Spicy Chicken Thighs with Sweet & Tangy Honey Glaze


Inspired by one of the most popular Cooking Light chicken recipes, this dish is delicious, family-friendly (it’s not too spicy), and incredibly easy to prepare. The chicken is seasoned with garlic, chili powder, cumin and smoked paprika and then broiled with a sweet and tangy honey glaze. The side dish is a Quinoa Salad with Peaches, Arugula & Pickled Red Onions from Bon Appétit — it’s wonderful with the chicken and so pretty too!


Before we get started, a few words about the chicken. It’s important to use skinless, boneless thighs as opposed to chicken breasts — they stand up better to the bold seasonings, are more flavorful and won’t dry out. Just be sure to trim off most of the fat so that they are pleasant to eat. I like to use kitchen shears as opposed to a knife; it’s much easier.


To begin, combine the trimmed chicken thighs with the olive oil and spices and mix until evenly coated.


Arrange the chicken on a foil-lined baking sheet for easy clean-up, and broil for five minutes on each side.


Meanwhile, combine the honey and cider vinegar in a small bowl to make the glaze.


Brush the chicken with half the glaze, then broil for one minute. Flip the chicken over, brush with the remaining glaze, and broil for a few minutes more until chicken is nicely caramelized.


Sprinkle the chicken with the remaining cider vinegar and serve. Enjoy!



- As the recipe was originally written, I found it much too sweet. I increased the vinegar by a lot to get the right balance of tangy and sweet. I also added a bit of olive oil, more salt and some smoked paprika for a little smokiness (you can check out the original recipe here).

- You might be wondering how this recipe would work on the grill. I’d stick to broiling, as the pan collects the sauce, which would get lost on the grill.

- For young kids, use only 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or none at all).

Spicy Chicken Thighs with Sweet & Tangy Honey Glaze

Print Recipe
Servings: 4-6
Cook Time: 12 Minutes
Total Time: 30 Minutes


For the Chicken

  • 1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, to taste
  • 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed

For the Honey-Vinegar Glaze

  • 6 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons + 2 tablespoons cider vinegar, divided


  1. Set an oven rack in the top position and preheat the broiler. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. Combine the first 8 ingredients in a large bowl. Add the chicken thighs and toss to coat evenly. Arrange the chicken thighs on the prepared baking sheet.
  3. Prepare the glaze by combining the honey with 2 teaspoons of the vinegar in a small bowl; stir well.
  4. Broil the chicken for 5 minutes on each side (for a total of 10 minutes). Remove the chicken from the oven and brush half of the glaze on the chicken; broil for 1 minute. Remove the chicken from the oven and turn over; brush the chicken with the remaining honey mixture and broil for 1-2 minutes more, until the chicken is nicely browned. Sprinkle the chicken with the remaining 2 tablespoons vinegar. Transfer the chicken and pan juices to a platter and serve.

Strawberry and Orange Salad with Citrus Syrup & Fresh Mint


This is one of my favorite fruit salads. It’s elegant, delicious and such a nice change of pace from the standard mix of pre-cut fruit from the supermarket. I usually serve it for brunch — it dresses up the table and pairs well with savory quiche and casserole dishes  – but it’s also wonderful for dessert served with shortcake and whipped cream.


With only five ingredients, it’s quick and easy to make. The only tricky part is cutting the oranges. Rather than slicing them into wheels, I like to cut the segments out of the membranes; it takes a few minutes longer but it’s prettier and the oranges are so much easier to eat. To begin, cut a slice off the top and bottom so that the orange sits flat, then use a knife to work your way around the fruit to remove all the skin and pith. Holding the orange over the serving bowl, use a sharp knife to cut the segments out from in between the membranes. 


Squeeze all the juice from the oranges into a separate bowl, then stir in the lemon juice and brown sugar. Pour the syrup over the fruit and sprinkle with fresh mint. Refrigerate the salad for at least 30 minutes or up to six hours to allow the flavors to marry.


Strawberry and Orange Salad with Citrus Syrup and Fresh Mint

Print Recipe
Servings: 4
Total Time: 15 Minutes


  • 1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved (or quartered if very large)
  • 3 oranges
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, plus more to taste
  • 2-1/2 tablespoons light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint, plus a sprig for garnish


  1. Place the strawberries into a serving bowl.
  2. Cut a slice off the top and bottom of each orange so they sit flat on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, work your way around the fruits to remove all the skin and pith. Cupping the orange in one hand and working over the serving bowl, carefully cut the segments out from between the membranes. (Be sure to cut only until you reach the middle of the fruit!) Over a separate small bowl, firmly squeeze the remaining membranes to release all the orange juice.
  3. Add the lemon juice and brown sugar to the freshly squeezed orange juice and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Pour over the strawberries and orange segments and gently toss to combine. Sprinkle with fresh mint. Taste and add more lemon juice if necessary (the syrup should have a perfect balance of tart and sweet). Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to six hours. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint and serve in shallow bowls with spoons.

Flourless Chocolate Almond Cake with Chocolate Ganache Frosting


I’m in charge of dessert for Passover every year so I’ve made my fair share of flourless chocolate cakes. This one, adapted from Maida Heatter’s Cakes, is my all-time favorite. Originally called the Queen Mother’s Cake (it’s a long story), the cake is Heatter’s most popular recipe ever. It’s made with ground almonds instead of flour and frosted with a decadent chocolate ganache, making it rich, elegant and surprisingly light.


Even though it’s fancy and made with nuts, kids love it. As you can see, my son has been enjoying it as a snack cake all week long!


There aren’t that many ingredients in this cake, which makes it look simple but, I’ll be honest: there are a lot of steps! It’s not hard to make but it does take a few hours start to finish. I think it’s worth it! Here goes…

Begin by buttering a 9 x 3-inch springform pan. Line the pan with a round of parchment paper, then butter the paper. Dust the pan with matzo meal (if making for Passover) or fine bread crumbs so the cake won’t stick. Next, toast and grind the almonds, separate the eggs and melt the chocolate in the microwave.


Next, beat the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer until soft. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating after each addition, then add the melted chocolate and ground almonds. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form, then fold them into the chocolate mixture.

Flourless Chocolate Almond Cake Batter

Bake the cake for about one hour and ten minutes, then let the cake cool. It will fall in the center as it cools; that’s okay — the next step is to cut off the edges of the cake to make it flat.


Next, make the frosting.


Bring the heavy cream to a boil in a medium saucepan, then whisk in the instant coffee powder. Off the heat, stir in the chocolate and stir until completely melted. Let the ganache thicken for 10-15 minutes, then pour it over top of the cake. Use a thin spatula to smooth it over the top and down the sides. Serve with fresh berries, sweetened whipped cream, vanilla ice cream or any combination.


