Julia’s Hash Browns


Julia's Hash Browns

I love Sunday breakfast! It’s fun to make a big breakfast on Sunday since there is no rush to get out of the house. I even have a Sunday Morning playlist on my iPod for just such an occasion. I shuffle into the kitchen in my PJs, make a shot of espresso and start the music. Usually, it’s just bacon and eggs, but I recently came across a recipe for Julia Child’s Hash Browns in Food and Wine magazine that had me looking forward to Sunday morning a little more than usual.

You see, I’m a bit of a hash brown snob. I like ’em crispy, but I still want to taste the potato. I don’t like ’em greasy, but browned butter makes everything taste better. I’ve tried at least a dozen recipes to get just the right balance of potato, crispy crust and butter, but have always been disappointed – until now!

Sunday Breakfast

I had just put the potatoes on to boil last Sunday when the phone rang. It was our friends, Skip and Bernice, wanting us to join them at a nearby restaurant for breakfast. “I have a better idea,” I said, “come on over to our place for a home-cooked breakfast. And keep it comfy and casual. Just bring yourselves and a Venti Americano.” We enJOYed mimosas, bacon, english muffins, poached eggs, and my new favorite potatoes. My Sunday was shaping up perfectly!

What’s on your favorite Sunday breakfast menu?

Julia’s Hash Browns
Cuisine: American
Author: Julia Child
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4
Julia served these as a side dish with roast chicken, but we loved them with our eggs and bacon on Sunday morning.
  • 1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes (I prefer the small, fingerling potatoes)
  • Salt
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Fresh chives for garnish
  1. If the potatoes are large, cut them into 1/2-inch pieces.
  2. Put the potatoes in a medium saucepan with 4 cups of water and 1 tsp. salt and bring to a boil. Simmer, partially covered, until almost tender. Drain and pat dry.
  3. Heat a 10-inch nonstick skillet. Add the vegetable oil and butter. When the foam subsides, add the potatoes and cook over moderately high heat, tossing, until lightly golden. Season with salt and pepper and roughly mash the potatoes with a spatula.
  4. Dot the remaining 1 Tbsp. butter over the potatoes, cover and cook until crusty on the bottom, about 3 minutes.
  5. Slide the potatoes onto a plate and invert them back into the pan. Cook until the underside is nice and crusty. Slide the potatoes onto a platter, garnish with chives and enJOY!


Easy-Peasy Weeknight Baked Ziti


Baked Ziti

Yesterday, the weather here in Seattle looked like anything but Spring. It was a brisk 43°F and the rain was blowing sideways for most of the day. It’s days like yesterday that make me grateful that I’m not a mailman, or in outside sales, or construction… but I am grateful that I have a yummy recipe for cheese-y, creamy pasta that will warm me from the inside-out. Easy-Peasy Weeknight Baked Ziti is the perfect dish to warm you up and lift your spirits.

Make two quick sauces: tomato and béchamel while cooking the pasta. Top with cheese and bake. Easy Peasy!

Make two quick sauces, tomato and béchamel, while cooking the pasta. Top with cheese and bake. Easy Peasy!

It’s as simple as making a quick tomato sauce, then cooking the pasta while you whip up a creamy béchamel. Stir it all together and top it with cheese. Wouldn’t it be great if everything was this delicious AND this easy?

This is a terrific recipe for potlucks and big family dinners, too. Kids L-O-V-E it and it feeds a crowd if you just add a salad and some crusty bread. I’m SO looking forward to the leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

If you are looking for easy weeknight meals, you might also like:

Slow-cooker Weeknight Chili
Easy Beef Bourguignon
Mini Lasagna Cups

Easy weeknight dinner!

Easy-Peasy weeknight dinner!

Easy-Peasy Weeknight Baked Ziti
Recipe Type: Main Dish, Pasta
Cuisine: Italian
Author: A Passionate Plate
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6
Follow the instructions as written to have dinner on the table in just 45 minutes. I use Barilla Plus Penne pasta which provides almost twice the fiber of traditional pasta and it’s a good source of protein and ALA omega-3. Buy pre-shredded cheese to save time.
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (28oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (28oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 lb. pasta (see summary)
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup each asiago and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shredded
  • 8 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
  1. Put the pasta water on to boil.
  2. Heat the oven to 400°F.
  3. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, quickly saute the garlic in the olive oil (do NOT let it brown). Dump both cans of tomato into the pan. Season with sugar and salt and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add the basil and simmer over low heat for another 10 minutes.
  4. Add salt to the boiling pasta water and let it come back to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 6-8 minutes (it should still be a bit chewy).
  5. While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour, pepper and nutmeg and continue cooking for about 1 minute. Whisk in the milk and simmer until thickened, whisking constantly.
  6. Coat a 9×13 casserole with pan coating.
  7. Drain the pasta then toss it with the tomato sauce in the 9×13 pan.
  8. Pour the béchamel sauce over the pasta and stir to combine.
  9. Top the dish with cheese and bake until heated through. Use the broiler for about 3 minutes to brown the cheese.


Our March Giveaway!


This contest has closed. Congratulations to our winner, Pris!

It feels like spring in West Seattle. The sun is shining, daffodils are blooming, and the onion seeds I started on my window ledge last week have begun to sprout. YAY!

Onions sprouting

Onion seeds beginning to sprout!

I bought bare root strawberry plants at the West Seattle Nursery on Saturday… had to tear myself away from the pea plant starts because I know it is just a little bit too early. But, in a few more weeks it will be time to plant radishes, greens, and peas.

I’ve got big plans for my little garden this year… I’m not sure the 4′ x 8′ bed I built last year is going to be large enough!

How about you? Have you been bitten by the gardening bug? Whether you are a seasoned gardener or just a beginner, we think you’ll LOVE our March Giveaway. It’s the beautiful, practical and inspiring Food Grown Right, In Your Backyard – A Beginners Guide to Growing Crops at Home by Colin McCrate and Brad Halm, founders of Seattle Urban Farm Company. We’re also throwing in a set of handy garden tools from Fiskars!

APP March Giveaway

OKAY, now it’s time to enter our MARCH GIVEAWAY!


Respond to this post and name a fruit or vegetable you used to hate, but now enjoy. And, we’d love it if you would tell us what changed your mind about it!

Just for the record:  I hated mushrooms until I spent the night at a friend’s house in 4th grade and her mom ordered a pizza with mushrooms. I didn’t want to be rude, so I ate the pizza and realized mushrooms weren’t so bad after all. Now, of course, I love them.

We’ll announce the winner of our March Giveaway on March 29th and send you your prizes in the mail. Good luck and happy Spring!

UWKC Top Chef & Exec Night 2013

Tom Douglas explained the food bank basket, the bonus ingredients and "buying" utensils to support your favorite team (and United Way of King County).

Tom Douglas explained the food bank basket, the bonus ingredients and “buying” utensils to support your favorite team.

On Thursday night, Mary and I joined emcee Tom Douglas (Seattle restauranteur and recent guest judge on Top Chef Seattle) in cheering on four local celebrity cheftestants as they chopped and sautéd with four pros from Tom Douglas Restaurants. The catch? They had to create the best dish using items typically found at food banks.

Good time for a GREAT cause.

Good times for a GREAT cause.

With guests voting via donations to their chef team of choice, each chef duo was competing to whip up top dishes and round up top dollars. Over $100,000 was raised that night to benefit programs and services—food pantries, community gardens, summer meal programs for kids and more—that help our community’s most vulnerable people meet their basic needs.

The Line-up:

Dan "What a Catch" Wilson and Chef Stacy Fortner

Dan “What a Catch” Wilson and Chef Stacy Fortner

Team 1

Dan “What a Catch” Wilson, Seattle Mariners Hall of Fame Catcher and United Way Campaign Co-Chair

Chef Stacy Fortner



Matt "Safe Pitch" Nickerson and Chef Jonah Smith

Matt “Safe Pitch” Nickerson and Chef Jonah Smith

Team 2

Matt “Safe Pitch” Nickerson, Executive Vice President and President, Safeco Insurance, and United Way Board Member

Chef Jonah Smith




Chef Matt Anderson and Adrian "Hat Tricks" Hanauer

Chef Matt Anderson and Adrian “Hat Tricks” Hanauer

Team 3

Adrian “Hat Tricks” Hanauer, Owner and General Manager, Sounders FC 

Chef Matt Anderson




Warren "Rocket Arm" Moon and Chef Brian Walczyk

Warren “Rocket Arm” Moon and Chef Brian Walczyk

Team 4

Warren “Rocket Arm” Moon, Seattle Seahawks Quarterback 1997, 1998, NFL Hall of Fame Quarterback 

Chef Brian Walczyk



Mary and I quickly chose to cheer for the only team with a female chef (and the only cheftestant I’d previously met), Stacy Fortner and her partner, Dan Wilson. Stacy is the Executive Pastry Chef for all Tom Douglas restaurants and WOW! that girl can cook.

Quick Fire Challenge: Decorate a cookie using the United Way logo.

Dan’s cookies were SO cute, but they didn’t include the logo.

Dan’s cookies were SO cute, but they didn’t include the logo.

Sadly, while the challenge was being introduced, Stacy and Dan were strategizing and they missed a key instruction… oops, no United Way logo!

Our team took second place in The Challenge. Team 2, Matt and Jonah, came out victorious and received the first choice of bonus ingredients to supplement the basket of food bank items they received to cook in the Main Event.  Matt and Jonah wisely chose the fresh produce, including a pineapple.

The Main Event: Using a selection of items commonly found in a food bank, create an entree to be judged on: Creativity. Appearance. Deliciousness.

Stacy and Dan had a great strategy planned for the food bank challenge. They were going to divide and conquer to impress the judges with not just one dish, but three! While Stacy got the Spam diced and frying in the pan, Dan worked on the bread crumbs and rice. Stacy got the Peanut Butter Fondue started, while Dan expertly grated the cheese curds. At the end of the allotted 30 minutes, they proudly delivered their dishes to the Judges’ Table: Rice Cake appetizer topped with Tomato Sauce and Beecher’s Cheese, Spam Carbonara and Peanut Butter Fondue for dessert.

Beautiful food using VERY limited ingredients!

Beautiful food using VERY limited ingredients!

Jonah and Matt presented a Spam Fried Rice with Pineapple Glaze.

Adrian and Matt, who chose the fresh herbs, garlic and onion as their bonus items (the team that chose these items has always won in the past) hoped that history would repeat itself. They created a Grilled Ramen Block with a Eggplant and Carrot Relish and a Spam-framed Egg.

Warren Moon used Tom Douglas' Rub With Love on the steak and made grits with popcorn.

Warren Moon used Tom Douglas’ Rub With Love on the steak and made grits with popcorn.

Brian and Warren received lots of “ohhhhs and ahhhhs” when they presented their Pan-fried NY Strip Steak with Tom’s Rub With Love, Top Ramen Gnocchi (yes! they pulled out all the ramen noodles and made a gnocchi out of them – impressive, right?) and Buttered Popcorn Grits.

It couldn’t have been an easy decision for those judges. The creativity was off-the-charts. And it smelled soooo good in there. Alas, they finally came to a consensus and we were all summoned to Judges’ Table to hear the results.

This judging could not have been easy.

This judging could not have been easy.

Side note: About the time everyone was gathered and Tom Douglas asked everyone to quiet down for the big announcement, we heard Alicia Keys from Mary’s phone belting out: “This Girl’s on Fii-ahr (Fire)”. Oops, Mary!! But Go, Stacy!

Well, congrats go to Jonah and Matt, the winners, for the tasty addition of pineapple glaze to their Spam Fried Rice. Using fresh fruits and vegetables put Team 2 over the top. And that just makes sense, right? It was their critical thinking and choice of the fresh fruit and veggies (that are NOT commonly found in a food bank) that led to a big victory. So, the lesson we learned is that fresh ingredients make all the difference when it comes to a tasty meal. We’ll be donating a load of fresh produce along with our canned and dry items to the food bank next week.


A few things to consider as you go about your week:

Since 2008, visits to the food bank are up 30%.

1.3 million visits to the food bank have been supported by the United Way of King County over the past 5 years.

22% of kids in King County experience food insecurity and more than 50% of kids qualify for free or reduced lunch.

What do you do to help those that are less fortunate than you?


No Bake Banana-Peanut Butter Granola Bars


No-Bake Banana-Peanut Butter Granola Bars

I’ve been on a banana kick lately. I just can’t get enough of them. Does that ever happen to you? I. Crave. Bananas! Banana bread. Vana-rama Smoothie. Banana and Greek Yogurt. So, when I discovered Nothing But Banana, Flattened at Trader Joe’s last week I just knew I’d have fun creating something yummy with it.

Flattened Banana

One of my favorite combos ever is banana and peanut butter, so I knew peanuts would factor into this recipe. Oh, you’re going to LOVE these delicious on-the-go snacks. The peanut butter provides protein for staying power, and the agave syrup is metabolized more evenly than sugar so you don’t get that crazy sugar-high (followed by that miserable sugar-crash!).

Banana-Peanut Butter Granola Bar

No Bake Banana-Peanut Butter Granola Bars are so easy and fun to make. Try making them with the kids! They’ll be so proud to say they helped.

No Bake Banana-Peanut Butter Granola Bars
Recipe Type: Snack
Author: A Passionate Plate
Prep time:
Total time:
Serves: 8
The Trader Joe’s Nothing But…Banana, Flattened can be purchased on amazon.com if there isn’t a TJs near you. Or, thinly slice a banana lengthwise and lay the slices out on a baking sheet. Bake for an hour and fifteen minutes at 250°F. Quick tip: spray measuring utensils with pan coating before measuring peanut butter and agave syrup for easy-release.
  • 2 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup peanuts, chopped
  • 3 slices banana “leather”, torn into small pieces
  • 3 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 Tbsp. creamy peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup agave syrup
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter chips
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Stir oats and coconut together and spread on a baking sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes, until fragrant.
  3. Line a 8×8 inch baking dish with parchment or foil and spray with pan coating.
  4. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the oats, coconut, peanuts and banana pieces.
  5. In a small saucepan over medium heat stir together the butter, peanut butter, agave syrup or honey, and brown sugar. Bring to a gentle boil and stir well.
  6. Pour the sauce over the dry mixture and stir well to coat everything.
  7. Press the mixture into the baking dish and sprinkle with peanut butter chips. Press the chips into the mixture and chill for at least two hours.
  8. Cut the granola into 8 bars. Wrap in parchment or plastic. Refrigerate and enJOY!


Salmon Sashimi with Ginger and Hot Sesame Oil


Salmon Sashimi2

Oh, Boy! Have I got a luscious treat for you today. Now, before I get into it, I want you to keep an open mind. I did, and I’m soooooo happy about it. I read just a little tidbit about this recipe in Food and Wine magazine last week and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since then. So, I did what we do these days, I Googled-it. Of course, once I read the entire recipe (which was contributed by Chef Tim Cushman), I drove directly to the store for some lovely, red salmon.

King Salmon Filet I’m trying to find more creative ways to work seafood, especially salmon, into our diet here at our house. In addition to being high in omega-3 fatty acids, salmon in low in contaminants such as  mercury. Salmon is low in calories while being nutritionally dense with lots of protein, phosphorus, potassium, selenium and vitamin D. As with anything, you can certainly take a supplement, but I always feel better about getting my nutrition from real food.

So, the reason I want you to keep an open mind is because my luscious recipe for you today is for Salmon Sashimi. It’s not raw! But, it’s not cooked by any traditional method, either. After slicing the salmon into super-thin squares, it’s soaked for the briefest moment in soy sauce and topped with tangy strips of fresh ginger and bits of chives. Then – the very best part! – it’s “cooked” by pouring smokin’ hot (literally) oil over the top. Once it’s dressed with a citrus-soy mixture and garnished with cilantro and sesame seeds it’s ready to be served. Luscious! That’s the best word I can come up with for the texture and flavor of this delicious salmon preparation. I just ate six pieces for lunch, but next time I think I’ll serve it with steamed jasmine rice and Spinach-Orange Salad for a very satisfying dinner. You MUST try this!

I forgot to put the yummy, toasted sesame seeds on before I took the photos.

I forgot to put the yummy, toasted sesame seeds on before I took the photos.

If you love this recipe, you might also enJOY:

Ahi Carpaccio
Wild Alaskan King Salmon Burgers

Salmon Sashimi with Ginger and Hot Sesame Oil
Recipe Type: Seafood
Author: Tim Cushman
Prep time:
Total time:
Serves: 4
Be sure to buy the thinest piece of high-quality salmon you can find.
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp. fresh orange juice
  • Twelve, 1/8-inch thick slices of salmon cut into 2-inch pieces (1/4 pound)
  • One, 1/4-inch piece of fresh ginger, cut into thin matchsticks
  • 1 Tbsp. snipped chives
  • 2 Tbsp. grapeseed oil
  • 1 tsp. Asian sesame oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp. toasted sesame seeds
  • 2 Tbsp. cilantro leaves
  1. In a small bowl, mix 2 Tbsp. soy sauce with the lime and orange juices. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, toss the salmon with the remaining 1/4 cup soy sauce and let it rest for one minute, then drain.
  3. Arrange 3 pieces of salmon on each plate and top with a few pieces of ginger and chives.
  4. In a small saucepan, heat the grapeseed oil with the sesame oil over moderately high heat until smoking, about 2-3 minutes. CAUTION: make sure there in no water in the oil or it will spatter and could burn you.
  5. Drizzle the hot oil over the salmon pieces.
  6. Finish by spooning the soy-citrus dressing on top and garnish with sesame seeds and cilantro.
  7. EnJOY!



Stumbling Goat Bistro – Phinney Ridge Neighborhood (Seattle) WA


Modest. Unpretentious. Reasonably priced. Yes, Stumbling Goat Bistro in Seattle’s Phinney Ridge neighborhood is all of that, and yet every time I eat there I feel like I get a five star experience. Service – top notch. Wine list – interesting and affordable. The menu – thoughtful with a focus on seasonal ingredients. And the food – yes, it is prepared with love.

I know I say that a lot when I write about food, but it’s true… you can really taste the care and attention the kitchen puts into each dish.

Grass Fed Filet Mignon with Truffled Mashed Potatoes

Grass Fed Filet Mignon with Truffled Mashed Potatoes

Chef Joshua Theilen and his team obviously take time to carefully source their ingredients, from the grass fed filet mignon to locally grown farro. The menu is heavy on meat dishes right now – with lamb, pork, beef and chicken entrees on the menu as well as roasted bone marrow, pork belly, and rabit liver mousse on the small plate list.

Our table of eight started off with the cheese plate, a selection of cured meats, the steamed clams and the cauliflower soup for starters.

Cauliflower soup

Cauliflower soup

I wished we could have tried the smoked trout salad special or the rabbit liver mousse, but we needed to save room for the wonderful (and large) entrees.

 Selection of Cured Ibérico Salchicha

Selection of Cured Ibérico Salchicha

Vegetables at Stumbling Goat are prepared beautifully (which, in my opinion, is always a true test of a good kitchen) and my choice for dinner, a crispy farro cake on a bed of sautéed kale, was as flavorful, well prepared and appetizing as any of the meat dishes we ordered.

My entree - the Bluebird Grain Farms farro cake with sautéed kale, mushroom ragu and roasted vegetales.

My entree – the Bluebird Grain Farms’ farro cake with sautéed kale, mushroom ragu and roasted vegetales.

The service was lovely and we didn’t feel rushed, even though we sat at our table for over two hours. While I wouldn’t consider Stumbling Goat a real kids kind of place, Henry (age 10) enjoyed his “mac & cheese” served with a side of baby carrots. I think he had a pretty good time, too.

Henry at Stumbling Goat

Not your average kid’s meal! Henry was a great sport and sat patiently during our 2 hour meal.

After all of us sent clean plates back to the kitchen, it was time for dessert. We were celebrating Jeanne’s birthday, so we practically ordered one of everything. Stand outs were the bourbon bread pudding, the dark chocolate bergamot pot de crème, and two house made ice creams – fromage and mocha chip. What a great way to end a beautiful meal.

Stumbling Goat Bistro
Reservations Accepted
6722 Greenwood Ave North
Seattle, WA
Stumbling Goat Bistro on Urbanspoon

Mustard Heals Burns!…And Five Other Home Remedies



Posted by our Guest Contributor, Christina ConradYou can read more from Christina on her blog: www. foodiewithalife.com.

There’s nothing I love more than a home remedy!   Using products beyond their mass marketed purpose feels clever, even scientific.  I’m the mad scientist, performing experiments based on insider knowledge.  Here are a few laws I live by:

1. Use cold, yellow mustard to sooth burns.

Working in a busy deli, I saw my fair share of burns.  One day a coworker told me to put mustard on a burn I had just acquired.  I was new on the job and thought he was trying to make me look like a fool.  Nope.  It was some of the best kitchen advice I’ve ever gotten.  Mustard will help draw out the sting and prevent blistering.  Smear cool mustard on a fresh (minor) burn and let it sit for 30+ minutes.  Carefully rinse with cool water once it’s dry.

2. Dish soap removes grease from clothing.

Do you have a few sweaters with a lovely pattern of oil splatters across the mid section?  I do!  As soon as you notice that grease has soaked into your clothing, apply dish soap immediately.  I’ve done this on clothes that have already been washed and had successful results.

3. Turn your coffee grinder in a spice grinder.

Empty grinder of coffee, toss in a few cubes of stale bread and whirl.  The breadcrumbs will collect extra coffee particles, leaving you with a newly appointed spice grinder.  Do the same process to convert back to coffee.

4. Use Vicks VapoRub or Tiger Balm to aid sleep.

Ok, this one might sound a little ‘woo woo’, but I am a yoga teacher after all, so bear with me.  Rub Vicks or Tiger Balm into the soles and tops of feet to help ease a busy mind and assist the sleep process.  The soothing yet stimulating properties of both products help to pull energy down from your head (goodbye random commentary when you’re trying to sleep.)  Plus, the added bonus of giving yourself a foot rub will help to calm the nervous system.  Make sure to wash your hands after application.

5. Relieve a headache with peppermint oil.

Peppermint has long been a pain reliever in the world of natural medicine, but rub (just a little) peppermint oil into your temples to relieve a tension headache.  Be careful not to do too much, it’s quite potent and can make your eyes water.  It will also help clear sinuses.

6. Fresh ginger, lemon and honey cure everything.

I live by these three ingredients, and although subjective advice, I stand behind it.  Have a cough, stomachache, cramps or cold?  Make a cup of ‘everything elixir’ (ginger, lemon, honey and a splash of hot water) to cure most common ailments.

Happy experimenting, Foodies!

Rachael Ray’s No-Egg Caesar Dressing


We found this on the food.com website. It’s a simple, eggless Caesar dressing you mix up in blender. In less than 5 minutes you can make your own delicious Caesar dressing!

Rachael Ray’s No-Egg Caesar Dressing
Recipe Type: Salad Dressing
Author: Rachael Ray
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp. Tabsco sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper
  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend well to combine.


Pennette with Cauliflower Ragu


Mini Penne with Cauliflower RaguI don’t know about you, but sometimes I crave macaroni and cheese. Occasionally I succumb to a box of Kraft (so good in a bad way)  and sometimes I make macaroni and cheese from scratch. But most of the time I just try to resist temptation because I always feel so guilty after eating a carb and fat laden meal with NO vegetables. But now that I have discovered the deliciousness of Pennette with Cauliflower Ragu I will never need to feel guilty again. Thank you, Mario Batali!

This recipe comes from Mario Batali’s Molto Gusto: Easy Italian Cooking. I can’t say enough good things about this dish! It is absolutely delicious and so much better for you than macaroni and cheese from a box. More vegetables than cheese or pasta, but you would never know it. I have made this several times for friends and it always gets rave reviews. The leftovers are delicious, too. 🙂

My version is a little different from the recipe in Mario Batali’s cookbook. I decreased the amount of pasta, added more cheese and breadcrumbs, and snuck in an entire bunch of kale, just to make this a little more healthy. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

If you like this recipe you might also enjoy:

Orchiette with Turkey Sausage & Kale
White Wine Spaghetti
Penne with Ham, Onions & Green Peas
Cauliflower Mash

Pennette with Cauliflower Ragu

Recipe Type: Pasta, Vegetarian
Author: A Passionate Plate
Serves: 8
Adapted from the Pennette with Cauliflower Ragu recipe in Mario Batali’s Molto Gusto Cookbook, this will satisfy your craving for macaroni and cheese, but it is much healthier!
  • 2 cups fresh bread crumbs
  • 4 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium cauliflower (about 2 lbs)
  • 1 small bunch kale
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 Tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1 cup water
  • 6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 and 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • Maldon or other flaky sea salt
  • 2 tsp. fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 8 oz. dry pennette (mini penne) preferably whole wheat
  1. Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the bread crumbs and olive oil. Stir to combine.
  2. Sauté the bread crumbs, stirring frequently, until they are toasted and lightly browned. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  3. Cut the cauliflower in half. Remove the leaves, core and stalks.
  4. Cut the cauliflower florets into small pieces and set aside.
  5. Chop the core, stalks and leaves.
  6. Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the cauliflower core, stalks, leaves, garlic, and onion. Season with Maldon salt and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking until the cauliflower is tender – approximately 20 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, remove the kale leaves from their stems and tear the leaves into bite sized pieces. Discard the stems.
  8. Add the cauliflower florets, kale, red pepper flakes and 1 cup of water to the pot.
  9. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is very soft and almost falling apart, about 25 minutes.
  10. Meanwhile bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  11. When the cauliflower is cooked, add the butter and stir it in gently. Taste and season with more Maldon salt if necessary. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm.
  12. Stir the pasta into the pot of boiling water and cook until al dente.
  13. Drain the pasta, but reserve 1/3 cup of pasta water. Add the pasta and 1/3 cup of pasta water back to the pot. Stir in the cauliflower mixture, 1 cup of parmesan cheese, 1 cup of bread crumbs and the chopped rosemary.
  14. Transfer the pasta to a serving bowl and sprinkle with remaining bread crumbs and parmesan cheese.
  15. Finish with a few grinds of black pepper and serve immediately.


Big Al’s Super Secret Special Sauce



Special Sauce close-upC’mon! We all have them, right?! I’m talking about treasured family recipes that the whole family loves so much they make it on the menu of every family get-together. For my family that recipe is Big Al’s Super Secret Special Sauce. My dad created it and I am sharing it here today with his permission – I promise!

I’m pretty sure Big Al was trying to re-create the golden egg-y sauce that is dolloped on the top of the prawns at our favorite Teppanyaki Steakhouse in Chicago: Ron of Japan. That was the BIG celebration restaurant for me when I was a kid. We went there for Mother’s Day, New Year’s Eve, birthdays, and most memorable for me: a father-daughter date when I got my braces off. It was such a thrill to sit around that cooktop table and watch the chef flip and chop and dice and slice all of those meats and vegetables. But when he pulled the bowl of golden egg sauce from his cart…”Ahhhh….Mmmmmm!” This seemed to be EVERYONE’S favorite part of the meal.

Just Google it and you’ll see that for years people have been trying to find a recipe that would re-create this deliciousness at home. The chef with the impossible tall hat would plop a dollop of sauce atop each one of the butterflied prawns that were carefully placed in a perfect circle on the flat-top grill. Then, he would quickly pour sherry? water? around the perimeter and cover it all with a shiny, stainless steel dome. After just two or three minutes, he’d remove the cover to reveal the gorgeous prawns. Chop-chop-chop. Slide-slide-slide. Chop-Slide. Everyone had a few bites of the most wonderfully rich prawns to dip into their little bowls of soy sauce. But, all too soon, the shrimp were gone.

So, after a few days of dreaming about them, Big Al went to work on a recipe. What he came up with is very different from the original, but it is absolutely delicious. AND it can be served as a dip or baked atop shrimp, or fish, or Cheerios (just kidding – but it is seriously so good I can’t imagine anything it wouldn’t be good with). This is an Ellison family favorite, even among the kids. I hope you’ll love it as much as we do.

Special Sauce

Big Al’s Super Secret Special Sauce

Recipe Type: Sauce
Cuisine: Asian
Author: Big Al
Prep time: 5 mins
Total time: 5 mins
Serves: 1/2 cup
The original sauce is bright, golden yellow and very mild. We like to spice it up with a combination of Tabasco and cayenne, but you should make it according to your family’s tastes.
  • 1/2 cup Mayonnaise
  • 2 tsp. Tabasco
  • 1/4 tsp. lemon pepper
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp. Soy Sauce
  • cayenne pepper, optional, to taste
  1. Blend all ingredients together and serve at room temperature.
  2. Refrigerate any left-overs.


Brisket with Tzimmes & A Love Story


Brisket with TzimmesMarvin is such a romantic. And a great story-teller. Anyone who has ever shared a bottle of wine with my husband knows what I am talking about. For the rest of you, just take my word on this one.

One of Marvin’s stories I love is how his Grandpa Herman and Grandma Sadie met and fell in love onboard a ship while emigrating to the United States. Grandpa Herman was a Russian Jew traveling from Minsk and Sadie was traveling from Hungary. Somewhere along the way, after their seasickness subsided, the two met above deck and fell in love. They arrived at Ellis Island where Herman changed his last name and proposed to Sadie and that is how Herman & Sadie Milstein Miller’s life together in America began.

Or so the story goes, according to Marvin.

Yesterday as I was getting ready to prepare Brisket with Tzimmes (a recipe I had never even heard of until Sunday when Marvin described his mother’s version with such absolute fondness that I just had to try and recreate it for him) I reached out to Marvin’s sister, Marilyn, for some recipe advice.

One thing led to another in our conversation and somehow we got to the story of how Herman met Sadie. “On the boat to America, right?” I asked.

