light and fluffy mashed potatoes

For Erev Yom Kippur dinner last night, I made mashed potatoes.  I thought they were good, but my daughter Randi swooned as she ate some and said, “These potatoes are like fluffy clouds, they’re so light!  She asked me if I had done anything different than usual to which I said I didn’t, but I realized I’d better write down what I did do!

5 lbs. organic Idaho potatoes

2 sticks Whole Foods salted butter

about 1/2 cup whole, organic milk

salt (not kosher)

about 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Peel potatoes.  Cut into largish pieces and put in large pot and cover with cold water.  Bring to a boil (uncovered), and simmer over low boil till you can put a fork into potatoes easily.  Drain in colander.  Put your sticks of butter back in pot to melt over low flame.  Add potatoes back in, and mash.  Add salt to taste and pepper too.  Then add milk, and mash till nice and fluffy.

Shepherd’s Pie

These days most of my desire to cook revolves around cooking for my daughter and her family, and for my sons Danny and Benji.  My daughter had gone to Whole Foods and she and her family had eaten the shepherd’s pie from the hot food bar.  She told me it was the best thing she’d ever eaten and that I had to make it for her family.  I found a recipe on the Food Network site which looked pretty good.  I made it last week, and everybody loved it, but my daughter said it still wasn’t quite as good as Whole Food’s.  So I made it again this week, and basically added a  little more seasoning.  This time, my daughter said it  was just as good as Whole Food’s version. And my son Danny went totally crazy for it.  Yesterday, watching my two grandsons eating this and loving it was so gratifying.  I was “kvelling” from their reaction!

adapted from Food Network “Mummy Boome’s Traditional Shepherd Pie”

meat filling:

  • 2 3/4 lb. 85% chopped meat (I used Nature’s Promise or Whole Food’s grass fed beef)
  • 5 organic carrots, small dice
  • 3 organic celery stalks, small dice
  • 1 large onion, small dice
  • 8 garlic cloves, chopped
  • kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper
  • almost all of a small can of organic tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup organic beef broth or stock
  • 3 tablespoons organic worcesteshire  sauce (Annie’s)
  • 2-3 cups organic frozen peas

mashed potatoes topping:

  • 5 lbs. organic russet, idaho, or yukon gold potatoes
  • 1 1/2 to 2 sticks organic salted butter
  • about 1/2 cup  organic whole milk
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Pour a few tablespoons of  organic olive oil (you can find organic extra virgin olive oil at Costco) in large sauté pan.  Add salt and pepper.  Sauté  onion, carrot, celery till soft and just starting to brown.  Add garlic, and sauté a few minutes. Add the tomato paste and mix in.  Add the meat, salt and pepper, and break up with fork as you brown. Add the worcesteshire sauce and the beef broth.  Mix and add the peas.  Taste for seasoning. Transfer meat mixture to large baking dish- at least a 9 x 13 (I have one which is a little larger). Refrigerate.

Make your mashed potatoes.  I peel 5 lbs. and cut them into medium pieces, cover with water and bring to a boil.  Boil over medium heat until soft.  Drain in colander and then put back in pot over low flame for a minute to get rid of excess water in potatoes.  Turn flame off.  Add butter, kosher salt, and a little fresh cracked pepper.  Mash, and start adding the whole milk until nice and fluffy.

Spoon the potatoes over the top of the meat.  You should have a hefty amount of potatoes topping the meat.  Refrigerate until dinner time.  Then preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Bake for about 35-45 min. until hot.

Note:  If you are not baking this right away, and you don’t have time to make the mashed potatoes right away, refrigerate the meat mixture  until you have your mashed potatoes.  I have refrigerated this for up to a day before I made the potatoes.  When I make the potatoes, I let them cool to warm and then I put them on top of the meat (which is cold from being in the fridge).  Then I put the dish back in the fridge till I’m ready to bake it. If you are baking it right away, then just it won’t matter if the potatoes are still hot when you put them on the meat.