Flourless Chocolate Almond Cake with Chocolate Ganache

Print Recipe
Servings: Makes one 9-inch cake, serving 10-12
Total Time: 3 Hours


For the Cake

  • 1-1/2 cups slivered almonds
  • Handful fine dry breadcrumbs, matzo meal or gluten-free substitute (for dusting the pan)
  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (best quality, such as Ghirardelli)
  • 3/4 cup sugar, divided
  • 1-1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

For the Ganache Frosting

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons instant coffee or espresso powder
  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (best quality, such as Ghirardelli)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Spread the almonds in a single layer on the prepared pan and bake for 5-7 minutes, or until the almonds are lightly colored and fragrant. Set aside to cool.
  3. Adjust a rack one-third up in the oven and turn the oven heat up to 375°F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9'' x 3'' springform pan and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper cut to fit. Butter the paper. Dust the pan all over with the fine bread crumbs (or matzo meal); rotate the pan several times to spread evenly, then invert over the sink and tap lightly to shake out any excess crumbs. Set the prepared pan aside.
  4. Place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 20-second intervals, stirring in between, until about 75% melted. Stir and let the residual heat melt the chocolate until completely smooth. Set aside until tepid.
  5. Place the almonds and ¼ cup of the sugar (reserve remaining ½ cup sugar) in a food processor fitted with a metal chopping blade. (Reserve the parchment paper from the nuts for icing the cake.) Process until the nuts are finely ground, stopping the machine once or twice to scrape down the sides. You should process for about one minute total. The mixture will be a little pasty but should not be the consistency of a nut butter. Set aside the ground nuts.
  6. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter until soft. Add ¼ cup of the sugar (reserve the remaining ¼ cup sugar) and beat to mix. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating and scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary until smooth. On low speed, add the chocolate and beat until mixed. Then add the processed almonds and beat, scraping the bowl, until incorporated.
  7. Now, the whites should be beaten in the large bowl of the mixer. If you don't have an additional large bowl for the mixer, transfer the chocolate mixture to any other large bowl. Wash the bowl and beaters.
  8. In the clean bowl of the mixer, with clean beaters, beat the egg whites with the salt and lemon juice, starting on low speed and increasing it gradually. When the whites barely hold a soft shape, gradually add the remaining ¼ cup sugar. Continue to beat until the whites hold stiff peaks when the beaters are raised. Do not overbeat.
  9. Stir a large spoonful of the whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it a bit. Then, in three additions, fold in the remaining whites. Do not fold thoroughly until the last addition and do not handle more than necessary.
  10. Turn the mixture into the prepared pan. Rotate the pan briskly in order to level the batter.
  11. Bake for 20 minutes at 375°F, then reduce the temperature to 350°F and continue to bake for an additional 50 minutes. The top might crack a bit; that's okay.
  12. Wet and slightly wring out a folded towel and place it on a smooth surface. Remove the cake pan from the oven and place it on the wet towel. Let stand until tepid, 50 to 60 minutes.
  13. Release and remove the sides of the pan (do not cut around the sides with a knife—it will make the rim of the cake messy). Now, let the cake stand until it is completely cool.
  14. The cake will sink a little in the middle as it cools. Use a long, thin, sharp knife (I prefer serrated) and level the top. It will seem like you're cutting off a lot; don't worry about it. The finished cake should be about 1-1/2-inches high. Brush away any loose crumbs. Place a rack or a small board over the cake and carefully invert. Remove the bottom of the pan and the paper lining.
  15. The cake is now upside down; this is the way it will be iced. Place 4 strips of the reserved parchment paper (each about 3'' x 12'') around the edges of a cake plate. With a large, wide spatula, carefully transfer the cake to the plate; check to be sure that the cake is touching the paper all around (in order to keep the icing off the plate when you ice the cake).
  16. To make the ganache frosting, heat the cream in a medium saucepan over medium heat until it boils. Add the espresso or coffee powder and whisk to dissolve. Add the chocolate and remove from the heat. Stir until all the chocolate is all melted and the mixture is smooth. Let the ganache stand at room temperature, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, or until it begins to thicken.
  17. Pour the ganache slowly over the top of the cake. Using a long, narrow metal spatula, smooth the top and spread the icing so that a little runs down the sides of the cake (not too much—the icing on the sides should be a much thinner layer than on the top). Smooth the sides with the spatula, then remove the parchment liners.

Pancetta Wrapped Asparagus


This is one of my favorite ways to serve asparagus because it’s big on flavor yet incredibly simple to make. All you do is wrap big, thick asparagus spears with pancetta and sauté them in a hot pan until nice and crisp. Even though the spears are wrapped, they cook perfectly and take on the salty, “porky” flavor of the pancetta, which is so delicious! I’ve served them with simply roasted chicken and grilled salmon — both very good — but I especially love them for brunch alongside eggs or quiche.


Before we get to the recipe, a few words on pancetta, which is simply Italian bacon.  Just like American bacon, it’s made from pork belly and cured — the difference is that it’s not smoked.  You can find it in the deli at most supermarkets and sometimes precut and packaged in the refrigerated gourmet foods aisle.  If can’t find it, bacon is a good substitute; just make sure it’s very thinly sliced so it cooks quickly and adheres to the asparagus.


Begin by wrapping each spear tightly with a slice of pancetta. Since the pancetta is sliced thin, there will be some holes; don’t worry about it.


Cook the spears in a large pan in batches, until the asparagus is just tender and the pancetta is crisp. Drain briefly on paper towels to get rid of any excess grease, then serve immediately while the pancetta is still crisp. Note that the pancetta will lose its crispness as it sits, but it will still be delicious.


Note: You can wrap the asparagus with pancetta a day ahead of time and refrigerate until ready to cook.

Pancetta Wrapped Asparagus

Print Recipe
Servings: 4
Total Time: 20 Minutes


  • 1 bunch thick asparagus (12-15 spears; about 1 pound), trimmed
  • 12-15 thin slices pancetta
  • Vegetable oil


  1. Wrap a slice of pancetta tightly around each asparagus spear. Cover and refrigerate until ready to cook.
  2. Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat and coat lightly with vegetable oil (the more oil you use, the crispier the pancetta will be -- just be careful not to use too much or it will splatter). Cook the asparagus, turning as each side browns, until they are just tender and the pancetta is crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer the asparagus to a plate lined with paper towels to soak up any excess grease, then transfer to a serving platter and serve immediately.

Amish-Style Baked Oatmeal with Apples, Raisins & Walnuts


Baked oatmeal is a traditional and comforting Amish breakfast casserole. Unlike regular oatmeal, which is made on the stove-top and has a porridge-like consistency, baked oatmeal is made in the oven and has a consistency similar to that of bread pudding. There are endless variations — the recipe is easily adapted with whatever fruits and nuts you have on hand — but this version filled with tart apples and plump raisins with a crunchy walnut topping is my favorite.  The best part? It can be made ahead of time and reheated.


Begin by combining the oats, half of the nuts, raisins, brown sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a bowl.


In a separate bowl, make the custard by whisking together the eggs, milk and vanilla.


Combine the custard with oat mixture and melted butter.


Arrange the chopped apples in a baking dish.


Top with the oat mixture and sprinkle remaining walnuts over top.