“No, no,” Marilyn laughed, “they met in East Cleveland!

Ahhh. I see. Well, that does actually make more sense. Not quite as good of a story, though, is it? And all this time I had been picturing them in a scene from Titanic…

Well, needless to say, Sadie did emigrate to the United States from Hungary (just not on the same boat as Herman) and she was an excellent cook. Brisket with Tzimmes was one of the many recipes she made for her family and passed on to her Methodist daughter-in-law, Helen, who happened to be Marv’s mother. (Eventually Grandpa Herman began to prefer Helen’s cooking over Sadie’s, but I will leave that story for another day.)

In the meantime, back to the Brisket & Tzimmes (pronounced simmis). Neither Sadie or Helen wrote down their recipes, so Marilyn couldn’t help me much. I just had to take my best guess. I read Marvin the ingredients listed in several recipes that I found online, and then just cobbled together my own version based on what he remembered.

For those of you unfamiliar with this dish, Tzimmes is a traditional Ashkenazi stew made with carrots and other root vegetables, and dried prunes or raisins. Some recipes call for orange juice and some for tomato juice. Some include vinegar. Most contain both brown sugar and honey. And, sometimes a brisket is stewed in the sauce, then sliced and served along-side the vegetables.

Brisket with TzimmesThis isn’t something you can throw together at the last minute (although I suppose it would be easy enough to make in a slow cooker). It’s one of those recipes you start at about 3:00 pm so by the time dinner rolls around the entire house smells so good you can hardly wait to eat.

I loved making Brisket with Tzimmes for Marvin yesterday. It was fun to share a delicious meal tied together with family history and childhood memories.

_DSC0045And, I really love the story he tells about his grandparents meeting on the boat. If you’ve read (or watched) Life of Pi, perhaps you will agree with Marvin… why not choose the better story?

Here is my recipe for Brisket with Tzimmes – adapted from several I found online.

Brisket with Tzimmes

Recipe Type: Entree, Beef, Traditional Jewish Dish
Author: A Passionate Plate
Serves: 6+
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2.5 lb. beef brisket, trimmed
  • 3 small sweet potatoes or yams, peeled and chunked
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
  • 2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and chunked
  • 8 oz. pitted dried prunes
  • 2 cups tomato juice
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. honey
  • salt and pepper
  1. Heat oil in a heavy bottomed Dutch oven or roasting pan with a lid.
  2. Season the brisket with salt and pepper. Add the brisket to the pot and brown well on both sides.
  3. Drain off any excess fat.
  4. Mix together the tomato juice, beef broth, sugar and honey.
  5. Spread the onions and prunes over the beef and then cover with the tomato/beef broth mixture.
  6. Turn the burner down to low and simmer, covered for 1 hour.
  7. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  8. Add the sweet potatoes, carrots and potatoes to the pot. Stir gently to cover with the sauce.
  9. Place the pot in the oven and cook for an additional 1 1/2 hours until the brisket is very tender.
  10. Remove the brisket from the pot and slice against the grain. Return the meat to the pot or place it on a platter with the vegetables and sauce to serve.
  11. NOTE: Brisket with Tzimmes can be made in advance and reheated. It also freezes well.



Made With Love


Valentine's Cookie 3

Happy Valentine’s Day, Everyone! Mary and I celebrated by spending a few hours decorating Betty Crocker’s Sugar Cookies together (one of our fav things!). It’s not a holiday I feel the need to make a big “to do” about. I mean, it’s nice to have something a lil’ fun to look forward to between Christmas and Easter, but I don’t feel like I need to be pampered… Toby and I are going to stay home, drink some nice wine and enjoy an Italian dinner at home (thaw out some Sunday Gravy, heat up some garlic bread and make a quick salad).

That’s not to say that we haven’t gone all-out in previous years. There was one year when we had lobster tails and steak. Plenty of other years when we’ve made reservations, dressed up and gone out-on-the-town to celebrate. But, after 22 years, we’re really quite happy to spend a quite night at home with a REALLY good bottle (or three) of wine 😉 and some cookies made with love.

Valentines Cookie 2

If you are hoping to be WOW-ed with a really FAB dinner tonight, leave your computer open to this blog so that he can check out these terrific ideas for a simple, yet elegant, Valentine Meal. Cheers!

Easy Valentine’s Menu:

Chocolate Martinis
Shrimp Shooters
Spinach Salad with Oranges or Strawberries
Steak with Brandy Peppercorn Sauce
Glazed Carrots
White Chocolate Soup with Frozen Berries


White Center Field Trip – Date Night!


Big Al Brewing White CenterDid you read our White Center Field Trip: AM Itinerary last week? We started at Meander’s Kitchen for breakfast and ended at the Salvadorean Bakery for lunch. In between we browsed along 16th Avenue SW, shopped for specialty meats and Asian groceries and indulged in a mid-morning taco truck snack. By noon we couldn’t eat another bite, but there were still so many restaurants to try out! We needed to come back to finish our food tour.

So on Thursday night we headed back to White Center for beer, cocktails, pizza, barbecue, and ice-cream. And guess what? The guys decided to join us. Go figure.

Date night in White Center? You bet. Here’s how you do it:

Start at Uncle Mike’s Barbecue on 16th Avenue SW. Here you will find REAL barbecue made with love – chef Mike smokes his brisket, ribs, and pulled pork out back, and the kitchen serves up a full menu of southern favorites like fried chicken, greens, hot links, mac-n-cheese, sweet potato pie and so much more. Order some party wings, brisket sandwiches or ribs to go and then head over to Big Al Brewing (located just a few blocks away on 14th Avenue SW).

Big AlsBig Al’s tasting room is a cozy little space inside an industrial building. Here you can order a growler or a keg to go, or stay for a pint of their hand-crafted brew. Drink at the bar or head upstairs to their “lounge”. Sit down and enjoy your beer and your barbecue… because at Big Al’s, you are welcome to bring in your own food.

Big Al's Brewing

BBQ from Uncle Mike’s tastes great with local beer from Big Al Brewing!

After you’ve downed a Big Hoppa IPA, a Brougham Bitter or a Smokey Porter (bacon, anyone?) walk a few blocks to White Center’s coolest restaurant & bar, Company, for a cocktail and a few appetizers.
Company White CenterAt Company you won’t find a fancy drink menu, but you will find a well-stocked bar, a talented bartender who can make anything you want on request, and an interesting menu with some seriously tasty food (you’ve got to try the house-made chickpea fries with tzatziki sauce!). Our cocktails, roasted nuts and fries were DELISH!

_DSC9938NOTE TO SELF: Definitely need to make plans to come back here again for a complete dinner – the menu looks wonderful.

You could easily spend more time at Company (come on, they’re playing The Pixies!), but there is still more food to eat. Head just a few doors down the street to White Center’s place for pizza – Proletariat.

_DSC9952This family-friendly restaurant serves hand-tossed, thin crust, 18″ pizzas with awesome toppings. Feeling adventurous? Try the Ham and Egg, the Potato or the Anchovy. Or create your own combo… we ordered a two meat and added Mama Lil’s Peppers. Spicy and wonderful with a perfect thin crust and just the right amounts of sauce and cheese. Well, done, Proletariat! Their salads are tasty, too – especially the Caesar. It’s got a wonderful, light and lemony dressing. Mmmmmm.

Proleteriat Pizza

Awesome Pizza at Proletariat.

Now, it’s time to end your White Center date night on a really sweet note. Head across the street to Full Tilt Ice Cream & Pinball for a scoop of  their legendary ice cream. With plenty of tempting flavors to choose from, you’ll have a tough decision to make. But let me just say two words: Salted Caramel.

Full Tilt

At Full-Tilt, be sure to try the Salted Caramel ice cream… or Mexican chocolate… or PB&J!

DO NOT miss out on Full Tilt’s most popular flavor. (They do sell out on busy days, so you just might need to come back!) If you’re feeling full, order the kid’s cone. It is still a generous scoop.

If you are still thirsty, you can order another beer (yes, an ice cream shop with beer on tap!) and before you leave, challenge your date to an old-school game of Skee Ball or one of the arcade games in the back. Then head home – your White Center date night complete!

Want to learn more about White Center? Check out their blog.

White Center Field Trip – AM Itinerary

Meander's Spinach and Ham Scramble - and that biscuit is soaked in butter!

Meander’s Spinach and Ham Scramble – and that biscuit is soaked in butter!

Hey, Bourdain! On your recent Layover in Seattle while you tried to answer the question, “Why is Seattle so awesome?” you missed a few things. I’ll just forgive the fact that you dissed on Dave Matthews THREE times, and that you cruised around town in a $100,000 Tesla. You did visit the Edgewater Hotel, Paseo, Canlis, Seatown, The Walrus and The Carpenter,  and plenty of other places we’d love to write about soon.

But, as Joy and I recently realized, you don’t need to go any further than Seattle’s White Center ( just 2 miles from West Seattle’s Junction and  9 miles from SeaTac airport) to find HOMEY comfort food breakfasts, AUTHENTIC Vietnamese food, a REAL butcher, the BEST taco truck, TASTY Barbecue, delicious SALVADOREAN tamales and papusas, and so much more!

White Center MapGrunge-y. Gritty. Melting Pot. Seattle’s underbelly. Seedy. “Not so centered – not so white” reads their bumper sticker. All of this describes White Center, but Rat City (as it is know to locals) is an authentic food lover’s dream.

Welcome to White Center

Welcome to White Center.

White Center is one of Seattle’s most culturally diverse neighborhoods (Asian/Pacific Islanders and Hispanic/Latinos making up most of the population) and what you will find tucked between the pawn shops, pool halls, tattoo parlors and “adult” stores are some amazing restaurants, bakeries and bars, serving authentically prepared food at great prices.

White Center Eats

White Center’s restaurants, food trucks, bakeries and grocery stores serve up authentic goodness.

White Center is evolving into a new foodie hot-spot in Seattle. You would be well-advised to plan a visit soon. There is plenty of street parking, and you’ll cover most of what you want to see on 16th Avenue SW – a very walkable street.

Ian greeted us at the door.

Ian greeted us at Meander’s.

Start your morning tour of White Center at Meander’s Kitchen (Read our Review). Chef/Owner Miranda’s cult-like following of fans gladly followed her from West Seattle to White Center last year. Now her new, larger space means no more long waits for a table (except maybe on the weekends).  From freshly made beignets and biscuits, to huge plates of delicious egg scrambles and hash, each plate tasted like it was made with

Meander's Beignet with Homemade Marionberry Jam

Meander’s heavenly beignets with homemade marionberry jam.

After a big, wonderful breakfast at Meander’s wander along 16th Avenue SW and check out the pawn shops, Luso’s Food and Wine shop (including Portugese grocery items), and Rat City Records & Relics (lots of fun music memorabilia).

Rat City Records

You’ll find vintage and vinyl at Rat City Records & Relics.

Continue walking a few more blocks North on 16th Avenue SW to check out Meat The Live Butcher. Tom Salle, a third-generation meat cutter, opened his custom butcher shop in White Center last year. This is boutique meat shop with a wide selection of butcher specialties, organic meats, and deli meats and cheeses.

Then loop back to visit one of White Center’s four Asian grocery stores. Wandering up and down the aisles will transport you to Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and beyond.

Samway 2

Goat meat, fresh seafood and produce at Samway Market.

Samway Oriental Foods is just a block off of 16th Avenue SW and they offered GREAT deals on fresh herbs, produce and specialty grocery items. Here you can buy a large package of Thai basil for just $1 and their selection of Southeast Asian products is extensive.

Sothary offers the most friendly customer service at Samway Oriental Market.

Sothary offers the most friendly customer service at Samway Oriental Market.

I bought a bottle of black vinegar for my Juicy Dumplings and some fish sauce. Sothary, at the counter, is very friendly and can answer any questions you may have.

After visiting Samway, be sure to stop Taqueria La Fondita #2, located just outside the store. We think La Fondita is one of the best authentic taco trucks in Seattle.

It doesn't look like much, but the chargrilled beef tacos are AMAZING!

It doesn’t look like much, but the chargrilled beef tacos are AMAZING!

Delicious tacos, tamales, and more… and the prices are C-H-E-A-P. Try a fish taco or couple of delicious tacos de carnitas. Take them to go or stay and eat. There is a nice covered and heated area attached to the truck with picnic tables.

Tacos de Carnitas

Tacos de Carnitas from La Fondita.

Note: don’t eat too much, because the next stop is:

The Salvadorean Bakery (Read our review). One of the “original” White Center foodie stops (the bakery has been in the same location for 17 years) The Salvadorean Bakery offers traditional central American specialties from cakes to cow’s feet soup.

Salvadorean Bakery owner, Ana

Salvadorean Bakery owner, Ana

You may find that your eyes are bigger than your stomach here, but that’s okay since they are very happy to pack most items to-go. We enjoyed a pupusa with a pork, cheese and bean filling (add an egg on top and it would make the perfect hang-over breakfast!) and an elote (sweet corn) tamale and took some chicken soup and a quesadilla for the road.

You MUST take one of the quesidillas to-go!

You MUST take one of the quesadillas to-go!

If you are still hungry after all of these stops, finish your tour with a bowl of Phó at one of the many Vietnamese noodle shops in White Center.

By now you will be completely stuffed, but there is still more to see and eat. You’ll definitely need to come back! Stay tuned for our “White Center Field Trip – Date Night” coming soon. (Maybe you’ll check with us prior to your next Seattle visit, Anthony Bourdain!)

Meander’s Kitchen -White Center, WA

Meander's Kitchen White Center

Meander’s Kitchen serves amazing breakfasts – like “The Hangover” – Hasbrowns, sausage gravy, eggs and a biscuit. LOVE!

If you are looking for a truly great breakfast place, we recommend Meander’s Kitchen in the heart of downtown White Center. Owner and chef, Miranda Krone, has a passion for great cooking and the breakfast menu at Meander’s is Americana with a Southern flare… plenty of butter, plenty of salt, plenty of  flavor and plenty of love in everything she turns out of her kitchen.

To avoid the weekend crowds, we visited Meander’s on a Monday morning. Ian, our server, started us out with big mugs of steaming hot coffee. As we perused the menu, Ian recommended a house specialty – beignets. I’m not usually a big fan of sweets for breakfast, but I could not stop eating these! Crazy good dipped in Meander’s homemade marionberry sauce. Joy and I both agree, the beignets at Meander’s are a must.

Meander's Beignet with Homemade Marionberry Jam

Biegnets at Meander’s with house-made marionberry sauce for dipping.

The breakfast menu is full of inspired entrees, (the waffles have a cult-like following) and making a decision was very difficult – but Joy eventually settled on one of the big Meander’s omelets, and I ordered the sweet potato kale hash. Neither of us were disappointed.

Meander’s Spinach and Ham Scramble

A couple of standout items on the menu… the Meander’s biscuits (which rival my grandma Bryant’s – a HUGE compliment) and their hashbrowns, which are the best I have tasted, anywhere, in years.

Meanders Sweet Potato Hash

Meanders Sweet Potato Hash

Meander’s is open 7 days a week. Monday – Saturday (8:00 – 3:00) and Sunday’s (9:00 – 3:00). There can be a wait on weekends, so we recommend making a trip to White Center on a weekday. Make an entire morning out of it!

NOTE: Meander’s is a cash only restaurant and some have complained that it is not kid-friendly (no kid’s menu). My suggestion: Come with cash, leave the kids at home, and enjoy an incredible breakfast in downtown White Center.

Meander’s Kitchen
9635 16th Ave SW, Seattle, WA 98106
Meander's Kitchen on Urbanspoon

See Meander’s on a map.

Salvadorean Bakery, White Center, WA


_DSC9878One of our favorite spots in White Center is The Salvadorean Bakery & Restaurant, located on Roxbury – just one block off 16th Avenue SW. Owners Aminta and Ana have been providing immigrants in the area with a taste of home for nearly 20 years. The sisters, both originally from El Salvador, opened their bakery 17 years ago, when it seemed like nobody was willing to open a new business in White Center. Over the years the neighborhood has begun to change, but the Salvadorean Bakery still offers up authentic food at a fair price.

The Salvadorean Bakery serves the mostly Catholic Latino community with traditional dishes for Holy Week, Day of the Dead, Christmas, weddings and other important religious holidays. You can also buy piñatas, Salvadorean soccer memorabilia, spices, pork lard, and a few other grocery items.

Salvadorean BakeryThe cakes from the Salvadorean Bakery are excellent. Try a 3 leches cake or any of the fruit filled cakes, and be sure to pick up a Salvadorean Quesadilla – which is actually a dense, eggy pound cake that tastes great with a morning cup of coffee.


In addition to all of the sweets, The Salvadorean Bakery offers a full menu with regional specialties like Carne Guisada, Guanaco Shrimp, Sopa de Patas, and Atole de Alote. The seating area is bright and clean, the service is friendly, and the food is excellent.


The pupusas at the Salvadorean Bakery are amazing!

My two very favorite items on the menu are the tamales and the pupusas. The pupusas at the Salvadorean Bakery are worth the drive to White Center alone! Next time you are in the neighborhood, stop in and try one… you will not be disappointed.

Salvadorean Bakery
1719 SW Roxbury St  Seattle, WA 98106
(206) 762-4064
Salvadorean Bakery on Urbanspoon

February Giveaway: Food for Thought


Food DriveI’ve got a refrigerator, freezer and pantry full of food, yet I still find myself running out to the grocery store to get a few ingredients to get dinner on the table. That often makes me feel a little guilty. I consider it a mark of a great cook when only the items on hand are used to create a healthy, tasty and filling meal, so I feel like I’m taking the easy way out when I run to the store. But, I’m also taking the privileged way.

My friends, Julie and Mo, work at United Way of King County and we have discussed the challenges of homelessness and hunger right here in our town. One night, a group of us had a lengthy discussion about how tough it would be to feed a family of four on as little as $7 per person per day. That lively, emotional debate has stuck with me for a few years now. It was a real eye-opener and caused me to evaluate my own lifestyle.

Not having enough to eat is a reality for more and more families in these tough economic times. According to the United Way of King County website, “Since 2008, there has been a dramatic rise in the number of people going to food banks. Some providers have reported a 30 percent increase in clients.” The food pantries, community gardens and summer meal programs for kids are a lifeline for so many families.

That’s why Mary and I are supporting United Way of King County’s Third Annual Top Chef & Exec Event coming up on February 28, 2013.

We’ll be joining emcee Tom Douglas in cheering on four local celebrity cheftestants as they chop and sauté with four pros from Tom Douglas Restaurants. The catch? They must create the best dish using items typically found at food banks. With guests voting via donations to their chef team of choice, each chef duo is competing to whip up top dishes and round up top dollars. Proceeds benefit programs and services—food pantries, community gardens, summer meal programs for kids and more—that help our community’s most vulnerable people meet their basic needs.

Can’t attend the event but still want to participate? You can “Give a Chef a Boost!” by clicking here then make a donation to the your favorite cheftestant. We’ll be Tweeting, Facebooking and Posting live from the event, so stay tuned!

And, in honor of the Top Chef & Exec event, we’re changing up our Monthly Giveaway. Instead of offering a prize to A Passionate Plate reader, we’ll be making a donation of food to the West Seattle Food Bank.

We’d love it if you’d make a donation to your local food bank, too.

Food banks appreciate receiving nutritious, shelf-stable and non-perishable food items. Some that we recommend:

  • Canned Vegetables
  • Canned Fruit (in juice)
  • Peanut Butter
  • Whole Grain / High Fiber Cereal
  • Oatmeal / Cream of Wheat
  • Whole Grain Crackers
  • Boxed Shelf Stable Milk / Evaporated Milk
  • Shelf Stable Fruit Packs
  • Whole Grain Rice
  • Dried Fruit
  • Canned Tuna
  • Canned Chicken
  • Canned Soup
  • Canned Chili / Stew
  • Canned Beans
  • All Types of Pasta
  • Canned Pasta Sauce

Please feel free to respond to this post with your local food bank’s contact information, and your own donation suggestions.

Sweet Potato, Ham & Blue Cheese Salad


Sweet Potato, Ham & Blue Cheese Salad

Do you ever grab those cooking magazines at the grocery checkout? The ones with titles like 101 Low-Fat Chicken Recipes and 250 Dinners Under $10? I have to admit, those magazines are one of my guilty pleasures. While some people check out the celebrities in Star and Us while waiting in line, I look at pictures of food. Usually the photos in those publications are amazing, but the recipes are, well, not so great. But this week I discovered a magazine that just might actually become one of my favorite cookbooks. It’s the winter issue of Cooking Fresh from Fine Cooking.

The entire magazine is loaded with recipes I want to make – so, you’ll probably be seeing a bunch of them here on A Passionate Plate…. starting with this one, my own variation of the cover recipe.

I love entree salads. Marvin does not. So I always have my eye out for “hearty” salads he might enjoy. When I spotted this one – made with chunks of ham caramelized in maple syrup, I thought to myself, “Salad for dinner tonight? Yes, this just might work.”

For me, what made this salad so enticing were the roasted sweet potatoes, the rosemary balsamic dressing, and fresh greens. The original recipe called for goat cheese. I substituted Point Reyes Blue and I added a sliced Fuji apple for some extra sweetness and crunch. We both LOVED it. The recipe makes enough for 4 servings. With just the two of us eating, we ended up with about 2 cups of roasted sweet potatoes, ham, apples and onion leftover and I’m going to turn them into breakfast hash. I think we’ll both like that, too. 🙂

Sweet Potato, Ham & Blue Cheese Salad

Recipe Type: Entree Salad
Author: A Passionate Plate adapted from Fine Cooking
Serves: 4
  • 1 medium yellow onion, halved lengthwise & cut into 1/2″ wedges
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled, halved, and cut into 1/4″ half moons
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 3/4 lb. ham steak, cut into 3/4″ cubes
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored, quartered and sliced
  • 2 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp. high quality balsamic vinegar
  • 6 oz. mesclun salad mix or spinach
  • 4 oz. blue cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment.
  3. Combine the onion and sweet potato in a bowl and toss with 2 Tbsp. olive oil, 1 tsp. chopped rosemary, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. black pepper. Spread the sweet potato and onion slices evenly over the baking sheet. Roast until the vegetables start to become tender, about 15 minutes.
  4. In the same bowl, toss together the ham, maple syrup and apple. When the vegetables are tender, push them to one side of the baking sheet to make room for the ham and apples. Spread the ham and apples out on the baking sheet and roast for 10 to 15 minutes more, until the ham and onions are nicely browned.
  5. Meanwhile, whisk together the remaining olive oil, balsamic vinegar and rosemary.
  6. In a large bowl, toss 1/4 cup of the dressing with the greens.
  7. Portion the greens onto plates and top with the roasted vegetables and ham.
  8. Drizzle with extra dressing and sprinkle with blue cheese and additional black pepper.


Buffalo Chicken Pizzette


Tray of Buffalo Chicken Pizzette

It’s almost here: Super Bowl weekend! What’s not to love about a weekend filled with great commercials, spectacular halftime entertainment, football and snack-y food?! Alright, I’ll be honest. It’s really all about the food 😉 For some reason, I don’t feel guilty about a Super Bowl buffet that doesn’t include a veggie tray. It’s a day to throw out all the rules and enjoy some junk food.

You would’ve loved to see Mary and I discussing our ideas for this post. We were giddy just thinking about all the food we could make! Our shared, secret food craving is spicy, crispy chicken sandwiches, so when I mentioned Buffalo Chicken Pizzette (plural for pizzetta, or mini pizza) we just about high-fived each other. “I’ll use a buttermilk biscuit for the crust!” I exclaimed. “Oh, and you could top it with blue cheese dressing and diced celery,” Mary added. It’s SO fun to have a friend to create fun food with!

Ready to pop into the oven!

Ready to pop into the oven!

All of our dreams came true this afternoon when I pulled these delicious creations from the oven and tried my first bite… S-u-c-c-e-s-s! (and then I quickly polished off two of these lil’ babies – yum!).

Spicy! Buttery! Crunchy!

Spicy! Buttery! Crunchy!

And so, without further ado, I give you this spicy, buttery and crunchy creation: Buffalo Chicken Pizzette!

Buffalo Chicken Pizzette

Recipe Type: Appetizer
Cuisine: American
Author: A Passionate Plate
Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 18 mins
Total time: 38 mins
Serves: 16 pieces
I prefer the Trader Joe’s Buttermilk Biscuits for their buttery flavor, but any canned biscuit dough will work here.
  • 1 can Buttermilk Biscuit dough
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (cut in half crosswise to 1/4″ thick)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup Frank’s Red Hot Sauce
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 1/2 cup blue cheese dressing
  • 1/4 cup celery, diced
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. In a large zip-top bag, combine flour, salt, pepper, cayenne, and paprika.
  3. Place the chicken breasts into the bag of flour and shake to coat the chicken well.
  4. Heat the olive oil in a large, non-stick skillet.
  5. Place the floured chicken into the skillet and let cook over medium-high heat, without turning, for about 8 minutes on each side until golden brown and cooked through.
  6. Meanwhile, stir together the hot sauce and melted butter.
  7. Dice the chicken into 1/4 inch pieces then toss them in the hot sauce mixture.
  8. Cut each biscuit in half crosswise. Press each piece into a circular shape with a slightly raised edge on a Silpat- or parchment-lined baking sheet.
  9. Top each biscuit with about 1 Tbsp. hot sauce mixture and 2 Tbsp. diced chicken mixture.
  10. Bake for 16-18 minutes.
  11. Top with a dollop of blue cheese dressing and diced celery.
  12. EnJOY!


Chicken Nacho Bites


_DSC9799Super Bowl Sunday is just two days away… will you be watching?

We’re having a little party, and I am psyched because: 1.) I love football 2.) I can eat all of those yummy snack foods people serve with beer, and 3.) I get to drink beer.

And, then, of course, there are the commercials…

It’s going to be a fun afternoon.

Joy and I have been talking about our favorite football food for a couple of weeks now, and I am so happy that she’s bringing her latest creation, Buffalo Chicken Pizzette, to our party. Buffalo chicken and blue cheese dressing on a buttermilk biscuit? Hello. Can’t wait to try those.

And I’ve come up with a fun little appetizer, too – Chicken Nacho Bites I’ve made in mini muffin pans. Nacho flavor without the mess – cute, spicy, and pretty healthy, too – it’s a winning combination.

Crispy wonton wrappers hold chicken, black beans, enchilada sauce, cheese, green onions, and jalapenos. Just top ’em with sour cream, salsa and guacamole when they come out of the oven and you’ve got all of the flavors of a nacho in an easy-to-eat appetizer.

They taste great hot out of the oven, at room temperature, or cold (yes, I have tried them all three ways).

So, happy Super Bowl weekend, everyone. Go 49’ers!

PS – Here is another fun recipe to make in a muffin pan: Mini Lasagna Cups.

Making Chicken Nacho Bites

Making Enchilada Bites 2

Chicken Nacho Bites

Recipe Type: Appetizer
Author: A Passionate Plate
Serves: 40 bites
Easy to eat, baked appetizers with all of the flavors of chicken nachos.
  • 50 wonton wrappers
  • 1lb. cooked chicken breast, finely diced
  • 1 1/2 cups enchilada sauce
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onion
  • 2 cups shredded cheese (cheddar, jack)
  • 1 cup (or more) sliced pickled jalapeños
  • salsa, sour cream, guacamole, chopped cilantro, etc. for garnish
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cut 10 of the wonton wrappers into quarters. Set aside.
  3. Toss chicken with 1 cup enchilada sauce (reserve remaining 1/2 cup of sauce).
  4. Spray a mini muffin pan with non-stick spray.
  5. Press a wonton wrapper into each muffin tin.
  6. Place a teaspoon of chicken into each wrapper, followed by a few black beans and a generous pinch of shredded cheese.
  7. Place a wonton wrappers cut into 4ths over the cheese.
  8. Top with a teaspoon of enchilada sauce, a few green onions, another generous pinch of cheese, and a few jalapeno slices.
  9. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until the wontons are crispy on the edges and the cheese is melted and bubbly.
  10. Continue making batches of nacho bites until all of the wonton wrappers are used up.
  11. Top with sour cream, salsa, guacamole, and whatever else you like to put on your nachos.


And the Winner of our January Giveaway is…


andthewinneris-1024x589For our January Giveaway, we asked you to tell us about a “pantry surprise” you found when cleaning out your cupboards.

Before I announce the winner, I just thought I would tell you about the surprise(s) I found stuffed in the cupboard above my oven. It’s one of those cupboards I shouldn’t even use because it requires me to get out a step stool to see into the back, but for some reason I just toss everything up there. Since I can only see the items in the very front, everything else is out of site, out of mind. Our January contest inspired me to tackle the mess. Okay, so this is embarrassing.  Among the many weird and expired items I found were four bottles of artificial maple syrup (we only use real maple syrup now, so why do we have these?) and five different boxes of pancake mix. Are you kidding me?? Apparently every time a niece, nephew, or grandchild has spent the night, Marvin and I have “stocked up”. I just might be serving pancakes at my Super Bowl party.

And now for our winner (chosen randomly from all entries)…

Congratulations to Avis Peterson! Avis told us her “pantry surprise” was:

The oldest dated pantry item that I cleared out early fall was a package of whatever that had an expiration date of 2007. It appears I neglected to follow through on a cooking project. Cheers!

Avis will be getting some great cleaning products from our friend, Janine, at Elf Naturals, along with  1001 Ideas for Kitchen Organization: The Ultimate Source Book for Storage Ideas & Materials.

Stay tuned for our February Giveaway! We’ll announce it on Monday, February 4th.