Fastastic Italian Broccoli Or Asparagus With Seasoned Breadcrumbs and Romano Cheese

My friend Lisa gave me this fabulous recipe that her grandmother had made.  I have now made this every week since she gave it to me for my daughter and her family.  This recipe reminds me of the flavors you get with chicken or shrimp oreganata- very tasty and satisfying.  When Lisa gave me the recipe, she told me that she had discovered that when her daughter was really little, she actually liked eating broccoli because, I guess it was disguised by delicious flavors.  So it turned out that my grandson Noah also loved the broccoli this way.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t convince my son Danny to give it a try- that’s how much he hates broccoli anything.  But what makes this such a great recipe is that it is very substantial, and you don’t need as much of your main course, because this is just so amazing and very filling too! Thanks Lisa for sharing this recipe of your grandma’s with me!

As much broccoli or asparagus as you wish (I usually buy about 2 pounds of organic)

Italian seasoned bread crumbs

shredded Romano cheese

garlic powder, black pepper, kosher salt, dried parsley flakes

extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

Cut about 1 inch off the bottoms of the broccoli or asparagus, rinse with cold water to wash.  Boil a large pot of water.  Then drop broccoli into boiling water, and boil for 5 minutes.  Dump into collander and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. 

Put oven on broil, and put oven rack about 8 inches from the heat element.  Dump broccoli on sheet pan covered with foil in single layer.  Sprinkle with kosher salt, garlic powder, black pepper.  Sprinkle bread crumbs heavily over all.  Then sprinkle parsley flakes over all.  Then sprinkle shredded Romano generously over all.  Give another sprinkling of black pepper, and drizzle with olive oil.  Place under the broiler for about 5 -7 minutes till nicely browned, but not burned.   

Do the same with asparagus.

Another Pea Soup

I like to keep a  one pound bag of split peas in the house just in case we’re in the mood for pea soup. We just had the big blizzard the day after Christmas, and I was snowed in with my son Benji.  I couldn’t have been happier.  He loves soup, I love him, so I made him a pot of delicious, warming soup.  It was a great day.

1 pound bag of green split peas

1 pound bag of yellow split peas

2 large  onion

4 quarts water

about pound of organic carrots, cut into smallish chunks

kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Rinse the peas.  Put in large saucepan.  Pour the water over.  Peel onions and then pierce with a fork, and place in pot whole.  Put sliced carrots in pot.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Simmer covered about 2 hours over low flame, adding your salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with thin egg noodles, matzoh balls, cooked Kosher hot dogs pieces, or just plain.

Delicious Oven Fried Chicken Cutlets For Passover Or Anytime

To make this chicken, all I did was simply adapt one of my regular chicken recipes for Passover.  These are delicious, which I know for sure, since all my children loved them.  In fact, my daughter Randi claims that she likes this chicken more than my not for Passover oven fried chicken cutlets.  These are delicious hot, but also cold.  What I like to do is prepare the chicken before I leave for work in the morning without baking it, stick it in the fridge, and then when I get home, I can just throw it in the oven and dinner is ready in less than 30 minutes.

Ingredients:

  •  1 pound or so of thin sliced chicken cutlets
  • matza meal
  • kosher salt
  • pepper
  • olive oil or any other oil of your choice (I use a combination of extra virgin and light olive oil, but that is not necessary)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

1.  Line a half sheet pan with aluminum foil, then pour a few tablespoons of oil on it, and shmear it all over the pan.  Pour some oil in a shallow bowl, enough to coat all your cutlets.

2.  Place the cutlets in oil and with make sure the cutlets are all totally coated in the oil.

3.  Pour a good amount of matza meal on a large plate, and add salt and pepper to taste.

4.  Dredge each oil coated cutlet in the matza meal, using your hands to really coat the cutlet well on both sides.  I usually turn the cutlet over a few times, pressing the matza meal into the cutlet.  Then transfer each cutlet to the sheet pan.  Sprinkle a little more salt and pepper over each cutlet and drizzle the top of the chicken very lightly with.

5.  Place in center of oven for about 15 minutes.  Change the setting of the oven to broil- low.  Then cook for another 10 or so minutes just until the top of the chicken is nicely browned.  During this time, watch carefully.  If chicken is starting to burn, then change the setting back to bake at 400 degrees.