Bake for about 40 minutes, until the oats are set and the top is golden. Be sure to save some leftovers; oddly, this dish is just as delicious — if not more so — cold out of the refrigerator the next day.


Amish-Style Baked Oatmeal with Apples, Raisins & Walnuts

Print Recipe
Servings: 6
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Cook Time: 40 - 45 Minutes
Total Time: 50 - 55 Minutes


  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant)
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup walnuts or pecans, divided
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing the dish
  • 2 tart yet sweet baking apples, such as Honey Crisp, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks (about 2 cups)


  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease an 8 or 9-inch baking dish with butter.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the oats, brown sugar, 1/2 cup of the nuts, raisins, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Mix well.
  3. In another bowl, break up the eggs with a whisk; then whisk in the milk and vanilla until well combined.
  4. Add the milk mixture to the oat mixture, along with the melted butter.
  5. Scatter the apples evenly on the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Pour the oatmeal mixture over top and spread evenly. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup nuts on top. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the top is golden and the oats are set. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Easy Garlic Butter Shrimp


This is one of my go-to recipes when I have to hit the kitchen running. It takes just twenty minutes to make, I always have all of the ingredients on hand, the kids love it as much as I do, and there’s barely any clean-up!  I like to serve it over pasta or with a lightly toasted baguette for mopping up all of the garlic-butter sauce. It also makes a fabulous appetizer for a party — just keep the tails on and serve with plenty of napkins.


Begin by tossing the shrimp with olive oil, salt and pepper directly on a baking sheet.


Roast in the oven for 6-8 minutes, until pink.


Add the butter directly to the hot baking sheet and toss with the shrimp until melted. Sprinkle with a bit of parsley if desired and serve with lemon wedges.


Easy Garlic Butter Shrimp

Print Recipe
Servings: 4
Total Time: 20 Minutes


  • 2 pounds extra large or jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • Pinch freshly chopped parsley, for garnish (optional)
  • Lemon wedges, for serving (optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Place the shrimp on a baking sheet and toss with the olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic. Roast for 6-8 minutes, or until the shrimp are pink and just cooked through. Immediately add the butter directly on the hot baking sheet and stir until melted. Transfer the shrimp and butter sauce to a serving dish and sprinkle with a bit of fresh parsley, if desired. Serve with lemon wedges.

Copycat Recipe: Chipotle Mexican Grill’s Chipotle Honey Vinaigrette


I love Chipotle’s Chipotle Honey Vinaigrette so I came up with this homemade version by fiddling around with the ingredients listed on the Chipotle website. It tastes almost identical to the original and is delicious over romaine lettuce, beans, corn, avocado, grilled meats or any combination.


The key ingredient is canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce – dried and smoked peppers (usually red jalapeños) that come in a spicy tomato sauce with a smoky flavor. You can find them in the Latin section of most supermarkets.


To make the vinaigrette, you simply combine all of the ingredients in a blender or mini food processor.


And process until smooth. Enjoy!


Chipotle Honey Vinaigrette

Print Recipe
Servings: 1-1/4 cups
Total Time: 10 Minutes


  • 6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 2 small garlic cloves, roughly chopped


  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a blender or mini food processor and process until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Smoky Chickpea, Red Lentil & Vegetable Soup


If you’re in need of a little winter pick-me-up, this soul-satisfying soup is just the ticket. And here’s what else I love about it: you can make it with ingredients you likely have on hand; it’s ready in 30 minutes yet it tastes like you spent all day in the kitchen making it; it’s vegetarian and healthy; and it’s hearty enough, along with a salad and loaf of good bread, to be a complete meal.


Before we get started, a few words about the ingredients. It’s important to use red lentils, as opposed to another variety: they cook quickly, add wonderful flavor and thicken the soup nicely. The recipe only calls for a third of a cup; don’t be tempted to add more, or your soup will turn to sludge. As for the green vegetables, I like to use frozen peas and green beans but you can use any quick cooking, frozen or leftover vegetables you have on hand. The recipe is very forgiving!


Begin by cooking the onions in olive oil until soft. Add the carrots, garlic, smoked paprika and cumin and cook until fragrant, a few minutes.


Add the broth, lentils, thyme, bay leaves, salt, and pepper.


Bring to a simmer and cook for ten minutes.


Add the chickpeas and cook for ten minutes more, or until the lentils are cooked and the carrots are tender.


Remove a few cups of the soup and purée until smooth.


Pour the puréed soup back into the pot. Stir and taste; if you want the soup to be thicker, purée a bit more.


Add the vegetables.


Bring the soup back to a simmer and serve.


Smoky Chickpea, Red Lentil & Vegetable Soup

Print Recipe
Servings: 6
Total Time: 30 - 40 Minutes


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • Heaping 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 3/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 4 cups low sodium vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup red lentils
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup cooked vegetables, frozen peas or chopped fresh greens (or any combination)


  1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, carrots, smoked paprika and cumin; cook, stirring frequently so the garlic doesn't brown, about 2 minutes more.
  2. Add the broth, diced tomatoes, red lentils, thyme, bay leaves, salt, pepper and bring to a boil. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to a simmer; cook for ten minutes. Add the chickpeas, cover the pot and cook 10 minutes more. Fish out the bay leaves, then transfer 2 cups of the soup to a blender and purée until smooth. Add the puréed soup back to the pot and stir. Taste; if you want the soup to be thicker, purée a bit more soup. Add the cooked vegetables, frozen peas or chopped greens and simmer until the soup is hot and the vegetables are warmed through. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve.

5 Easy Spring Dinners

1. Grilled Moroccan Meatballs with Yogurt Sauce



In this easy recipe — adapted from Curtis Stone’s What’s for Dinner? – ground beef is laced with warm spices, fresh herbs and garlic, and then grilled in meatball form until smoky and charred. Serve over couscous with a cooling yogurt-cucumber sauce. Get the recipe

2. Grilled Thai Curry Chicken with Coconut Peanut Sauce


This wonderful recipe was passed on to me by my dear friend, Kelly Santoro. She found it in the Costco magazine, of all places, but the recipe originally comes from food writer Alice Currah of the blog and book, Savory Sweet Life.  The dish is a crowd pleaser for all ages…Get the recipe

3. Easy Garlic Butter Shrimp


This is one of my go-to recipes when I have to hit the kitchen running. It takes just twenty minutes to make, I always have all of the ingredients on hand, the kids love it as much as I do, and there’s barely any clean-up!  I like to serve it over pasta or with a lightly toasted baguette for mopping up all of the garlic-butter sauce. Get the recipe

4. Chipotle Chicken Quesadillas



Gone are the days when only a protein, vegetable and starch qualified as dinner. These crisp quesadillas filled with gooey melted cheddar, shredded chicken and a smoky chipotle-tomato sauce make a satisfying meal all on their own. Get the recipe

5. Grilled Turkey Burgers


Most turkey burgers are dry and tasteless and leave you yearning for the real deal. Not these! I’ve added Italian turkey sausage — a trick often used with meatballs — which amps up the flavor and makes them incredibly juicy. The best part is that you can throw them together in a matter of minutes — only five ingredients and no chopping, slicing or dicing required. Get the recipe

Dried Cherry Buttermilk Muffins with Almond Streusel


Studded with tart dried cherries and topped with a crisp almond streusel, these are — quite simply — the loveliest little muffins you ever met.


