well on $4 a Day?

Many of us manage to feed ourselves and our families  well, while many more struggle with the basics. Some lacking money, some lacking skills, for others it's both. Have you ever come home from grocery shopping and wondered what the heck to do with all the random stuff you bought? So often people have mentioned to me that they don't know how to roast a chicken.

Cast Iron Cooking

The topic of how to use a CIS never gets old (see the Kitchn for this recent post and its long comment thread). I love my cast iron skillet and it's the perfect vessel for people on a budget. They're cheap They're nearly indestructible. They are multi-purpose tools that can be used to fry, roast, and bake. In fact, the older they get, the better.

Five steps to roasted chicken


On Gastrodiplomacy and Teaching Cooking

One of the ideas I've had for "selling" the need to schools to reinstate home ec is to make it an interdisciplinary learning platform. It's easy to use cooking as a way to teach simple things to youngsters (e.g. which is wet? which is dry? which bowl is the biggest? the smallest?) all the way up to university (culinary anthropology, history, politics of the plate and just this week the first PhD of Chocolate program was announced.)

As if by magic while I was photo editing, magically, this link appeared today in my Facebook stream. Gastrodiplomacy: Cooking up a Tasty Lesson on World Peace. At American University they're doing just this sort of food-centric interdisplinary teaching, though there it seems to be centered around eating out, rather than cooking. No reason we couldn't have both.

During our chat, we lamented the old days of the Food Network. When Molto Mario had the pull-down map and would cook while teaching history, geography. Alton Brown's Good Eats that teaches very basics to fancy stuff in a straightforward and entertaining fashion.

While we think about food, cooking as a life skill and how to reinvent Home Economics, let's first just roast a simple chicken.

Cast Iron Skillet Chix

I realized I keep thinking of this as "CIS Chix" Cast iron skillet chicken. "CIS" is a new term used in the field of gender identity studies and advocacy. It's a way to challenge the assumed majority behind the current thinking of gender. Rather than "transgender" as the "other" we can view sexuality on a continuum from CIS to Trans, CIS simply means someone who identifies with the gender that would be culturally assigned to the sex one has been assigned at birth. So I'm CIS female, identifying myself as female and having been born with those parts.

So dinner + an update from the gender identity front. Learning makes me hungry. Let's go!


Step 1 - Get a CIS

They are so very useful and cheap. You will use it a lifetime and then hand it down to some fortunate friend, nephew or niece. In fact, a garage sale is an excellent place to scoop one up for cheap. They're easy to recondition. They're also cheap new. But any way, just get one already.

Step 2 - Get a chicken

Commercial chickens are fed such horrible diets and are raised in such awful ways, that we limit our intake to Lilac Hedge Farms or Bell & Evans from Whole Foods.

Step 3 - Optional step - air dry chicken

Letting chicken rest in fridge nekkid, will allow the skin to dry out. This is a good thing if you like crispy skin. Overnight is best but even 1-3 hours will help. This method of roasting makes it less necessary than regular lower heat roasting but I try to do this when I can because I adore crunchy, crispy things.

Step 4a - Optional - herb butter

Again, totally optional. If you're at all new and feel overwhelmed. Skip it. You can simply rub a little oil or butter and sprinkle with S&P. Really. It'll be fine.

If you are inclined, chop some herbs up, maybe mash some garlic with some salt and then mix with softened butter. Or maybe you have a dried herb blend you could add to butter or oil. You can slide some between the breast meat and skin. And/or simply massage your bird with the seasoned oil or butter.

CIS Chicken 7

Step 4 - Pop the thighs open

The chicken's, not yours. That comes later if you like. Right now simply grasp the drumstick and thigh and bend down/outward from the body. You will feel a pop and see the tip of the thigh bone peek out. This is good. When your bird hits that preheated skillet, the dark meat will instantly begin to cook. This evens out the differential between the breast meat and thigh meat. A common challenge is cooking the thigh meat thoroughly enough without drying out the breast meat. This technique solves that issue.