Note:  The chicken cutlets I use are very thin.  If your cutlets are thicker, bake them for more time up front, and broil them for a few minutes at the end.  Matza meal takes longer to brown than bread crumbs or corn flakes crumbs.  That’s why I have found it is necessary to broil the cutlets to brown them.  The thin cutlets only need 20-25 min. to cook, and the matza meal will not brown in that time period only on a bake setting.

Judy’s Chicken Cacciatore

I’ve made lots of versions of this, and I’ve never really used a recipe.  I made it this week for my daughter Randi and her baby, my amazing grandson, Noah.  They both really enjoyed so here it is.  The one thing I do differently is that I take all the chicken off the bone after it’s cooked and then I cut it up and put it back in the sauce.  It turns out to be more like a chicken stew.  Of course, you may keep it on the bone if you like.

  • 4 pounds of chicken pieces, seasoned on both sides with salt and pepper (I use only breasts – that’s about 5 – 6 breast pieces)
  • 1 28 oz can of good quality crushed tomatoes (or whole peeled tomatoes in thick puree) Best brand of crushed tomatoes is Sclafani or Jersey Best- the tomato product is amazing!
  • 8-12 oz. sliced mushrooms (I used baby bella this time)
  • 2 large red peppers, sliced
  • about 4 carrots, peeled and sliced in large chunks (optional- if you like to add more veggies, this works well)
  • about 10 oz. chicken broth or stock- buy organic or msg free
  • 4-6 tablespoons of dry white wine (optional)
  • 1 large onion, medium dice
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • olive oil
  • kosher salt, black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano or thyme (use fresh herbs if you have them), crushed red pepper flakes to taste, about 1/2 teaspoon (optional- if you like the heat- I can’t use it for the baby)

In a large deep frying pan, pour 1 tablespoon oil,  heat up, and then place seasoned breasts face down, brown, turn and cook another few minutes.  Take out and place on large plate.  Add a little more oil, and saute onions till just starting to brown- towards the end of cooking the onions, throw the garlic in and saute just till transluscent, take out.  Do same for sliced mushrooms, when browned, put on plate with onions.  Then saute peppers, till just soft, take out.

Now you are ready to put it all together.  If this pan is large enough, and has a cover you can cook it all in pan.  Otherwise, in a pot, put the chicken in, all the cooked vegetables, the can of crushed tomatoes or whole tomatoes with juice, the cut up carrots- if using, the chicken broth, the wine if using, oregano, any additional salt and pepper to taste.

Simmer covered over lowest flame for about 45-55 minutes. If you are serving right away, either cook rice or egg noodles, and then serve over.

I do something different at this point.  I  let the pot sit there at least 1 hour, covered, until the chicken has cooled down.  Then I take the chicken out.  I lift the entire breast off the bone, and then I cut the chicken into nice big chunks. I do this because my children never really learned to eat chicken on the bone.   I put the chicken back into the sauce.  Then I turn the flame on, put the cover back on, and I simmer over lowest flame for another 30 minutes to get the juice into the meat.  Then I either serve it, or let it cool and put it into quart containers for serving later in the week or for freezing.

Note:  I go to the butcher shop at my Foodtown, and I buy the chicken that has no antibiotics.  The chicken is more expensive, but it tastes so much better!

Homemade Melt-In-Your-Mouth Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have been making homemade chocolate chip cookies forever.  I have definitely made more batches of these cookies than any other of my recipes.  The reason I made and still make them so often is because I love seeing the reaction of my kids when they realize this treat is coming.  As soon as the cookies are out of the oven and on the cooling rack, I call my kids into the kitchen with “The chocolate chip cookies are ready!”  Then they come bounding out of their rooms (yes, still at 24 years old for Danny and 21 years old for Benji), they grab plates, and then they very carefully select somewhere between 4 and 6 of what they consider the perfect ones.  Sometimes they fight over which cookies they want.  Then they sit down in front of the TV to eat their cookies.  The expressions on their faces are worth a million dollars to me.  Benji makes sounds and his eyes just say it all.  Danny just eats more quietly, but loves them just as much.  As Randi is in her own house, she gets them the next day, but loves them just as much.  In fact, Randi usually begs me NOT to make them in the interest of her health and figure. I love it all!  When my children were growing up, these cookies were a staple in our house.  I often would make up the batter, and bake one or two batches of cookies, and then refrigerate the remaining batter in a tupperware container. Then I could make a fresh batch of cookies every night until the batter ran out, and my children just loved eating them right out of the oven.  There really is nothing like a warm homemade chocolate chip cookie. Here are the recipes I have made over the years:

Standard Toll House Variety:

  • 2 sticks butter (unsalted)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 extra large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups unbleached flour
  • 1 teaspoon  salt (if your butter or margarine are salted, decrease to 1/2 teaspoon salt)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda (I sometimes throw a pinch of baking powder in too)
  • 1 12 oz bag of semisweet chocolate chips

OR

Same as above except increase light brown sugar to 1 cup and decrease granulated sugar to 1/2 cup

OR this one- which is perfect for baking in a 9 x 13 pan for some yummy chocolate chip squares:

  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) softened butter or margarine or a mixture of both (I use butter)
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 extra large or jumbo egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (add a little more salt if using unsalted butter or margarine)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 12 oz. bag of semisweet chocolate chips (I used about 10 oz. on Sept. 7, 2015)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cream room temperature butter or margarine in mixer with paddle attachment, food processor with metal blade, or by hand.  Then add sugars and cream till fluffy.  Add egg or eggs, and vanilla, and mix till fluffy.  Add flour, baking soda (and powder), salt  on very low speed or by pulsing in processor, just till blended.  Mix in chocolate chips by hand.  Drop by teaspoonfuls onto parchment lined or greased cookie sheets about 7-9 minutes until just browned around the edges and till the tops of cookies appear dry.  Let cool for a minute, and transfer to cooling racks.  Store in ziploc bags at room temperature, in the fridge, or in the freezer.

For chocolate chip squares, grease a nonstick 9 by 13 pan with butter (sides and bottom) and spread the batter evenly over bottom of the pan.  Bake for about 20-25 min. till nicely browned (not too dark!) all over.  Cool and cut into 24 squares.

Note:  You can use as much batter as you like, and just refrigerate the rest for up to a week and a half.

Another note:  I saw a video of Martha Stewart Chocolate Chip Cookies 101, and she uses my first variation under the recipe on top, the one changing the light brown sugar to 1 cup and the granulated sugar to 1/2 cup, but she uses all butter which I often do,  she uses 2 teaspoons vanilla and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, with everything else remaining the same, so I may try that next time and see how they come out.

Judy’s Healthier Pasta with Meatballs and Marinara Sauce

I have been making my homemade meat sauce with meatballs  for the last 3o years, and it remains a family favorite.  But recently, my children have been requesting that I make marinara sauce with meatballs as a lighter and healthier alternative.  So my challenge was to make sure my meatballs would be just as delicious even though they wouldn’t be cooking in my meat sauce.  Well, I did it!  My inspiration to develop the recipe came from my daughter Randi, who thought her baby, Noah, would love the meatballs.  Randi and her husband Dan have been vegetarians for the last 10 years, but have started eating meat again, but they still don’t want a meat overload.  So the perfect compromise is a great marinara sauce with my incredible meatballs.  As a bonus to health, I found fabulous organic ground beef at Costco.  It comes in vacuum sealed 1 pound packages which can be easily frozen, and easily defrosted.  The meat was absolutely beautiful, and had the freshest smell when  I opened it.  What a find!  This is a delicious and economical recipe that you are sure to enjoy.

for the meatballs:

3 pounds organic chopped meat (or ground turkey)

3  extra large eggs

about 3/4 cup ketchup

about 3/4 cup plain  bread crumbs ( I once substituted about 1/4 cup of organic oats and 2 tablespoons wheat germ for some of the bread crumbs, and the meatballs were just as good as when I use all breadcrumbs.)

kosher salt, garlic powder, and ground pepper to taste

Mix with clean hands gently; do not overmix.

Form into meatballs with a diameter of about 1 1/2 inches.