Mame Mia! Dip


Edamame Pesto Dip2

This dip gets it’s creative name from the fun combination of multi-cultural ingredients (edamame and pesto). Get it? I guess this could be considered a “healthier” dip than most (i.e. it’s not a heavy, cream-based dip and the edamame is rich in protein and dietary fiber), but I like it because it tastes so good! The edamame gives this dip nice body, and the lime and pesto give it a fresh p*o*p of flavor.

Edamame Pesto Dip1

We enJOYed this dip on crostini the first night and with fresh carrots, red bell pepper, cucumber coins and snap peas the following night. Yes, it was so tasty we ate it for two nights in a row. Try it and you’ll understand. You’ll exclaim, “Mame Mia! It’s kinda addictive.” 😉

Mame Mia! Dip

Recipe Type: Appetizer
Author: A Passionate Plate
Prep time: 20 mins
Total time: 20 mins
Serves: 6-8
Don’t forget to save at least a cup of cooking water before draining the edamame.
  • 12 oz. package of frozen, shelled edamame (2-1/3 cup)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tsp. lime juice
  • 2 tsp. lime zest
  • 1 medium garlic clove
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 3 Tbsp. fresh basil, minced
  1. Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. Add 1 tsp salt to the boiling water and let it come back up to a boil before adding the edamame.
  2. Boil for 5 minutes.
  3. Reserve about 1 cup of cooking water and then drain the rest.
  4. In the bowl of a food processor or blender, puree the edamame, olive oil, lime juice, lime zest, garlic, salt and about 1/2 cup of the reserved cooking water until very smooth. Add more cooking water, as needed.
  5. Stir in the fresh basil just until well combined.
  6. Serve at room temperature with fresh vegetables or with sliced, toasted baguette.


Clams with Chorizo


Clams with ChorizoIf you’ve been reading A Passionate Plate for a while, you’ve probably noticed that my husband, Marvin, and I don’t always crave the same food. I tend to be a little more “whole wheat” while Marv tends to be a little bit “white bread” (no offense, Marv – but you know it’s true).

We compromise a lot. Marv eats a tofu stir-fry without complaining (too much) and I eat a grilled ham and cheese without a vegetable in sight (and love it more than I will admit). There are a few foods we agree on… like steak on the grill, matzo ball soup, Panang Curry and one of our all-time favorites, Clams & Chorizo.

On one of our first dates, we shared a bowl of Clams & Chorizo at Shadowland in West Seattle. Ever since then, we’ve ordered this dish any time we can find it on a menu.

Manilla Clams

Yesterday for some reason I got a huge craving for a big bowl of clams and a bottle of Spanish wine, so I decided to make Clams & Chorizo at home. All I can say is LOVE, LOVE, LOVE! Even our cats were tantalized, pacing around the table wondering how they could get a taste of that delicious broth.

This recipe is adapted from the Mussels with Chorizo recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks, The New Spanish Table, by Anya Von Bremzen. The key ingredient is Spanish chorizo – available in most Seattle area grocery stores and many Asian food stores (Chorizo is common in Filipino cuisine as well as Spanish food). Last night we used a semi-cured Basque variety, Chorizo Bilbao.

This is one of my all-time favorite ways to eat clams. Marv’s, too. 🙂

_DSC9691Make sure you have a good loaf of french bread for dipping up all of the extra sauce. You won’t want to waste a drop. Enjoy!!

Clams with Chorizo

Recipe Type: Seafood, Appetizer or Entree
Author: A Passionate Plate
  • 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 ounces Spanish-style chorizo sausage, cut in half lengthwise, then into medium-thin slices
  • 1/2 cup white onion, diced
  • 6 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 – 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp. chili flakes
  • 2 cups clam juice
  • 1 medium-size pinch saffron, pluverized in a mortar and steeped in 2 Tbsp. hot water
  • 1 tsp. sherry vinegar
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. coarse salt (kosher or sea)
  • 2 lbs. small clams such as manilla, butter, or littleneck
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
  1. Heat olive oil in a wide, heavy pot over medium heat.
  2. Add the chorizo and cook for 4 to 5 minutes until the chorizo is lightly browned and slightly crisp.Use a slotted spoon to transfer the chorizo to a bowl. Set aside.
  3. Add the garlic and onions to the pot and cook for 4 to 5 minutes until the onions are soft and golden brown. Use a slotted spoon to remove onions and garlic to the bowl with the chorizo.
  4. Spoon off all but 1 Tbsp. of the oil from the pot.
  5. Add the tomatoes (and their juice) and the chili flakes. Cook on medium high heat for 8 to 10 minutes until the liquid is reduced and the tomatoes are slightly caramelized.
  6. Add the clam juice, saffron, vinegar, sugar and salt. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes to blend the flavors.
  7. Add the clams to the pot and cover. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes until the clams open.
  8. Remove any unopened clams.
  9. Stir in the reserved chorizo, onions and garlic.
  10. Transfer to a bowl, sprinkle with parsley and serve.


Shakshuka – שקשוקה شكشوكة


ShakshoukaThanks to fellow Seattle food blogger, Sarah Randall over at Cook Can Read, I discovered a new recipe yesterday. Shakshuka. Sarah’s post about one of her favorite weeknight dinners was so enticing I just had to try it myself.

If you’ve never heard of it before, Shakshuka is a common egg dish served in Tunisia, Libya, Morocco and Israel. While it is often associated with breakfast (think North African Huevos Rancheros), Israelis like to eat Shakshuka as an evening meal, especially during the winter.

And, that’s what we did last night. Wow – I really love this dish! Eggs are gently poached in a spicy tomato sauce and then topped with parsley and feta just before serving. It’s an inexpensive, flavorful, healthy, protein-packed dinner that is easy to make and easy to clean up because everything cooks in one pan.

Shakshuka is traditionally served with pita to soak up the sauce. Last night I also served it with couscous and grilled sausages, because Marvin was feeling a bit skeptical about eating eggs for dinner. I have to say the couscous soaked up the sauce beautifully and I would definitely recommend serving Shakshuka with couscous if you want to make the meal a little more substantial.

Give this wonderful recipe a try. It’s adapted from Smitten Kitchen. And be sure to check out Sarah’s version, too!

Shakshuka – שקשוקה شكشوكة

Recipe Type: Eggs, Entree, Breakfast, Dinner
Author: A Passionate Plate
Serves: 4 to 6
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 or 3 jalapeño peppers, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. paprika
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 -28 oz. can whole, peeled San Marzano tomatoes (undrained)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 to 6 eggs (depending on how many people you are serving)
  • 4 oz. feta, cubed
  • 3 Tbsp. chopped flat leaf parsley
  1. Heat oil in a 12″ sauté pan over medium high heat.
  2. Add onions and jalapeños and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic, paprika, and cumin. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, for a few minutes more until the garlic is soft and fragrant.
  4. Pour the tomatoes and their sauce into a bowl and crush up the tomatoes with your hands or a spoon.
  5. Add the tomatoes and water to the onions and bring to a simmer.
  6. Season with salt to taste.
  7. Crack the eggs over the sauce, distributing them evenly. Be careful not to break the yolks. Cover the pan and cook until the whites are cooked and the yolks are set (but not hard) about 5 minutes.
  8. Sprinkle the feta and parsley over the top of the Shakshuka and serve straight from the pan into bowls or on plates.
  9. Serve with pita, tortillas, bread or couscous.



Convert Recipes by Volume


Take the pan size suggested in the recipe and determine the volume (in cups) using the chart above.

Determine which size Steam Table Pan you’d like to use, then determine the capacity (in cups) using the chart below.

Find your multiplier by dividing the number of cups in the Steam Table Pan capacity by the number of cups in the original recipe.

This is NOT an exact science, so you’ll also want to take into consideration baking times, desired consistency, etc.



Ski Weekend Apple Cake


Girls Weekend Apple Cake

While Joy has been enjoying the warm sunshine on Maui, I have been enjoying a different kind of sunshine… on my annual girls’ weekend ski trip. This year we are at White Pass near Mount Rainier National Park and the weather has been AMAZING!


Jeanne, Me, Jeannie, Debbie, Lisa

This is our 17th annual ski trip and, as usual, we’ve been skiing a little, eating a lot, drinking a little, and laughing so hard our sides hurt and we start to cry. That’s what our girls’ weekends are all about.

We love cooking for each other and we’ve been sharing some really, really good food. Some of the highlights from this trip… Penne with Cauliflower Ragu (recipe next week) Lisa’s Mount Rainier White Chili, Jeanne’s Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Spinach Dip (okay, it tastes WAY better than it sounds), an old favorite, Magic Cookie Bars, and this delicious Apple Cake I made with four beautiful Piñata Apples.

What can I say about this apple cake… YUMMY. Not too sweet, but loaded with apples and a hint of citrus from a little orange juice. Debbie says it tastes great at breakfast with a Mimosa. Jeanne says it makes a lovely dessert with a glass of red wine. (Although, let’s face it… Jeanne think everything tastes great with a glass of red wine).

You can bake this delicious apple cake in a 9″x 13″ pan or for a prettier presentation, use a 10″ spring form pan and remove the ring before serving.

PS… If you can find Piñata apples in your grocery store, I recommend them. Piñata apples have a tart, complex flavor and a great texture for baking.

Ski Weekend Apple Cake
Recipe Type: Cake, Dessert, Breakfast
Author: A Passionate Plate
  • 1 and 1/12 cups chopped pecans
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 4 large baking apples, peeled, cored and sliced
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup apple sauce
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (2 oranges)
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spray a 10″ springform pan with non-stick baking spray.
  3. Sprinkle 1/2 of the pecans on the bottom of the pan.
  4. Mix 2 Tbsp. flour, 1/4 cup granulated sugar and the cinnamon in a large bowl. Add the apples and toss to combine.
  5. In another large bowl, mix the remaining flour, remaining granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking powder and salt.
  6. Add the eggs, apple sauce, melted butter, orange juice and vanilla to the flour mixture. Beat until the batter is smooth.
  7. Pour half of the batter into the prepared pan and spread over the pecans.
  8. Top with half of the apple mixture and the remaining pecans.
  9. Spoon remaining batter over the apples.
  10. Top with the remaining apples, leaving 1/2″ of space from the edge of the pan.
  11. Bake for 70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
  12. Let cool for 20 minutes, then remove the ring, slice and serve.


Gluten Free, Dairy Free Spinach Dip

Dairy Free Spinach Dip

Do you have friends or co-workers with those challenging dietary restrictions… like gluten free, dairy free, raw foods only, vegan?  Ever wonder what to take to a work party or social event that everyone can eat? Well, here it is… Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Spinach Dip. This vegan, raw food dip will appeal to even your most picky friends, but everyone else will love it, too.

Jeanne found this recipe on the Raw Fusion Kitchen website. I am so glad she shared it with us on our ski weekend! We could not stop eating this dip and nobody really seemed to care that it was dairy free, gluten free and raw. In fact, we found that a great way to eat it was to scoop it out of the bowl with Fritos (But, BTW… Fritos are gluten free, too. Just thought I would mention that).

White Pass Downhill

The view of Mount Rainier from White Pass Ski Area.

This is a large recipe you can make ahead and freeze in smaller portions so you will always have something to pull out and serve when your gluten free, dairy free, raw foods only, vegan friends drop by unexpectedly. And, if you are looking for something healthy to share at a Superbowl Party (Go 49ers!), I would definitely recommend this dip.

Gluten Free, Dairy Free Spinach Dip

Recipe Type: Appetizer, Dip
Author: A Passionate Plate republished from Raw Fusion Kitchen
  • 10 oz. fresh, organic spinach leaves
  • 1 half medium red onion
  • 1.5 cups organic, unpasteurized almonds (soaked and dehydrated)
  • 0.5 cups organic, really raw cashews (soaked and dehydrated)
  • 0.25 cups of organic, cold-pressed olive oil
  • 1.5 cups water
  • 1/3 cup of fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. Nutritional Flakes
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 Tbsp. ground flax seed
  1. Chop spinach and red onion and place in mixing bowl.
  2. Put remaining ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.
  3. Combine blender contents in bowl and mix.
  4. Chill for 1-2 hours to increase the dip’s thickness.

Mount Rainier White Chili


Aunt Kim's White Chili

We left Seattle last Friday night prepared for a 3 hour drive to our White Pass cabin. In typical  Girls’ Weekend style, we started gabbing chatting and missed a few turns… so the drive got just a little bit longer than we expected. Fortunately, we laughed the entire way, even when we got completely lost and knocked on the door at the wrong cabin.

When Jeanne, Jeannie and I finally arrived at the right cabin on Friday night, Lisa was waiting for us with a bottle of wine and a big pot of chicken chili we renamed Mount Rainier White Chili in honor of our weekend. Thanks, Lisa!

It was absolutely delicious and just what we needed after getting lost in the woods.
This is a very simple recipe with a warm, rich flavor. The special ingredient is ground cloves, which spice up the chili in a delicate and subtle way. This is definitely my new favorite white chili recipe and I look forward to making it again soon.


Mount Rainier. Photo by Jeannie Bastasch.

White Pass is so beautiful. Check out this view of Mount Rainier!

Mount Rainier White Chili

Recipe Type: Soup
Author: a Passionate Plate
HINT: A store-bought rotisserie chicken, skin removed, will yield about 4 cups of shredded chicken – perfect for making this recipe even easier. The secret ingredient in this chicken chili is ground cloves! Thanks to our friend, Lisa, for sharing this delicious recipe.
  • 2 cans Great Northern white beans, drained & rinsed
  • 28 oz. chicken broth
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 – 4.5 oz can chopped green chiles
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 4 cups cooked, shredded chicken breast (approximately 1 lb.)
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped cilantro
  1. Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a large soup pot.
  2. When oil is hot, add onion and garlic and sauté until onions are soft, about 4 minutes.
  3. Stir in the cumin and cloves, then add the beans, chicken broth, green chiles, and white wine.
  4. Bring the soup to a boil, then turn down and add the chicken.
  5. Continue cooking until the chicken is heated through.
  6. Ladle into bowls and top with shredded cheese, cilantro, and sour cream.


Magic Cookie Bars


Magic Cookie Bars

Our girls’ ski weekend would not be complete without a big pan of chocolatey something. This year Lisa made one of our favorites, Magic Cookie Bars. Who doesn’t love a rich, buttery bar cookie loaded with coconut, chocolate chips and butterscotch?

One of the nice things about this recipe is that it gets made in a 9″ x 13″ pan – no mixing bowl required… perfect for assembling in an ill-equiped rental cabin.

Another great thing about these bars is that you will never be stuck dragging the leftovers back home after a long weekend. I promise. 🙂


The view of Leech Lake from one of the nordic ski trails at White Pass. Photo by Jeannie Bastasch.


Magic Cookie Bars

Recipe Type: Dessert, Bar Cookie
Author: A Passionate Plate
Serves: 1 9″ x 13″ pan
These delicious bar cookies are so easy to make. No mixing bowl required!
  • 9 graham crackers, crushed into small crumbs
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1 can Eagle sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
  • 1 1/3 cups chocolate chips
  • 2/3 cups butterscotch chips
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Place the butter in a 9″ x 13″ glass pan and melt it in the oven.
  3. When the butter is melted, mix in the graham cracker crumbs and press down to make a crust.
  4. Pour the sweetened condensed milk over the crust.
  5. Sprinkle on the coconut, then the nuts, followed by the chocolate chips and butterscotch chips.
  6. Bake at 325 degrees for 25 minutes or until the edges turn brown.
  7. Cool completely then cut into squares.

Pina Colada


Pina Coladas

Aloha from Maui!

It’s my last day here on Maui. I think I’ll celebrate (?) with a Piña Colada Party at sunset. The truly beautiful thing about Hawaii is that people ALWAYS take time out to enjoy the sunset. It’s common to see large groups of people, locals and tourists alike, gathering on the beach to watch the sun go down (most have a cocktail in hand). It serves as a reminder to me that I should slow down….not be in such a rush to get dinner on the table…enjoy the sunsets (when the crazy, Seattle weather allows me to)…and appreciate the beauty surrounding me.

I’ve had the lyrics from this song in my head since I arrived. “Yes, I like Pina Coladas and getting caught in the rain…I’m not much into health food, I am into champagne“. So, tonight, it’s piña coladas and the sunset. When I get home, I’ll probably make more piña coladas and watch the sunset pictures on our AppleTV 😉 Aloha!

Pina Colada

Recipe Type: Cocktail
Cuisine: Tropical
Author: A Passionate Plate
We based this on the Tommy Bahama recipe.
  • Equal parts:
  • Light rum
  • Dark rum
  • Pineapple juice
  • Coco Lopez (coconut cream)
  • Crushed ice, to taste
  1. Pour the rum, pineapple juice and Coco Lopez into the blender.
  2. Blend well.
  3. Add enough crushed ice and blend until it’s a milkshake-like consistency.
  4. Garnish with pineapple and maraschino cherry.
  5. A straw and an umbrella make it extra-fancy – enJOY!


Muhammara Dip


Muhammara Dip

What do you do when you receive an e-mail with the subject line: “Phenomenal!”? In my case, I opened it, read it and promptly saved it to my “Recipes” folder. And, there it sat for a year. I did not forget about it and it was always on my mind, but it wasn’t until last week, when I was planning my trip to visit my dad and Caroline in Maui, that I moved it back to my Inbox.

Caroline wrote: “Hi Joy, Because I love you so much and as a thank you for the marinade, I’m going to divulge my latest, favorite secret recipe. It is definitely an OMG kinda dip.” Since I would be staying with my dad and Caroline at their home in Kula, Maui, I thought it would be fun to do some cooking and posting with Caroline. This was the perfect opportunity to break out this OMG recipe and give it a try. It is ahhhh-maz-ing!

Pomagranate Concentrate

Muhammara is a roasted red pepper dip (originally from Aleppo, Syria) that also includes toasted walnuts, pomegranate molasses (remember that bottle I found when cleaning out my cupboard), garlic, lemon juice and other seasonings. It is creamy and just the right amount of spicy. OMG – it is so tasty! It would be a big hit at a Superbowl party, or any other gathering. Be prepared to share the recipe for this very unique dip (or even better: tell them the can find it here at apassionateplate.com).

Muhammara Dip2

If you can’t find the pomegranate molasses (or concentrate), simmer 1 cup of pomegranate juice on low heat until it is reduced and thick enough to coat a spoon. However, we highly recommend finding the syrup because you’ll want to make this again and again. EnJOY!

Don’t forget to enter our January Giveaway!

Muhammara Dip

Recipe Type: Appetizer
Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Author: A Passionate Plate
Prep time:
Total time:
Serves: 6-8
If you can’t find the pomegranate molasses (or concentrate), simmer 1 cup of pomegranate juice on low heat until it is reduced and thick enough to coat a spoon.
  • 7-oz jar of roasted red peppers, drained
  • 2/3 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped (the toasting is crucial!)
  • 2 small cloves garlic (don’t overdo the garlic or it will drown out the other flavors)
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. pomegranate molasses
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Cut vegetables, for dipping, and/or
  • Pita bread, cut into triangles and toasted, for dipping
  1. In a food processor, blend peppers, walnuts, garlic, lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, cumin, red pepper flakes and salt until the mixture is smooth.
  2. With the motor running, gradually add the olive oil.
  3. Taste and adjust seasonings.
  4. Serve at room temperature.

Bob’s Red Mill Hearty Whole Grain Bread Mix


Lovely loaf of bread

Caroline is gluten- and dairy-intolerant. I am not. But when I needed a quick and filling lunch on-the-go yesterday, she served me the most delicious, hearty, crunchy bread that is both gluten- and dairy-free. Instead of wheat flour, it’s made of whole grain buckwheat, garbanzo bean flour, and fava bean flour. It’s filled with sunflower, sesame and caraway seeds. Toasted and topped with a tablespoon of crunchy peanut butter, this bread sustained me for several hours.

Bread label

This all-natural bread mix is made by Bob’s Red Mill and is probably available in your local grocery store, or you can buy on-line from amazon here: Bob’s Red Mill Hearty Whole Grain Bread Mix Gluten Free.

Keep in mind that making bread, even from a mix, requires some attention to detail. The directions are printed on the package in fairly small print, but they are important to read and follow closely! Some key points:

The eggs should be at room temperature before starting. If you don’t have time to wait, remove the eggs from the refrigerator and place them in a bowl of warm (110°F) water for 5 minutes while you are waiting for the yeast to dissolve.

Ingredients should be at room temperature for even mixing.

Ingredients should be at room temperature for even mixing.

The recipe calls for using a 9×5-inch non-stick pan. Make sure to grease the pan well (and use parchment to line a ceramic pan) even though it’s “non-stick” AND make sure it’s the proper dimensions; otherwise you’ll need to adjust the cooking time.

Use pan coating and parchment paper to insure an easy release of the baked loaf.

Use pan coating and parchment paper to insure an easy release of the baked loaf.

The ingredients only need to be mixed for about 15 seconds, or until they are all incorporated. Over-mixing will cause the bread to be tough and heavy.

Use a mixer, but don't over-mix!

Use a mixer, but don’t over-mix!

Smooth the batter into the pan with a wet spatula to insure an even, well-shaped loaf.

Smooth the top of the loaf with a wet spatula for an even, domed top.

Smooth the top of the loaf with a wet spatula for an even, domed top.

About halfway through cooking, the bread will be pretty brown. Cover it with foil at this point to avoid a burnt and dry loaf of bread.

This bread can be made in a bread machine and instructions are printed on the package.

Lovely loaf of bread

At 190 calories/ 3.5 grams of fat / 23 grams carbs (4g Dietary Fiber, 3g Sugars) / 4 grams of protein, this whole grain bread is a very healthy alternative to store-bought bread (and you’ll never notice that it’s wheat- and dairy-free!). YUMMY!

Apple Cider Pulled Pork


Apple Cider Pulled Pork SandwichLast Thursday I received a box of apples from our friends at Stemilt Fruit Company in Wenatchee (thanks, Brianna!!). These were no ordinary apples, but a beautiful new variety called Piñata. A cross between Golden Delicious and two heirloom varieties, Cox’s Orange Pippin and The Duchess of Oldenburg, Piñata apples are bi-colored with crisp, tart, juicy flesh. The folks at Stemilt have just started distributing Piñata apples all across the country, so be on the lookout for this new variety at your grocery store soon.

Pinata Apples from Stemilt Fruit Company

Beautiful Piñata Apples!

Since yesterday was a big football day for us (Oh, Seahawks…you were so close!), I decided to use some of the Piñata apples in a batch of slow cooker Apple Cider Pulled Pork. My plan was to serve pulled pork sliders during the game, but I did not get up early enough to make that happen… so we ended up eating it for dinner and it was delicious!

If you like the taste of pork chops and apple sauce, you will love this pulled pork recipe. The pork slowly cooks in hard apple cider seasoned with ginger, cinnamon and black pepper. A generous portion of caramelized onions and apples gets stirred in at the end, adding depth and sweetness to this savory pulled pork.

Serve on buns with a little BBQ sauce, or with a side of mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes.

Want to learn more about Piñata Apples? Watch this fun video from Stemilt Fruit Company:

Apple Cider Pulled Pork

Recipe Type: Entree or Appetizer, Pork
Author: A Passionate Plate
This pulled pork gets it’s zing and complexity from hard apple cider, spices, onions and apples.
  • 48 oz. hard apple cider
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3.5 lb. boneless pork shoulder roast
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. dry mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. ginger
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 large apples, cored and thinly sliced
  1. Combine the hard cider, brown sugar, salt, pepper, cinnamon, dry mustard and ginger in a 5 quart (or larger) slow cooker. Whisk to combine well.
  2. Add the roast and a little water, if needed, so the meat is completely covered by liquid.
  3. Cook until the pork is very tender (about 4 hours on high or 7 hours on low).
  4. Just before the meat finishes cooking, melt the butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently until they are very soft and lightly browned.
  5. Add the apples and 1 cup of broth from the slow cooker. Simmer for 5 minutes and set aside.
  6. When the meat is very tender, remove it from the slow cooker to a large bowl. Use tongs or two forks to shred the meat, discarding any large pieces of fat.
  7. Stir in the onion mixture. Add a little additional broth to moisten the meat, taste and adjust seasonings if needed.
  8. Serving suggestions:
  9. Serve on a toasted bun with BBQ sauce and a side of slaw or with a side of mashed potatoes or rice and a little extra sauce.


Low-Fat Italian Wedding Soup


Low Fat Italian Wedding SoupItalian Wedding Soup is one of Marvin’s all-time favorites. He loves the little meatballs floating in the rich chicken broth, the bites of pasta and the sprinkle of parmesan cheese on top. And, he doesn’t even think twice about eating big spoonfuls of spinach… which is how I know he truly loves this soup.

Yesterday I decided to make a big batch of Italian Wedding Soup. It was the perfect dinner for a cold and stormy Seattle night and I’ll eat the leftovers for lunch this week. In this version I use Jeannie-O Italian seasoned ground turkey to make the meatballs – which are baked in the oven before being added to the soup pot.

Italian Wedding Soup Meatballs

Turkey meatballs are ready for the oven.

An entire 6 oz. bag of baby spinach gets stirred in just before serving, making this yummy soup so good for you, too! Enjoy!

Approximate nutrition info. (based on 8 servings): 265 calories, 21 grams carb., 7 grams fat, 22 grams protein.

Love Soup? You might enjoy these other recipes from A Passionate Plate:

Lazy Girl’s Cioppino
Slow Cooker Weeknight Chili
Mexican Onion Soup
Quick White Bean Soup with Rosemary

PS – Don’t forget to enter our January Giveaway!

Low-Fat Italian Wedding Soup

Serves: 8 large servings
  • 1- 20 oz. package Jeannie-O Italian seasoned ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 Tbsp. milk
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 3 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
  • 10 cups chicken stock (I make mine with Better Than Bouillon Organic Base)
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped carrot
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup small pasta (orzo, bow-ties, shells, stars, etc.)
  • 1 – 6 oz. bag baby spinach, stems removed
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the turkey, bread crumbs, 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, egg whites, milk, minced garlic and parsley. Mix well.
  4. Form meat mixture into small, teaspoon sized meatballs.
  5. Place meatballs on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes until the meatballs are cooked through and browned. Set aside.
  7. Heat olive oil in a large stock pot. Add the onion carrots and celery and sauté until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes.
  8. Add the chicken broth and bring to a simmer.
  9. Add the pasta and cook until it is tender, about 6 minutes.
  10. Add the meatballs, and cook for 2 minutes more. Taste the soup and season with salt and pepper.
  11. Add the spinach and cook just until the spinach wilts, about a minute more.
  12. Ladle into bowls and serve with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.


Our January Giveaway!


This contest has closed. Congratulations to our winner, Avis Peterson!

Happy New Year, Everyone! I hope you’re ready for another fun-filled year with us here at A Passionate Plate. We want to kick off the year right – by getting organized and giving something away.

What goes along with organizing? Cleaning, of course. Mary and I were both motivated by our friend Christina’s recent post titled “Pantry Purge” over at Foodie With a Life. She provides some great tips and fun inspiration for digging in and organizing the kitchen.



I decided to start with the oil/vinegar/salt/sweetener cupboard. This one sits just to the left of the stove, so it is filled with frequently used items (or so I thought). I think every one of us would admit that we don’t always know everything that is in our cupboards and that’s why it’s so good to re-organize  every so often. My surprise find: a lovely bottle of Pomegranate Glaze (this will make it’s way into a recipe real soon – stay tuned!). Taking Christina’s advice, I moved the open box of baking soda to the refrigerator (absorbs odors – nice!) and I grouped like-items together (oils on one side, vinegars and cooking wines on the other…salts all in one place and sweeteners in another). MUCH better!

...and after! So much better!

…and after! So much better!

One tip I would add to Christina’s list: clean as you organize. There were lots of sticky and oily drips in  my cupboard (along with some mystery crumbs), so I took the opportunity to sweep out the crumbs and use an all-purpose cleaner to clean each shelf and bottle before returning things to their (new) proper locations.

This brings me to the announcement of our January Giveaway. 

Enter to win the following prizes:

An assortment of Elf Naturals natural cleaning products and a book to get you organized – 1001 Ideas for Kitchen Organization: The Ultimate Source Book for Storage Ideas & Materials.

 Our friend Janine’s cleaning business was the inspiration for her development of Elf Naturals, environmentally friendly cleaning products for the home which are now available in Whole Foods stores and many other grocers in the Northwest.

To enter this giveaway, simply respond to this post with the answer to the question:

What surprise find was hiding in your cupboards? 

How easy is that? We’ll pick a winner randomly from all of the responses on January 30th.

Give your friends a chance to win, too, by sharing this post on your Facebook page!

Banana Oat Breakfast Bars


Banana Oat Breakfast BarsHappy Sunday morning! It’s a big day for us here in Seattle because the Seahawks have made it to the playoffs… Seahawks vs. Redskins, 1:30 PST. Whoo Hooo.

What this means at our house is that Marvin is preparing some game day food. It starts off with these…

Pastries from The Original Bakery in West Seattle

Pastries from The Original Bakery in West Seattle. TEMPTATION!

Followed by chicken wings, lasagna, chips and salsa, fresh baked cookies, and who knows what else he will come up with.

Fortunately we’ve got company coming over to eat all of that good stuff, because I won’t be tempted. I started the morning off with my super-healthy, fat-free Banana Oat Breakfast Bars. Each one has only 75 calories and they are so tasty, why would I want to eat a donut???

The key ingredient in these simple bars is a couple over-ripe bananas. Not a problem. All of our holiday indulging has left me with a bowl of sad looking, neglected fruit ready to be turned into something wonderful.

Sad bananas.

Sad bananas.