To make them, begin with the streusel topping: in a small bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar and cinnamon.


Use your fingertips to rub in the cold butter until the mixture is moistened and clumpy.


Stir in the sliced almonds and place in the freezer to chill while you make the muffin batter.


Begin by combining the buttermilk, dried cherries and almond extract. Set aside.


Next, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.


In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.


Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.


Gently stir in the dry ingredients and buttermilk-cherry mixture.


Spoon the batter into muffin tins and sprinkle the cold streusel mixture over top.


Bake at 425°F for 8 minutes, then lower the heat to 350°F and cook about 10 minutes more.


Let cool in the pan for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Enjoy!


Dried Cherry Buttermilk Muffins with Almond Streusel

Print Recipe
Servings: 16 muffins
Cook Time: 20 Minutes
Total Time: 40 Minutes


For the Almond Streusel

  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled-off
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds

For the Muffins

  • 1 heaping cup dried cherries, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled-off
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs


  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Spray two muffin pans with nonstick cooking spray (you'll use 8 cups in each pan).
  2. Make the streusel: Combine the brown sugar, flour and cinnamon in a small bowl; mix until well combined. Use your fingers to rub the butter into the dry mixture until the mixture is moistened and clumpy. Stir in the almonds. Place the streusel topping in the freezer until ready to use.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the cherries, buttermilk and almond extract. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  5. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, a few minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl and mixing well after each addition. Add the dry ingredients and buttermilk-cherry mixture and stir on low speed until just combined. Do not overmix. Fill the muffin cups about 3/4 full with the batter, then sprinkle the cold streusel topping evenly overtop.
  6. Bake for 8 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees and continue cooking for 10 minutes more, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Let the muffins sit in the pan for a few minutes, then transfer to rack to cool completely.
  7. Note: These muffins are best served warm out of the oven. To "refresh" them, simply reheat them in the microwave for 5-10 seconds.

Crispy Roasted Chickpeas


When you roast chickpeas at a high temperature, they become deliciously golden and crisp on the exterior and buttery on the interior. To me, they’re as addictive as french fries and I’ve been known to eat the entire batch standing at the stove straight from the baking sheet. They are also wonderful tossed over a salad.


Begin by draining and rinsing the chickpeas.


Transfer the chickpeas to a foil-lined baking sheet and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper.


Roast for ten minutes, until golden and crisp.


That’s all there is to it. Enjoy!


Crispy Roasted Chickpeas

Print Recipe
Servings: 1-1/2 cups
Total Time: 15 Minutes


  • 1 (15 oz) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 425° F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. Place the chickpeas on the prepared baking sheet and toss with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 10-12 minutes, stirring once, until the chickpeas are slightly shrunken and crispy. Let cool.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Creamy Chocolate Frosting


When my kids were babies, I started a home-based baking business making special occasion cakes and cupcakes, mostly for children’s birthday parties. Before I opened, I spent weeks testing every vanilla and chocolate cake recipe under the sun, often baking into the wee hours of the night while my family was sleeping. My husband would wake up in the morning to find the countertops (and, oftentimes, the trash can) littered with cakes and cupcakes. He thought I’d lost my mind — little did he know I was just discovering my passion for finding and creating great recipes that work, which was the impetus for this blog!


Ingredients for the Cupcakes

Most of the cake recipes I tried were either dry, so-so or just inconsistent but, eventually, I created a few recipes that I loved and could rely on. This is the chocolate one (for the vanilla recipe, click here). The cake portion of the recipe is modestly adapted from Magnolia Bakery in NYC and the frosting comes from Cook’s Illustrated. Together, they make an old-fashioned chocolate cupcake that is sweet enough for children but also intensely chocolate enough for adults.

Ingredients for the Frosting

Ingredients for the Frosting

Begin by making the cupcakes. Melt the unsweetened chocolate in the microwave in 20-second blasts, stirring in between, to prevent the chocolate from scorching.


When it’s about 3/4 of the way melted, take it out and stir, allowing the residual heat in the bowl to melt the remaining chocolate. Set aside to cool.


Next, whisk together the flour, baking soda, instant coffee and salt. (The coffee is optional; it enhances the chocolate flavor.)


Cream the butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar in a mixer until light and fluffy.


Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition.


Mix in the vanilla and lukewarm melted chocolate.


Then mix in the dry ingredients in three separate additions, alternating with the buttermilk.


Spoon the batter into muffin tins.


And bake for 20-25 minutes.


While the cupcakes cool, make the frosting. Begin by melting the milk chocolate in the microwave.


Next, combine the butter, Confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder and salt in the bowl of a food processor.


Blitz for about 30 seconds until well combined, then add the corn syrup and the vanilla.


Process until smooth, then add the lukewarm melted milk chocolate.


Process quickly, until the frosting is creamy, silky and shiny.


When the cupcakes are completely cool, spread the frosting over top.


Chocolate Cupcakes with Creamy Chocolate Frosting

Print Recipe
Servings: 24 cupcakes
Cook Time: 20 - 25 Minutes
Total Time: 1 Hour


For the Cupcakes

  • 6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, broken into small pieces
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled-off
  • 1 tablespoon instant coffee granules (optional, to enhance chocolate flavor)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk

For the Frosting

  • 8 ounces milk chocolate, broken into small pieces (substitute semi-sweet chocolate for darker, more intense chocolate flavor)
  • 2-1/2 sticks (20 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened but still cool
  • 1 cup Confectioners' sugar
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • Pinch salt
  • 3/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


For the Cupcakes

  1. Place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and cook in the microwave in 20-second intervals, stirring in between, until about 3/4 of the way melted. Stir, allowing the residual heat in the bowl to melt the remaining chocolate completely. (If necessary, place the chocolate back in microwave for a few seconds.) Set aside to cool.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners and lightly grease the top of the muffin tins with butter (this prevents the cupcake tops from sticking to the pan).
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, instant coffee (if using), baking soda and salt until well combined.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping the bowl and beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and lukewarm chocolate.
  5. Add the dry ingredients in three separate additions, alternating with the buttermilk.
  6. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups until about 3/4 full (I think it's easiest to use an ice cream scooper with a wire scraper). Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the tops look dry and a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean (note that one pan may finish cooking before the other). Cool in the pan for about 15 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

For the Frosting

  1. Place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and cook in the microwave in 20-second intervals, stirring in between, until about 3/4 of the way melted. Stir, allowing the residual heat in the bowl to melt the remaining chocolate completely. (If necessary, place the chocolate back in microwave for a few seconds.) Set aside to cool.
  2. In a food processor, process the butter, sugar, cocoa powder and salt until smooth, about 30 seconds, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the corn syrup and vanilla and process until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add the lukewarm chocolate and pulse until smooth and creamy, 10 to 15 seconds. Do not overmix.
  3. Note: The cupcakes are best served on the day they are made. However, they can be stored in an air tight container in the refrigerator for a day or two; just be sure to bring them to room temperature before serving. The frosting can be used immediately or held at room temperature for about 3 hours. For longer storage, cover and refrigerate, but be sure to bring it to room temperature before using.
  4. Note: The frosting is pretty foolproof, but if it "breaks" for any reason, try adding a teaspoon or two of warm water and mixing again.