Step 5 - Preheat oven to 500 degrees with the skillet

Place your empty skillet into your clean oven and preaheat to 500. That's a very hot oven. (Most chickens roasted in conventional ways go into a 350 or so oven.) Once the oven and skillet are preheated, carefully slide that hot pan out and place your chicken right on that dry, screaming hot skillet.

CIS Chicken 6

Now, you will have 30-40 minutes to do with, what you like.

CIS Chicken 10

At 30 minutes, I usually add some greens to the pan. Carefully, with tongs. The greens will begin to wilt in the hot pan and rendered chicken fat (mmm chicken fat). This particular day I added chard (stems chopped, leaves cut into ribbons) and two cloves of garlic, sliced thin. I had these GIANT leaves of rainbow chard so I just used two leaves.

CIS Chicken Chard

I also began my potatoes roasting. Back around step three, you can place potatoes in a pot of boiling water and par cook, till they're tender but not fully done. Then in our final roasting step, you add a sheet pan to the oven with some schmaltz or duck fat or high heat oil (not olive oil, it will burn). Again, the hot pan starts the crisping of the potatoes. CIS Chicken 14When the potatoes are done, drain the water, toss some smoked paprika, salt and pepper with the potatoes you've lightly smashed in the hot pan. Put the lid back on and shake the bejezus out of it. This will coat all those potatoes with the seasoned flour. Scrape all that good stuff onto the pre-heated sheet pan, and back into the oven. Toss them around the pan to get some fat/oil on all the potatoes.

Your chicken will be done around the 40 minute mark. Carefully remove that hot iron pan and beautiful bird - placing on a trivet or the stovetop. (I like to leave a potholder on the handle of the pan to remind myself not to grab it. The CIS will retain heat for a long time.) Let the chicken rest. Resist picking at the crispy bits if you can.

CIS Chicken 12

If you'd like something fresh, you can toss chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, thinly sliced onion with some olive oil and a splash of vinegar. These are purple cherokees and green zebras.

CIS Chicken 15 CIS Chicken 16



GGF Salad :: Grains + Greens + Fruit = Wonderful

This salad is a fantastic summer meal in itself, a great bring-with dish, and a side for barbecue. To make a quick version, use freekeh (cooks in 20 minutes!) or quinoa or barley. Barley and freekeh are quicker cooking grains, you could also use quinoa (not true grain) or bulgur (wheat) if you like a softer smaller quick-cooking grain . I particularly like the snappy chew of freekeh or wheatberries in this sort of substantial salad.

GGF salad Grains, Freekeh: Greens, Rainbow Chard; Fruit, Blueberries.

For this rendition, I got some beautiful Rainbow Chard, chopped and blanched the stems, chopped two small onions, half a red bell pepper, one mango. I made ribbons (chiffonade) of the chard leaves. No need to blanch unless they're really tough.


I used the juice of one lemon. I added approximately two tsp grated fresh ginger, 2 tsp mild white miso, 1 tsp honey, 1 tsp dijon mustard. Whisked in Meyer lemon olive oil to taste.

Adjust seasoning with S & freshly ground black pepper.



1. Make freekeh. Toast dry kernels in heavy bottom pot, just large enough to hold the completed amount. Add water when kernels begin to darken. I use a 3:1 ratio, draining off excess when it's all done. Pinch of salt. You can make ahead. Cool, cover, refrigerate.

2. Wash Swiss/Rainbow chard. Fold in half lengthwise, cutting along rib to remove it. Dice ribs. Make ribbons or chiffonade of leaves by rolling and slicing in about 1/3" ribbons.

3. Dice and blanch chard ribs.

4. Place chiffonade in dressing and massage. Set aside.

5. Prep your fruit and other vegetables. Here I sliced a bit of sweet white onion, rinsed and stemmed blueberries, diced a bit of red bell pepper, cut cubes of ripe mango.

