Monthly Archives: December 2012

A Christmas Brisket


This is a traditional Jewish style brisket, sometimes called a Sweet and Sour Brisket. Its tender and tangy and smothered in wonderfully delicious gravy. This is a make-ahead meat which will serve a crowd. I usually make it for Christmas Eve or Christmas night dinner and its always a hit. The leftovers are pretty awesome too.

4 lb brisket

1 cup water

1 cup ketchup

½ cup white vinegar

2 onions, sliced

1 garlic clove minced

¾ cup brown sugar

1 tbsp salt

in a large dutch oven or skillet, heat the brisket over medium high heat and cook until browned on each side. Add all the other ingredients and stir. Bring to a boil then cover and reduce to low.  Simmer until tender, turning occasionally being careful not to overcook. Depending on the thickness of the cut, it may simmer for 2-3 hours.

Remove the brisket and allow to cool. Slice the meat against the grain and arrange in a 9×13 inch baking pan. Pour the gravy on top, cover and refrigerate overnight. Reheat before serving.


Butternut Squash Soup-liquid comfort

butternut squash soupThis past weekend was a trying one. I faced a triple threat of what happened on Friday in Connecticut (less than an hour from where I live), a cold wet and rainy weekend coupled with getting sick on Sunday. Yuck. Friday’s tragedy cast a big grey cloud over everything. I found myself sitting in my car sobbing when I heard the news and I still fight back tears every time I think about it or read some new story related to the victims. We may all be sad about this for a long time so let’s start with a little comfort food to take us through what we face right now. I’m talking about soup.

Normally I would start off with a perky and upbeat quip about how I found pre-cut butternut squash at the store and how much time that will save, which is all true. But that seems out of place here. What I will say is that soup, especially a nice warm creamy one like this, can provide a certain comfort in times when we are in need of physical and emotional soothing.

6 cups chicken stock

2-3 cups cubed Butternut squash

1 thinly sliced onion

1 garlic clove minced

½ tsp kosher salt

½ tsp dried thyme

5 peppercorns

½ cup heavy cream or sour cream

Combine stock, squash, onion, garlic, salt, thyme & peppercorns in a soup pot. Cover and bring to a boil. Remove lid and simmer for 40 minutes. Remove from heat.

Now you have 2 choices depending on what kitchen tools you have available. If you have a stick blender you can use that to puree the soup. If not, use a slotted spoon to remove the chunky bits of squash, puree it in a blender or food processor then return it to the soup. Stir in cream and serve.

Tip: If you plan on putting the leftovers in the freezer do not stir cream into the whole batch of soup as cream does not freeze well. Instead add a small amount to each bowl before you serve.

Winter lentil salad

Last night as I was thinking about dinner I looked into my fridge and found a sad assortment of about-to-expire produce.  Foraging through the cupboards I came up with a few cans. By tossing some things together I came up with a surprisingly fresh and healthy salad which was a nice antidote to all the unhealthy holiday treats that keep appearing on my plate. A can of lentils, a can of corn, a can of butterbeans, half a red onion, some green onions and some fresh salsa came together nicely to make this winter salad. I found half a jar of roasted red bell pepper and threw those in too. Aside from being really easy, the best part was the leftovers I had for lunch today.

My husband likes to add  Asian hot sauce to this salad

My husband likes to add Asian hot sauce to this salad


2 tbsp lemon juice

4 tbsp olive oil

2 cloves garlic, crushed

salt & pepper

1 (15oz) can lentils

1 (15oz) can corn

1 (15oz) can Butter beans

3 oz roasted red bell pepper in a jar (or 1 fresh roasted pepper) roughly chopped

½ large red onion, chopped

½ cup roughly chopped green onions

¼ cup chopped cilantro (optional)

salsa or hot sauce to taste

Do ahead:

In a small bowl, mix the lemon juice and olive oil. Crush the garlic and add it to the liquid. Add salt & pepper, mix and cover. Let sit until salad is ready, anywhere from ½ hour to 4 hours.