Chipotle Chicken Quesadillas


To me, these are the ultimate quesadillas: warm and crisp flour tortillas filled with gooey melted cheddar, shredded chicken and a smoky chipotle-tomato sauce. I’ll be honest, they take some time to make, at least as far as quesadillas go (about 45 minutes start to finish), but they’re a complete meal and so full of flavor. The recipe is adapted from the website of Curtis Stone, one of my favorite chefs and cookbook authors. You will love it!

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Cocktail Meatballs


Throw away those old kitschy cocktail meatball recipes that call for grape jelly and frozen meatballs — these are homemade, easy-to-make and so much better. You’ll love that the meatballs are baked, not fried, and the sweet and tangy sauce is ready in under 15 minutes. What’s more, you don’t need to wait for a party or special occasion to make them; they’re delicious over white rice for dinner and kids absolutely love them. 

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Mexican Rice Pilaf


My family loves Mexican food so this easy Mexican rice makes a regular appearance at our dinner table. It’s not really authentic — true Mexican rice is more complicated and time-consuming to make — but it’s delicious and my kids claim it tastes just like the rice served at their favorite Mexican restaurant. That’s authentic enough for me! I typically serve it with my Chicken Enchiladas with Tomatillo Sauce, Peruvian Chicken, or Chicken Chili.

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French Green Beans with Shallots


How can a vegetable recipe with only one tablespoon of oil and three simple ingredients — olive oil, green beans and shallots —  be so delicious? It’s all in the technique, which combines slowly cooking shallots in olive oil to coax out their natural sweetness and simmering beans in a bit of water until tender.  

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Easy Slow-Baked Boneless BBQ Short Ribs


When you’re craving comfort food, you can’t beat meltingly tender short ribs slow-cooked in a sweet and tangy barbecue sauce. And here’s the best part: only 15 minutes of prep work and the oven does the rest. Unlike many roast or stew recipes, it’s not necessary to sear the meat first. You just slather it with sauce, put it in the oven, and let deliciousness ensue.

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Contest Winner! Chocolate Caramel Shortbread Squares (a.k.a. Millionaire’s Shortbread)


Thanks to all who participated in my holiday cookie contest! I received many wonderful family recipes but, in the end, these Chocolate Caramel Shortbread Squares of Scottish origin won me over. Sent in by Carrie H. of Rockville, MD and known as Millionaire’s Shortbread, presumably because they are so rich, they consist of a layer of crumbly shortbread, a layer of soft caramel and a layer of chocolate. To me, they taste just like gourmet Twix bars.

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Creamy Butternut Squash Polenta


I first tried this wonderful side dish at my dear friend Dana Kaminsky’s house for a holiday dinner. She served it with Onion-Braised Brisket and roasted vegetables, among other things, and it was truly a meal to remember. I’ve since made it many times and can attest that it’s delicious with any sauce-laden winter roast or stew, and also with my easy New Orleans Style BBQ Shrimp recipe.

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Perfect Basmati Rice


Basmati is a fragrant, nutty-tasting long grain rice grown in the Himalayas and Pakistan. “Bas” in Hindi language means “aroma” and “mati” means “full of,” hence the word Basmati — or “full of aroma.”


The key to making basmati rice that is light, tender and fluffy (in other words, perfect) is to rinse it first, otherwise the grains will be gummy and stick together. It only takes a minute or two. Simply place the rice in a bowl with water, and then swish it around to release any excess starch.


As you can see, the water will be cloudy at first but after several rinses it will be clear.


To cook the rice, bring the water, butter and salt to a boil, and then stir in the rice.


Bring the rice up to a simmer, then cover and cook for 15-20 minutes, or until the rice is tender and all of the water is absorbed.


Remove the pot from the heat and let it sit covered for a few minutes, then fluff the rice gently with a fork.


Then the rice is ready to serve.


Perfect Basmati Rice

Print Recipe
Servings: 4
Total Time: 25 Minutes


  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • Water
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


  1. Place rice in medium bowl and add enough water to cover by 2 inches. Using your hands, gently swish grains to release any excess starch. Carefully pour off water, leaving rice in bowl. Repeat four to five times, until water runs almost clear. Using a fine mesh strainer, drain water from rice.
  2. In a medium pot, bring 2 cups of water, butter and salt to a boil. Stir in rice and bring back up to a gentle boil. Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid. Turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes, until all of the water is absorbed and the rice is tender. Remove the pan from the heat and allow it to sit covered for 5 minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork and serve.

2013 Holiday Cookie Contest!


Do you have a favorite holiday cookie recipe? Email it to me ( by midnight on Friday, December 13th for a chance to win this beautiful Julia Knight Peony Two-Tiered Server with matching plates (value $330).

Be sure to include the good stuff: Where did the recipe come from? Has it been in your family a long time? Is it part of any special holiday traditions?

I’ll select three finalists, bake all three cookies and pick a winner with the help of some friends. The winning recipe will be featured on Once Upon A Chef the week before Christmas. 

Note: All types of cookies will be accepted, including bar cookies. Basically, if you can put it on a cookie tray, it counts.

You must be a Once Upon A Chef email subscriber (subscribe here) and resident of the contiguous US to participate. Thanks to all those who enter — I’m looking forward to seeing (and baking) your great recipes — and to Julia Knight for sponsoring this contest!


Baby Kale Salad with Lemon, Parmesan & Crispy Roasted Chickpeas


Kale, a.k.a. the “queen of greens,” is one of the healthiest things you can eat, but it doesn’t always taste great raw. In fact, I once read an article that likened the experience of eating raw kale as feeling like your mouth was being battered by a giant tree. But a good kale salad, prepared properly with the right mix of ingredients, can be a revelation. This version — made with tender baby kale, crispy roasted chickpeas (love!), nutty Parmigiano-Reggiano and a zingy lemon vinaigrette — is just that. It makes a satisfying and healthy lunch all on its own, or a perfect side to jazz up a simple rotisserie chicken for dinner.

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My Thanksgiving Menu 2013


This year, I’m having a small family gathering for ten people so I’m trying to keep the menu pretty simple, although it still seems like a ton of food! It’s so hard to cut back, as everyone has their favorite dishes and special requests. The only thing the whole family can agree upon is the Pumpkin Cheesecake — it’s a bit of a project, but quite possibly the best Thanksgiving dessert ever. Thankfully, most of the menu can be made ahead of time, including the soup, salad dressing, cranberry sauce, all the sides and dessert. The only dishes I’ll have to prepare on Thanksgiving day are the turkey, the biscuits and the gravy. Happy Thanksgiving!