6. If the freekeh has been made the day before and or cooled too much, heat it briefly in microwave. Add to dressing. Toss everything and sprinkle with crunchy sea salt (like Maldon) and fresh ground black pepper.

Garnish with Chinese 5 Spice nuts if you wish. Or simply zest a lemon over the top and toss.


Inexpensive kitchen tool you'll use every day. Essential Kitchen Equipment: Bench Scrapers

Essential Kitchen Equipment is an occasional series on items I think every well-run kitchen should have. Essential Kitchen Equipment posts are not about the latest gadget. I’m talking about maybe a dozen or so simple items you must have to make your kitchen hum.

Of course one could spend endless amounts on all sorts of fancy equipment and gadgets. Most of those will not make you a better cook, these will:

 Bench and Bowl Scrapers

This was my introduction to this now indispensible kitchen tool. These are so inexpensive and make cooking more efficient. Once you get one, you'll wonder what took you so long.

I was visiting my sister and watching her chef husband in the kitchen. He pulled this out and moved something, dough I think from point A to point B. Then scraped the counter or bowl with it. This was one of those proverbial light bulb moments. An epiphany for me. "WAIT. WHAT IS THAT?!"

He laughed. "It's a bench scraper, want it? Here." Rinsed, dried and handed it over to me. "I get them all the time at culinary shows." 

This one with a rounded edge I use to scrape dough from a bowl. I also use it to ferry items from cutting board to pot or bowl. You can see the edge is slightly beveled. I think John gave this to me maybe 15 years ago.



I probably use it, or one of these, at least once a day.




Whether a bench (straight-edged) or bowl (rounded) scraper  - these tools are something every kitchen should have. Endlessly useful - you will find yourself reaching for these over and over again.



I use this straight-edged bench scraper to:

  • ferry chopped vegetables from cutting board to pot.
  • portion dough.
  • scrape counter after bread kneading.

These little guys I picked up from Kitchenwares. They're cute and also useful when you have say, crushed spices or peppercorns you need to scoop up. Pinching is not efficient. Here you can easily lift mashed or minced garlic or shallot, spices, any little items without losing bits to the side of your hand or knife.



Do you use bench scrapers? What other equipment do you consider essential?


Five Steps to Wok Star Status (and One Seriously Good Cookbook)

I have a confession to make. I had all but forgotten my wok skills. I lost my wok in one of many moves. I settled in to married life steps from Chinatown’s Paifang (gate) and it just always seemed easier to go to a restaurant than to get another wok, season it, then chop, prep, clean. It wasn’t until I began guiding tours through Chinatown and launched my own cooking instruction business that I realized I needed to get back to actually cooking with a wok and teaching others to do so as well. I can’t tell you how pleased I am to be back at it.  I have Grace Young’s brilliant Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge to thank for it. Click book to buy.

Five Steps to Wok Star Status

Wok cooking can be one of the healthiest, and quickest, ways to bring a weeknight meal together. Yet many people shy away from cooking in a real wok and default to their favorite sauté pan, or worse take-out food. What are the advantages of cooking in a wok? It’s lightweight, naturally non-stick, and efficient. It’s also very healthy, relying on high heat, little oil, lots of vegetables

Step One – How/where to buy a wok. For anyone near a Chinatown, you’re in luck. Many large suburbs also now have H-Marts or large cooking supply stores. I favor the lightweight, flat-bottomed carbon steel style wok. It cost me a whopping $11.98 at Sun Sun Market on Oxford Street. You can get a similar one online via Amazon or other such mail order shops. Even at double the price, it remains a bargain as far as cookware goes. Don’t bother to buy a nonstick wok! You will develop a natural nonstick surface quickly.

Step Two – How to season your new wok.

You’ll begin by scouring the wok with steel wool and soap. This is the one and only time these two things will touch your wok! You dry it carefully then season it by rubbing and pressing chopped scallion or garlic chives, ginger and peanut oil into the sides and bottom of the wok. After about 20 minutes of stir-frying the vegetables will be darkened and so will the wok. The pores of the wok have been opened by the heat and the metal will begin to absorb the fragranced oil.