These yummy breakfast bars taste great right out of the oven but they also store well for a few days, wrapped tightly, and make a satisfying low-calorie dessert or snack.


Banana Oat Breakfast Bars

Recipe Type: Breakfast, Bar Cookie, Healthy & Low-Fat
Author: A Passionate Plate
Serves: 24 squares
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 cup raisins, craisins or other dried fruit
  • 1 cup mashed ripe banana
  • 1/2 cup non-fat or 2% milk
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place oats in a large bowl and stir in half of the milk (1/4 cup). Let stand for 5 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, combine the flours, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and soda. Mix in the remaining 1/4 cup milk, banana, egg whites and vanilla.
  4. Stir in the raisins or dried fruit of your choice, then combine with the oat mixture.
  5. Lightly spray a 9″ x 13″ pan with non-stick spray.
  6. Spread the batter into the pan.
  7. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes just until the top is golden brown, the cake begins to pull away from the sides the pan and springs back when lightly touched.
  8. Cut into 2″ pieces – serve warm or cold.

Korean Style Beef Wraps


Korean Beef Wrap

Hello and Happy New Year, everyone!

Yesterday I said goodbye to my sister and my two beautiful nieces… time for them to head back to Japan after our two weeks of holiday fun. And, time for me to get back on track. The last several weeks have been all about indulging, with LOTS of rich food and holiday drinking, and not enough exercise.

Time to regroup, get back to the gym, and eat a little better. I’ve learned through the years that moderation is the only way to go. Whole wheat toast and an egg for breakfast, a salad for lunch, and simple dinners, like these tasty Korean Beef Wraps, will have me feeling back to “normal” in a couple of weeks.

These wraps are super easy to make and a very satisfying lower calorie meal. Thinly sliced beef, marinated in Korean Bulgoki sauce, is quickly stir-fried then combined with a spicy slaw inside a soft tortilla. I can’t live without carbs, but if you are trying to cut them out, you could easily skip the tortilla and turn this into a tasty salad.

Joy and I have a bunch of great recipes to share with you this month… and most of them are healthy and easy, too. So here’s to the return of moderation! Enjoy. 🙂

Korean Beef Wraps

Recipe Type: Easy entree, lower-fat, great for lunch or dinner
Cuisine: Asian inspired
Author: A Passionate Plate
Serves: 4 wraps
HINT: Placing the beef in the freezer for 1/2 hour before slicing will make it easier to slice extra thin. Slice it across the grain into paper thin slices. You can also ask your butcher to slice it paper thin for you.
  • 1 lb. very thinly sliced rib-eye steak or short rib meat
  • 3/4 cup Korean Bulgoki sauce (or terriyaki sauce)
  • 1 Tbsp. oil
  • 3 cups napa cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup shredded carrot
  • 1 small red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar or cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. sriracha sauce
  • 1 tsp. soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. sesame oil
  • 4 large (burrito size) flour tortillas
  1. Combine the beef with the bulgoki sauce and marinate for 1/2 hour in the refrigerator.
  2. Meanwhile, combine the cabbage, carrot, bell pepper and onions in a bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl combine the vinegar, sugar, sriracha sauce, soy sauce and sesame oil.
  4. Heat 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil in a wok or large sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the meat and cook, stirring frequently, until the meat is cooked to your desired doneness.
  5. Toss the cabbage mixture with the dressing.
  6. Distribute the vegetables and meat evenly between four warm flour tortillas. Fold in the ends and roll up burrito style.
  7. Cut in half and serve with extra bulgoki sauce for dipping.



Mushroom Stock

Mushroom Stock
Recipe Type: Soup
Author: A Passionate Plate
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 8
Use this stock in the delicious recipe for Mushroom Pot Pies with Parker House Crust, or anytime you need a vegetarian stock.
  • 3 Tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 1 pound white mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 rib celery, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • handful of thyme sprigs
  • 2-3 rosemary sprigs
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp. black peppercorns
  • 1/2 cup dry Marsala
  • 2 quarts water
  1. In a large Dutch oven or soup pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the mushrooms, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme, rosemary, bay leaves and peppercorns and cook for about 15 minutes, until the vegetables are softened.
  3. Add the wine and cook for about 5 minutes, until it is mostly evaporated.
  4. Pour the water into the pot with the vegetables and bring to a boil.
  5. Simmer over moderate heat until it is reduced to 6 cups, 45 minutes.
  6. Strain the stock, pressing down on the solids. Discard the solids and refrigerate the stock for up to 5 days.


Merry Christmas!


Christmas at A Passionate PlateIt’s Christmas Eve – 10:55 pm. I’ve scheduled this post to go out at exactly 7:00 am, which is when we told Emily and Elena they could start opening their presents. So, hopefully, all will go according to plan and at 7:00 am I will have a hot cup of coffee (or a mimosa) in my hands as I watch two of my favorite nieces start to open their presents.

Elena and Emily are enjoying the snow and their time with Grandma & Grandpa!

Elena and Emily are enjoying the snow and their time with Grandma & Grandpa!

We’re at my parents’ house in the Methow Valley, where a foot of new snow has fallen in the last few days. It’s truly a winter wonderland and I feel so blessed to have this chance to spend time with my parents, and my sister and her kids, who have traveled all the way from Japan to spend Christmas with us this year.


Skiing, baking cookies, and hanging out with my sister in one of the prettiest places I know.

I don’t have a recipe to share with you today, but in case you are curious, we’ll be eating homemade waffles for breakfast and ham and scalloped potatoes for dinner. My mom is cooking, so I know it is going to be good. Hopefully we’ll have time to squeeze in another ski between meals.

Wherever you are today, and however you are celebrating, Joy and I both want to wish you a very Merry Christmas.

Talk to you soon!


Something really weird just happened. And we have a winner!


Mayan CalendarSomething really crazy just happened. Yes, it has something to do with the Mayan calendar. Kind of.

If you’ve been paying attention to all of the talk, you know that today, December 21st, 2012, is supposed to be the end of the world, or at least the beginning of a catastrophic event, according to the Mayan calendar. Check out Joy’s post this morning for Mayan Chocolate Pudding for more details and a recipe to help celebrate the fact that we are all still here.

Today is also the winter solstice and it’s the day we planned to pick the winner of our December Giveaway.

So normally we draw a winner randomly from all the contest entries. But this morning, in honor of the events of the day, I decided that the winner should be the 21st person who entered the contest. I started counting up from the #1 to #21 and found our winner…

A big congratulations to TC! We’ll be sending you a copy of Slow Cooker Revolution by America’s Test Kitchen.

Twilight Zone

Okay, now here is the really WEIRD part. We asked contestants to tell us about something they like to cook in a slow cooker. TC’s answer was Puerco Pibil – which just happens to be a traditional MAYAN DISH from the Mexican Yucutan – slow cooked pork in banana leaves.

Do you hear the Twilight Zone music right now? I do!

There are lots of recipes for Puerco Pibil online. Here is a great looking one from the blog ICanDoThat. Check it out to learn  more: Puerco Pibil.

Thanks to everyone who entered our December Giveaway.
Our next contest begins on January 3rd so stay tuned!

Mayan Chocolate Pudding


Mayan Chocolate Pudding1

The winter solstice starts today and marks the end of the 13th baktun, or cycle, of the Mayan calendar. The hubbub about a calamity supposedly occurring on 12/21/12 comes from a Mayan stone carving made in 700 A.D., which predicts a major event at the end of this baktun (today!). But half of the broken tablet is missing, so who knows what the complete message may be.

Mayan Weather Forecast

If you’re reading this, LET’S CELEBRATE! that the above forecast did not come true by enJOYing some yummy Mayan Chocolate Pudding. The Mayans and the Aztecs were some of the first to cultivate the cacao bean and use it in religious ceremonies and as currency. So, maybe that’s what’s going to happen: we’ll all start using chocolate instead of money and all of our problems will be solved! Can you imagine how much happier everyone would be? Kinda like a Willy Wonka kind of thing…rivers of chocolate, wallpaper that tastes like fruit candy, singing and dancing. Sometimes the end of an era is not such a bad thing, right?

Mayan Chocolate Pudding Collage

In my mind, there is nothing more comforting than chocolate pudding. It’s especially delicious when it is still warm. This pudding has a lil’ extra kick of spicy, Ancho chili powder, along with some cinnamon and orange zest which is what makes it Mayan-esque. I’d say it’s a great way to celebrate our new way of life.

Platter of Mayan Chocolate Pudding

Mayan Chocolate Pudding

Recipe Type: Dessert
Author: A Passionate Plate
  • 2 cups fat free half & half
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 12 oz good quality dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. Ancho chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp. fresh orange zest
  • 12 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Sweetened whipped cream and chocolate shavings, for garnish
  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
  2. Bring the milks to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.
  3. Remove from heat and whisk in the chocolate until well blended.
  4. Add the spices and let the mixture cool slightly.
  5. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until it’s a pale yellow color.
  6. Slowly, so that you don’t cook the eggs, whisk a small amount of chocolate into the egg mixture. Gradually add more, whisking constantly, until all of the chocolate is incorporated into the egg mixture.
  7. Place 6 – 4oz ramekins in a roasting pan and carefully add enough boiling water to the pan to come halfway up the outside of the ramekins.
  8. Pour the pudding into the ramekins and bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 40-50 mins. until set, but slightly jiggly in the center. Remove the pan from the oven.
  9. Using a turkey baster, remove the hot water from the pan. Use a spatula to lift the ramekins out of the pan and place them on a tray and let them cool in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve them.
  10. Top with sweetened whipped cream and shaved chocolate. EnJOY!

Easy Beef Bourguignon

Beef Bourguignon

Beef Bourguignon is a classic French dish and, like many French dishes, it’s got a great name. Beef Bourguignon sounds so much more elegant than beef stew. But, honestly, Beef Bourguignon is a stew – an absolutely delicious one, made with bacon, mushrooms, pearl onions, and red wine. There are many variations for this classic dish and some are incredibly complicated. We might have Julia Child to thank for some of that… I have found some online versions of her Beef Bourguignon recipe with over 40 steps!

My version is so much simpler. I’ll admit I’ve cut some corners… but if you like to make things easy on yourself, this recipe is for you. I’ve eliminated as many steps (and dirty dishes) as possible without compromising the delicious flavor of the dish. Beef Bourguignon does takes time to cook, but by using 1 inch pieces of meat instead of bigger chunks, the cooking time drops to about 2 hours in the oven, plus prep time. I use stew meat that has all visible fat trimmed away, which eliminates the need to skim the sauce. (Depending on the meat you use, skimming the sauce before adding the pearl onions may be neccesary).Beef Bourguignon can be made ahead and reheated. It’s one of those slow food recipes that tastes even better the next day because the flavors have more time to mingle.

You can also adapt this recipe for your slow cooker. See the recipe below for slow cooker instructions.

Making Beef Bourguignon

Sautéing the onions and bacon, browning the beef in bacon fat, seared beef ready to be tossed with flour, Bourguignon after 2 hours in the oven.

bouquet garni

A boquet garni made from parsley, thyme and bay leaf.

Beef Bourguignon gets its flavor (and it’s name) from Burgundy wine, but don’t feel like you need to buy an expensive bottle of French Burgundy to make this recipe.  I think an Oregon Pinot Noir makes a great substitute. Bacon, onions, and a bouquet garni made with bay leaves, fresh thyme, and parsley also provide depth to the sauce, which reduces to velvety perfection in the oven.

I recommend serving Beef Bourguignon over buttered egg noodles. Enjoy!


Love slow food? You might enjoy these recipes:
Italian Sweet & Sour Pork
Easy Tagine Style Lamb Stew
Slow Cooker Weeknight Chili

Easy Beef Bourguignon

Recipe Type: Entree, Beef
Author: A Passionate Plate
Serves: 6-8 generous servings
This rich and flavorful stew gets it’s unique flavor from red wine. Serve Beef Bourguignon over buttered egg noodles, rice, or your favorite pasta.
  • 6 slices bacon, diced
  • 1/2 cup white onion, diced
  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 lbs. beef stew meat, cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 1 1/2 cups beef stock
  • 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • bouquet garni (parsley, thyme, and a couple bay leaves tied in cheese cloth or with kitchen twine)
  • 2 cups frozen pearl onions
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 lb. small button mushrooms, halved
  • 1/2 cup cognac or brandy
  • 1/2 cup parsley, chopped
  • salt and pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 425°.
  2. In a large sauté pan, cook the bacon and diced onions, stirring frequently, until the bacon is cooked and the onions are brown.
  3. Remove the bacon and onions and set aside, reserving the bacon fat in the pan.
  4. Pat the meat dry with a paper towel and season each piece well with salt and pepper.
  5. Heat the bacon fat and 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil over medium high heat.
  6. Working in batches, brown the meat in the hot oil. (It is important not to overcrowd the meat. The pieces should not touch each other or they will “steam” instead of brown).
  7. Remove the meat to a large, oven-proof casserole dish or dutch oven with a lid.
  8. Discard the cooking oil.
  9. Toss the meat with the flour and place the casserole in the oven, uncovered, for 5 minutes to brown the flour.
  10. Remove the casserole from the oven.
  11. Turn the oven down to 325°.
  12. Stir in the bacon and onions, beef stock, red wine, tomato paste and bouquet garni.
  13. Put the casserole back in the oven, cover with the lid, and bake for 1 and 1/2 hours.
  14. Remove the dish from the oven, discard the bouquet garni and stir in the pearl onions. (If quite a bit of fat on the surface of the sauce, skim it off before adding the onions).
  15. Cover and cook for 30 minutes more.
  16. Meanwhile, heat the butter over medium high heat. Add the mushrooms and sauté until they release their juices and start to turn brown. Add the cognac and let the alcohol reduce by half.
  17. Remove the beef bourguignon from the oven. The meat should be very tender and the sauce should have reduced into a thick, velvety consistency. Stir in the mushrooms and their juice.
  18. Simmer on the stove for a few minutes and season with more salt if necessary.
  19. Serve, garnished with chopped parsley over egg noodles, rice, or accompanied by oven roasted potatoes.
  20. SLOW COOKER VARIATION: Cook the bacon & onions and brown the beef according to the directions above. In a 4 to 5 quart slow cooker, stir together the bacon & onions, beef, beef stock, red wine, tomato paste, boquet garni and pearl onions (omit the flour). Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or until the beef is very tender and the sauce has thickened. Skim off any excess fat that has come to the surface. Prepare the mushrooms and cognac according to the recipe above and add to the pot just before serving.

Tallahassee Lassies


Tallahassee Lassies

A couple of years ago, I was trying out cookie recipes in advance of the busy Christmas season because I needed something REALLY special. I’m sure you know what I mean. There are certain events (i.e. cookie exchanges with serious foodies) where you want to be the one that brings THE cookie. The one that gets talked about, and asked about, for years to come. Well, I found it! I took a few from the first batch to Cara for her birthday. That night, I got a text from Cara’s daughter, Natalie, asking “could you please send us the recipe for those awesome cookies you made for my mom? I ate them all!”. Well, that just about made me the proudest baker around.

So, if you’re looking for a special cookie to add to your Christmas collection this year, try these Tallahassee Lassies. They are a lot like a praline, but they also have a nice little cake-y muffin thing on the bottom that is simply delicious. This recipe was one of the winners of the 2005 Cook’s Illustrated Holiday Cookie Contest, so you know it has to be good. I love it because it doesn’t even require me to get the heavy KitchenAid mixer out – just two saucepans and the muffin tin. EnJOY!

If you’re looking for other Christmas cookie ideas, try these:

Peppermint Brownie Bites
Betty Crocker’s Sugar Cookies
Betty Crocker’s Candy Cane Cookies
Frozen Frangos

Tallahassee Lassies

Recipe Type: Dessert
Author: Helen Huber and Cook’s Illustrated
Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 15 mins
Total time: 35 mins
Serves: 48
These are super rich, so they are best made in a mini muffin tin, but if you only have regular size muffin tins, that’s fine, too. And don’t skip the step of toasting the pecans for the topping because it really does make a difference.
  • Cookies
  • 12 Tbsp. unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks)
  • 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. table salt
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans
  • Butterscotch Filling
  • 8 Tbsp. unsalted butter (1 stick)
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs (I used Nilla Wafer crumbs)
  • Topping
  • 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted
  1. For the cookies: Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 48 standard mini muffin tins with liners.
  2. Melt butter in medium saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat and whisk in brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla until smooth. Add flour, baking powder, salt and pecans and stir until well combined. Scoop 2 teaspoons of mixture into each muffin cup (you only want them filled a little less than halfway to allow room for the topping later). Bake, rotating tins from front to back and top to bottom halfway through baking, until golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. For the filling: While cookies are baking, melt butter in small saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir in milk, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and crumbs and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm until cookies come out of from oven.
  4. For the topping: Remove cookies from oven and immediately sprinkle tops with chocolate chips. Top with heaping tablespoon of filling and sprinkle with chopped, toasted pecans. Cool completely on cooling rack, about 30 minutes. Remove cookies from tins. (Cookies are best served the day they are made.)


Peppermint Brownie Bites


Peppermint Brownie BitesIt’s December 17th… time to bring on the holiday sweets!

Yesterday I got started by mixing up a batch of bite-sized peppermint brownies. These moist, chocolatey brownies are flavored with peppermint and topped with a rich ganache frosting. Chocolate and peppermint, the flavors of Christmas. And, did I mention they are bite-sized? Portion control is built right in, which helps when you’ve got a few more weeks of indulging on the horizon.

Peppermint Chocolate BrowniesThis recipe makes 50 miniature treats, perfect for sharing with all of the chocolate lovers on your list. Enjoy!

If you like this recipe, you might also try:

Candy Cane Cookies
Frozen Frangos
Betty Crocker’s Scotch Shortbread
Chocolate Raspberry Mini Brownies

Peppermint Brownie Bites

Serves: 4 dozen bite-sized brownies
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup semi-sweet mini chocolate chips (6 oz.)
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp. peppermint extract
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (6 oz.)
  • 1/2 cup peppermint candies, chopped
  1. Preheat oven to 300°.
  3. Combine the flour, sifted unsweetened cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.
  4. Melt the butter and 1 cup chocolate chips in a double boiler.
  5. Whisk together the eggs and granulated sugar in a large bowl. Stir in the vanilla and peppermint extracts.
  6. Stir melted chocolate mixture into the egg mixture until smooth.
  7. Gently fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture with a spatula until no streaks remain.
  8. Prepare a mini muffin pan by spray with non-stick baker’s spray.
  9. Spoon 1 heaping Tbsp. of batter into each muffin tin.
  10. Bake for 15 minutes.
  11. Let the brownies cool for 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.
  12. Continue baking batches of brownies until all of the batter is used up.
  14. Heat the cream in a sauce pan just to a simmer. Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup chocolate chips.
  16. Dip the top of each brownie in the ganache, then sprinkle with peppermint candy. Wait at least 15 minutes before serving so the ganache can set up.




Today, I’d like to share with you a lovely blog post by our friend, Margretta. She is a teacher and she has a lovely food blog called miseenplace.us. I was feeling really sad today when I read her latest article “27 Random Acts of Kindness“. Her words immediately lifted my spirits and provided me with exactly what I needed: a way to try to make things better. I hope it will inspire you, too.

Margretta wrote:

This is a food blog, so I ask your forgiveness in advance because this post has nothing to do with food. But I’m a kindergarten teacher and today’s tragedy in Connecticut hit very close to home. My heart breaks for the parents and families involved in this random act of violence. Which is what brings me to write this post. I was walking my dog and thinking about the children in my class and how horrific it would be to have anything happen to them and how horrific and senseless what happened to those children today was, not just the children who were shot, but those who survived and will have to live with the memories. All that tragedy. And as the phrase “random act of violence” bounced painfully around in my head, that other phrase we used to hear more often came to mind: random acts of kindness. It came to me that in answer to this, perhaps I could do a very small thing and try to perform more random acts of kindness. 27 to be exact. One for each victim and the shooter. It also occurred to me that if more people made this pledge, perhaps that would be a good thing too. I don’t believe that my acts, or yours if you agree to take on this pledge, will lessen the pain of those parents who lost their child today, but if lots and lots of us take it upon ourselves to put 27 random acts of kindness out there into the world, maybe, just maybe some other act of random violence will be a little less likely to happen or at the very least, the pain of this day will have a little something added on the other side to balance it out.

So, take the pledge. Please comment and let me know that you do and then pass it on to  your friends. Spread the random kindness and share your stories if you like. I plan on writing again and sharing some of my 27, but here’s my first one:

My first act was small, but I’m counting it to help give a picture of what I mean. Just after I’d made my pledge to myself about these acts of kindness, I was hurrying home to make dinner. My dog and I encountered another dog and her owner. We stopped for the usual sniffs and I was getting ready to walk on when the owner told me her dog was recovering from surgery. Now, my stomach was rumbling and it was cold, so what I wanted to do was wish her dog a speedy recovery and go home to a warm house and dinner, but I reminded myself of my pledge and asked her what the surgery had been. She proceeded to tell me the story of the discovery of her dog’s cancer, surgery and recovery. I was glad I listened and she seemed glad of a chance to tell the story. We left each other smiling.
And that is #1 on my list. Small, but a beginning offered to me by the universe to see if I really meant it. I do believe that truly listening to someone is an act of kindness and I took an action that I normally wouldn’t necessarily have taken in listening to her instead of trotting on my way. What will your first act be?

Well, my first act was to buy coffee for the woman in line behind me at the Starbuck’s Drive Thru today and I can’t tell you how happy it made me to see her smiling and waving once she became aware of what I’d done. I’m looking forward to the next 26 acts. Will you join me?

I think I’ll make these Palmiers for my lonely, elderly neighbor ladies tomorrow.


Recipe Type: Breakfast, Dessert, Snack
Author: A Passionate Plate
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 20
These freeze very well and are best served warm, right out of the oven.
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 sheet puff pastry, defrosted
  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F.
  2. Stir together the sugar, cinnamon and salt and sprinkle 1/2 cup on a cutting board or clean countertop.
  3. Unfold the puff pastry and sprinkle the top with the remaining sugar mixture.
  4. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out into a 13″ square (pressing the sugar mixture in as you go).
  5. Now fold it up: start by folding each side in halfway to the middle. Fold, again, so both folds meet at the center line. Now, fold one side on top of the other so you have a total of six layers.
  6. Slice the dough into 3/8″ slices and lay cut-side up on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.
  7. Either bake the cookies for 6-8 minutes per side, or place the sheet in the freezer until they are solid enough to place in a bag and freeze for later.



Slow Cooker Tuscan White Bean Soup


Oh, yeah!!! I’m LOVING my new slow-cooker. It’s a lil’ like magic. I’m not lazy, but sometimes I just don’t want to spend an hour in the kitchen getting dinner ready – especially this time of year. There are lights to put up, a tree to decorate, a house to decorate… Not to mention gifts to buy, parties to plan and parties to prepare for (you DID see the post about the cookie decorating party, yes?!). Sorry! I don’t mean to stress you out. I mean to provide you with an awesome solution to dinner tomorrow night!

Start by soaking a pound of cannellini beans in water overnight (easy-peasy!). Tomorrow morning, prep some aromatics (pancetta, onions, garlic), then dump them into the slow cooker with the drained beans and some seasoning and voila! – Dinner is served! Seriously, it’s that easy to make this delicious Tuscan White Bean Soup. Add a little bread, and wine…yummy!

Don’t forget to enter to win our December Cookbook Giveaway – Slow Cooker Revolution!

Slow Cooker Tuscan White Bean Soup

Recipe Type: Soup
Author: Cook’s Illustrated adapted by A Passionate Plate
I like to add a bouillon cube, or two, to pump up the flavor. You can use vegetable or chicken bouillon, but either one will make the flavor much richer and fuller.
  • 1 pound dried cannellini beans (2 1/4 cups)
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 6 ounces pancetta, minced
  • 3 medium onions, minced
  • 8 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 8 teaspoons)
  • Salt
  • 3 cups water
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1-2 bouillon cubes (vegetable or chicken)
  • 1 Parmesan cheese rind (optional)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • Ground black pepper
  • Grated Parmesan cheese (for serving, optional)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (for serving, optional)
  1. The night before, pick over, rinse and soak the cannellini beans in water (enough water to just cover the beans in a bowl or stockpot).
  2. Heat the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add the pancetta and cook until golden, about 10 minutes. Stir in the onions, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook until the onions are softened and lightly browned, 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. Transfer the pancetta and onion mixture to the slow cooker insert and stir in the water, broth, beans, Parmesan rind (if using), bay leaves, and pepper flakes until evenly combined. Cover and cook on low until the beans are tender, 10 to 12 hours. (Alternatively, cover and cook on high for 8 to 9 hours.)
  4. Add the rosemary sprig, cover, and continue to cook until lightly fragrant, about 15 minutes longer. Remove and discard the bay leaves, rosemary, and Parmesan rind (if using). Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste, and serve, sprinkling individual portions with the Parmesan and olive oil (if desired).


Food, Friends, Frosting, Fun. Cookie Party 2012


Last night we hosted our 5th annual cookie decorating party at Joy’s house. As usual, we found ourselves mesmerized by the simple task of frosting sugar cookies. This year it seemed like we all needed an edible art project more than ever. It’s been exceptionally gloomy here in Seattle for the last several weeks and all of our work schedules have been slightly out of control. What a wonderful way to unwind on a weeknight! Food, friends, frosting, fun.
 Sandra was the clear winner for creativity…her bathing beauties were my favorite.

Our white elephant exchange included some real “winners”, too, including a corn roaster, a turkey stuffing basket, and a bottle of Marilyn Merlot wine. Laughs all around. 🙂

Are you planning a cookie decorating party? We’ve got tips and recipes here:

How to Host a Cookie Decorating Party
Betty Crocker’s Sugar Cookies
Royal Icing 

Fig & Blue Cheese Savories


At our Christmas Cookie Decorating Party last night, we all brought an hors d’oeuvre to share. As soon as I tasted these Fig & Blue Cheese Savories, I knew the recipe would be going on A Passionate Plate. What a perfect combination of flavors.

These treats look like little thumb print cookies filled with raspberry jam, but they are actually a savory blue cheese cracker filled with fig preserves. And let me just say that they are OH SO TASTY!

Thanks, Lisa, for making these delicious treats and for passing along the recipe, which came from Epicurious.

Fig & Blue Cheese Savories

Recipe Type: Appetizer
Author: Epicurious
Serves: 36 bite sized appetizers
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 8 Tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 oz. blue cheese, crumbled
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • About 3 Tbsp. fig preserves
  1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Place the flour, butter, blue cheese, and a few grinds of black pepper in the bowl of a food processor and process until the dough just comes together and starts to form a ball.
  3. Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times to pull it together. Then roll out to a 1/8-inch-thick circle with a floured rolling pin. Cut rounds out of the dough with a floured 1-inch round cutter and transfer to the parchment-lined baking sheet. Reroll the scraps (no more than once) and cut more rounds.
  4. Using the back of a rounded 1/2-teaspoon measure or your knuckle, make an indentation in the center of each dough round.
  5. Spoon about 1/4 teaspoon of the fig preserves into each indentation, using your finger to push the preserves as best as possible into the indentation.
  6. Bake until the preserves are bubbling and the pastry is light golden on the bottom, 10 to 12 minutes.
  7. Let cool on the baking sheet for at least 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Butternut Squash, Blue Cheese & Sage Crostini


These Butternut Squash, Blue Cheese & Sage Crostini were a big hit at our cookie decorating party. This simple-to-prepare vegetarian appetizer pairs sweet, nutty, roasted squash with a savory blend of ricotta & blue cheese. Lemon zest gives each bite a pop of fresh flavor and fried sage add a little holiday spirit. You can prep all of the ingredients in advance and assembling the crostini only takes  few minutes.

If you’ve never fried sage leaves before, here is a video to show you how it’s done.


Butternut Squash, Blue Cheese & Sage Crostini

Recipe Type: Appetizer
Author: A Passionate Plate
Serves: 24 crostini
  • 2 cups butternut squash, cut into medium dice
  • 4 Tbsp. olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup blue cheese
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon zest
  • 24 sage leaves
  • salt & pepper
  • 24 slices soft baguette
  1. Preheat oven to 425°.
  2. Place the diced butternut squash in a bowl and toss with 2 Tbsp. olive oil and the brown sugar. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  3. Spread the squash out evenly on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake until the squash is tender and slightly caramelized, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature.
  4. Meanwhile, combine the ricotta cheese and blue cheese in a bowl and mix well. Set aside.
  5. Heat the remaining 2 Tbsp. olive oil over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add the sage leaves and cook just until they crisp – about 30 seconds. Remove leaves to a paper towel to cool.
  6. NOTE: The squash, cheese, and sage leaves can all be prepared a day in advance. Store the squash and cheese in the refrigerator and keep the sage leaves covered at room temperature.
  7. About 1/2 hour before assembling, remove the squash and cheese from the refrigerator.
  8. To assemble, spread each piece of baguette with cheese, sprinkle on a little lemon zest, top with the squash, drizzle with a little additional olive oil and top with a sage leaf.



Betty Crocker’s Candy Cane Cookies


I loved reading Joy’s Frozen Frangos post on Saturday! It made me think about what a perfectionist my own dad was when it came to the Christmas tree. He was so particular about having a symmetrical tree that he would actually drill holes in the trunk so he could re-attach branches to hide any bare spots. I grew up thinking everyone did that, but I have yet to hear about anyone else who used this particular method.  Have you?

Joy’s post also got me in the mood for a little holiday baking which meant it was time to pull out Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book. When we were growing up, my sister and I would work our way through Betty Cocker’s Cooky Book, looking at the pictures and trying to decide which cookies we should bake.