Soup, Salad & Bread



Super Simple Butternut Squash Soup


Best Buttermilk Biscuits


Mesclun Salad with Goat Cheese, Maple-Glazed Pecans and Maple Dijon Vinaigrette


Main Course



Simple 2-Hour Roast Turkey


Fresh Homemade Cranberry Orange Sauce


Homemade Gravy


Roasted Carrots with Thyme


Sweet Potato Pecan Crisp


Roasted Brussels with Balsamic Vinegar & Honey


Challah, Wild Mushroom & Herb Stuffing





Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust, Caramel Sauce and Whipped Cream 

And, finally, over the Thanksgiving holiday, I’ll be home with the kids baking our family’s favorite Pumpkin Bread recipe. It’s super easy and so delicious. Watch the video for the step-by-step instructions.


My Turkey Travails + The Easiest Roast Turkey You’ll Ever Make


Ever since I started hosting Thanksgiving dinner ten years ago, I have been on a quest to make the perfect Thanksgiving turkey. I’ve brined it, deep fried it, marinated it, injected it, buttered it, dry-rubbed it, butterflied it and stuffed it. I’ve tried Kosher turkeys, organic turkeys, free range turkeys and self-basting turkeys. A few years ago, I even bought an oil-less outdoor propane turkey fryer called “The Big Easy, ” which freed up my oven and actually made a wonderfully crisp-skinned and juicy turkey. (If you want to spend $100 on a large piece of equipment that will likely sit in storage collecting cobwebs 364 days a year, I highly recommend it!)

From all this fussing with turkeys, I’ve come to realize that my turkey will never be perfect. Let’s face it: turkeys, on their own, just aren’t very good. That’s what gravy and cranberry sauce are for. As Mary Risley from Tante Marie’s Cooking School so humorously points out in the video below (which you should definitely watch, especially if you have any turkey-cooking anxiety), “I have never had an outstanding turkey.”

(Viewer discretion advised, as this very funny video contains some foul language)

Short of purchasing a special turkey cooker (this is the one I have), it is near impossible to cook a turkey perfectly: the white meat always cooks before the dark meat is done and the skin on the bottom is never crisp (unless you flip the hot, sputtering bird mid-way through cooking – ummm, no thank you!).

So is it really worth it to go to great lengths – brining in big coolers for days in the garage, risking life and limb deep-frying in the driveway, pre-icing the breast of the turkey so it cooks more slowly (I swear, there’s a very respectable cooking magazine that wants you to do this) – to make that End-All-Be-All turkey?

It’s up to you, but I don’t think so. I’m not interested in babysitting my turkey for three days to get marginally better results at the end.

My advice to you on Thanksgiving is to keep it simple. Make an easy roast turkey (i.e., just put the #&?@#!#% in the oven) along with an over-the-top delicious gravy and some cranberry sauce to go with it. Focus your time and creativity on the side dishes and desserts because that’s what everyone really looks forward to anyway.


Of course, I would not leave you high and dry without a recipe. And, you know me by now, I would not just haphazardly “stick a turkey in the oven.” But, funny enough, my favorite recipe — the 2-Hour Turkey — does just that. Developed by Sunset Test Kitchens for Safeway (I know, but trust me), the 2-Hour Turkey requires no brining or stuffing, fancy seasoning, trussing or injecting. It’s just a plain ol’ turkey seasoned with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted in a 475-degree oven until the skin is crispy and brown and the meat is juicy. From all my turkey travails, I can tell you that this simple high-temperature method is the absolute best (and most sensible) way to cook a turkey.


Believe it or not, depending on the size of your bird, the turkey cooks in 1-2 hours. I know it sounds impossible if you’ve been waking up early for the last twenty years to slow cook your turkey but I promise you it works. The turkey is cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees in the oven (not the 175 to 180 degrees most experts recommend) and comes up to just the right temperature while it rests.


Rather than post the recipe here, I am giving you a few links to the Safeway website, where the recipe is very well written with detailed step-by-step photos and a FAQ section that answers every possible question you could ever have about a turkey. Be sure to read through the recipe carefully now so that you have everything you need on Turkey Day — and follow it to a tee (including cleaning your oven beforehand so it doesn’t smoke from the high heat). I also recommend reading through the FAQs so you can anticipate any issues that might arise.

Click here to print the recipe.
Click here to see step-by-step photos and read the turkey FAQs.
Click here if you’d  like to watch a short video to see how it’s prepared.
Click here to see how to carve a turkey.

Note that the recipe calls for a certain brand of turkey that Safeway carries; don’t worry about that — any turkey will do. I’ve made the recipe with both a Kosher turkey and Butterball turkey and both came out great. Same goes for the olive oil — any brand will work. Just don’t use butter as it will burn. Also, the recipe does not give quantities for salt and pepper. It’s personal preference but, for my 12-14 pound turkeys, I use about 2 tablespoons of kosher salt and 1-1/2 teaspoons of black pepper.

Finally, keep in mind, while the 2-Hour Turkey might be one of the best, juiciest turkeys you’ve ever made, it will still taste like turkey! Be sure to make my gravy and cranberry orange sauce to go with it.

Click here for my gravy recipe.
Click here for my cranberry sauce recipe.

A Few Final Thoughts on Turkey

- Depending on where you buy your turkey, you might be presented with several options like Organic, All Natural, Kosher or Self-Basting. I like Kosher turkeys best but they can be expensive and hard to find. The good news is that it doesn’t matter much which type of bird you buy for this recipe — they all work well! (If you want to read more about the different types of turkeys, click here.)

- Most recipes, including this one, will advise you to save the turkey giblets to make turkey stock and gravy. It’s a good idea but, to be honest, I never bother – there’s too much other cooking to do on Thanksgiving. The drippings from the roasted turkey will give you plenty of flavor for your gravy, and you can use store bought chicken broth for the rest. Keep it simple!

- No matter how you cook your turkey, leave it un-trussed (don’t tie the legs together) – it’s easier and the turkey will cook more evenly. Many turkeys come with a plastic binder that holds the legs together; just cut it off. Or sometimes the skin is pulled around the legs to hold them together; you can cut that off as well.

- Don’t go crazy trying to flavor your turkey with herbs and spices. Salt, pepper and oil the skin and you’re good to go. Anything else is unnecessary and gets overshadowed by the gravy and all the side dishes anyway.

- Don’t worry about basting the bird (you actually can’t in this recipe); it’s not necessary and let’s heat out of the oven, which increases the cooking time.

- Don’t stuff your turkey – it will cook faster and you won’t have to worry about giving your guests salmonella (yikes…that would not be happy turkey day). Plus, your stuffing will be mushy if you cook it inside the bird. Why have soggy stuffing when you can bake it separately in the oven and have it crisp and toasty on top?

Hope my turkey travails help turn your turkey into a success! If you enjoyed this post, subscribe for free to my newsletter and never miss a recipe!