Step Three – Tips for excellent results. Throughout the book, you’ll learn tips and techniques like how to cut the garlic, scallion or ginger that make up Asian “mirepoix”. Helpful substitutions included for those not near a Chinatown. For example, dry sherry (or my mother-in-law’s favorite Amontillado) make good substitutes for Shao Hsing rice wine.

Step Four – How to clean it and store your wok. Similar to cast iron skillets, you simply rinse with hot water, dry it, then store it. As mine is new, I often take a folded paper towel and tiny bit of oil or bacon fat to lightly coat the surface.

Step Five – Unexpected wok fun. Did you know popping popcorn in a wok is one of the best ways to develop the patina? (See below.) With only 20 minutes, you can season a wok properly and then it’s DONE. Each subsequent use improves the quality of your wok.  According to Grace Young, "Wok hei, or the breath of a wok, is the flavor and aroma that's produced if a stir-fry has been correctly cooked with super fresh ingredients over high heat---and it only lasts for a fleeting few seconds or minutes after the food has come out of the wok." 

I’d like to say I’m introducing a new technique and tool can energize your weeknight kitchen routine and inspire you to try new recipes. But in truth, wok cooking is as old as it gets. It may be new to you, but not for long.

One Seriously Good Cookbook: Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge

There are some books that are simply recipe collections. Others are travelogues, picture books, nice for the coffee table. Then there are books you want to devour. With your eyes, your senses, your heart. This is one of those. Grace Young combines everything we’ve come to expect from the best of our cook books:

  • Pictures that document step-by-step the key techniques
  • Heartwarming stories that tie personal moments and dishes that represent them to historical events
  • Techniques that will enable home cooks to get terrific results
  • Recipes that are both pleasing and fun to make, as well as delicious.

Like all my favorite cookbooks, this one is already dog-eared, splattered and tabbed. I removed the dust jacket for this shot.

My Wok, My Self

A seasoned wok is a work in progress, just like me.

As I eagerly flipped through the first few pages of my then-new book with my then-new wok, imagine how my heart sank when I go to page 23 Patience to Wok. Patience? Me?!

Only two pages later, I learn that one of my favorite snacks, popcorn, is perfect for boosting the wok’s patina. Like many kitchen lessons, these wok lessons translate to life lessons. Once in awhile, especially when your wok is young, you may find some food stubbornly sticking here or there. No problem! Woks, like cast iron skillets are nearly impossible to ruin. Young’s book even shows you how to give your wok a “facial” to restore the surface.

Soon you’ll see beauty in your imperfectly mottled patina. You’ll appreciate the quick-to-heat and quick-to-cool surface and you’ll definitely appreciate the lightweight nature of most woks. I find myself reaching for the wok as much or more than the large cast iron skillet these days. Even eggs won’t stick now.

Lessons from a wok:

  1. Stubbornness of youth can be overcome with some seasoning.
  2. Be as quick to cool, as you are to heat.
  3. Appreciate your imperfection.
  4. A tiny bit of TLC goes a very long way.
  5. Be giving.

To learn more:

Four Thanksgiving Dishes to Please Any Crowd

If you want something as a "ta- da" dish -- a centerpiece that's not meat, I've got some dishes to consider. First, think of the all the sides that we love. Many or most of them don't require any meat or meat stock to be crowd pleasing. People love stuffing and gravy. Why not do leek-mushroom-herb stuffing in muffin tins and a mushroom gravy? No bones and no griping.

The Main Dish

For an elegant centerpiece dish: try the Kale Butternut Squash Phyllo Pie made in a springform pan. Elegant and beautiful with bright colors and crispy phyllo.

Try cashew cheese and skip pancetta (or use porcinis for umami), use Earth Balance butter substitute and you're meat-free, dairy-free.












Another of Kim's recipes that even carnivores have asked for in subsequent meals: the Lentil-Chard Shepherd's Pie.