Candy Cane Cookies were always a favorite. The picture in the cook book looked so enticing and making them was kind of like working with Play-Doh, with the added benefit that we could actually eat the dough – so of course we always put Candy Cane Cookies on our list.

It’s actually a very simple recipe…

Make a sugar cookie dough and use food coloring to tint half of it red. Roll out a teaspoon of dough in each color into a 4 inch rope. Press the two colors together and twist into a candy cane. Fresh from the oven, sprinkle the cookies with crushed candy cane and granulated sugar. That’s it.

Unlike a lot of rolled doughs, this one does not need to be refrigerated first, but you will need a good hour for this project because rolling out the candy canes does take a bit of time and patience. To get a bright red color in the dough, be sure to use paste or gel food coloring.

Candy Cane Cookies make perfect “dunkers” for coffee or tea and they also make a great garnish to a tall glass of spiked eggnog. Just hang ’em off the side of the glass.

If you don’t own a copy of the classic Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book, I’d recommend one – especially for Christmas cookies.

Happy baking!

Betty Crocker’s Candy Cane Cookies

Recipe Type: Christmas Cookie
Author: Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book
Serves: 3 dozen
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup sifted confectioners sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 tsp. almond extract
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. red food coloring (gel or paste works best)
  • 1/2 cup crushed candy cane
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 375° (350° for convection oven).
  2. Combine butter, shortening, egg, confectioners sugar, almond and vanilla extracts in a mixing bowl and mix to combine thoroughly.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the flour and salt.
  4. Stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture.
  5. Divide the dough in half.
  6. Blend the red food coloring into one half.
  7. Use a 1 tsp. measuring spoon to portion the dough.
  8. Form one cookie at a time by rolling the balls of dough out to make 4″ strips.
  9. Place a red colored strip together with a plain colored strip and lightly press them together, then twist like a rope.
  10. Place on an ungreased baking sheet and curve the top to form the handle of the cane.
  11. Bake about 9 minutes, until the cookies are lightly browned.
  12. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with a mixture of crushed candy cane and granulated sugar.


Frozen Frangos


It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! So much about this holiday is nostalgia, don’t you think? I was just telling some friends last night that my favorite childhood memories were of the way my family celebrated this holiday every year. Dad cussed up a storm while trying to get the lights on the tree just right (so we were sent into the other room to watch tv until Storm Big Al passed through). Mom would invite us back into the living room to “help”* put the ornaments on the tree and once it was looking all beautiful, we would turn down the lights, turn up the Christmas music (Carpenter’s Christmas was always my favorite) and enjoy some cookies and eggnog in front of our gorgeous tree.

*The ornaments we hung always seemed to find their way to better spots after we went to bed.

Another nostalgic memory of my childhood Christmases in Chicago was going to Marshall Field & Co. on State Street to see Santa. This was where we were first introduced to Frangos. I remember watching in awe as huge melting pots of Frangos were stirred with care on the 13th floor of that flagship Marshall Fields store. Funny, I don’t eat Frangos any other time of the year because to me, Frangos = Christmas. The other funny interesting fact is that Frangos were actually first created in Seattle (where I live now) by the Frederick & Nelson department store in 1918. Marshall Fields acquired Frederick & Nelson and introduced their Frangos in 1929.  So, my friends here in Seattle have similar nostalgic memories of Frangos at Frederick & Nelson and later, The Bon Marche.

Originally, the Frango was a frozen dessert. One of my grandma’s closest friends figured out how to replicate them and brought these delicious treats to my wedding shower in December, 1990. She was kind enough to share her recipe with me and I still hold her original recipe card near and dear to my heart. Now, I can enjoy this nostalgic treat at home no matter who owns the rights to the Frango brand. Marg’s recipe called for 4 eggs, but since this recipe is not cooked, I’ve updated it and made it safer by using pasteurized eggs.

Frozen Frangos definitely = Christmas! EnJOY!

Frozen Frangos

Recipe Type: Dessert
Author: A Passionate Plate and Marg Thomas
Prep time:
Total time:
Serves: 48
These can be made with or without the crust – they are delicious either way, but they should be made in small portions since they are so rich.
  • 1 cup crushed vanilla wafers
  • 3 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 cups sifted powdered sugar
  • 4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, melted
  • 1/2 cup pasteurized liquid eggs
  • 1 tsp. peppermint extract, or more, to taste
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup crushed peppermint candies, for garnish
  1. Stir together the vanilla wafers and the butter. Press about 2 tsp. of crumb mixture into the bottom of 48 mini muffin liners.
  2. Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the chocolate, eggs, and extracts and blend well.
  4. Scoop about 2 Tbsp. of chocolate into each cup, top with crushed peppermint candy and freeze.


Seattle Fish Company


We thought it was time to share a secret with you. A great place for fish and chips you’ve probably never heard of… unless you live in West Seattle.

Come to Seattle! When you do, you should definitely go to the Pike Place Market, ride the ferris wheel and walk the waterfront. Don’t forget to see where the movies were filmed: Singles, Sleepless in Seattle, Disclosure, The Ring, 50/50…. but before you stop in for fish and chips on the Seattle waterfront, we’d like to make a suggestion… head across the water to the Seattle Fish Company!

A quick water taxi ride from the Seattle waterfront will get you to our neighborhood, beautiful West Seattle. Here you can enjoy a five mile walk along Alki Beach (it’s where the Denny party founded Seattle before they moved across Elliott Bay to what is now Downtown Seattle). Grab a cup of coffee at Starbucks (yes! the locals definitely do this) and make your way up the hill on a free water taxi shuttle to The Junction, the “downtown” of West Seattle.

Take a short stroll northbound on California Avenue (now you are truly walking among the locals) to Jon Daniels’ Seattle Fish Company. THIS is the place for the freshest, crispiest, tastiest hand-breaded fish and chips in Seattle.

Seattle Fish Company, all decorated for the holidays.

Seattle is surrounded by waters that provide the most delicious fish in the country, and at the Seattle Fish Company you can pick out your fish from the case to take home or watch them fry it up “to order”. Cod, Halibut, Salmon, Oyster Po Boys, Dungeness Crab, Clam Chowder, Salmon Cakes, Lobster Clubs…they do it all (in season) and it’s all ah-maz-ing! The Seattle Fish Company also smokes their own salmon using a recipe passed down from Jon’s dad, who was a fishing legend in Southeast Alaska back in the day. And, they ship to retail and wholesale customers all over the country.

These fish have NOT been thrown to tourists. That’s one more reason why we love the Seattle Fish Company.

As if all that fresh fish was not enough, you can also choose from a wonderful selection of local wines and beers to compliment your meal. Sit in the window, enjoy those tasty french fries and watch the rain fall. Now you’re eating like a West Seattle local. If you’re really lucky you might get a “sun break” for your trip back across the bay.

Seattle Fish Company on Urbanspoon

Slow-Cooker Weeknight Chili


People often ask me how Mary and I work together. “Do you have meetings to plan your posts? Do you have everything on a shared calendar? Do you get along?” The answer to all of those is “YES!”. Listen. We’re not totally organized and we don’t always stick to our plan. We try new things and if they aren’t “post-worthy” we scramble to find something else to share with you (or we skip a post). And, we definitely get along. We’ve been friends for 26 years and somehow we just get each other. A little give and take, ebb and flow, whatever you call it: that’s how to make a friendship last a lifetime.

Here’s an example of how we get each other.  Mary invited me to dinner the other night and as I was walking to my car she suggested a contest post with a calendar/organizer as the prize. “Sounds great,” I replied. Well, as Mary was working on our December Cookbook Giveaway post, I was completely unaware that she had taken a different direction and chosen to give away a slow-cooker cookbook. Here’s the crazy part: I was sitting in my living room, searching for slow-cooker recipes at the Cook’s Illustrated website for easy weeknight dinners to share with all of you. Imagine my (pleasant) surprise when I saw her contest post. We just get each other!

So, about slow-cooker recipes and this chili ~ it’s genius! I got up 30 minutes early yesterday and got dinner ready. Seriously, once everything was in the slow-cooker, I didn’t have to think about dinner, again, until it was time to prep the toppings and serve our meal. And it was delish! The meat was so tender, and the flavor from the browned tomato paste and spices was layered and complex. The best part was that the clean-up of the ceramic pot was easy-peasy (really! no scrubbing!).

Serve this Weeknight Chili with:

Corn Souffle
Spinach-Orange Salad 


Slow-Cooker Weeknight Chili

Author: Cook’s Illustrated
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 8-10
Do not use beef any leaner than 85 percent or its texture will turn dry and sandy as it cooks. For a milder chili, use the smaller amount of chipotle chiles; if you like yours spicy, use the full 4 teaspoons. When the chili is done, break up any remaining large pieces of beef with the back of a spoon before serving. I like to serve my chili with sour cream, grated cheddar cheese and tortilla chips.
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 medium onions , minced
  • 6 medium garlic cloves , minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 1/4cup chili powder
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Salt
  • 1(28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 2(15.5-ounce) cans dark red kidney beans , drained and rinsed
  • 1(28-ounce) can tomato puree
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano leaves , or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2-4teaspoons minced chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (see note)
  • 2 pounds 85 percent lean ground beef
  • Ground black pepper
  • 2 limes , cut into wedges
  • sour cream, grated cheddar cheese, tortilla chips for toppings
  1. Heat the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onions, garlic, chili powder, tomato paste, cumin, pepper flakes, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring often, until the onions are softened and lightly browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in the diced tomatoes with their juice, scraping up any browned bits.
  2. Transfer the mixture to the slow cooker and stir in the beans, tomato puree, soy sauce, oregano, sugar, and chipotle until evenly combined. Season the meat with salt and pepper and stir it into the slow cooker, breaking up any larger pieces. Cover and cook, either on low or high, until meat is tender and the chili is flavorful, 8 to 9 hours on low or 5 to 6 hours on high.
  3. Let the chili settle for 5 minutes, then gently tilt the slow cooker and remove as much fat as possible from the surface using a large spoon. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with the lime wedges and other toppings.


Easy Chicken Marsala


We had some friends over on Saturday and I wanted to make something really delicious that wasn’t too complicated or labor intensive. My menu: Chicken Marsala served with a side of cavatappi pasta tossed with pesto, hazelnuts & gorgonzola, and a big bowl of Canlis’ Special Salad. Pefect! My friend, Anne, gave me the biggest compliment when she asked if she could take home the leftover chicken. Ah, success!

I found this easy recipe on the beautiful blog, savorysweetlife.com. I changed the process slightly, doubled the mushrooms and added a bit more cream.

Easy Chicken Marsala can be prepared in under a half hour. The only small bit of work is pounding the sliced chicken into cutlets. To skip this step, you could substitute chicken tenders for the chicken breast, or ask your butcher to prepare the cutlets for you.

Saturday night’s dinner was so yummy that I decided to make Chicken Marsala again last night and now I will be the one enjoying the leftovers.


Easy Chicken Marsala

Recipe Type: Chicken Entree
Author: A Passionate Plate, adapted from savorysweetlife.com
Serves: 4
This Chicken Marsala is easy to make but rich, flavorful, and completely satisfying. A side of pasta tossed with pesto or red sauce makes a good accompaniment.
  • 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1lb. sliced mushrooms (approximately 4 cups)
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 cup sweet Marsala wine
  • 1/4 cup sherry or dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  1. Carefully cut each chicken breast lengthwise into two pieces.
  2. Place the chicken between two pieces of plastic wrap or parchment paper and pound each one with a mallet or meat tenderizer until the pieces are approximately 1/4 inch thick.
  3. Place the flour in a shallow pan. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and then dredge it in the flour to coat well.
  4. In a large sauté pan, heat the vegetable oil over medium high heat.
  5. When the oil is hot, add the chicken and cook until it is fully cooked and golden brown – about 3 to 4 minutes per side.
  6. Remove the chicken to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm.
  7. Wipe the excess oil out of the pan with paper towels.
  8. Reduce the heat to medium and add the butter. When the butter is melted, add the sliced mushrooms and sauté them for 2 to 3 minutes.
  9. Season the mushrooms with salt and pepper, then add the marsala, sherry, cream and chicken stock.
  10. Bring the sauce to a boil and let it reduce for about 3 minutes. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.
  11. Pour the mushrooms and sauce over the chicken.
  12. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve.


Our December Cookbook Giveaway!



THIS CONTEST IS CLOSED. A big congratulations to TC! We’ll be sending you a copy of Slow Cooker Revolution by America’s Test Kitchen.

Okay, we know it’s not a Powerball jackpot, but our December giveaway is pretty darn awesome… we’re giving away a copy of Slow Cooker Revolution, the cookbook filled with the best slow cooker recipes developed by America’s Test Kitchen.

To enter this giveaway, all you need to do is respond to this post by answering the following question:

What do you like to cook in a slow cooker?

How easy is that?? We’ll pick a winner randomly from all entries on December 21st (it’ll be a nice way to brighten up the darkest day of the year).

Give your friends a chance to win, too, and share this post on your Facebook page!

Good luck, everyone!


Girls On The Run 5-K and Yeasted Waffles


Jeanne, Sandra, and me with our #1 runner, Nia!

We LOVE Girls On The Run and we’re so proud of the 400+ 3rd through 5th graders who completed the Puget Sound Girls On The Run 5-K race yesterday!

Girls On The Run is a positive youth development program that teaches self-respect and healthy lifestyles to pre-teen girls. The curriculum addresses many aspects of girls’ development – their physical, emotional, mental and social well-being. Lessons provide girls with the tools they need to make positive decisions and to avoid risky adolescent behaviors.

An important part of the program is exercise. At the end of a 10-week program, the girls participate in a 5-K run.  Volunteers team up with the girls as “running buddies” to help them complete the 3 mile event – which is a BIG DEAL for many of these kids. Parents and friends can participate, too.

Over 400 girls participated in the Puget Sound Girls On The Run 5-K this weekend.

This year I decided to join in the fun and run with my friends, Jeanne and Sandra, and Sandra’s amazing daughter, Nia. Joy promised to come out and cheer us on and Sandra offered to host a post-race celebration brunch.

Then, Joy found out her niece, Grace, was going to be running, too!

“I have an announcement to make! I will be running my first 5-K race on December 1st and I would like all of you to come and watch me!”

Go, Grace!!!

Grace with her running “buddy” heading toward the finish line!

We looped through Seward Park and along Lake Washington. Some of the girls finished the race easily – running the entire way – while others relied on their running buddies’ encouraging words for motivation. One way or another, everyone made it across the finish line.

It was wonderful to be a part of such an amazing event where every girl is #1.

Seeing Grace’s happy face at the finish summed it all up.

Girl Power!!!

We are so proud of you, Grace!

After the race we headed over to Sandra’s house for a beautiful brunch: Prickly pears and grapes, coffee with egg nog, and delicious “yeasted” waffles made with whole wheat flour and topped with homemade preserves, yogurt and real maple syrup.

What a perfect way to start the weekend!

Girls On The Run currently operates programs in 200 cities around the United States. There are plenty of opportunities to volunteer – as a coach, a running buddy, or a supporter on the day of a run. You can learn more about Girls On The Run here.

The waffles Sandra made were so good I just had to get the recipe. It’s from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone book. Yeast is the key ingredient, giving the waffles a slightly nutty flavor and a light and fluffy texture. This recipe makes delicious pancakes, too, and the batter will store for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator.

Perfect girl power food. Thanks, Sandra!

Yeasted Waffles and Pancakes

Recipe Type: Breakfast
Author: Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone cookbook
Before the invention of baking powder, yeast was commonly used to make waffles and pancakes. Plan ahead for this recipe because the yeast, flour and milk need to sit overnight. The batter keeps well in the refrigerator for several days.
  • 2 1/2 tsp. or 1 package dry active yeast
  • 1 sp. sugar
  • 2 cups lukewarm milk
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat, quinoa, toasted barley or other flour
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 5 Tbsp. canola oil or melted butter
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 /2 tsp. baking soda
  1. In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast into 1/4 cup of warm water and stir in the sugar. Let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.
  2. Put the warm milk and salt in a large bowl, then add the yeast mixture and whisk in the flours.
  3. Cover and refrigerate overnight if the weather is warm or elave out on the counter if it’s cool.
  4. Next morning, add the sugar, oil, eggs and soda.
  5. Cook according to your waffle iron’s instruction or on a preheated griddle.

Shallot Dijon Vinaigrette



Shallot Dijon Vinaigrette


Shallot Dijon Vinaigrette

Recipe Type: Dressing
Author: Pike Place Market Recipes by Jess Thompson
Serves: 8
This is the Salad Verte dressing from Le Pichet.
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (from 3 oranges)
  • 1 small shallot, roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup roasted whole hazelnuts
  • 1/2 cup sherry vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
  • 1/2 cup soy or canola oil
  1. In a small saucepan, bring orange juice to a simmer over medium heat.  Cook until the juice has reduced to about 1/2 cup, then cool.
  2. Just before serving, combine the cooled juice, shallot, 1/3 cup whole hazelnuts, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper (to taste) in a blender and add oil in a slow, steady stream as mixture blends.  You want the consistency of heavy cream. Be careful not to over mix as the texture will break if it gets too warm.
  3. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper, if needed.


Canlis’ Special Salad


Oh, my! I’m soooo disappointed in the way Canlis’ Special Salad was portrayed in last night’s episode of Top Chef: Seattle. First of all, I really did want to get this post done before they filmed at Canlis (but I don’t have any connections with the production team to let me know what is featured in each episode). Second, the way the salad was prepared and presented was a disgrace. It doesn’t matter that she’d never tasted the salad before. What was Chrissy thinking putting all of that dressing on the untrimmed (ugly) leaves of romaine? That salad just looked S-A-D! “I can’t get sent home on something as stupid as a salad,” she whined. Argh!

It’s not a stupid salad. A well-known and long-loved starter at an iconic restaurant, this salad is similar to a Caesar salad (but SO much better). The fresh mint and oregano with the crunchy bacon… yummy! From the Canlis website: “Of all the recipes requested, none is more cherished than the Canlis Salad. Taught to him by his Lebanese mother, the Canlis salad was perfected by Peter Canlis and introduced to the world on opening night, December 11, 1950. Served in homes and restaurants around the world, the recipe, as it appears below, is one of our family’s prized possessions.

In the 1950’s, Canlis created these souvenir recipe cards for their guests (this one was given to me by my grandma Izzy).

I’m sure you’ll agree that a cold, crisp, perfectly dressed salad with lots of delicious condiments is a sign of an amazing meal to follow. I’ve made this salad for years and I’m thrilled to have this opportunity to share the recipe with you today (and give this salad the recognition it deserves). EnJOY!

If you’d like to read more about the iconic Canlis restaurant and it’s connection to President Teddy Roosevelt, check out their wonderful website here.

Rub wooden bowl with garlic, layer in tomatoes, lettuce & condiments. Dress lightly. Add croutons. Toss and enJOY!

Canlis’ Special Salad

Recipe Type: Salad
Author: Peter Canlis
Serves: 4-6
I’ve made a few adjustments the original recipe: I put the mint and oregano directly into the salad (rather than the dressing) for a fresher flavor, and I use a lot more mint (Padma would agree!)
  • 2 heads Romaine
  • 1/4 tsp. oregano
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint
  • 2 peeled tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onion
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Romano cheese
  • 1 lb. rendered finely chopped bacon
  • 1 cup croutons
  • 6 Tbsp. Olive Oil + 2 Tbsp. for the bowl
  • 5 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 1 coddled egg
  • 1 clove garlic
  • salt
  1. Into a large bowl (wooden) pour approximately 2 Tbsp. of good imported olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and rub firmly with a large clove of garlic. (The oil will act as a lubricant and the salt as an abrasive). Remove garlic and in the bottom of the bowl first place the tomatoes cut into eighths, add Romaine, sliced into 1″ strips. You may add other salad vegetables if you choose, but remember to put the heavy vegetables in first with Romaine on top. Add condiments (onions, cheese, bacon, croutons, herbs).
  2. Dressing: Into a bowl pour the olive oil, lemon juice and pepper. Add coddled egg (place the egg in gently simmering water for 1 minute – this unwinds the proteins for better emulsification) and whisk vigorously.
  3. When ready to serve, pour dressing over salad. Add croutons last. Toss generously.



And the winner is…


Before I tell you who won our latest “Top Chef Season 10: Seattle” Giveaway, I hope you’ll watch this fun little movie I shot at Seattle’s Pike Place Market today. You’ll see the World Famous Pike Place Fish Market, lots of gorgeous produce, Market Spice (where I bought some tasty goodies for our winner), the Gum Wall (dis-gust-ing!, but iconic), the original Starbucks store and, of course, the Public Market Farmer’s Market sign. Not too bad for my first video attempt, huh?

Anyway, thanks so much to everyone who entered our giveaway this month! We loved reading all of your entries and even learned about a few new foodie shows we’ll need to add to the DVR list. Once again, we selected the winner randomly from all of the entries.

Congratulations to Cecily Metzger who pays homage to a classic. “The foodie show that got me interested in cooking was The Galloping Gourmet, which featured my favorite chef, Graham Kerr. Brilliance, humor, and delicious food. The perfect combination.” We agree, Cecily. Where would we be today without such pioneers as Graham Kerr?

We’ll be sending Cecily a wonderful assortment of goodies from Market Spice including: Mexican Vanilla, Market Spice Tea, Market Spice Spiced Cider Mix, Market Spice Seafood Seasoning Rub (Salt Free) and a teeny tiny Good Grate (perfect for grating fresh nutmeg on top of your holiday eggnog). EnJOY, Cecily!

Beecher’s Cheese, The Gum Wall, The Original Starbuck’s Coffee, and Pike Place Creamery


Field Trip: Vashon Island


Joy and I took another foodie field trip on Sunday – this time to beautiful Vashon Island for some wine, cheese, and charcuterie.

Vashon is just a quick 15 minute ferry ride from where we live in West Seattle, but it feels like a world away. The island is the size of Manhattan, but with less than 15,000 residents, it’s a quiet, rural oasis only accesible by ferry or private boat. It’s really beautiful – with rolling hills, bucolic farms, quiet beaches, and a wonderful, laid-back, artsy, hippy vibe I just love.

Our first stop – breakfast at The Hardware Store. This popular island restaurant is located in Vashon’s oldest commercial building – the Vashon Hardware Store, which originally opened in 1890. Now on the National Historic Registry, the building has been converted into a warm and cozy restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week.

We started out with a couple of Bloody Marys which were nice and spicy with lots of pickled goodies. Cheers! Next, we split an entree: a Joe’s Special with crispy breakfast potatoes and a big, fluffy biscuit. Yummy.

Just as we finished our meal, our server offered us a house-made donut… an eggy, airy creation covered with a sticky sweet glaze. I actually think it was a deep fried profiterole. Nothing wrong with that! It was just what we needed before heading off to meet Kurt Timmermiester at Kurtwood Farms.

Over the course of several years, former Seattle retaurant owner, Kurt Timmermiester, has transformed a historic Vashon Island homestead into a real working farm and transformed himself into a farmer and artisan cheese maker. He’s even written a book about it. Growing a Farmer: How I Learned to Live Off the Land was published by Norton last year. (Congratulations, Kurt!)

The property is complete with fruit trees, beehives, vegetables, berries, a dog named Daisy, a few hogs and, most importantly, beautiful Jersey cows.

But first, a little bit more about the house. Kurt’s home was built in 1883 and is believed to be the last remaining log-style building from Vashon’s pioneer period. It has been designated a King County Historic Landmark and it really gives the farm a special feeling.

Daisy led us into the kitchen.

As Joy and I were admiring the log house, Kurt’s dog, Daisy, came up to say hello, and led us over to the adjacent kitchen building where Kurt was busy making cheese.

Kurt hand-crafts two cheeses from his Jersey cows’ milk – Dinah’s Cheese which is a bloomy rind cheese made in the Camembert-style, and Flora’s Cheese, a curdy, salty cheese similar to feta.


In the Seattle area, you can find Kurtwood Farms Cheese at Metropolitan Market, Whole Foods, PCC, Picnic, Calf & Kid, Delaurentis, The Cheese Cellar, and a few other specialty stores. Kurt also ships to select retailers in New York, Portland, and San Francisco.

(Kurt does not sell cheese at the farm and visits are by appointment only, but you can learn more about Kurt, the farm, the book and the cheese on his website.)

Next, it was time to meet the Jersey cows. Eight mama cows live on the farm. There are two new babies and, according to Kurt, a few more calves on the way.

 These two girls were so adorable! Joy and I could have stayed in the barn with them all day. We finally managed to say goodbye to the cutest calves ever and headed out back to see the big girls.

From what we could tell, it’s a pretty good life at Kurtwood Farms. And everybody knows that happy cows make the best cheese.

Okay, just a few more pictures from the farm… these critters were all so cute!

The next stop was Sea Breeze Farm’s La Boucherie – a farm-to-table restaurant where the motto is: We farm it, raise it, harvest it, clean it, process it, cook it and serve it.

All of the meat, eggs, and dairy products used at La Boucherie come from Sea Breeze Farm. Produce is sourced on the island, and if something is not available, the owners hop over to the Ballard Farmers Market to get what they need. Sea Breeze Farm makes their own wine and the bread they serve comes from Vashon’s own Bill Freeze (a.k.a Bill the Baker).

Just about everything in our meal, except perhaps the salt and pepper, was locally sourced. Amazing. And wonderful! We felt like we were eating lunch at a small cafe in rural France.

Our lunch: Spiced Winter Squash (pink banana squash) Soup followed by the Charcuterie Plate. Delicious food made from scratch, with love. It just tastes better.

Our final stop on the island was Palouse Winery – conveniently located less than 1/2 mile from the ferry dock.  At Palouse Winery, grapes are sourced from Washington’s premiere wine grape growing regions, but the entire wine making process is done on site, from the crush to the bottling and sale.

We each paid the $10 tasting fee and enjoyed 7 selections poured for us by the winery’s owner, Linda. Our favorite was the “Aah Syrah” and yes, we came home with a bottle.

Then it was time to head back to the ferry.

On the  way home we were surrounded by cars topped with fresh-cut Christmas trees from Vashon’s u-cut tree farms. If you live in Seattle and have never done it, taking the ferry to Vashon in search of the perfect Christmas tree is a fun way to spend the afternoon. There are so many more things to do on Vashon… we’ll need to make another trip over to the island soon. 🙂

Foodie Gifts for the Holidays


Posted by our Guest Contributor, Christina ConradYou can read more from Christina on her blog: www. foodiewithalife.com.

The holidays are upon us, the shopping bags are piled in the back of the car, winter coats are on and Christmas lights twinkle on downtown streets. It’s my favorite time of year! When I was little it was all about the presents.  I’d wake up at 5am and try to get my parents up to open gifts.

“It’s too early, wait until 6,” my mom would say and roll over.

I would shuffle back down the hall of our tiny apartment, bypassing my bedroom and on to the living room. I’d lie awake under the Christmas tree looking up at the lights until it was time.  I couldn’t help it; there was a pit of excitement in my stomach. Between the illuminating lights and boxes with glittering paper there was no possibility of sleep.

It’s different now.  I’m not sure when it happened.  My dad asked me for a Christmas list and I really had to think about it.  What did I need?  Nothing really.  A Costco sized bundle of toilet paper would be awesome – maybe a new shower curtain…  what had happened to me?  Socks are actually exciting now!  To be honest all I want for Christmas is time with my friends, laughter with my family and to end the night under a warm blanket with my honey.

There’s an energy that accompanies the holidays. A celebration of bustling exuberance that feels good in your heart. It’s true: the best part about the holidays is giving.  I love shopping for others to pick out something silly just because I know (hope) my closest and dearest people will appreciate it.

So en lieu of the festive spirit, I’ve compiled a list and insider tips for Foodie gift giving.  Some ideas add a Do-It-Yourself element that is anything but store bought.  Also, many of the vendors and services are Seattle based, but certainly translatable to another city.

Fancy Salt: Large flake salt is the perfect finishing touch to any homemade dish, sweet or savory.  It feels really gourmet but doesn’t take any effort (which I love!). Choose any type you like (Cypress, Himalayan Pink, Black Truffle, Black Lava) and buy it in bulk at nicer grocery stores or spice markets. You can pick up really cute spice jars at World Market, fill it with 2oz of salt and tie a bow around the top. The whole thing will cost less than $5.00. www.marketspice.com

Balsamic Vinegar: The holidays are about buying things for people that they would never buy for themselves, like expensive soap or good foot cream. Good balsamic vinegar should be sweet and syrupy. Last year I gave bottles tied with a recipe for divine marinated mushrooms. You can print the recipe my site, paste it to pretty paper, and you’ve got a wonderful gourmet gift. Here are my favorite sources for balsamic vinegar:

1. Town & Country Markets have a fabulous private label balsamic in their deli department. Visit one of their locations to purchase.

2. A California favorite – Napa Valley Naturals: Cherry Wood Aged Grand Reserve.

3. West Seattle based company turned Pacific Place store front, 11 Olives has a great variety of balsamic vinegar.

Mixing Bowls: Never underestimate the power of usable gifts! Eddie’s mom gave me great Portuguese ceramic bowls last year and I use them all the time. You can get a fabulous deal on nice kitchen accessories at TJ Maxx or Marshall’s.

Mini Food Processor: My friend recently told me that if a recipe calls for a food processor it’s a deal-breaker.  “It just seems like a hassle!” I have a mini-sized one that is easy to whip in and out of the cabinets and easily thrown into the dishwasher. It’s probably dirty more than it’s clean. Even if someone has a shiny full-sized Cuisinart, a little one makes pesto and homemade dressings easy and accessible.