Homemade Gravy


This is my favorite gravy and I serve it every year with my Thanksgiving turkey — in fact, it is what makes my Thanksgiving turkey! The recipe is modestly adapted from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Family Style. My only changes were to significantly reduce the salt, increase the broth so it’s not quite so thick and add a sprinkling of fresh herbs which compliments my very simple roast turkey. I usually make it while my turkey rests but if you want to get a head start, you can make it without the turkey drippings (reducing the broth by about a 1/2 cup) and just stir the drippings in when your turkey is done.


Begin by melting the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the onions…


And cook until very soft, about 15 minutes.


Whisk in the flour and cook for a few minutes to get rid of the raw flour taste.


Then whisk in your turkey drippings/chicken broth and Cognac.


Cook for about 5 minutes until thickened…


Then stir in the heavy cream and fresh herbs.


Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remember, the gravy should be generously seasoned because turkey is very bland.  Always taste it with a piece of meat to be sure the seasoning is right. That’s all there is to it…Enjoy!


Homemade Gravy

Print Recipe
Total Time: 20 Minutes


  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1-1/2 cups finely chopped yellow onions (from 2 small onions)
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • Defatted turkey drippings plus chicken broth to make 2-1/2 cups
  • 1 tablespoon Cognac or Brandy
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs (such as thyme, sage, rosemary or parsley)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Melt the butter in a medium sauce pan over medium-low heat. Add the onions and cook until very soft and translucent, about 15 minutes.
  2. Whisk in the flour and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Whisk in the turkey drippings/chicken broth and Cognac and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes until thickened. Stir in the cream and fresh herbs and season to taste with salt and pepper (I usually add about 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, but it depends how salty your broth is.) Transfer gravy to bowl or gravy boat and serve.
  3. If you make the gravy ahead of time, it may thicken up; you can thin it to the desired consistency with water or chicken broth.

Fresh Cranberry Orange Sauce


Fresh homemade cranberry sauce is a cinch to make. This version is flavored with orange juice and orange zest, which elevates it into an elegant holiday dish. Serve with simple Roast Turkey and Gravy.


Begin by zesting the orange. I like to use my Microplane rasp grater but any grater will do — just be sure to leave the white pith behind as it’s quite bitter.


Using the same orange, squeeze the juice into a measuring cup. You should get about a half cup.


Combine the orange juice, water and sugar in a medium pot and bring to a boil.


Add the cranberries, orange zest and salt and boil gently until most of the cranberries burst open, creating a thick sauce.


Transfer the sauce to a bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve.


Cranberry Orange Sauce

Print Recipe
Servings: 2-1/4 cups
Total Time: 15 Minutes


  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice, from one orange
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 (12 oz) bag fresh or frozen cranberries (do not use dried)
  • Zest of one orange, about 2 teaspoons
  • Pinch salt


  1. Bring orange juice, water and sugar to a boil in a medium sauce pan. Add cranberries, orange zest and salt and bring back to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and boil gently for about 10 minutes, until most of cranberries have burst open.
  2. Transfer sauce to a serving bowl. Cover and chill until ready to serve.

Grand Mimosas


Grand mimosas are festive cocktails made with orange juice, Champagne and orange liqueur. They are traditionally served with brunch as a “hair of the dog” remedy for a hangover. The following basic recipe can be adjusted to your liking — add more orange juice or Champagne as you see fit. 

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Best Buttermilk Biscuits


Rich and buttery in flavor with a fluffy interior and toasty golden crust, these are the best biscuits to ever come out of my oven. I tested countless biscuit recipes in my quest to perfect them — much to my family’s delight! The recipe is based on Pastry Chef Amanda Clarke’s version, which incorporates a few secret ingredients and a special technique that creates layers in the dough, making the biscuits tender and perfect every time. The best part is that they’re easy to make: you can throw the dough together in ten minutes and enjoy them with your meal less than fifteen minutes later.

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An Exciting Announcement from Once Upon a Chef

Dear Readers,

Four years ago, I started Once Upon a Chef as a way to return to the culinary world after leaving the restaurant business to start a family. I still remember the excitement of seeing my first few subscriptions roll in, even if they were my own relatives! Today, thanks to you all sharing my site with your friends and families, my subscriber list has grown to almost 25,000 readers. I am so grateful for your continued support!

I’m also grateful for your steady feedback over the years. Your emails always brighten my day, and your suggestions on how I can improve the site are greatly appreciated. To that end, I’d like to take this opportunity to fill you in on a few changes I’m making to Once Upon a Chef that I hope you’ll enjoy.

First, I’m getting ready to launch a new newsletter. Each week, I’ll continue to provide a new featured recipe but will also add complete menus to make weekly meal planning easier for you. In addition, I’ll include seasonal recipe round-ups, cooking tips, awesome giveaways and more. The first edition should arrive in your inbox later this week!

(FACEBOOK FANS: you can subscribe to receive the newsletter here)

I will also be introducing cooking videos. This is a big step for me personally because up until recently, the thought of “lights, camera, action” was about as appealing as jumping out of airplanes! But I did it, and it was actually fun. If you’d like a sneak peek, check out the link below to see a video of my Black Bean Salad with Corn, Red Peppers, Avocado with Lime Cilantro Vinaigrette. This is my most popular recipe by a mile — it has been pinned over 700,000 times on Pinterest!

Click here to see the video!

As I roll out these new additions to Once Upon a Chef, I want to hear from you! Please keep in touch and let me know how you enjoy the recipes and changes.

As always, thank you for allowing me into your inboxes and kitchens, and especially for sharing my recipes with your friends and families!

All My Best,


Pear & Dried Cherry Crisp with Walnut Streusel


Rustic desserts that pair soft, tart fruit with buttery-crisp toppings are one of my favorite things to bake: they’re easy to throw together, completely foolproof, and always warm and comforting. Recipes abound but this one, modestly adapted from an old Bon Appétit magazine, is a stand-out thanks to the combination of sweet D’Anjou pears and tart dried cherries, which are plumped up in an orange-scented caramel syrup before baking. Served warm out of the oven with a crunchy walnut streusel topping, it’s the perfect dessert for a chilly night.  

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Pecan Crusted Chicken Tenders with Honey Mustard Sauce


The dinner recipes that I get the most excited to share are the ones that appeal to my kids as much as they appeal to me. (And let’s face it: that’s not frequently the case!) This gourmet twist on chicken tenders is one of them. The chicken is breaded in a mixture of pecans and panko, then pan-fried until crispy and golden and served with a creamy whole grain honey mustard sauce. Since the pecans are finely chopped, even kids who think they don’t like nuts will try them, ask for seconds, and even sneak thirds when you’re not looking (you know who you are!).

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5 Weeknight Dinners Your Family Will Love

If you’re looking to spice up your weeknight dinner repertoire, give these easy recipes a try. Your family will thank you!