Sides that Wow

The sage butter sweet potato- white potato casserole (below)  is easy to make dairy-free and if you use gluten-free bread, it can be GF, too. Again, your potato ricer is your friend. Light fluffy potatoes get mixed with browned sage butter and topped off with fresh breadcrumbs. I modify Martha's recipe and make it dairy-free and delicious.

Sage_butter_potato_casserole Another dish that is a real favorite, I've taught it to Kitchen Confidence clients and they adored it. I love it. Red rice pilaf stuffed Delicata squash. The recipe is from Kim O'Donnel's Meatless Celebrations. It's colorful, delicious and substantial enough to use as a vegetarian/vegan main course.


Both of these could certainly be main courses for a meat-free meal that won't leave you wanting.




Bookmark This: Thanksgiving 2013 Roundup - Recipes, Tips, Posts, Pins

I'll be posting something here every day between now and Thanksgiving so bookmark this now and you can check back at your leisure. roast turkey

 Are you wondering about a new side dish or maybe ready to try a new dessert? If you're like me, this is the best and most insane time of year. So much to cook. To taste. To try.

 So here we go, it's turkey time!

- Marron Glacé - kicks off holidays and makes a great hostess gift.

- Perfect Mashed Potatoes - an instructographic

- Potato Ricer - for light and fluffy mashed potatoes and perfect gnocchi

- Strata - perfect for a houseful of guests, savory bread pudding

- Stock tips - how to make turkey stock for perfect gravy

- Snappy Ginger Snaps - fill the house with good smells and never have a soggy pumpkin pie again

- Thanksgiving Spice Blend - a DIY spice mix to make fragrant turkey, delicious uses for many fall dishes

- Cranberry Persimmon Sauce - a new favorite

- Recipes from friends old and new - plus a crazy story that's become a traditional holiday kickoff.

- Four Thanksgiving Dishes to Please Any Crowd - Elegant or comfy, delicious recipes all and each one is either vegan or vegetarian, or are easily modified to be gluten-free, dairy-free.

- Shaved Fennel Salad - bright, crunchy and lightly licoricey. Perfect foil to the rich baked and roasted menu.

- Orange Bourbon Sweet Potatoes - aka "Jack's Killer Sweets"

- Prickly Guests, Sticky Situations - etiquette tips

Check out my Thanksgiving Ideas board on Pinterest, too.

Whether your hosting or visiting someone else, if food allergies or intolerances are part of the picture, you'll want to review these tips (with advice from Allergic Girl and the Gluten Free Girl) as well as my own. How to Host a Food-Allergic Friend, and How to be a Good Guest.

Kitchen Confidence | Technique Tip: Oblique or Roll Cut

Obique cut carrots

Obique cut carrots

This is called the Oblique Cut or Roll Cut. This technique is useful when you want a larger surface area for glazing, for reducing cooking time, or simply for aesthetic reasons.

  • You hold the carrots with your anchor hand and the knife at a 45 degree angle.

  • Cut, roll the carrot a quarter turn toward you. Cut, roll, cut, roll.

  • Carrots (and other cylindrical vegetables like zucchini, parsnips) cut this way will give you more surface area.

Try it with a late harvest sauté of zucchini, corn and red bell peppers.

Use this cut for carrots or parsnips going into daube or stew or Japanese nimono.
Glaze the carrots with duck fat, Chinese Five Spice, a splash of orange juice and sprinkle of sugar.

Lemony Blueberry Oat Bran Muffins

Granola is perfuming the house and the oven's still warm, I thought why waste the energy? Let's try some oat bran muffins.  lemony blueberry oat bran muffins

In our quest for more variety, more whole grains and to buy from companies whose values we support, I've dropped Eden Foods from our list. After they tried to shut down employees' access to contraception under the new proposed healthcare mandates; I stopped buying them. You don't get to be anti-choice and still end up in my pantry. (Btw: did you know some other Hippie companies like Urban Outfitters, you think are cool are actively advocating against things like marriage equality? Mm hm.)