For the salad:

Drain and rinse all canned goods. Put them in a large bowl with peppers, onions and cilantro. Toss gently with dressing. Add salsa to meet your own tastes.

Peppermint Molasses Bars

peppermintmollasses bars2One quick skim across the food blogosphere of our ever-expanding interwebs will tell you that there is no shortage of dessert recipes out there. While I like sweet things as much as the next size 10 lady, I find I don’t need much help hunting them down or concocting them. This is why you will see very few dessert recipes on this blog. BUT! Since it is the holiday season I though I’d share with you a nice and festive treat that can be subtle with complex flavors but doesn’t have to be a double chocolate sugar frosted caramel goobomb.

Here’s a tip about holiday baking: forget cookies. Its waaayyy too much work to drop each round of dough individually on baking sheets then have to rotate the sheets in and out of the oven. Two minutes too long and you end up with a plate of rocks. Bars can simplify the process by putting all the dough into one pan. When you’re done, just cut them up.

smashing candy canes

smashing candy canes

The holidays are stressful, especially if you’re trying to create all that holiday magic with a baby in one arm. Sometimes you need a release for that stress (other than crying). If you have any issues with the holidays, any antipathy towards this season or just general frustrations you need to work out you may take some joy at putting a bunch of candy canes in a bag and smashing them to bits with a blunt instrument. Put them in a plastic bag, grab a metal spatula and smash away.

2/3 cup butter at room temp.

¼ cup granulated sugar

¼ cp packed brown sugar

1 large egg

½ cup molasses

1 ½ cup flour (for GF I used All Purpose Gluten free flour + 1 tsp xantham gum)

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

½ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

1/2 cup crushed hard peppermint

parchment paper

Preheat oven to 350˚.  Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl-flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda, salt. Set aside.

Beat butter, egg, molasses and sugar at medium speed until well blended.

Add dry ingredients just until dough comes together.

Stir in peppermint

Line a 9” x 13” baking pan with parchment and spread dough evenly in pan

Bake 25-30 minutes

Transfer to a rack to cool completely. Cut into bars. If you like things on the sweeter side drizzle with icing.


1 cup confectioners sugar

3 tbsp milk

1 tbsp crushed peppermint

1 tsp vanilla

red food coloring

Mix all everything in a small bowl. If icing is too thick add a little more milk, ½ tps at a time. Drizzle over cooled bars.

Potato Latkes

You don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy potato latkes. Who wouldn’t love a hot fried potato pancake on a cold winter night? The fact that its Hanukkah this week makes it the best time of all to give them a try. These are such wonderfully easy-to-make comfort food you’ll want to add them to your regular menu rotation. Serve them up with a side of applesauce or sour cream and they will win you over. If you’re not Jewish, you may be tempted to convert 😉


Once you get the basic version down, you can jazz it up a bit by adding herbs such as rosemary or shredding some  peeled carrots and mixing those in with the potatoes. If you are going gluten-free you can substitute all-purpose gluten-free flour here instead of regular flour. And if you have a food processor, go ahead and use it to shred those potatoes.


4 large potatoes

½  cup finely chopped onion

3 tbsp flour or matzah meal

3 eggs well beaten

1 tbsp salt

salt & pepper

vegetable oil for frying

all ingredients in one bowl

all ingredients in one bowl

Peel & grate potatoes. Drain in colander, squeeze to remove excess water. Place potatoes & onion in a mixing bowl.  Add flour, eggs, salt & pepper. Mix well. Heat 1-2 tbsp oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Drop 1 large spoonful if mixture for each latke. Fry until browned on each side. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel. Serve with applesauce or sour cream.

Bacon-Wrapped Maple Pork Loin

Lets us just begin here by acknowledging that a bacon-wrapped maple pork loin is no ordinary, run of the mill dinner. It’s not something I go around whipping up on a regular basis. But I made this last Sunday night and now I get it! Insert sound of me slapping myself on the forehead. This is why people make a big Sunday dinner-leftovers to carry you through the week. Pork sandwiches, pork tacos (try them with goat cheese), noodle soup with pork have all come from this one magic pig dinner. Look for recipes for the last 2 coming soon.