CSA membership: One of the healthiest things I’ve done this year is subscribe to a Community Supported Agriculture service. Every other week I get a bin of organic farm-fresh veggies delivered to my door and we are eating more vegetables now than ever before. The gift of good health is invaluable! I use New Roots Organics and can customize, cancel or ‘vacation’ the box as needed. There are CSA’s for meat and even baked goods!  Links:

Bakery: Sign-up for a holiday delivery when your family’s in town, send someone a box of baked treats or utilize their service year round. www.troubadourbaker.com

Meat: Preorder organic beef, lamb, chicken or pork and buy in bulk. There are multiple pick-up locations around Seattle. Crown S Ranch also offers a Haycation where you stay on the farm, learn about sustainable farming practices and help with the animals.   www.crown-s-ranch.com

Produce: New Roots Organics offer organic seasonal produce (fruit and veggies) delivered to your door. Customize your order online if needed, vacation a delivery, and get recipe ideas. www.newrootsorganics.com

Turkey Chowder


Well, you had to know this was coming: left-over turkey recipes. Mary made some ah-maz-ing looking Curry Turkey Salad Sliders today and I made Turkey Chowder. As far as I’m concerned, the meal made with the left-overs from Thanksgiving is so much better because it is SO much easier. You know what I mean, right? You spend all that time planning, shopping, prepping, planning some more, cooking, shuffling things around to make more space in the oven…when you finally sit down to the meal you are too exhausted to enjoy it.

Well, I promise, you will enjoy this Turkey Chowder. It is simple and fairly light. It uses all of the ingredients you already have on hand from your Thanksgiving meal (I actually diced extra carrot, celery and onion on Thursday and set it aside for making chowder on Friday). The best part is that comforting and satisfying feeling you get when you sit down with a steaming bowl of deliciousness – ahhhhhhh… EnJOY!

Turkey Chowder

Recipe Type: Soup
Cuisine: American
Author: A Passionate Plate
Serves: 10-12
  • 3 cups each diced carrot, celery, onion and potato
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • 1 lb. bag frozen corn
  • 4 cups cooked turkey, diced
  • 3 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 can evaporated skim milk
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh thyme, chopped
  1. In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Stir in the carrot, celery, onion and potato and cook until tender, about 4 minutes.
  2. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and cook, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes, or until the flour is nice and golden brown.
  3. Whisk in the chicken stock and bring to a boil.
  4. Stir in the corn, turkey, soy sauce, cheese, milk and pepper. Bring back to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes.
  5. Add the thyme and adjust seasonings, as necessary. Serve immediately or wait until it is cooled off and store in individual portions in the freezer.

Curry Turkey Salad Sliders


Happy post-Thanksgiving eating, everyone. Yes, it’s time  for leftovers and a trip to the gym. 🙂

But first a HUGE congratulations to WSU for wining the Apple Cup yesterday. After 8 straight loses, the season ended on a positive note and it was just what we needed to hold us over until next year. GO COUGS!

Today is another really big college football day with a bunch of major rivalry games happening. We’ll be watching the Oregon vs Oregon State game for sure, and we’ll also be eating these delicious Curry Turkey Salad Sliders – one of my favorite ways to use up leftover Thanksgiving turkey.

How about you? Any turkey leftovers in your fridge?

I talked to Joy earlier and she’s made a Turkey Chowder that sounds amazing. What will you be making?

Curry Turkey Salad Sliders

Recipe Type: Sandwich
Author: A Passionate Plate
Serves: 8 sliders
A great way to use up leftover holiday turkey. If hazelnuts are not available, use another nut of your choice, such as almonds, walnuts or pecans.
  • 1 cup diced turkey
  • 2/3 cup diced Honeycrisp Apple
  • 1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped parsley
  • 1 Tbsp. sweet yellow onion, minced
  • 1/2 cup light mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 to 2 tsp. curry powder (depending on your taste)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 8 slider rolls
  1. Combine the turkey, apple, hazelnuts, celery, parsley and onion in a medium bowl. Toss to combine.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine the mayonnaise, cider vinegar and curry powder. Mix well.
  3. Stir the mayonnaise into the turkey mixture and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Serve on slider rolls with mayonnaise, sliced apples and lettuce if desired.


Product Review: Dijon Mustard


Posted by our Guest Contributor, Christina ConradYou can read more from Christina on her blog: www. foodiewithalife.com.

Dijon mustard is one of the most versatile pantry items in the cupboard.  It adds depth to marinades, low-cal thickness to dressings and spiciness to your ham and cheese.  A smear of Dijon takes you up a notch on the classy scale and that’s where I prefer to live.

I tasted 7 different brands, then compared side-by-side; it was quite interesting how different they tasted!

The winners: Natural Value Organic, Grey Poupon and Ingrehoffer, were all wonderfully different.

The Winner!

The Winner!

Natural Value Organic had an earthy balance and spicy kick without bitterness.  Of all the organic options I tried, this was the best by far.

Grey Poupon is classic for a reason; spicy yet slightly sweet.  Not bitter or over powered by horseradish.

Ingrehoffer has a distinctly German taste.  This was made for piping hot bratwurst with sauerkraut.



Looking for fun recipes to make with Dijon?

Shallot Dijon Vinaigrette
Mustard-Mascarpone Bruscetta



Thanksgiving is here! It is my favorite holiday and I am so thankful. For so much.

And sometimes it almost feels like too much.

Sometimes thoughts run through my head like this…

What if I was born in 1621 – the year of the first Thanksgiving? Would I have even survived? How would I have ever managed without my glasses? I am so near-sighted I can barely see my alarm clock (yep – it’s the one with the giant numbers, too).

So I am so thankful for my glasses. And my contact lenses. And for my husband who bought me the clock with the giant numbers. And for my warm bed. And my home office. And my two cats that keep me company while I sip coffee and work in my bathrobe and my glasses until noon on most days.

What if I had been born in 1848, the year my mom’s family headed west on the Oregon trail? I’d like to think I would have signed right up for that adventure, but then I think about how hard it is for me to even go to the gym on a rainy night. Would I have been brave enough to take that trip?

I am so thankful for my hard-working, adventurous ancestors and for their ambitious journey west. I am thankful for my all wheel drive car and my bike and my comfortable New Balance sneakers and my waterproof boots and my skis. I am thankful for trips on airplanes and rides on motorcycles and paddling in a kayak. Grateful for the Travel Channel and surround sound and Netflix on-demand and Skype. For an airport just 15 minutes away. For the chance to take a journey to the other side of the world and come home two weeks later. I am thankful for my cameras and iMovie and Facebook and for my friends who actually enjoy reliving my adventures.

What if I was born today in Nepal or Uganda or Haiti? Would I get to go to school? Would I get enough to eat? Would I be safe? 

I am thankful for wireless internet in my house. And the six different grocery stores in my neighborhood. Reliable electricity and our ice dispenser. Clean, hot running water and my bath tub. The mail that gets delivered to our house six days a week. The fire department. 911 and ambulances. Free public schools. My dentist. Ibuprofen. Mammograms.

The more I think about it, the more I am absolutely overwhelmed by the abundance in my life… it is truly overflowing with good things – including the beautiful meal I will enjoy later this afternoon.

Joy and I are both so thankful to all of you who have taken time to read one of our posts, try one of our recipes, or share your thoughts with us here on A Passionate Plate. We wish you all a very happy thanksgiving full of delicious food and abundance.

Happy Thanksgiving!

How to Set a Formal Table + Video


Unless you’ve worked in a 5-star restaurant or attended etiquette school, you may not know how to set a formal table or even feel comfortable eating from one.

Well, there is no need to feel intimidated. Setting a formal table is actually not hard at all. Once you understand the basics, you’ll be ready to pull out your best dishes (or borrow some from the neighbors) and host your own 5-star event.


A formal place setting includes all of the utensils required for the entire meal, course by course.

Guests begin eating with the utensils placed on the outside of the setting. At the end of each course, the used dishes and utensils are cleared away, leaving behind the utensils and dishes needed for the remaining courses.

In the illustration above, the table is set for a four course meal: Soup, Salad, Entree, and Dessert. If you plan to serve additional courses, such as an appetizer or a fish course,  you may need to add additional flatware to the table.

The rule for stemware is the same as for utensils. Use a separate glass for each kind of wine or champagne, plus a water glass for each place setting. Traditionally a coffee cup is placed on the table. To save space on a small table, we recommend leaving the coffee cups off the table (unless you are serving brunch). Just bring them to the table when you serve dessert.


Take a look at your menu to determine the number of courses you will be serving and what items you will need for each place setting. Pull out your dishes, silverware, and stemware and count them up. Do you have enough of everything? If not, you may need to borrow some or invest in a few new pieces. (If you are on a budget, be sure to check out stores like Marshall’s and Ross – you will be amazed at the deals you can find on dishes and stemware at these discount stores).


A formal table generally requires a table cloth or placemats. Make sure yours are clean, pressed, and spot free. Use cloth napkins or oversized, good quality paper napkins.


Candles, a beautiful center piece, place cards, and individual salt and pepper shakers all help to create the mood for a formal meal.

Watch this video from Real Simple Real Life to see just how easy it is to set a formal table and bon appetite!

Make Ahead Dinner Rolls


Today it occurred to me that Thanksgiving is less than a week away. At first, when I realized that the BIG Turkey Dinner was quickly approaching I got a little lot anxious. You know the feeling: your mind starts whirling, and you think of a million things that need to get done, and you start to take short, little breaths and feel the need to sit down… I know the feeling well! My solution is to grab my computer and open up a document I created back in 2008 titled, “Thanksgiving Dinner Menu, Shopping List, Recipes and Game Plan”. Ahhhhh… I can breathe a little easier now.

There it is. Everything I need to get organized for the week. Of course, I make small adjustments to the plan each year. This year, I’ve made a BIG change. I’m not insisting on doing it all myself. Yep – I sent out an e-mail inviting our friends and family to the dinner next week and, for the first time ever, I made assignments. John is bringing the wine, and my nieces are in charge of making the Gratitude Jar and place cards. Laurell and George are bringing pie and beer. Rob and Cathy are bringing Mary’s Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes (in a crock pot to save oven space) and Green Beans (that can be warmed on the stove top – again, reserving oven space!). Libby is bringing a pie, too. So, I can cross all of that off my list – yay! – and start planning my grocery list and make-ahead items.

Several years ago, I started making this recipe from Cook’s Illustrated for Make-Ahead Rich and Tender American Dinner Rolls and they are PERFECT! Once again, the folks there have perfected this recipe and I can’t think of a way to improve upon it. The only tricky part is the forming of the rolls, so I’ve taken pictures to go along with the instructions.

Make Ahead Dinner Rolls before proofing

The beauty of this recipe is that I make them (blend, knead, proof, shape, cut and freeze) a week ahead of time. Then, on Thanksgiving, I’ll pull them out of them freezer and set them out on a parchment-lined sheet pan just before I take the turkey out. While the turkey is resting, the rolls will sit out at room temperature. When the carving of the turkey begins, I’ll bake the rolls for about 15 minutes.

What Thanksgiving favorites do you prep ahead of time?


1. Lightly flour work surface, and pat dough into 9-inch square. Fold dough into thirds, folding upper 3 inches down and lower 3 inches up. Pinch together edges to seal.



2. Using the side of your outstretched hand, firmly press an indentation along the length of the dough.



3. Fold and roll upper sealed edge of dough toward center indentation, pressing firmly with your fingertips to seal.

4. Pull the upper edges of the dough down over the thick portion to meet the seam, pressing with your fingertips to seal. Repeat 5 or 6 times. The dough will lengthen and form a taut, narrow cylinder about 17 inches long.

5. Dust with flour, then roll the dough seam-side up and pinch firmly to seal.

6. Press an indentation into the length of the dough along the seam with the side of your open hand. Repeat steps 4 and 5 to form a long, taut cylinder.



7. Gently stretch and roll the dough cylinder until it measures 36 inches long and about 21⁄2 inches wide.

8. Holding the bench scraper at a 45-degree angle to the cylinder, lop off one end. Cut triangular-shaped rolls along dough, alternating the scraper 45-degrees to right and left. You should get 24 rolls.

Ready for the freezer


Make Ahead Dinner Rolls

Recipe Type: Bread
Author: Cook’s Illustrated
Serves: 24 rolls
To ensure the softest, most tender rolls, avoid flouring the work surface during hand kneading; if necessary, flour your hands instead. The flour that you use to dust the work surface during shaping stays on the surface of the dough and is meant to give the rolls a soft, delicate look. The dough is best made in a standing mixer; there is too large a quantity of soft dough for a food processor, and it is difficult to make by hand.
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 1 package rapid-rise yeast
  • 1 large egg, slightly beaten
  • 3 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting work surface
  • 1 1/2 tsp. table salt
  • 8 Tbsp. butter, cut into 8 pieces and softened
  1. Adjust oven rack to low position and heat oven to 200 degrees. Once oven reaches 200 degrees, maintain oven temperature 10 minutes, then turn off oven heat.
  2. Microwave milk and sugar in microwave-safe measuring cup or bowl at full power until warm (about 95 degrees). (Alternatively, heat milk and sugar in small saucepan over medium heat until warm; remove from heat.) Whisk to dissolve sugar. Sprinkle yeast over surface of liquid, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside for 10 minutes to soften yeast. Whisk egg into milk mixture, dissolving yeast.
  3. Combine flour and salt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment; mix on lowest speed to blend, about 15 seconds. With mixer running, add milk mixture in steady stream; mix on low speed until flour is just moistened, about 1 minute. With mixer running, add butter one piece at a time; increase speed to medium and beat until combined and dough is scrappy, about 2 minutes. Replace paddle with dough hook and knead dough until smooth but still sticky, about 4 minutes. Scrape dough out onto work surface. Knead by hand until very smooth and soft but no longer sticky, about 1 minute; do not add more flour. Transfer dough to large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place in warm oven until dough doubles in bulk, about 45 minutes.
  4. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Punch down dough, replace plastic wrap, and let dough rest 5 minutes. Turn dough onto lightly floured work surface and follow illustrations 1 through 8 (above) to shape and cut into triangles. Transfer rolls to baking sheets, then cover each with clean kitchen towels (NOT plastic wrap) and let rise until almost doubled in bulk, 20 to 30 minutes. Be carful not to over-proof. Remove towels and (without pressing on the rolls) wrap baking sheets tightly with greased plastic wrap. Freeze rolls until solid, about 6 hours; transfer to large zipper-lock bag and freeze for up to 1 month.
  5. When ready to bake rolls, adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions; heat oven to 375 degrees. Place frozen rolls on 2 parchment-lined rimmed baking sheets; let stand at room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes. Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes, rotating baking sheets front to back and switching positions from top to bottom halfway through baking time. Transfer rolls immediately to wire rack; cool 5 minutes and serve.

Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes


Mashed potatoes are a Thanksgiving must. If your space in the kitchen is limited, or you have been asked to bring the mashed potatoes to somebody else’s house, or if you just like to be organized and get things prepped ahead of time, here is a tried and true recipe we recommend.

Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes can be made days in advance and kept in the refrigerator or even frozen until you need them. Just reheat in the oven for 50 minutes prior to serving and voila – fluffy, buttery mashed potatoes!

Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes

Recipe Type: Side Dish, Starch, Potatoes
Author: A Passionate Plate
Serves: 10-12
  • 5 lbs. russet style potatoes, peeled and cut into 2″ chunks
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • salt & pepper (white or black) to taste
  • 4 Tbsp. butter
  2. Place the potatoes in a large pot of salted water. Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are tender – approximately 25-30 minutes. (The potatoes should be soft and fully cooked and slightly crumbly, but not falling apart). Drain the potatoes and return them to the pot.
  4. Using a potato masher or a hand-held electric mixer, mash the potatoes with the cream cheese and sour cream until well-blended and fluffy.
  5. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Transfer the potatoes to a lightly buttered 9″ x 13″ casserole dish. If serving immediately, dot with butter and bake at 350 degrees, uncovered, for 20 minutes.
  8. At this point, the potatoes can be refrigerated for several days or even frozen. Wrap the dish very well with plastic wrap until ready to use.
  9. Before serving, bring the potatoes to room temperature for 30 minutes. (If frozen, thaw in the refrigerator overnight first).
  10. Dot with butter, then bake, uncovered, for 50 minutes or until heated through.


Thai Curry Butternut Squash Bisque


Our book group met last night. We read Brave New World Revisited (P.S.) and I have to say, that is the kind of book that book groups were created for. It was so controversial, and thought provoking, and a little disturbing considering it was written in 1932. Of course, many of us had read it in school (my copy was so ragged the pages fell out every time I picked it up), but it was really fun to read it, again, as an adult.

While we had a “meaty” discussion about the book, several in the group don’t eat meat. I think this Thai Curry Butternut Squash Bisque was perfect for the occasion. It was a little bit spicy, and it was warm and comforting on such a dark, cold autumn night.

What great books have you read and discussed lately?

Note: this is not a vegetarian recipe, but the non-meat eaters didn’t mind the chicken stock. If you’d like to keep it vegetarian, simply substitute vegetable stock.

If you like this recipe, you might also like:

Ginger Carrot Soup
Roasted Tomato and Yellow Pepper Soup
Quick White Bean Soup with Rosemary 

Thai Curry Butternut Squash Bisque

Recipe Type: Soup
Cuisine: Thai
Author: A Passionate Plate (adapted from Bon Appetit)
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4
Substitute vegetable stock for the chicken stock if you want to keep this vegetarian.
  • 3 lb. butternut squash
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 large Honeycrisp apple, chopped
  • 2 tsp. Thai Red Curry Paste
  • 32 oz. good quality chicken stock
  • 1-2 chicken bouillon cubes, to taste
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream, half&half, or fat-free half&half
  • Garnish options: sour cream, cilantro, chopped/roasted hazelnuts, honey drizzle, chopped apple…
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Cut the squash in half, lengthwise, and scoop out all of the seeds. Brush the cut surface with olive oil and place cut-side down onto a foil lined baking sheet. Roast for about one hour, or until the flesh is soft all the way through when poked with a fork. Once cool enough to handle, scoop out three cups of squash and save the rest for another use.
  3. In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil and butter until melted. Add the onion, carrot and apple and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in the Thai red curry paste and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  5. Pour in the chicken stock and squash and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer for 1 hour.
  6. Using a stick blender, puree the soup to the desired texture OR working in batches, blend the soup in a blender.
  7. Taste the soup and adjust seasoning, as needed (salt, pepper, bouillon cube, curry paste) keeping in mind that the cream will mellow things out, a bit.
  8. Just prior to serving, stir in the cream. Garnish and enJOY!

Field Trip: Seattle’s Melrose Market


A Foodie’s Dream: Seattle’s Melrose Market.

It’s Top Chef: Seattle Wednesday! Mary and I took a field trip to Seattle’s Melrose Market last week since we hear it’s one of the spots used for filming. We couldn’t believe that neither of us had been there because it is truly a foodie’s dream: Taylor Shellfish, Rain Shadow Meats, Calf & Kid (cheese), Sitka & Spruce (restaurant), Still Liquor, Homegrown (sandwich shop), bar ferd’nand (bar,wine shop and coffee), Marigold and Mint (flower shop), butter home (furnishings, decor and gifts). Honestly, what more could we ask for?!

Delicious Geoduck Chowder at Taylor Shellfish

We want to tell you about this place since we hear it will be heavily featured on Top Chef: Seattle and you might want to check it out before it gets too crazy. If you don’t live in Seattle, we are giving you a sneak peak at a true Seattle gem before you see it on television. EnJOY!

Ask the staff to give you their favorite sampler of oysters and try something new.

We started our afternoon at Taylor Shellfish. For more than 120 years, the Taylor family has been dedicated to raising and providing shellfish from local waters to consumers all over the world. They were founded and based in the South Puget Sound, but now they have farms on the Washington Coast, Hood Canal, Samish Bay and up on Vancouver Island. In September, Taylor Shellfish Farms was awarded 2012 Seafood Champion Award at the International Seafood Summit for their commitment to sustainability.

The staff was super friendly and helpful. We enjoyed a cup of delicious Red Geoduck Chowder and a plate of the freshest, most tender oysters and washed it all down with a Pike Place Brewing’s Pale Ale. Yummy!

Next, we were on a mission to order some lamb shanks for a dinner party Mary was hosting. Rain Shadow Meats was the perfect place to fill the order. The lamb was delivered from Saddleback Sheep Ranch on Lopez Island, WA, in the morning, and butchered to Mary’s specifications and in her refrigerator that night.

Ordering at Rain Shadow Meats.

On one hand, Rain Shadow Meats is old-school in that they bring in carcasses and do their own butchering on site. On the other hand, they are very modern in that they have a really great website that is up-to-date with what’s fresh in the case each day. Check it out and you’ll see that they are excited to have participated in Top Chef: Seattle by providing most of the “meaty goodness” we’ll see on the show. I think I’ll place an order for a fresh turkey from them ASAP.

Mary bought fresh lamb shanks at Rain Shadow Meats.

While we waited for the lamb shanks, we enjoyed a lovely snack (above) of the most delicate ham, mustard, toast and sauerkraut at Matt Dillon’s Sitka & Spruce. Matt was awarded the 2012 James Beard Award for best chef in the Northwest. We are so lucky to have so many terrific chefs in Seattle (I just can’t believe there isn’t ONE competing on Top Chef: Seattle!).

The Sitka & Spruce space was light and rustic and it provided exactly the break we needed (the glass of Riesling and salted caramels delivered along with the check helped, too, I guess).

Homemade Salted Carmels (and the check) for dessert.

Matt Dillion is also a partner in bar ferd’nand, which is also located there inside the Melrose Market. Note to self: it would be a really cool space to host a small, private party!

Inside Seattle’s Melrose Market.

We ended our shopping spree at Calf & Kid artisanal cheese shop where we were treated to a few samples and chose some savory treats to fill up our reusable shopping bags.

The gals at Calf & Kid were very helpful and gave samples!

This is not the market that Seattle is currently known for, and as far as we’re concerned we hope that this will remain a secret between foodie friends. You MUST visit Seattle’s Melrose Market soon!

Did you watch the first episode of Top Chef: Seattle last week? Which celebrity chef did you think conducted the best challenge for the contestants?


Farro Dressing with Greens & Apples


If you’ve been reading A Passionate Plate for a while, you know how much I love Bluebird Grains Farm, and their locally grown products like organic emmer farro. Farro is an ancient grain originally grown in the Mediterranean. It has many similarities to modern-day wheat, but it is much lower in gluten and very high in protein. Farro has a nutty flavor and a nice, chewy consistency.

Every month, Bluebird sends out a newsletter with a featured recipe and this month they were nice enough to ask me if I would create something for them… which I was thrilled to do!

With Thanksgiving coming up, I decided to create a farro pilaf that could also be used as a  dressing for turkey or a roast chicken.

I am so pleased with this recipe! The flavors of kale, swiss chard, garlic, pine nuts and smokey bacon mingle beautifully with the sweetness of golden raisins and apples. Parmesan cheese holds it all together and fresh lemon zest makes all the flavors pop.

This is a big recipe – I wanted to make enough to serve a crowd at Thanksgiving. If you are not cooking for 10 or 12 people, you may wish to cut this recipe in half.

If you live in Seattle, look for Bluebird Grains Farm farro at PCC, Whole Foods, and Metropolitan Market. You can also order it online. And, if you would like to sign up for Bluebird Grains Farm’s monthly newsletter, you can do that here.

Interested in more ways to use farro? Check out these recipes:
Farro Salad with Kale
Vegetable Beef Soup with Farro
Farro Salad with Olives & Feta

Farro Dressing with Winter Greens & Apples

Author: A Passionate Plate
Serves: 10-12
  • 2 cups farro
  • 10 cups chicken stock
  • 2 bunches swiss chard
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. minced garlic
  • 2 bunches kale
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 6 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 tsp. dry rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper
  • 1 medium apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1 cup pine nuts
  • 2 cups shredded Parmesan cheese
  • zest from 2 large lemons
  2. Place the farro and 8 cups of chicken stock in a large stock pot. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, for 50 minutes. The farro will be cooked through, but still slightly chewy. Drain the farro and set aside.
  3. DO AHEAD TIP: The farro can be prepared up to three days in advance. Refrigerate until needed.
  5. Wash the swiss chard and kale, strip the leaves from the stems. Chop coarsly and set aside. Discard the kale stems. Chop the swiss chard stems and set aside.
  6. In a large dutch oven or pot with a lid, heat 1/4 cup of olive oil over medium high heat. Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds.
  7. Add the greens, along with 2 cups of chicken stock and 1 tsp. salt.
  8. Cover the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes, until the greens are tender. Remove from heat and set aside.
  9. DO AHEAD TIP: The greens can be prepared up to two days in advance. Refrigerate until needed.
  11. In a large sauté pan, cook the bacon until it is cooked, but not crisp.Do not drain. Add the onion, rosemary, and black pepper. Cook until the onions are limp, about 2 minutes. Stir in the apple, raisins and pine nuts, then remove from heat and set aside.
  12. In a large bowl, stir together the farro, greens, onion mixture, parmesan cheese, and lemon zest. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.
  13. I recommend cooking the dressing separately in a covered casserole dish at 400 degrees for 40 minutes. If you prefer, gently spoon the stuffing into the cavity of a turkey or chicken and cook until the internal temperature of the bird reaches 165 degrees. (Don’t over-stuff… cook extra in a casserole dish and serve on the side).


Pumpkin Maple Cheesecake


Have you been searching for a special dessert for Thanksgiving dinner? Something a little bit beyond the ordinary pumpkin pie? This velvety-smooth pumpkin cheesecake flavored with maple and cinnamon and topped with toasted pecans is sure to leave your guests blissfully satisfied.

I first tasted this cheesecake when I worked at Ray’s Boathouse 20 years ago (yikes, time flies!!!).  It was my first job in a restaurant kitchen, and I never actually got to make Pumpkin Maple Cheesecake while I worked there. I was usually assigned “fun” prep-cook tasks like peeling and deveining thousands of shrimp, slicing pounds and pounds of potatoes, assembling appetizers for hours on end, or scooping hundreds of bowls of ice cream while standing in a sub-zero freezer. Scooping ice cream was the worst. I think I came pretty close to frost bite a few times. But really, I absolutely loved that job. It was the first time in my life that I looked forward to going to work every day.

Sometimes we’d serve Pumpkin Maple Cheesecake at a banquet and then I’d be assigned to cut and plate the cake. Occasionally there would be a portioning “mistake” and a piece would end up being shared between the kitchen crew. That’s how I first discovered how much I loved this recipe.

When Ray’s Boathouse: Seafood Secrets of the Pacific Northwest came out back in 2003, I was so happy to see Pumpkin Maple Cheesecake included. It’s actually not hard to make and it really is the perfect decadent Thanksgiving Day dessert.

Make Ahead Tip:
Cheesecake freezes well for up to 2 months, so you can plan ahead and make this for Thanksgiving or Christmas now. Just be sure to wrap it extremely well with plastic and then cover it with foil before putting it in the freezer.  Before serving, thaw the cheesecake in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours and bring it to room temperature for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Looking for more pumpkin dessert recipes? You might enjoy these:
Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes
Classic Pumpkin Pie
Halloween Pumpkin Cake

Pumpkin Maple Cheesecake

Recipe Type: Dessert, Cheesecake
Author: A Passionate Plate – from Ray’s Boathouse Seafood Secrets of the Northwest cookbook
Serves: 12
You will need a 9″ springform pan, foil and a large roasting or baking pan for this recipe. The recipe is not hard to make, but cooking time is nearly 2 hours, so be sure allow plenty of time in the kitchen.
  • CRUST:
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. ground pecans
  • 4 Tbsp. melted butter
  • 1 and 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 Tbsp. packed light brown sugar
  • 2 1/3 pounds cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 15 oz. can solid-pack pumpkin puree
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp. maple extract
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • Toasted pecans, caramel sauce and whipped cream for garnishing
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar, pecans and butter in a medium bowl and mix thoroughly. Press mixture evenly onto the bottom of a 9″ springform pan. Bake until light golden, about 8 minutes.
  3. Cool the crust, then wrap the bottom and sides of the pan with foil. Set aside.
  5. Combine sour cream and brown sugar in a small bowl and mix thoroughly. Cover and set aside in the refrigerator.
  7. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In the bowl of an electric mixture fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and brown sugar on low speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Mix just until smooth. Do not over mix or mix until the cream cheese becomes “fluffy”.
  8. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until smooth after each addition. Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a spatula to fold in the pumpkin, 1/3 at a time.
  9. Stir in the vanilla, maple, cinnamon and ginger.
  11. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
  12. Pour the pumpkin filling over the prepared crust. Tap the pan down on the counter a few times to settle the cream cheese and remove any air bubbles.
  13. Place the foil wrapped pan in a large roasting pan or baking dish. Pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come about 1 inch up the sides of the springform pan. Bake for 1 hour.
  14. Reduce the oven temperature to 275 and continue baking 1/2 hour more until the center is set.
  15. Remove the cheesecake from the oven and spread the sour cream topping evenly over the top.
  16. Place the cheesecake back in the oven, still in the water bath, and continue cooking 7 minutes more until the sour cream topping is set.
  17. Remove from the oven and roasting pan and cool the cake completely.
  18. Refrigerate 6 hours or overnight before serving.
  19. You can also freeze the cheese cake in the springform pan, well wrapped with plastic. Thaw completely in the refrigerator before serving.
  20. To serve, remove cake from the pan, and garnish with chopped nuts, caramel sauce or whipped cream if desired.