So we no longer have the lovely flaked grains (adore Kamut!) in varieties we once did. But we recently picked up barley flakes and some oat bran. So I decided to start a recent sunny late summer morning off baking.

Benefits of Oat Bran

The benefits of oat bran are many. It contains:

  • fiber - both good for your gut health and also for keeping you feeling full. Lowers cholesterol. May even reduce blood pressure, inflammation.
  • protein - Oat bran is a rich source of phenylalanine - important to neurological health and thyroid function. It's also important for cellular repair.
  • selenium - combines with protein to combat free radicals, lowering cancer risk.

But all this good news is useless if we can't enjoy eating it. I set out to find a muffin that was not packed with sugar as so many commercial ones are. Muffins are one of the easiest things to make at home. They come together so quickly and easily, I often make them when cooking with kids. Make them in pretty papers and the muffins are portable and cleanup is easy. If you don't want to buy these pre cut red parchment tulip papers, you can simply cut regular parcment paper and mold them around a glass or jar before filling them.


I try to find recipes that are just sweet enough to please Doc and not too sweet for me. This is not as easy as you may think.

I'm including a link to Clotilde's recipe, and my modifications below. You may know Chocolate and Zucchini - Clotilde was an early inspiration to so many with her beautiful blog. If you've never seen it (where have you been?) do go check it out. Promise you'll find something you want to make, today.

Technique tips:

  • I added frozen Maine blueberries to the dry ingredients. When adding frozen blueberries lightly coating them with flour helps to keep them from sinking and keeps them from bleeding so much.
  • Muffins must not be over mixed! You will begin with mixing dry ingredients in one bowl, wet in another. Then combining - very lightly mixing - so there may still be tiny pockets of dry ingredients but no large ones or lumps. Lightly mixed muffins will rise and be delicate, overmixed will be hard.


Blueberry Oat Bran Muffins - recipe used with permission. Merci beaucoup, Clotilde!

- 120 grams (1 cup) oat bran (prefereably organic; wheat bran may be substituted) - 120 grams (4 1/4 ounces, about 1 cup) flour  - I used half White Whole Wheat and half Spelt flour - 1 teaspoon baking powder - 1/2 teaspoon baking soda - a good pinch salt - 100 grams (1/2 cup) unrefined cane sugar - 120 grams (1 cup) blueberries (no need to thaw them if frozen) - 240 ml (1 cup) plain yogurt (buttermilk can be substituted; i used nondairy yogurt) - 30 ml (2 tablespoons) vegetable oil (I use extra-virgin sunflower oil) I used Walnut Oil - 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract - 2 eggs, at room temperature

- I added a teaspoon of fresh Meyer lemon zest.


Makes about 12 muffins.

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (360°F) and line a 12-muffin tray* with paper liners.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the bran, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar, until no lump remains. Add the blueberries and toss gently to combine.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, oil, vanilla, and eggs. Pour this mixture into the dry ingredients, and fold it in gently with a spatula until no trace of flour remains. The mixture will be lumpy, but resist overmixing.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared muffin tray, filling each muffin mold by about three quarters (to minimize the mess, you can use a spring action ice cream scoop).
  5. Bake for 12 to 16 minutes, until set and golden. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Today - I'm trying an apple-pear version. Stay tuned.

Here's another picture of the lovely lemony blueberry oat bran muffins.

lemony blueberry oat bran muffins

Kitchen Confidence: Tip of the Week - Tomatoes

Tomatoes are so perfect right now - how can you walk past a farmers' market and not come home with a bunch?  

heirloom tomatoes


This week I polled fellow tomato lovers and promised to share a non-scientifically selected batch of top tips and recipes using this seasonal fruit. I got some very good advice, tips, and a couple interesting links.

