Farmer’s Market Stir Fry

This is sweet, delicious and fresh. Choose different colored vegetables to make a beautiful dish.

This is especially good if you belong to a CSA and wind up with odds and ends like kohlrabi in your ‘fridge. Just julienne the kohlrabi, yellow squash, and carrots, then throw in some sliced cabbage and sweet onion.

Heat up about a tablespoon of olive oil, add the onion and cook until soft, then stir in the rest. After about 2 minutes add about 2 Tbs. of water, cover and let steam for another 2 or 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

(No flour!) Peanut Butter Balls

When you have a taste for a chocolatey cookie and you want it fast—this is the recipe to try.

These have to be the easiest cookies to make, and with only 5 ingredients you can enjoy them warm from the oven in about 20 minutes. This also makes a terrific starter recipe for young cooks.

Peanut Butter Balls

Mix together the following ingredients, then form into 1″ balls, place on an un-greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes. Makes 3 dozen.

  • 1 c. peanut butter
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 c. mini (or regular sized) chocolate  chips

Simple, elegant, vegieful: Kristina’s potato salad

From The Moosewood Cookbook, Kristina's Potato Salad is not your mother's potato salad.

Nephew Ben phoned this afternoon to say that he would be stopping by for dinner tonight, and bringing his Australian girlfriend, Rachel, for us to meet. I’d hate for Rachel to take the next boat home because our family doesn’t eat well, so I promised them a nice meal of potato salad and fruit. They politely said that potato salad sounded fine, and then they saw this platter and had a taste. “This is the best potato salad I’ve ever had,” said Rachel, whose mother is a gourmet cook.

This should be named vegetable salad, since it has more carrots, cucumber, tomato, parsley, alfalfa sprouts and peas than is does potatoes. Served on a bed of fresh spinach, and garnished with hard-boiled eggs and toasted sesame seeds, all you need to complete this exceptional meal is some good rolls and a platter of fresh melon.

The recipe can be found on-line by doing a search for Kristina’s Potato Salad.

Having fun with challah dough: Knishes and Blueberry Buns

Potato knishes, blueberry buns and knishes with sesame seeds.

It takes a village to make knishes and buns.

The thing that I possibly love best about being Jewish is the food—the passing down of recipes, the sharing within our community, and the beauty of the culinary traditions. Some of them are so odd and involve an acquired taste: my grandmother slapping the board with whiskey to make her Passover candy, the cleaning of the fish bones to make gefilte fish and boiling up the broth we call yuch, and the tradition of cooking with chicken fat or schmaltz.

Blogging, apparently has broadened my community. I had never heard of blueberry buns until I received a comment last week from a woman named Irene Saiger, telling me of her family’s tradition of taking challah dough and filling it with sugared fresh blueberries. She invited me to try her recipe: click here for a link to that.

I couldn’t imagine why our family had never tried this, so I made them today. And since I was going to the effort of filling circles of rolled out challah I decided to make some potato knishes as well. A potato knish is another kind of challah bun, this one savory, stuffed with mashed potatoes. At their best they are made with chicken fat—schmaltz—both as part of the mashed potatoes as well as brushed onto the dough before baking. My mother always had chicken fat on hand. She would tear it off of the chicken every week and keep a bag full in the freezer, along with chicken livers, saving both until she had enough of each to make chopped liver. Years ago I started saving up chicken fat in the freezer. But I never used it for anything. Today I found the bag but it was, well, rancid. My kind neighbor, Bev, volunteered to stop by the store and pick up a fat chicken for me. And then I thought of Ben, five houses down, who loves to make his own chicken stock and matzo balls with schmaltz. “Ben,” I asked, “Do you, by any chance, have any chicken fat in your freezer?” “I have a jar in the refrigerator, still fresh. I’ll bring it right over,” he said.

What are the odds of finding a neighbor in the middle of east central Illinois with a jar of schmaltz in their fridge?


Bean and Cheese Burritos—with homemade refried beans

Burritos topped with sour cream and salsa, garnished with fresh cilantro and served with corn and watermelon.