In a very large nonstick frying pan, put a drop of canola or olive oil.  Heat, then put meatballs in over low-medium flame, and brown for just a few minutes over a medium heat.  Turn meatballs and then COVER pan.  You do not want to really brown them all over, because they can become tough.  It is almost as if you are steaming them.  Take cover off a few times and turn meatballs.  This should be a gentle process.  Discard fat as you cook meatballs.  When meatballs seem pretty cooked, transfer them with slotted spoon into your pot of marinara sauce being careful to drain as much fat as possible before putting meatballs in sauce.  The meatballs don’t have to be fully cooked when they go in the sauce, because they will finish cooking in the sauce.  Simmer the meatballs in the marinara sauce over a low heat for at least another hour with cover on over a very low flame.  Recipe for marinara sauce is below.

for the marinara sauce:

about 1/3 cup olive oil

4 or 5 28 oz cans of crushed tomatoes (best brand is Sclafani- found at Pathmark on Route 1 in Edison and Top Tomato)

1 small can tomato paste

6-8  garlic cloves, crushed or minced

2 medium or 1 large onion, chopped very fine (I use the metal blade of the food processor and I pulse the onion until it is the consistency of chunky apple sauce)

kosher salt, freshly cracked pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes to taste

1 tablespoon fresh or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or dried herbes de provence

1 teaspoon of sugar, if you like

Pour about 1/3 cup of olive oil in a very large saucepan.  Add crushed red pepper flakes to taste (I use about 1/2 teaspoon.  Then saute the onion till translucent, add the chopped or crushed garlic cloves, and saute with the onion till soft.  Add all  the tomato product, about 8 – 12 oz. of water if you think the sauce is too thick, about 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and some freshly cracked pepper to taste.  Cover and simmer over low flame mixing every 10 or 15 minutes.

After the marinara has been cooking for about 45 minutes, add the meatballs which you have prepared and par-cooked as instructed above.  Then simmer meatballs in sauce over lowest flame for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours with cover on.

Add more seasonings as needed.  Serve over pasta of your choice.  Or you can let the sauce cool and freeze it in quart containers with the meatballs.

Mini Pumpkin Muffins With Chocolate Chips

My very nice co-teacher in school, Doris Fisher, bakes these muffins on a regular basis for her friends and family.  Luckily for me, she brought some in to school for me to sample.  They were delicious!  These muffins are a breeze to make and they freeze beautifully, too.  Enjoy!

for the muffins:

  • 3 extra large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 16 oz. can pure pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups unbleached flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon (or 2 if you like a more cinnamony flavor)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1  teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Spray mini muffin pans (recipe makes 48 mini muffins)

In large mixing bowl, blend eggs, sugar, oil, pumpkin, and vanilla.  Whisk till nicely blended.  Then  and add everything else but the chips, mixing in just until blended with a rubber spatula.  Then add chips and fold in.  Scoop out batter into prepared pans, and bake 23-35 min till muffins are lightly browned around edges and toothpick comes out clean.

Healthy And Delicious Roasted Haddock, Flounder, Halibut, Or Scrod

I made a simple fish dish for my son Danny and me this week.  I am experimenting with fish, and I am determined to cook fish at least 3 times a week to improve our diet.  I bought haddock fillets, which were unbelievably fresh, at my supermarket for only $5.99/lb.  I try to buy whatever is freshest and cheapest, normally.  Why not?  What is so great is that I can get this gourmet meal on the table in no time at all with such simple preparation.  I served the fish with fresh corn on the cob and a simple salad using prewashed fresh spinach and baby romaine, sliced strawberries, walnuts, and my own lemon vinaigrette. (You can find my recipe for this vinaigrette right on this web site.)  What an amazing light, healthy, and flavorful dinner!

for two people:

1 pound fish fillets (I buy whatever is on sale and absolutely fresh!)

grated zest of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, butter, or margarine

2 tablespoons slivered raw almonds

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Cover a half sheet pan with aluminum foil.  Lightly grease foil with oil. Place fish on foil.  Sprinkle  with salt and pepper, then liberally with lemon zest, then with thyme leaves, then with almonds, then dot with butter or margarine or drizzle with olive oil.  Roast for 7-12 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish.  If you like, you can then place fish under the broiler for a minute or two at this point to just brown the almonds.  Be careful, if you do this, not to burn the fish or the nuts.  Serve with lemon wedges.