Five Turkey Tips


It’s time to start thinking about Thanksgiving turkey! Since I only cook a full turkey once a year, it does take a little jogging of my memory to remember the steps involved and the timing of those steps that lead to a perfect turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. After many years of practice, I really think I’ve got the turkey thing dialed in, so I want to share my best turkey tips with you. Here goes:

  1. Selecting – Three days before the meal, buy a 12-18lb bird and cook two if necessary. Smaller birds taste better, cook evenly and are easier to handle. Look for words like “Heritage” (mate naturally, grow slowly, exercise, taste like turkey), “Organic” (no antibiotics), “Free Range” or “Pastured” (exercised and eat natural flora and fauna).
  2. Thawing– Buy Fresh! Fresh turkeys are quick-chilled to 26°F after being processed, so the water in the cavity might freeze, but don’t worry the meat is not frozen. A fresh turkey should be cooked within 3 days after purchasing it. It is ready to roast when a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers 40°F.
    Safety Tip: Bacterial Danger Zone is between 40°F – 140°F.
  3. Brining – I ALWAYS brine a non-Kosher turkey because it keeps the meat tender and moist (Kosher birds are already salty). The night before the meal, place the turkey, in its original packaging, in a deep stockpot and fill with water (this way you’ll know how much water it will take to cover the turkey – probably about 2 gallons). Remove the turkey and stir in 1/2 cup kosher salt per gallon of water until dissolved. Remove the turkey from the packaging, remove the neck and giblets from the turkey’s cavity and place the turkey carefully back into the water. Refrigerate overnight. If you prefer a more seasoned brine, you might like to try Martha Stewart’s Turkey Brine recipe.
  4. Cooking – The turkey is ready to roast when a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers 40°F, so it should be removed from the refrigerator and brine, if using, about 30 minutes before placing it into the oven. Dry it well (inside and out), rub it with softened butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook it on a rack set inside a sturdy roasting pan with 2-3 cups of good quality chicken stock in the bottom. Do NOT stuff the bird (it takes too long to cook), but you can put carrots, celery and onion inside to add some flavor. Start breast down at 425°F for 45 minutes.  Pull the turkey out, reduce temperature to 350°F, flip the turkey to breast up, baste every 20 minutes until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast registers 165°F (about 1 – 1/2 hours).
  5. Carving– Remove the breast in two lobes and let them rest, covered with foil, for 30 minutes. Place the remaining meat in the warm chicken stock, cover, and braise for about 30 minutes at 250°F. Slice the breast into thick slices and place on a platter. Pull the dark meat (like pork) and pile it onto the platter with the white meat. EnJOY! Here’s a helpful video for carving your turkey:

Corn Soufflé


Corn Soufflé… soft, fluffy, creamy and slightly sweet, with just a hint of cayenne pepper. Lighter than mashed potatoes with more flavor, too. This is a recipe I have learned to appreciate – even love.

I had never made corn soufflé before I met Marvin. In fact, I don’t think I’d ever eaten it. Okay, it’s not a real soufflé (it’s made with a box of Jiffy cornbread mix), but now I understand why his family requests this recipe year after year at the holidays. It’s one of those super easy to make, comfort food, potlucky kind of side dishes that everybody loves. It tastes just as great with a bowl of chili as it does with Thanksgiving turkey or Christmas ham. And, here’s my favorite way to eat it… leftover for breakfast, drizzled with real maple syrup and topped with a fried egg. Mmmmmm.

Corn Soufflé

Recipe Type: Side Dish
Author: A Passionate Plate
Serves: 8-10
A box of Jiffy Cornbread Mix makes this light, fluffy, slightly sweet side dish so easy to make. You’ll have it mixed up and in the oven within 5 minutes.
  • 1 box Jiffy cornbread mix
  • 1 15 oz. can corn (undrained)
  • 1 15 oz. can creamed corn
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 4 oz. (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Prepare a casserole dish by spraying lightly with non-stick spray.
  3. Place the cornbread mix in a large bowl and break up any lumps.
  4. Add all of the other ingredients and stir well to combine.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until set (but not firm like cornbread) and lightly browned.
  6. Optional: turn on the broiler for the last few minutes of baking to get the top of the casserole a little extra crispy.


Giveaway – Top Chef Season 10 SEATTLE!


THIS GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED. CONGRATS TO OUR WINNER, Cecily Metzger. What she won:  a wonderful assortment of goodies from Market Spice including: Mexican Vanilla, Market Spice Tea, Market Spice Spiced Cider Mix, Market Spice Seafood Seasoning Rub (Salt Free) and a teeny tiny Good Grate (perfect for grating fresh nutmeg on top of your holiday eggnog). EnJOY, Cecily!

Our next giveaway will begin on December 3rd, 2012.

Did you hear the rumors? The ones that suggested that Top Chef was filming in Seattle? They started innocently enough this past summer…on Twitter, Facebook, certain blogs…someone saw Padma at Pike Place Market behind a curtain…Top Chef was scouting Melrose Market… which Whole Foods will they be shopping at for the challenges? Okay! Now it’s real. They are really here! Judges were spotted at Walrus and The Carpenter, Canon, What the Pho, and FareStart. Some sites asked for submissions of Seattle-related Top Chef challenge ideas (awesome! We’ll talk about this later). Anyway, I’m obsessed! I’ve seen every season since the beginning and can’t believe they are finally here in Seattle.

Photo from Bravo Network’s official Top Chef website: http://www.bravotv.com/top-chef

So, to celebrate, and hopefully get you all to watch and share the fun along with me, we have created A Passionate Plate Top Chef Seattle Giveaway!

TO ENTER: Comment on this post and answer the question:

“What is your favorite ‘foodie’ show?”


An awesome gift selection from Market Spice in Seattle’s famous Pike Place Market (our favorite store in a market we are sure will get a lot of attention on this season of Top Chef).

The winner will be randomly selected and announced here on November 28.

Be sure to tune in for Top Chef Season 10 on Bravo – Wednesday nights at 10pm.
Your knowledge of the show may come in handy later in the month…

Holiday Cranberry Sauce


Happy November, everyone! Joy and I are both looking forward to sharing some of our favorite Thanksgiving dishes this month, and we’ve got another great giveaway coming your way, too! (Check out this Wednesday’s post for details).

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I love planning the menu. I love cooking for a big group, and I really love eating bowls full of dressing for breakfast, lunch and dinner the next day. I love trying new recipes, too. Every year I buy all of the November cooking magazines and search for new and interesting Thanksgiving ideas. But I’ve found that most of my family (and Marvin’s family) just don’t like messing with tradition. Some day I’ll get to cook a turkey with molé sauce, or roasted butternut squash salad, or maple glazed parsnips, or a cranberry almond tart – but not this year, and I’m okay with that. Those Thanksgiving favorites (yes, I’m talking about green bean casserole with Durkee onions) seem to really make the family happy and I am thankful to have family at the table, so it’s a fair trade.

One thing we’ll be serving this year is homemade cranberry sauce. I made a batch last night and canned it into little half-pint jars. It’s a super simple recipe that mixes fresh cranberries with apple, raisins, orange, and just enough spice from a cinnamon stick and cloves to make it a little extra special.

I’ll be mailing these little jars to our far-away family members who will be celebrating Thanksgiving in Ohio, Oregon, and even Japan, so they will have a little taste from our table, too.

I’ve named this recipe Holiday Cranberry Sauce because it really does make a sweet Thanksgiving or Christmas gift. And, it tastes great with turkey, ham, or even on a cracker with a little cream cheese.

I’m curious… are you making anything out of the ordinary for Thanksgiving or are you sticking with tradition?

Holiday Cranberry Sauce

Recipe Type: Condiment, Preserves, Canning
Author: A Passionate Plate
Serves: 7 half pint jars
  • 7 – 1/2 pint canning jars, lids and bands
  • Canning water bath pot, with rack, filled with 5 inches of wate
  • 8 cups fresh cranberries
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup diced apple
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 2/3 cup orange juice
  • zest from 2 large oranges
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 tsp. cloves
  1. In a large stock pot, combine all of the ingredients.
  2. Bring mixture to a boil and continue cooking for 10 minutes stirring occasionally.
  3. Remove and discard the cinnamon stick.
  4. Carefully ladle the cranberry sauce into 7 sterilized 1/2 pint (8 oz.) jars leaving 1/2 inch head space on top.
  5. Wipe the rims and sides of jars before topping with a hot lid.
  6. Screw the lids on firmly and place jars into the water bath.
  7. Process for 10 minutes in boiling water.
  8. Remove jars and place on a towel-lined jelly roll pan or countertop to cool.
  9. Over the next few hours, listen for a “ping” as the lids go concave signaling a secure seal. If a lid does not go concave and seal, refrigerate the jar and use it first.
  10. Store securely sealed jars in a cool, dark place for up to a year.


Backyard Barter’s Urban Food Fair!


One of the great things about writing on A Passionate Plate is how it has connected us to other bloggers – here in Seattle, and all over the world. One of the women I have become friends with over the past year is Sarah Randall of cook.can.read. Sarah lives in Seattle, too, and I love reading her blog – I feel like she is a kindred spirit.  Sarah is also a member of Seattle’s Backyard Barter – a group dedicated to connecting neighbors in order to barter home grown and home made food, related skills and materials. Members trade things like baked goods, canned food, homegrown fruit and vegetables, honey, canning lessons, home brew, seeds and vegetable starts. The group started in Ballard, but they hold events throughout the Seattle area.

Yesterday, Backyard Barter hosted their first annual Urban Food Fair celebration at Seattle University. It was great to see so many people sharing what they had made and grown at home.

Joy and I were invited by Sarah to participate as pie tasting judges. Whoo Hooo! We were joined by Siiri Sampson from the blog www.ahalfcup.com and Addy Fiorito from Food Revolution Snohomish County. Once again, it was another chance to make new friends – and eat a whole lot of pie. I mean, A LOT OF PIE.

Siiri Sampson from ahalfcup.com, Addy Fiorito from Food Revolution Snohomish County, The jam tasters, and one of the many pies we sampled yesterday at the Urban Food Fair.

Being a pie tasting judge is actually quite a lot of work! I think I am still full this morning… but it was totally worth it.

If you live in the Seattle area and you would like to join Backyard Barter or just check out their next event, visit their website: www.backyardbarter.org. We’ll post more information on our Facebook page, too. 🙂

Pumpkin Pie


My family has been making this classic pumpkin pie recipe for as long as I can remember. It’s creamy and delicious with  plenty of spice. It’s incredibly simple to make and a great project for kids, too. I used to make this recipe with the kindergarten class at The Bush School in Seattle. Each child would take a 4″ pie home on the last day of school before Thanksgiving break. 🙂

Pumpkin Pie

Recipe Type: Pie, Dessert, Holidays
Author: A Passionate Plate
Serves: 8
A classic pumpkin pie with plenty of spice. Everyone loves this recipe.
  • 1 1/2 cup canned or cooked pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ginger
  • 2 Tbsp. molasses
  • 3 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 unbaked pie shell, in a 9″ pan
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Combine the pumpkin, sugar, salt, spices and molasses. Mix thoroughly.
  3. Add the eggs and milk and mix thoroughly.
  4. Pour the mixture into the unbaked pie shell.
  5. Bake at 400 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes until a knife inserted comes out clean.
  6. Cool. Serve with whipped cream if desired.


Halloween Pumpkin Cake – so easy it’s scary!


A recipe from our guest contributor and baker extraordinaire, Mary Jordan.

This recipe was passed around my neighborhood some years ago and it is a favorite of mine this time of year. The cake is super easy to make, with only 4 ingredients, so even your 7 year old could make it! Mix together a spice cake mix, a can of pumpkin, 4 eggs and 1/4 cup canola oil. Bake for 30 minutes and you’ve got a very moist cake, with a texture somewhere between a sheet cake and a pumpkin pie. Then just finish it with a luscious cream cheese frosting. It’s SO easy!

Many of my friends now make this instead of pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving dinner. Enjoy!

Can’t get enough pumpkin this time of year? You might try these recipes:
Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes
Helen’s Pumpkin Bran Bars
Wheat Waffles Pumpkin Waffles

Halloween Pumpkin Cake – so easy it’s scary!

Recipe Type: Easy Cake Recipe
Author: A Passionate Plate Guest Contributor – Mary Jordan
Serves: 8-10
With just four ingredients, this is a very easy cake to make. It is moist, full of spice, and delicious. What a great project when you are baking with kids!
  • 1 box of Spice Cake Mix
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1 large can (29oz) pumpkin
  • Frost with the cream cheese frosting of your choice
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Prepare a 9″ x 13″ pan by greasing or spraying with non-stick spray.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, oil, egg, and pumpkin. Mix well.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. A knife should come out clean.

Basic Cream Cheese Frosting


Cream cheese frosting is versatile and easy to make. Use this recipe to frost a 9″ x 13″ sheet cake, or a batch of cupcakes. If you are frosting a double layer cake, double the quantities below.

Basic Cream Cheese Frosting

Recipe Type: Frosting, Dessert
Author: A Passionate Plate
  • 4 ounces unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  1. Cream butter, cream cheese and vanilla with an electric mixer until well combined. Slowly add in the sifted powdered sugar and continue mixing until the frosting is well combined.
  2. If the frosting is too thick, thin it down with a little water.


Roasted Pumpkin Seeds


Ray Villafane Pumpkin

I forgot to mention pumpkin carving in my last post: Spooky Halloween Treats. No, I didn’t. I was listing the things I like about Halloween, and pumpkin carving is not one of them. I enjoy getting the viral messages with cool pictures of professionally carved pumpkins like these.

Ray Villafane Pumpkin Seed Eater

And, just like this guy, I do LOVE the (roasted) seeds! So, if you’re craving some yummy pumpkin seeds, I’ve got the perfect recipe for you.

Looking for Halloween treat recipes? You might like these:

Bloody Eyeball Soup
Crooked Witches Fingers
Eyeball Poppers 

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Recipe Type: Snack
Author: A Passionate Plate
  • 1 or 2 cups of seeds from one medium-sized pumpkin, most of the goop cleaned off
  • 3 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. sweet paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F and line a baking pan with foil.
  2. In a medium saucepan, bring 6 cups of water to a boil. Once boiling, add the salt to the water and bring it back to a boil.
  3. Once boiling, again, add the pumpkin seeds and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain the seeds well.
  4. Blend the spices in a small bowl.
  5. Toss the seeds in the olive oil and spread evenly on the foil-lined pan.
  6. Sprinkle evenly with the spice mixture.
  7. Stirring once or twice, roast the seeds for about 25 minutes, until they are toasty brown and fragrant.
  8. EnJOY!


Spooky Halloween Treats


Urban Legends. Ghost Stories. Haunted Houses. Trick-or-Treat. Costumes. Spooky Halloween Treats. These are all the things I love about Halloween. Do you remember the one about the kidney thieves? or the licked hand? or, my favorite, “aren’t you glad you didn’t turn the light on?“.

Haunted Houses were always a love/hate thing for me. I love the idea of being scared, but I definitely don’t love it as I’m walking through wondering who will try to grab me next. Did you see this fun video on the Ellen show? It’ll make you laugh until you cry. I’m not sure I need to go visit one this year after watching that!

I don’t have my costume picked out, yet, but Sadie and Charley are all set to greet the trick-or-treaters in their Cowgirl Get-ups! How cute are they?!

Maybe we’ll just wait until the trick-or-treaters are finished ringing our bell this year, then we’ll turn off all the lights and watch a scary movie and enjoy Bloody Eyeball Soup, Crooked Witches Fingers and Eyeball Poppers (and, of course, all of the left-over candy!). That looks scary enough for me.

Look closely  – I think my photo-shoot was haunted!

Bloody Eyeball Soup



Scar-rrrry! Eyeballs staring up at you from a bowl of rich, red Roasted Tomato Soup.

Bloody Eyeball Soup

Recipe Type: Soup
Cuisine: Halloween Treat
Author: A Passionate Plate
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4
This soup is also yummy with a grilled cheese sandwich on the side.
  • 2 cans whole, peeled tomatoes (28 ounces each, not packed in puree)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. dark brown sugar
  • 4 Tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 cup shallots, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1/8 tsp. ground allspice
  • 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup fat-free half and half
  • 2 Tbsp. brandy or dry sherry, optional
  • Salt
  • Cayenne pepper
  1. Drain the tomatoes, reserving the juice. Remove seeds and press out excess liquid.
  2. Place tomatoes on a foil-lined baking sheet, sprinkle with brown sugar, and roast in the oven at 450°F for about 30 minutes, until the liquid is evaporated and the tomatoes start to color.
  3. Remove the cooled tomatoes from the foil and set aside.
  4. In a large stockpot, melt the butter.
  5. Once the foaming subsides, cook the shallots, tomato paste and allspice until shallots are tender, about 7 minutes.
  6. Sprinkle flour evenly over the shallots and cook, stirring constantly, for one minute to cook the flour.
  7. Whisking constantly, pour the chicken broth into the pot. Add the reserved tomato juice and tomatoes. Cover and bring to a boil.
  8. Reduce the temperature and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  9. Use a stick blender to puree the mixture until smooth, OR working in batches, blend the soup in a blender until smooth.
  10. Finish with fat-free half and half and brandy, if using. Season with salt and pepper.
  11. Garnish with bocconcini stuffed with green stuffed olives to look like eyeballs.
  12. EnJOY!


Eyeball Poppers


This one couldn’t be easier! Simply stuff Peppadew Peppers with cream cheese (I used garden veggie flavor) and top with a sliced green olive stuffed with pimento. Done!

Macrina Bakery, Slow Food Seattle & Local Organic Grains


Have you heard about the Slow Food movement? Slow Food is about enjoying foods that are local, seasonal, and sustainably grown. Slow Food USA promotes food that is Good, Clean & Fair. It’s something I really believe in, which is why I have joined the Seattle chapter of Slow Food U.S.A.

Earlier this month Slow Food Seattle hosted Breaking Bread: A Celebration of the Local Organic Grain Harvest at one of my favorite Seattle bakeries, Macrina. October is Local Grains Month, and the event showcased two local grain producers, master miller, Kevin Christenson from Fairhaven Organic Flour Mill, and my friend Brooke Lucy, owner of Bluebird Grains Farm. In addition to hearing from Kevin and Brooke, Marcina’s owner, Leslie Mackie, gave us a tour of the entire commercial baking operation. What a treat!

Kevin Christensen, Leslie Mackie, Brooke Lucy.

The afternoon started in the Macrina Bakery Cafe, with a buffet of delicious breads made with organic grains from Fairhaven and Bluebird Grains, along with a white bean puree, faro salad, and artichoke dip.

Next we headed into the bakery for an inside look at how Macrina produces their gorgeous loaves of artisan bread, brioche buns, pastries, cakes, scones, muffins, tarts, biscuits and crackers. I wish you could have been there, just to smell all of that bread coming out of the oven. I was in heaven.

Macrina’s production facility runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year. Delivery trucks begin arriving at 2:00 am to take the freshly baked product to retailers and restaurants all around the Puget Sound.

During our tour, Leslie talked a lot about community. Leslie knows that her clients depend on her to deliver every day and that sense of connection and responsibility is part of what motivates everyone at Macrina. I always loved their bread before, but after listening to Leslie and seeing the heart and soul of the bakery, I am an even bigger fan.

After our tour Kevin and Brooke talked about the challenges and rewards of running their businesses and producing organic grains and flour for retail and wholesale markets. Since most flour available in the grocery store comes from a few huge national companies, this was a rare opportunity to hear from two companies who are supplying a different type of product to our community.

Freshly milled flour looks, feels, and tastes different from other flour. And, whole grains and organic whole grain flours provide many health benefits not found in processed white flour.

Products from Fairhaven Mill and Bluebird Grains are available in many grocery stores in our area, and you can also buy them online. If you live in a different part of the country, I’d encourage you to seek out your own local source for whole grain flour. There are small mills producing flour in virtually every state of the U.S.A.

Thanks to Slow Food Seattle for hosting such an informative and interesting afternoon and thanks to Leslie Mackie for taking us behind the scenes at Macrina!

In case you’d like to know more:

Macrina Bakery has three Seattle retail locations. You can visit Macrina at:
SODO Bakery – 1943 First Avenue South, 206.623.0919
Belltown Cafe – 2408 1st Avenue, 206.448.4032
McGraw Cafe, 615 West McGraw Street, 206.283.5900

Fairhaven Organic Flour Mill is located in Burlington, Washington. Owner and master miller Kevin Christenson produces small batches of flour and buys grain from leading organic farmers in the northwest. His products include a variety of wheat flours, corn meal, oat flour, and rye flour.

Bluebird Grains Farm is located in Winthrop, Washington. Owners Brooke and Sam Lucy grow 100% organic heirloom grains in the Methow Valley. Their specialty is the ancient wheat, emmer farro. The Lucys handle all aspects of production from growing and harvesting to storing and milling, which allows them to produce the highest quality products possible.

If you’d like to learn more about Slow Food U.S.A.

Follow their conversation on facebook.

Want to use more whole grain flour in your recipes? Here is a tip:

Whole wheat flour (or emmer flour) can be substituted for up to 50% of all-purpose white flour in most baking recipes without noticeable change in flavor or texture. You can start with 25% substitution and increase as desired.

Ready to give whole grain flour a try? Here are a few recipes to get you started:

Emmer Applesauce Coffee Cake
Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffins
Whole Wheat Pumpkin Waffles
Rosemary Whole Wheat Lemon Bars

Emmer Applesauce Coffee Cake


If you enjoy baking with whole wheat flour, I encourage you to give emmer flour a try. Emmer (also known as farro) is a low-gluten, high protein, ancient grain loaded with nutrients.

Emmer flour gives baked goods a sweet, nutty, rich flavor and can be substituted for whole wheat flour in any recipe with good results.

This Emmer Applesauce Coffee Cake is a variation on a recipe developed by Tess Houk at Local 98856 in Twisp, Washington. It’s dark, rich, moist, and totally satisfying, without being overly sweet.

If you’d like to try baking with emmer flour but can’t find it in your area, you can order freshly milled organic emmer flour from our friends at Bluebird Grains Farm.

Emmer Applesauce Coffee Cake

Recipe Type: Breakfast, Dessert, Coffee Cake
Author: A Passionate Plate – inspired by Emmer Coffee Cake by Tess Houk at Local 98856
Serves: 9-12
Emmer flour is a low gluten, nutrient dense grain with a sweet, nutty flavor. If you cannot find Emmer flour in your market, you can order it from www.bluebirdgrainfarms.com or you can substitute whole wheat flour.
  • 2 1/2 cups Emmer Flour (or substitute whole wheat flour)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 2 cups applesauce
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup pecans
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease a 9 x 9 baking dish or spray well with non-stick spray.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the flour, granulated sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs, oil, and applesauce.
  5. Stir the applesauce mixture into the dry mixture just until it is combined.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
  7. Combine the brown sugar, pecans and butter. Drizzle over the top of the batter.
  8. Bake 45-50 minutes until the cake is golden brown and set in the middle.
  9. Allow to cool slightly before serving.


And the winner is…


 Thank you to everyone who entered our October best bake sale COOKBOOK Giveaway! Once again, we selected a winner randomly from all of the entries.

Congratulations to Sara from the food blog threecleversisters.com who voted for the Almost Black They’re So Cocoa Cookies (which was the winning recipe, by the way – see below). We’ll be sending Sara a copy of the best bake sale COOKBOOK by Gretchen Holt-Witt and OXO Good Grips Cookie Scoops.

Unsweetened cocoa and toasted hazelnuts make these like adult brownie cookies for Chocoholics!


In a way, though, you are all winners because you get the winning recipe: Almost Black They’re So Cocoa Cookies! These cookies are only slightly sweet which leads me to describe them as “adult” cookies. The addition of the toasted hazelnuts even adds to the sophistication of these yummy treats. We clearly have a lot of fans who are Chocoholics 😉 EnJOY!

“Behind every successful woman is a substantial amount of chocolate” -Agreed!


Almost Black They’re So Cocoa Cookies

Recipe Type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Author: Gretchen Holt-Witt
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 5 dozen
This recipe is from the best bake sale COOKBOOK by Gretchen Holt-Witt.
  • 2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups walnuts, pecans, or hazelnuts, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a cookie sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper.
  2. Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle and beat until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs, and vanilla, one at a time, beating well between additions. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Place the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl and mix well. Gradually add to the butter mixture and beat until everything is well incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat again.
  3. Place heaping teaspoonfuls of dough 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheet and transfer to the oven. Bake until the edges begin to firm up, 12 to 14 minutes; do not over bake. For crispy cookies, let cool on the cookie sheet. Transfer to a wire rack and repeat with the remaining dough.


Mom’s Never Fail Pie Crust + Video


For those of you who have been reading A Passionate Plate for a while, you know I have depended on refrigerated pie crusts from Pillsbury for MANY of my recipes. For some reason, I have always been afraid to make pie dough from scratch. I’m guessing a lot of you feel the same way.

It’s crazy that a culinary school graduate who has baked professionally for restaurants could be afraid to make pie dough! Crazy but true. And, all this time, an amazing, Never-Fail Pie Crust recipe has been just a phone call away.


My mom grew up making pies. She lived next door to her Aunt Sally, who actually ran a pie making business out of her home. When my mom was a little girl, she would spend afternoons in her aunt’s kitchen, helping to make the dozens of pies that would be delivered to local restaurants. My mom is a woman who knows how to make pie. And, in my opinion, her pie crusts are the best ever.

This month I decided it was time to learn how to make pie crust from scratch, so Joy and I stopped by on our Washington Apple Road Trip for a pie crust making lesson from my mom. Guess what, it’s not as hard as I thought! I love the taste and flaky texture of this crust. It is WAY better than Pillsbury.

In this post I’m sharing my mom’s Never-Fail Pie Crust recipe with you, step-by-step.

So here we go… it’s time to learn how to make pie crust from scratch. If I can do it, you can do it, too. 🙂



Combine 4 cups of all purpose flour, 1 tsp. of salt and 2 cups of Crisco in a large bowl.

Combine flour, salt and Crisco.


Using a fork or a pastry cutter, cut the Crisco into the flour until it forms grains the size of large peas. There may be a few bigger chunks than peas. That is okay. It’s just important not to cut the Crisco in too much. You don’t want the crumbs to be too small.

Cut the Crisco into the flour. Don’t overmix.


Mix together 1/2 cup ice cold water, 1 egg, 1 tsp. vinegar and 1 tsp. sugar.

Combine the egg, ice cold water, sugar and vinegar.


Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture. Using a fork, stir gently to combine into a ball, gathering up any loose crumbs at the bottom of the bowl. At this point, you can use your hands to gently knead the dough together.


Divide the dough into four individual balls. Place each ball in a plastic bag and press it down to form a round patty.


Chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least one hour before rolling it out.

NOTE: You cannot skip this step. The dough must be refrigerated or it will be too soft to work with easily. Since this recipe makes 4 single crusts, you can freeze what you don’t need for up to 2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before using.

Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture. Gently combine into a ball. Knead gently, then divide the dough.


When you are ready to make a pie, take a bag of dough out of the refrigerator and place  the dough on a well floured surface. Sprinkle additional flour on the dough so the rolling pin won’t stick.

Place the dough on a well floured surface.

Roll the dough out to the desired size. For a standard 9″ pie pan, you’ll want to roll the dough out into a 12 inch circle. Roll out the dough for a few strokes, then gently lift the dough up, sprinkle a little more flour underneath, and continue rolling. Try to roll the dough out as evenly as possible so it is all the same thickness.

NOTE: If the dough is sticking, just sprinkle it with a little more flour. As long as you handle the dough gently, it will not become tough.  If the dough is crumbling, reform it into a ball, kneading slightly, then re-roll it. Pie dough is different from cookie dough, so it might take a few attempts to roll it out just right. Stick with it – it’s worth it and you will get better with practice.

Roll the dough out to the desired size.

NOTE: Once the dough is rolled out to the desired size, you can use a paring knife to trim off any jagged edges.


Fold the dough in half. Carefully lift the dough and place it in the pie pan, then unfold it.

Fold the dough in half so you can easily lift it into the pan.

If you are making a pie with a single crust, like pumpkin pie, trim the crust, crimp the edges, and proceed with the recipe.


If you are making a pie with double crust, like apple pie, add the filling, then brush the edges of the bottom crust with a little milk. Roll out the second crust, fold it in half and place it on top of the filling.

Add the filling. Roll out the top piece of dough. Fold it in half and set it on top of the pie. Unfold.

STEP #10

Unfold the top crust, trim the crust edges, then fold the two crusts under. Crimp as desired and cut a few slits in the top crust to allow steam to escape during baking. Brush the entire pie with a little milk before baking.

After the dough is trimmed and crimped, brush the top of the crust with milk.

That’s it. Easy as pie, right?

Need a little more help? Here is a video of my mom making a batch of her Never-Fail Pie Crust. Watch and learn from a pro!

Need a recipe for your beautiful pie dough? Here are a few suggestions:
Mom’s Apple
Swiss Chard Onion Quiche
Asparagus Pancetta Tart
Grandma Dorothy’s Strawberry Icebox Pie

Mom’s Never Fail Pie Crust

Recipe Type: Baking, Pie Crust
Author: A Passionate Plate
Serves: 4 single crust or 2 double crust pies
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 cups Crisco shortening
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup ice cold water
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. distilled white vinegar
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, and Crisco.
  2. Using a fork or a pastry cutter, blend until the mixture forms grains the size of large peas.
  3. In a small separate bowl, combine the egg, water, vinegar and sugar. Mix well.
  4. Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and blend just until the dough is combined.
  5. Using your hands gently knead the dough three or four times.
  6. Divide the dough into four equal pieces.
  7. Place each piece in a plastic bag and flatten into a patty.
  8. Refrigerate the dough for at least one hour before rolling out.
  9. When you are ready to roll out the dough, place a patty on a board, generously sprinkled with flour and roll out to the desired size.
  10. NOTE: Dough can be frozen for up to two months. Thaw in the refrigerator before use.