I got into the habit of buying canned refried beans, but tonight I set myself straight and made them from scratch. It was surprisingly easy and, not surprisingly, tasted fresh and light since I used far less oil than one finds in the canned beans.

Refried Beans

  • 1 lb. dried pinto beans
  • 2 Tbs. oil
  • 1/2 onion, chopped fine
  • 3 cloves garlic, slivered, to cook with the beans
  • salt to taste
  • cumin (optional)
  • more fresh garlic, crushed, to taste (1-2 cloves)
  • cayenne (if you like it spicy)

Put the beans, 2 tsp. salt and 3 cloves of slivered garlic up to cook, covering them in 3-4 inches of water. Boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for about 2 hours, or until soft. Drain the beans, reserving 2 cups of the liquid.

Heat oil in a sturdy pan, saute onion until soft then add beans and mash them with a potato masher while cooking over a low heat. Add the reserved liquid, as needed, until the beans are the desired consistency. Taste, then add salt and 1-2 cloves crushed garlic. If you like it more spicy add cumin and cayenne to taste.

Fish breading when you’re out of bread crumbs

Breaded and pan fried talapia.

This is a simple breading to use as an alternative to bread crumbs.

Fish breading

  • 1 c. matzo meal
  • 1 c. flour
  • 1/2 c. corn meal

Rinse off your fish fillets, and dredge them right into the breading (no need to dip in an egg if you don’t want to). Season with some salt, pepper, dill weed and garlic powder, then fry them up in a little hot oil.

Blueberry Pie

On the summer solstice, just at the end of the long day, I headed out to the blueberry farm with my friend and my son. I like to take Max along since he is able to pick at my pace, doubling our take. The blueberry farm was serene, and as dusk came the fireflies became visible, creating a magical image. For those in the area, the berries are just now becoming ripe at Pontious Farm.

In return for Max’s labors I promised him a blueberry pie, which I wound up baking at 10:00 pm, but that’s what summer’s for.

Blueberry Pie

For the filling:

  • 4 c. fresh blueberries
  • 1 c. sugar (scant)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 c. cornstarch mixed with 1/4 c. cold water
  • 3/4 c. hot water
  • juice of 1/2 lemon

Combine 1/2 c. blueberries, cornstarch mixture and hot water in a small pan. Cook over low heat, using the spoon to crush the berries against the side of the pan, and stirring constantly until the mixture gets thick and dark. Stir in the lemon juice and pour this mixture over the remaining blueberries.

For the crust:

  • 2-1/2 c. flour
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1-1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 c. butter
  • 1/2 c. Crisco
  • 7 Tbs. cold water

Cut butter and Crisco into dry ingredients. Toss in water and form into a ball. Divide into two. Roll out half for bottom, pour in filling. Roll out second ball of dough and place over filling. Prick with a fork. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes, then remove pie and form a foil collar around edge of crust. Return to oven for 15-20 more minutes.

If you can stand it, let the pie cool before cutting, or it will be very runny. It will firm up after it’s cool.

The best food I’ve ever tasted was given to me by a friend.


One of the best meals I ever had was broccoli beef stir fry, gifted to me by my friend Jani.


The day that I lost my first pregnancy, about 16 years ago, Jani called to ask if we’d made plans for dinner. It really was the last thing on my mind, and so we numbly accepted our friend’s offer of a meal. Jani, with four children of her own, took the time to make the phone call, prepare something extra, and with her youngest boy in tow she walked the meal over to our house. I still can picture it: broccoli beef stir fry, sitting on a bed of rice, with some shortbread still warm from the oven. It almost brings me to tears remembering her kindness, but then I’m a sucker for the gift of a meal.

I remember the container of frozen vegetable soup that an acquaintance—someone I had struck up a conversation with in the grocery store and later had run into at the park—dropped by my house during the week before I had my second baby. It was the middle of summer and I thought that it was so odd to give soup in June in Albuquerque. But after I was home with Molly, my appetite soaring, that soup was amazingly satisfying and delicious. I could taste the care that went into the chopping of each vegetable. Superb soup.