233983While this roast may come across as extravagant just based on the name alone, its really super-easy and yields enough to feed my family, our friends, and provide many more meals throughout the week.

I found the brine does not yield a huge amount of liquid so I ended up brining the meat in a long narrow pan to make sure it was totally submerged. Begin to brine the day before you plan to roast it and you’ll feel like you’re ahead of the game.


For brining pork

  • 8 cups water
  • 1/3 cup kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup (Grade B or amber)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 sprigs fresh sage
  • 1 large garlic clove, smashed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 (4- to 4 1/2-lb) boneless pork loin roast, trimmed

For roasting pork

  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup (Grade B or amber)
  • 16 bacon slices (about 1 lb)
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon water

Brine pork:
Combine all brining ingredients except pork loin in a 3- to 4-quart saucepan and heat over high heat, stirring, until salt is dissolved. Pour brine into a deep 4- to 5-quart pot; cool to room temperature, uncovered, about 2 hours.

Add pork to brine, making sure it is completely covered by brine, and marinate, covered and chilled, 8 to 24 hours.

Roast pork:
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.

Pat pork dry (discard brine) and remove any strings, then transfer to a roasting pan. Stir together garlic, sage, and 1 tablespoon syrup in a small bowl and rub all over pork. Lay bacon slices crosswise over loin, overlapping slightly, and tuck ends of bacon underneath loin.

Roast pork until thermometer registers 140°F, about 1 1/4 hours. Stir together 1 tablespoon syrup and vinegar until combined. Brush vinegar mixture over bacon slices and continue to roast pork until thermometer registers 150°F, about 10 minutes more. Remove from oven and let stand in pan 15 minutes. Transfer roast to a cutting board with a lip, reserving juices in pan, and let roast stand, uncovered, while making sauce.

Skim fat from pan juices and discard, then transfer jus to a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Stir together cornstarch and water and whisk into jus. Simmer, stirring, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in remaining tablespoon syrup. Serve pork with sauce.

Pork with tofu & coconut

Looking for a satisfying meal without dairy or wheat? Here it is! Bonus: this can be made (mostly) in one pan. Don’t be intimidated by the long list of ingredients, they’re mostly herbs and spices. This meal is easily converted to a vegetarian dish by leaving out the pork and doubling the tofu.

Vermicelli style noodles hold up best here.  They are thicker and work well to carry the heavier coconut milk-based sauce. You can find rice noodles like this in the section of your grocery store that contains the organic and gluten-free packaged products.

pork tofu coconut

Serves 4 and makes for great leftovers

2 oz unsalted cashews

1 tbsp ground coriander

1 tbsp ground cumin

1 tsp hot chilli powder (optional)

1 inch pc fresh root ginger, peeled and chopped/1 tbsp ground ginger

1 tbsp oyster sauce

4 tbsp peanut oil

14 oz coconut milk

6 oz rice noodles-vermicelli style

1 lb pork tenderloin, thinly sliced

1 bunch green onions, trimmed and thinly sliced

3 tomatoes, roughly chopped

3 oz/half a block tofu drained and diced

2 tbsp freshly chopped cilantro

2 tbsp freshly chopped mint

salt & pepper

MAKE AHEAD: put the cashews, coriander, cumin, chilli powder, ginger and oyster sauce in a food processor or blender until well ground. Heat a wok or large frying pan, add 2 tbsp of peanut oil and stir-fry the nut mixture for 1 minute. Add the coconut milk, bring to a boil and simmer for 1 minute. Pour into a small jug and set aside.

Place your rice noodles in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let stand for 5 minutes or half the amount of time the package direction for cooking. Stir to make sure none are stuck together. Drain thoroughly and set aside.

Reheat the wok, add 2 tbsp of oil. Add the pork and stir fry for 5 minutes or until browned all over. Add the green onions and stir-fry for 2 more minutes.

Add tomatoes, tofu, noodles, coconut mixture and stir fry for another 2 minutes or until heated through. Be careful not to break up the tofu. Add salt & pepper, top with fresh herbs. Serve.