Mom’s Apple Pie


Apple pie is an American classic. If you are looking for a simple, yet absolutely delicious apple pie filling, this recipe is for you!

One of the secrets to this apple pie is to cut the apples into small, evenly sized chunks, rather than long slices. This allows for more even cooking and makes the pie much easier to cut.

The other secret is to brush the top of the crust with milk before baking. The milk gives the crust a beautiful brown finish without the hard gloss of an egg wash.

The flavor of this pie is all apple… except for a hint of cinnamon. To make sure this pie is not overly sweet, cut the sugar down from 1 cup to 2/3 cup if you are using very sweet apples.

This is a tried and true, delicious recipe. You will love how easily the pie slices and how the apple flavor really shines through.

It’s even better when you make it with Mom’s Never Fail Pie Crust.

Love apple pie? You might also enjoy this:
Mini Apple Pies with Crumb Topping

Mom’s Apple Pie

Recipe Type: Dessert, Pie
Author: A Passionate Plate
Serves: 1 – 9 inch pie
  • 5 large apples
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (use less with very sweet apples)
  • 2 Tbsp. all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp. butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2 homemade or refrigerated pie crusts
  1. Combine 4 cups of water and 1 tsp. of salt in a large bowl.
  2. Peel the apples, core them, and slice them. Place the apples in the salted water.
  3. Prepare a 9 inch pie pan with a bottom crust.
  4. Drain the apples, but do not rinse them.
  5. Combine the apples, sugar, cinnamon, and flour. Toss well to combine.
  6. Place the apple mixture into the pie pan and dot with the putter.
  7. Top with the remaining crust.
  8. Brush the top crust with milk and bake at 400 degrees for 50 minutes.
  9. NOTE: if the pie crust edges brown too quickly, cover with foil.


White Bean, Kale & Chicken Sausage Soup


Last week Joy shared a recipe for Carrot Ginger Soup and wrote in her post that  SOUP=LOVE. I agree with her one-hundred percent. I would also like to add that, for me, MAKING SOUP=LOVE.

In all honesty, making a pot of soup might be one of my favorite things to do in the whole world. Maybe I’m weird, but it’s the truth!

Back when I used to actually cook for a living, I had a job that required me to make two kinds of soup from scratch every day. I’d start my morning in the walk-in refrigerator, taking stock of my options. Basmati rice and Granny Smith apples… okay, how about Mulligatawny? Bacon, salsa and black beans… looks like we’re making Smokey Black Bean Chili. A bin full of vegetables and leftover roast beef… Vegetable Beef Barley. I loved the endless possibilities. Getting paid to make soup was a pretty cool job.

I haven’t made soup in a while. We just haven’t been in the mood because the weather has been so incredibly beautiful and warm. But, this weekend soup weather finally blew back into Seattle when, after 84 days in a row without a drop of rain, it started to pour. Some people have been complaining, but I’m okay with it. Rainy days are good soup days.

We kicked things off last night with this beautiful White Bean, Kale & Chicken Sausage Soup.  It’s rich, flavorful, and low-fat, thanks to the chicken sausage. If you use the quick soak method for the beans (see the recipe below) you don’t even need to plan this one too far ahead.

So, happy fall, everyone. Here’s to making soup and all of the endless possibilities. 🙂

Like this recipe? You might also like these:
Roasted Tomato & Yellow Pepper Soup
Hoppin’ John Soup
Hearty Minestrone Soup 

White Bean, Kale & Chicken Sausage Soup

Recipe Type: Soup, Main Dish
Author: A Passionate Plate
Serves: 4-6
  • 1 cup dry Great Northern white beans, soaked*
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 6 cups well seasoned chicken stock
  • 4 pre-cooked Italian chicken sausages, sliced
  • 1 small bunch kale, (preferably Tuscan)chopped (4 cups)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 small carrot, diced
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 large sprigs fresh rosemary
  • salt & pepper
  • * Use either the overnight or quick method below.
  2. Place the beans in a large bowl and cover with 3 cups cold water. Let the beans soak over night, then drain and proceed with the recipe. Or, use the quick method. Place beans in a large bowl and cover with with 3 cups boiling water. Let the beans sit for 1 hour, then drain and proceed with the recipe.
  4. In a large pot, heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion and sauté until the onions are soft, about 3 minutes. Add the beans, garlic, 4 cups chicken stock, bay leaves and one sprig of rosemary. Cook until the beans are tender, about 45 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and rosemary sprig.
  5. Add the remaining 2 cups of chicken stock, kale, carrot, tomato and sausage. Continue cooking for 20 more minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, finely chop the remaining rosemary and add it to the soup, along with salt and pepper to taste. Taste the soup and adjust seasonings as needed.
  7. Serve with an extra grind of fresh ground pepper and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese if desired.


Touch of Grace Biscuits


Happy Sunday morning! Just look at that lovely pan of Touch of Grace biscuits. Those are not the biscuits you buy in a can (you remember pressing the seam with a spoon and that “P*O*P!” sound the can made, right?!). These biscuits are so soft, light and flaky ~ there is no way they came out of a can. And, there’s no way I’ll go back to buying them that way, either. Not after finding this gem of a recipe! I need to explain, though, that the reason I made this pan of deliciousness was because of Toby.

Toby and I recently took a road trip back Washington State University (where we met) for the season’s opening football game. Go Cougs! WSU is in eastern Washington – Pullman, to be exact. It’s a small college town located in the midst of miles and miles of rolling wheat fields. The “Wave the Flag” campaign has gone international, but we saw the most inspiring evidence of it right there in Garfield and Palouse, WA, the little towns we passed through.

Flags were flying from every light post, and on almost every front porch.

The Palouse: miles and miles of beautiful wheat fields.

One little farm house even displayed a quilt made with the Cougar logo in the crimson and gray on the front porch! That sparked Toby to comment, “You just know that they are cooking up some biscuits and gravy in their kitchen this morning.” Well, that’s all it took. I couldn’t stop thinking about it: the Touch of Grace Biscuit recipe I’d read about on Molly Wizenberg’s blog, Orangette.

As Molly wrote: “This recipe relies on two principles: 1) that low-protein flour makes tender biscuits, and 2) that a wet dough creates lots of steam in the oven and makes biscuits extra-light. It’s both simple and ingenious.”

They are perfect! Just add homemade strawberry jam, or sausage gravy, or a pat of butter! EnJOY!

If you’re looking for breakfast recipes, you might like to try:

Dutch Baby Pancakes
Bacon & Corn Griddle Cakes
Spinach Breakfast Strata 


Touch of Grace Biscuits

Recipe Type: Breakfast, Side
Cuisine: American
Author: from Orangette
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6
If you can’t find Southern self-rising flour, combine 1 1/3 cups self-rising flour, 2/3 cup Wondra flour, and one heaping ½ teaspoon baking powder.
  • 2 cups Southern self-rising flour, such as White Lily
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup vegetable shortening
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, for shaping biscuits (do not use self-rising for this)
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  1. Preheat the oven to 475°F, and spray an 8” round cake pan with cooking spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the self-rising flour, salt, and sugar and whisk to mix well.
  3. Add the shortening and, using your fingers, rub it into the flour mixture until there are no lumps bigger than a large pea.
  4. Stir in the heavy cream and buttermilk, taking care not to overmix. Let stand for 2-3 minutes. The dough will be very wet, resembling large-curd cottage cheese.
  5. Pour the all-purpose flour into a shallow bowl or pie plate. Rub your hands in the flour to dust them well.
  6. Using a ¼-cup measuring scoop or something of similar size, spoon a lump of wet dough into the flour, and sprinkle some flour over it to coat well.
  7. Gently pick it up and shape it into a soft round. I do this by cradling it in the cupped palm of one hand and gently shaking it, letting the excess flour fall through my fingers. You can also toss the dough softly – very softly – back and forth from cupped palm to cupped palm: it should feel similar to a water balloon.
  8. Place biscuit in pan and repeat with remaining dough, pushing biscuits tightly against one another so that they will rise up and not spread out.
  9. Brush with melted butter and bake until set and lightly browned, 15-20 minutes.
  10. Cool for a minute or two, then dump out and break apart into individual biscuits.


Thai Steak Salad


This salad recipe is for my friend, Travis. A few weeks ago, Travis spent the night at our house. We sat around in the evening drinking wine and talking, and, as often happens in  conversations with me, the subject turned to food. And then, for some reason, to salads. Travis had a lot to say about salads. He doesn’t really like them. In fact, these are his exact words:

“I’m sick and tired of all of these salads that have so many vegetables in them. What I’d really like is a salad made out of meat.”

Okay… well, after I stopped laughing, I told Travis I actually had a salad in mind that I just knew he would love – my Thai Steak Salad.

What makes this salad so delicious is the Thai inspired salad dressing and the main ingredient, BBQ’d steak.

Any good quality steak will work for this recipe, but we like to go all out and use filet mignon (Travis, how does that sound?). Marvin is the BBQ master so he takes care of the grilling – cooking the steaks over a charcoal grill until they are perfectly medium rare.

While the steaks are on the grill, I make the dressing. It’s a classic Thai dressing: no oil but plenty of fish sauce, lime juice, cilantro, mint, sugar, green onions and lemon grass. YUM.

After the steaks get a chance to rest off the grill for a few minutes, we slice them, place them on a platter, and pour some of the dressing over the top. We serve the steak warm with lettuce, cucumber, tomato and red onion – and then drizzle the whole thing with a little more dressing.

With just two of us eating, we always have leftovers, which is why we like to serve all of the ingredients seperately. That way we can keep the leftover veggies from getting soggy in the fridge. If you plan to eat the entire salad in one meal, you can assemble the whole thing on a platter and dress it before serving. Either way, it’s delicious.

Travis, I hope you will give it a try. Maybe it will change your mind about salad. 🙂

Like this recipe? You might also like these:
Thai Grilled Chicken
Vietnamese Style Fresh Rolls + Video
Guinness Marinated Flank Steak 

Thai Steak Salad

Recipe Type: Salad, Entree, Beef
Cuisine: Thai Inspired
Author: A Passionate Plate
Serves: 4
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 inch piece of lemon grass, sliced
  • 3/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 3/4 cup chopped mint leaves
  • 3/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 1/3 cup fish sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. Thai garlic chili sauce
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1.5 lb steak (filet mignon, NY, top sirloin)
  • 1 head green leaf lettuce
  • 1/2 English cucumber
  • 2 roma tomatoes
  • 1/2 red onion
  • optional: shredded carrot & chopped peanuts for garnish
  1. Combine all dressing ingredients and stir until sugar is dissolved. Set aside.
  2. Clean the lettuce and tear into bite sized pieces.
  3. Cut the cucumber lengthwise and slice into thin half moons.
  4. Cut the roma tomatoes into thin wedges.
  5. Slice the onion into thin slices.
  6. Season the steak with salt and pepper. Grill to your desired temperature.
  7. Remove the meat from the grill and let it rest for 5 minutes before slicing.
  8. Slice the steak and arrange it on a platter. Pour half the dressing over the steak.
  9. Serve the steak with the salad ingredients and top with more dressing if desired.
  10. (You can also assemble all the ingredients together on a platter before serving.)

Small Farm, Big Taste – Booth Canyon Orchard


Apple Harvest at Booth Canyon Orchard.

On our Washington Apple Road Trip last week, Joy and I stopped in at Booth Canyon Orchard for a tour and apple tasting. Booth Canyon is a small, organic farm located in the beautiful Methow Valley. Owners Stina Booth and John Richardson grow apples and pears on just a few acres surrounding their home. Their orchard is a labor of love with 29 varieties of apples and 12 varieties of pears in production.

Harvest was in full swing when we arrived. Stina met us on her tractor, pulling a trailer full of ripe, beautiful apples. Unusual varieties like Prairie Spy, Belle de Boskoop, Spitzenburg, Spartan and Macaun  – apples you will most likely never see in a grocery store.

Why grow these lesser known apples? It’s all about the flavor. Stina told us the mission at Booth Canyon Orchard is to grow the best tasting apples possible. And she takes this mission seriously. Joy’s comment, “These taste like the apples I remember from when I was a kid!” I’m guessing Stina hears that from a lot of people.

Stina Booth boxes up a case of fresh picked apples for us.

One of the secrets to Booth Canyon Orchard’s success is their size. By staying small and selling all of the apples themselves, Stina and John can grow varieties that may not be commercially viable, but provide incredible flavor profiles – we just loved them!

Harvesting ripe apples at Booth Canyon Orchard

Just like vine-ripened tomatoes, apples picked ripe from the tree have a little extra something  special going on and it’s worth seeking them out when possible. That means buying apples in season, because ripe apples can’t last in cold storage for more than a few months. Stina and John sell all of their apples and pears only between September and February – mainly at Seattle area farmers markets.

It’s a lot of work to sell apples this way. Stina and John load the truck up on Friday mornings, drive 5 hours to Seattle, and then sell to customers on Saturday and Sunday. You can’t get much closer to the source of your fruit unless you pick it yourself. If you live in the Seattle area, look for Booth Canyon Orchard at the University District Farmers Market, Ballard Farmers Market, and West Seattle Farmers Market. Apples and pears are available by the case and by the pound. It’s a great chance to try unusual apple varieties and to talk to the woman who actually grows them.

If you are lucky enough to live in the Methow Valley or you are planning a trip there, you can also find Booth Canyon Orchard fruit at Crown S Farm StoreGlover Street MarketMazama Store, and the Rocking Horse Bakery.

And for everyone else, there is still a way to taste the fruit grown at Booth Canyon Orchard. Check out their D’Anjou pear gift boxes, which can be shipped anywhere in the U.S.

Booth Canyon Orchard apples and pears at the West Seattle Farmers Market.


Mrs. Huckabee’s Apple Dumplings


On our apple tour last week, Joy and I learned that Stemilt’s Director of Fieldstaff, Jeff, grew up in Brewster, the same small north central Washington town where I went to junior high. Wow, what a small world!

In honor of that little connection, I decided to make a batch of Mrs. Huckabee’s Apple Dumplings – because this recipe comes from Brewster, too.

Soon after we moved into our house there, which happened to be surrounded on all sides by apple orchards, our neighbor, Mrs. Huckabee, brought us a pan of these delicious apple pastries. This yummy recipe has been enjoyed by my family ever since. The original version calls for Oleo (do they even make that anymore?) and shortening. My version uses all butter, and I must admit, there is a lot of butter in this recipe. And sugar. And be warned… these are so gooey and sweet and apple-y. You probably won’t be able to eat just one.

For a nice contrast with the sweet, cinnamon flavored sauce, choose a tart apple with lots of flavor.

Like this recipe? You might also like these:
Buttermilk Apple Cake
Mom’s Apple Pie
Individual Apple Fritter Bread Pudding

Mrs. Huckabee’s Apple Dumplings

Recipe Type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Author: A Passionate Plate
Serves: 8-10
Shredded apple is rolled into a flaky biscuit dough then baked in a cinnamon sugar syrup. What a treat!
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (a little more if needed)
  • 4 apples, peeled and shredded
  • 3 Tbsp. butter, cut into small pieces
  • 4 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  1. PREHEAT the oven to 400 degrees.
  3. To make the syrup, combine the sugar, water, butter and cinnamon in a medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat to cool.
  5. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir to combine. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or a fork until the mixture forms small crumbs. Stir in the buttermilk to form a dough. If the dough doesn’t pull together, add just enough additional buttermilk until you can form a ball. Try not to overwork the dough.
  7. On a lightly floured board, pat out the dough into a rectangle, then use a rolling pin to roll it out into a 15″ x 12″ rectangle.
  9. Combine the shredded apple with 4 Tbsp. of sugar and 1 tsp. of cinnamon and toss well to combine. Spread the apples over the biscuit dough and top with the butter pieces.
  10. Roll the dough up jelly-roll style and slice into 1-1/2″ pieces.
  12. Place the pieces in a square pan, cinnamon roll style (they will be touching each other slightly). Pour the syrup over the top. The rolls will almost float in the syrup.
  13. BAKE. Place the pan on a baking sheet to catch any drips.
  14. Bake at 400 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes until most of the syrup has been absorbed and the dough is nicely browned and crisp on the edges.
  15. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. Serve hot or cold. This is delicious with vanilla ice cream.



Apples – Orchard to Market


I love that we have been offered so many opportunities to connect to the food we eat as “food bloggers”. Most recently, Mary and I were invited to tour Stemilt Growers in Wenatchee, Washington. What I expected was a visit to an orchard (like the one I visited in my Girl Scout days) and a tour of a warehouse where they cleaned, packed and shipped the apples. Oh, boy – it turned out to be SO MUCH MORE!

I couldn’t believe the scale of the business they do and everything involved in getting an apple from orchard to market. Washington State grows 60% of all the apples in the USA. As one of our state’s biggest fruit companies, Stemilt processes, stores and ships apples to our local stores and to countries around the world.  Value of Washington apples sold as fresh or processed product is estimated at about $2.5 billion a year! It’s a very big business.

We started our tour with our guides, Jeff (Director of Fieldstaff) and Brianna (Communications Manager) at a nearby contract-orchard owned by Bill and Laurie Wacker. Bill and Laurie were busy over-seeing the picking and sorting of Red Delicious apples. There is a labor shortage in the apple industry right now, so everyone was working extremely hard to get the job done.

Hard at work in the Wacker’s Red Delicious orchard as Jeff tells us about the first steps in the journey to market.

Next, Jeff took us to one of the four fruit-packing facilities owned by Stemilt in Washington. That’s where the samples are pulled for testing. Sample boxes are then sent to the lab for analysis, so guess where we went next? The lab!

It never occurred to me that apples needed to be scientifically tested in their journey from orchard to market, but they do! Here’s why: apples have a limited growing season, but the world demand for apples is year-round. To meet this demand, fruit companies slow down the ripening process (conversion of starch to sugar), by putting apples into “hybernation” or controlled atmosphere.

Testing the apples for firmness, sugar and starch determines storage time.

They test the apples for starch content by spraying the cut surface of the apple with iodine. If the surface turns completely black when put under the heat lamp, the apple is still very starchy, and it can be stored in controlled atmosphere for a long time (i.e. up to nine months). The firmness and sugar content of the apples are also tested and taken into consideration when determining how long the apples can be stored. All of this allows Stemilt to maintain the highest level of quality, while  providing the world with delicious apples year-round. Last year, Stemilt tested 250,000 individual apples during harvest to ensure that all crops got to market at the right time.

All of these packing crates will be filled with Stemilt apples by the end of November!

World Famous Fruit

Stemilt (a Native American word for “foothills) is a family-owned company that is proud of their heritage and the products they bring to market. The roots of the company trace back to 1893 when the first generation of Mathisons homesteaded 160 acres of Stemilt Hill. Today, Stemilt Growers is the nation’s largest supplier of sweet cherries and organic tree fruits, as well as a key supplier of Washington-grown apples, pears and stone fruit.

You can learn more about Stemilt Growers in this video:

One of the first people we met upon entering the corporate offices was West Mathison, Stemilt’s President and great-great-grandson of Thomas Cyle Mathison, who had planted the first apple, pear and cherry orchards over 100 years ago.  West shared with us that one of his favorite parts of his job is judging the Apple Pie contest at the annual Washington State Apple Blossom Festival. Tough job, right?! A funny story: in a blind tasting, the judges gave his own grandmother a second place ribbon a few years ago.


I’m guessing they’d award Best Crust AND Best Filling to Helen’s Apple Pie! Stay tuned for that video and recipe…

Field Trip: Washington Apple Road Trip


Our route – a counter clockwise drive over Snoqualmie Pass and Blewett Pass to Wenatchee, up Highway 97 to Twisp, and Highway 20 to Winthrop and then over the North Cascades to I-5 and home.

Last Friday Joy and I  hopped in the car and headed east – in search of fresh picked Washington State apples, fall color, small town bakeries and Mom’s apple pie. We found it all and got a pie crust lesson from my mom – finally, I know how she does it! (We’ll post the recipe and a how to video later this week, so stay tuned).

In the meantime, I thought you might like a little taste of our adventure.

Our first stop, Starbucks drive-thru in West Seattle.

Starbucks drive-thru in West Seattle. Our first stop.

Okay, I know Starbucks isn’t exactly a small town bakery, but a double tall skinny vanilla latte is how I like to start a road trip. (Joy is a venti Americano girl in case you were wondering). Coffee in hand, we headed east.

Our next stop – Stemilt World Famous Fruit Company in Wenatchee. We had been invited to visit Stemilt, one of Washington’s largest fruit companies, to learn more about the commercial apple industry. Harvest was in full swing and we learned so much on our tour with Brianna and Jeff.

Joy tasting a Red Delicious apple during our Stemilt tour.

Joy and I don’t usually buy red delicious apples, but eating one fresh-picked from the tree… wow, what a difference!

We left Wenatchee and continued north, craving apple cider. Problem solved at Orondo Cider Works where we also discovered delicious pumpkin donuts. I love road trip food!

Cider and pumpkin donuts at Orondo Cider Works.

The sugar high from our cider and donuts had worn off by the time we reached the town of Pateros, so we stopped at Sweet River Bakery for a very tasty turkey cranberry sandwich. Sweet River Bakery specializes in artisan breads and we couldn’t leave without purchasing one of my favorites – the Five Grain Loaf.

Sweet River Bakery in Pateros is a great place to stop for lunch.

After lunch we headed up the Methow, in search of Booth Canyon Orchard, a small certified organic orchard just outside of Carlton. In the more remote Methow Valley, there are no large commercial apple operations. Just places like Booth Canyon where the mission is to grow the best tasting apples possible.

Ripe apples at Booth Canyon Orchard.

This was our chance to taste some apple varieties you will never find in a grocery store.

Orchardist, Stina Booth, introduced us to some of the most flavorful apples we’ve ever eaten.

Booth Canyon also sells apples to the Twisp River Pub where they are turned into hard apple cider. We just had to stop in for a glass.

Booth Canyon apples are magically transformed into hard cider at the Twisp River Pub.

We then headed on to Winthrop and my parents’ house. Look what greeted us… all this from their garden. So beautiful.

Pie pumpkins and more squash from my parents’ incredible garden in Winthrop.

Then it was time to make pie. Joy and I got a pie crust making lesson from my mom and then watched her make this beauty. We’ll be sharing all of the details later this week.

Mom’s Apple Pie.

After a big day of driving and eating, we crashed early. By 9:00 am on Saturday we were ready to hit the road again. We headed back to Twisp for a quick stop at the wonderful Cinnamon Twisp Bakery. I wanted Joy to try two of my favorites – a toasted Asiago bagel and the bakery’s signature item, a warm Cinnamon Twisp. If you are ever in Twisp, these items are not to be missed.

Cinnamon Twisps – the signature baked good from the Cinnamon Twisp Bakery.

We then headed over to the Methow Valley Farmers Market. This time of year the market is overflowing with all kinds of good things, including local apples.

Produce at the Methow Valley Farmers Market in Twisp.

What did we buy? Apples, pears, a case of ripe peaches from Smallwood Farms (more Boozy Peaches, please!), some homemade tamales for the freezer, and two handblown glasses (perfect for G & Ts) made by Sammantha Carlin of Lucid Glassworks.

Sammantha Carlin of Lucid Glassworks.

After the market it was time to head home. Our final stop was the Washington Pass lookout. Usually I zoom right by this stop, but Joy encouraged me to pull over and walk up to the view point. It was a spectacular morning and the view of Liberty Bell mountain was breathtaking.

The view of Liberty Bell Mountain from the Washington Pass Lookout.

We crossed the West Seattle Bridge at 3:00 pm. After driving nearly 500 miles and making 10 stops in under 30 hours, our Washington State Apple road trip was complete. Look for more details about Stemilt, Booth Canyon Orchard, Mom’s Apple Pie recipe, Never-Fail Pie Crust, and more later this week!

Ginger Carrot Soup


Fall is in the air! Do you agree? That crisp breeze that gently blows through the trees causing the leaves to rustle and gently fall to the ground. The lower angle of the sun. Sweaters and wool socks beckoning you from the depths of your closet. Slippers! (I <3 slippers!). And SOUP!

For me, soup = love. Basic ingredients are lovingly prepared, sautéed and simmered to create the ultimate comfort food. I often spend an entire afternoon preparing a batch of soup because it makes me feel good.

But, today, I was in a hurry. I arrived home mid-afternoon from a wonderful road trip with Mary (stay tuned for all the details!), and I needed to get dinner ready before Toby had to leave for work. So, I quickly peeled and cut up the carrots and got them simmering while I diced the onions and measured out the seasonings. Within an hour we were enjoying a bowl of luscious, creamy, slightly spicy Ginger Carrot Soup.

I got this recipe from my friend, Jeanne, who lovingly prepared it for our book group last fall. The fun secret of this soup is that it is thickened with toasted cashews. I didn’t puree mine thoroughly because we enjoy the little crunch of the nuts in the velvety smooth soup. If you wanted to, you could even leave the carrots in larger chunks. Either way, I’m sure you’ll agree that this soup tastes like a lot of love went into it (and you’ll have plenty of “love” left-over to share with family and friends!).

Like this recipe? You might also like these:
Asparagus Soup
Mexican Onion Soup
Quick White Bean Soup with Rosemary

Ginger Carrot Soup

Recipe Type: Soup
Author: A Passionate Plate
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 8
This is a lovely vegetarian soup if you choose to use water instead of the chicken broth. The cashews make the soup nice and thick. If you want the soup a little creamier, add 1/2 cup of heavy cream.
  • 2 lbs. carrots, peeled and cut into 1″ chunks
  • 5 cups water or chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 1/2 cups onion, chopped
  • 2 small cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh ginger, minced
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. cumin
  • 1 cup cashews
  • cayenne pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, optional
  • sour cream, for garnish
  1. Place the carrots and water/broth into a medium-sized soup pot and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 12-15 minutes, or until carrots are soft.
  2. Melt the butter in a medium skillet.
  3. Add the onions and saute until soft, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the garlic, ginger, nutmeg, cumin, and salt to the onions.
  5. Pour the onion mixture into the carrots, add the cashews (reserving a few for garnish) and stir well.
  6. Using a stick blender, gently puree the entire batch. Alternatively, carefully blend 2 cups at a time in a conventional blender until smooth.
  7. To serve, pour into bowls and top with a tablespoon of sour cream and a few toasted cashews.


Butternut Squash Thai Curry


All week long I’ve been asking Marvin, “Hey, what do you think about trying some butternut squash curry?” and all week long he’s been turning me down. Vegetarian can be a hard sell in this house. What have we been eating this week instead? Chinese takeout (marginal), homemade matzo ball soup (awesome), and turkey and cream cheese wraps (ugh, so boring). Well, finally last night, I couldn’t put off my craving any longer. I decided to make Butternut Squash Curry just for me.   Mmmmmm…. I’ve been thinking about this recipe for weeks.

This Butternut Squash Thai Curry is easy to prepare. Over the years I’ve adapted it slightly to use things I have on-hand (lime zest for kaffir lime leaves and chili flakes for Thai red chilies). One ingredient this recipe can’t do without is fresh lemon grass, but fortunately it is easy to find in virtually every grocery store in Seattle. Is it available in your grocery store? I hope so…

Anyway, this curry is complex with a nice blend of the four classic Thai flavors – sweet, sour, spicy and salty. The butternut squash is rich and meaty. Honestly, you won’t miss the meat – Marvin even agrees with me about that now that he’s tried a bowl. Serve this rich, comforting, curry over basmati or jasmine rice.

NOTE: Substitute tamari or soy sauce for the fish sauce in the recipe below for a truly vegetarian dish.

Like this recipe? You might also like these:
Thai Chicken Curry
Braised Garlic-Ginger Tofu
Easy Asian Noodle Salad

Butternut Squash Thai Curry
Recipe Type: Main Dish, Vegetarian, One-Dish Meal
Cuisine: Asian Inspired
Author: A Passionate Plate
Serves: 4 to 6
  • 2 to 3 lb. butternut squash
  • 1 medium onion
  • 8 oz. green beans
  • 1 Tbsp. canola or peanut oil
  • 2 tsp. curry powder
  • 1 tsp. dried coriander
  • 1 tsp. dried cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. dried red chili flakes (more if desired)
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh minced ginger
  • 1 tsp. fresh minced garlic
  • 2 tsp. finely grated lime zest
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 – 15.5 oz. cans coconut milk (or light coconut milk)
  • 1 – 4″ piece lemon grass
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. Thai fish sauce (or soy sauce)
  • 4 Tbsp. coconut palm sugar (or brown sugar)
  • 1 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts for garnish, optional
  1. Peel and seed the butternut squash and cut it into 1.5 inch chunks.
  2. Cut the onion in half lengthwise, then cut into 1/4 inch slices.
  3. Cut the tops off the beans and cut each in half on the diagonal.
  4. In a large wok, heat the oil over medium high heat.
  5. Add the curry powder, coriander, cumin, and chili flakes. Sauté the spices briefly in the oil, then add the onion, fresh ginger, garlic, lime zest and lemon grass. Continue cooking until the onions are soft.
  6. Add the coconut milk, lime juice, soy sauce, fish sauce, and sugar. Bring to a simmer and taste. Adjust seasonings as needed.
  7. Add the butternut squash and cook until it is tender, about 20 minutes.
  8. Stir in the green beans and cook just until they are crisp tender, about 3 minutes.
  9. Serve curry in bowls over basmati or jasmine rice garnished with chopped peanuts.