My top picks:

  1. Storing:Do not place them in the refrigerator! This absolutely kills the flavor. Thanks Kurt!
  2. Freezing: Plum tomatoes are great for freezing whole. Get just-picked flavor even in the dead of winter. Chef Debbi shared this with me last year.
  3. Roasting: Plum tomatoes, cherry tomatoes can be slowly roasted in a 250 degree oven, rimmed sheet pan, few glugs of oil, some herbs if you like and some garlic cloves strewn about.
  4. Scraping: Freeze into a dessert or palate-cleanser. Make granita, or this really cool sorbet. Thanks Jane!
  5. Straining: Tomato water. Chop a bunch of tomatoes and place in a cheesecloth-lined sieve over a bowl. Let it rest overnight. By morning, you'll have clear, deeply tomato-y water. Use in cocktails, in aspic.

plum tomatoes

Kitchen Confidence Tip: Blanching

  Preserving the Tastes of Summer

Blanching vegetables, including basil, is a great way to keep the flavors of summer close at hand through the upcoming cooler months. Blanching is a process by why which you drop vegetables into boiling water for just a few seconds to a few minutes depending on the item, then plunge them into an ice bath to arrest the cooking process.


Did you know...?

  • Even corn on the cob can be preserved using two quick and easy methods. Tomatoes, basil, green beans... check out The ABC's of Saving Summer Produce for tips and resources.
  • Blanch basil to make pesto that stays bright green.
  • Blanch green beans, broccoli, cauliflower for bright, crisp crudité and salads.
  • Blanch tomatoes or peaches to remove skins easily.




Poaching Chicken - Can't Stand the Heat? Stay in the Kitchen! Cool Tips for Dog Days

Even though our June and August weather seems to have flipped this year, we're still heading into another warm stretch. When the temperatures rise, even avid cooks need a break. But don't switch from home cooking to takeout. Switch to cooler, smarter ways to cook. One of my favorite techniques for cooking chicken breasts is to poach them.

How to Make Poached Chicken

Poaching is a classic technique that I love for summer. It's easy, it's inexpensive and you can get a lot of mileage out of a little cooking.

Poaching Chicken mise


Poaching is a moist-heat cooking method in which you simmer the protein (here, chicken) in aromatics and water (or a combo of wine, water, broth) to cook it gently and infuse it with flavor. The advantages of poaching include:

  1. No need to turn on the oven (in fact, you can even poach in the microwave!)
  2. No added fat
  3. It's a cook once-eat twice (or three times) method of cooking.
  4. You can produce a nice fragrant broth from the remains of poaching liquid and bones.

You can vary the aromatics used to infuse the chicken breast with various flavor profiles (use ginger and five spice for Asian applications, for example.)


  1. Start with organic chicken (unless of course you enjoy a little arsenic with your meal) - choose your aromatics and spices. Today I used carrots, celery onion, a wedge of lemon, some thyme, parsley and about a dozen peppercorns, an allspice berry and some herbs de Provence.
  2. Place all the ingredients in a pot just large enough to hold them, cover with your choice of liquid (today I forgot Vermouth so we have straight water).
  3. Bring pot to a bare simmer, not a boil as this will toughen the meat. Cover with a circle of parchment paper (see below) to keep the chicken submerged in the flavorful liquid.
  4. Simmer for about 15 minutes for two large split breasts. Check the temp of the chicken if you are unsure.
  5. Remove from heat and let cool in the liquid, in a heat proof bowl. (Food safety note: we don't want to create a giant petri dish for bacterial growth so it's best to cool only partially on the counter then refrigerate.
  6. Separate your moist, tender poached chicken from the bones, reserve bones for stock.


How to cut parchment paper for poaching



If you don't have parchment paper you can place a small saucer atop the aromatics and chicken. The idea is to keep the chicken submerged. But really, get some parchment, it will make so many things easier - roasting, cooking en papillote, baking cookies, releasing cakes, etc.

Completed Poached Chicken

Now you have beautiful chicken breast meat to include in your Hatch chile salsa verde tortillas, to include with a chopped salad of fresh farmers' market veggies, or to make lovely chicken salad with homemade mayonnaise.

And you've not even broken a sweat.