I remember Bev knocking on my door the day we moved into this house, ten years ago. Moving across country with three small children had left us just a little bit weary! “Would it be alright if I brought over some soup for your supper?” she asked. It was a vegetable beef soup, so perfect for a February night.

And Leo, my brother-in-law. What a mensch. Leo took a week off from his life to stay at my house and take care of my dad while our family traveled. When we walked in the door after a long day of driving, he had a meal of barbecued chicken, along with three or four side dishes, hot and on the table just as we walked in the door.

If I don’t check my blog, I can’t tell you what I made for dinner last week. I don’t remember the finest meal that I ever prepared, but I remember with rich detail the meals that were gifted my way. From my friends, I hope, I’ve learned to pass it on. When we hear that a friend is in crisis the phone call can feel awkward, but go ahead and make the call, ask if they would mind if you stopped by with a little soup.

This is Jani’s recipe:

Broccoli and Beef

Cut a piece of steak into bite sized pieces. Marinate it in soy sauce, a bit of rice wine, some sugar, oyster sauce (if you have some). Set aside.

Chop up some garlic (1 or 2 cloves), ginger (1 or 2 slices chopped into slivers) and green onions. Set aside.

Cut up broccoli and any other vegies you have on hand. Set aside.

Heat a tablespoon of peanut or vegetable oil in a large pan or wok. When hot throw in the ginger, green onions and garlic. Stir fry until fragrant. Add beef. Cook until barely done. Remove, and set aside.

Add a bit more oil to the pan (1/2 T.). Throw in the broccoli. Stir fry until they are all coated with the oil. Add a bit of water and cover. Steam until almost the way you want to eat them, then add the beef. Stir fry. When it is nearly done you can add soy sauce, a bit of sugar, some rice wine, more oyster sauce, some slices of green onion. Stir around and serve with rice.

My misadventure with Father’s Day breakfast scones.

The third time was the charm for these sour cherry scones.

There’s no gift like a good breakfast, right? That’s what I thought as I prepared to whip up some sour cherry scones for my husband on Father’s Day. I dipped into my prized stash of frozen cherries, mixed up the scones, popped them in the oven, and then glanced back at the recipe. I had forgotten to add any sugar. As my daughter would say, “Fail.”

I washed and dried all of the utensils and set about on round two. The second batch was tasty and lovely and also FLAT. I served them, but I also puzzled over their flatness for half of the day.

That afternoon I decided to give it one more try, and I made the recipe with less liquid and baked them at a little higher temperature, achieving a taller, flakier scone. This one I’m happy to share:

Sour Cherry Scones (makes 12)

  • 2 c. flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3 Tbs. sugar
  • 6 Tbs. butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 c. vanilla yogurt
  • 1 c. whole sour cherries, pitted (may substitute blueberries, dried cherries, cranberries or raspberries)
  • granulated sugar

Mix together the dry ingredients and cut in the butter. Mix together the egg and the yogurt, add the cherries and fold into the dry ingredients. The scones may be formed in several different ways: drop them by large spoonful; divide into two parts, pat each into a circle, and cut each into 6 wedges; or pat out on a floured board and cut into circles with a large biscuit cutter. Place the formed scones onto a lightly greased cookie sheet. Lightly sprinkle each scone with a little granulated sugar. Bake for 15 minutes at 450 degrees.

When cool, you may drizzle them with a sugar glaze:


Mix together the following:

  • 1 c. powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbs. milk

Making the table festive for Father’s Day

Use part of your dinner menu to decorate the plates at the table.

We had been traveling and I was ill-prepared for Father’s Day this year. But I did fix a special meal, splurging on some beef tenderloin for the grill. The fresh pineapple was going to be cut up and served with the dinner, but I decided to cut it length-wise into sixths and place a leafy wedge on everyone’s plate at the table. The pineapple added a lot of color to the table, as well as making the meal feel more festive.

Look for beauty in the simple details, and enjoy!