Pan Seared Salmon with Soy Mustard Glaze



The glaze is the star of this easy and elegant salmon dish. It’s tangy and sweet like any good Asian-style glaze, but the addition of whole grain mustard takes it over the top. The little mustard seeds “pop” in your mouth, releasing bits of intense, sharp mustard flavor when you bite into them. GET THE RECIPE

Chicken Tacos



Start a Taco Tuesdays tradition and kick it off with these family-friendly Chicken Tacos. They’re a healthier spin on traditional beef tacos and just as good, if not better. GET THE RECIPE


Easy Spaghetti & Meatballs


You’ll be glad to have this easy recipe in your repertoire. The meatballs are baked, not fried, and you might be surprised to see what’s in them. GET THE RECIPE

Ginger, Garlic & Chili Shrimp


In this recipe, adapted from The Splendid Table’s How To Eat Supper by Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swiftjumbo shrimp are soaked in a brine flavored with salt, sugar and chili powder, and then sautéed with loads of fresh ginger and garlic. The recipe appeals to kids and adults alike — in fact, the headnote in the book reads: “If there is one recipe in this book that is guaranteed to have your family moaning with gratitude, this is it. GET THE RECIPE


Chicken Curry


Even kids who are not adventurous eaters love this dish of sautéed chicken breasts simmered in an aromatic and slightly sweet curry sauce. The best part is that you can have it on the table in 30 minutes, and the cooking method ensures that the chicken comes out reliably tender every time. GET THE RECIPE

Anolon Gourmet Cookware Giveaway! (Value $400) — CLOSED


(This giveaway is closed…Congratulations, Janet!)

Time for another great giveaway, thanks to Anolon Gourmet Cookware! Enter for a chance to win this 12-piece Anolon Tri-Ply Stainless Steel professional quality set, valued at $400, which includes:

  • 1.5 Qt. Covered Saucepan
  • 2 Qt. Covered Saucepan
  • 3.5 Qt. Covered Saucepot
  • 8 Qt. Covered Stockpot
  • 8.5″ French Skillet
  • 10.25″ French Skillet
  • 4 Qt. Covered Sauté Pan

For a chance to win, simply review any recipe on the site between now and midnight on November 15th. You may review up to five recipes for five separate entries. Please leave constructive reviews that will help other cooks. For example: Was the dish perfect as is or would you alter the recipe next time? Did you make any substitutions? What other dishes did you serve it with?

The winner will be chosen randomly and notified via email. You must be a resident of the contiguous U.S. and Once Upon a Chef email subscriber to participate. Click here to subscribe.

Please review recipes on the individual recipe pages!

Pan-Seared Salmon with Soy Mustard Glaze


The glaze is the star of this easy and elegant salmon dish. It’s tangy and sweet like any good Asian-style glaze, but the addition of whole grain mustard takes it over the top. The little mustard seeds glisten in the sauce and “pop” in your mouth, releasing bits of intense, sharp mustard flavor when you bite into them.  

Read More»

Easy Butternut Squash Soup


This has got to be the easiest butternut squash soup recipe ever. You start with pre-cut squash from the supermarket, then you basically throw everything in a pot, simmer it, purée it and you’re done. But just because it’s easy doesn’t mean it’s not delicious. I promise you that it’s everything you expect a classic butternut squash soup to be: silky, slightly sweet and full of flavor. Just don’t be tempted to omit the heavy cream — it’s the only fat in the whole soup and, without it, the recipe won’t work.  

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Apple Spice Muffins


I’ve been searching for the perfect apple muffin recipe to share with you ever since I started this blog. Honestly, there’s no telling how many dozens of apple muffins I’ve baked. Finally, I found a fantastic recipe on the King Arthur Flour website and, with a few tiny tweaks, I had the perfect recipe I’d been looking for. So, what makes these apple muffins so good? For starters, they’re made partially with whole wheat flour, which gives them a wonderfully wholesome flavor and texture. They’re also chockfull of apples, scented with warm autumn spices and finished with an irresistible crunchy brown sugar topping.

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Six Comforting Sunday Suppers

These hearty dishes are perfect for cold and lazy winter Sundays, when you have some time to putter around the kitchen…

1. Chicken Enchiladas with Tomatillo Sauce



Even young children love these hearty enchiladas filled with smoky shredded chicken and cheddar cheese in a tangy tomatillo sauce. GET THE RECIPE


2. Beef Stew with Carrots and Potatoes



In this classic French beef stew known as Beef Bourguignon, the meat is slowly braised in a rich brown sauce until meltingly tender. It takes some time to make, but it’s well worth the effort; aside from being delicious, it’s a one pot meal that feeds a crowd. You can also make it a day ahead—in fact, you should because the flavor improves the longer it sits. GET THE RECIPE


3. Fettucine Bolognese



Fettucine Bolognese, or pasta in a richly flavored meat sauce, is one of my favorite Sunday night family meals. The sauce simmers on the stove for several hours, making the house smell delicious and inviting, and the end result is a comforting yet elegant dish. GET THE RECIPE

4. BBQ Turkey Meatloaf



This BBQ turkey meatloaf is a family favorite. It’s hearty, deliciously full-flavored and—bonus—low in fat.  GET THE RECIPE


5. Onion-Braised Beef Brisket



This is apparently the world’s most Googled brisket recipe. It’s surprisingly simple: unlike all other briskets I’ve made, there’s no wine, stock or bottled sauces added. Instead, the brisket is cooked on top of a massive heap of onions, which slowly caramelize and release their juices, making a flavorful French onion soup-like braising liquid all their own. GET THE RECIPE


6. Peruvian-Style Chicken with Green Sauce



This is my take on Pollo a la Brasa, that delicious spit-roasted chicken made popular by so many Peruvian restaurants. The chicken is first marinated in olive oil, lime juice, garlic and spices, and then oven-roasted until tender, juicy and crisp-skinned. The accompanying green sauce, which gets it’s color from cilantro and jalapeño peppers, is spicy, creamy and downright addictive.  GET THE RECIPE


Grilled Thai Curry Chicken Skewers with Coconut-Peanut Sauce


This wonderful recipe was passed on to me by my dear friend, Kelly Santoro. She found it in the Costco magazine, of all places, but the recipe originally comes from food writer Alice Currah of the blog and book, Savory Sweet Life.  The dish is a crowd pleaser for all ages. It’s the sauce. My 10-year-old son, upon taking a second helping of the broccoli I served alongside, answered my surprised look with, “Mom, this sauce would make anything taste good.” I have to agree: I was tempted to forget the chicken entirely and just have the sauce as soup!

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Sautéed Zucchini and Cherry Tomatoes


As much as I love fall produce — thoughts of Honeycrisp apples, winter squash and sweet potatoes are already dancing around my mind — I’m not quite ready yet. So here’s one last hurrah for summer veggies: a side dish of crisp zucchini, burst cherry tomatoes and meltingly sweet red onions sautéed in olive oil. If it sounds basic, it is, but it’s one of those dishes where the whole is far greater than the sum of its parts. Pair it with grilled salmon and some orzo doused with lemon and olive oil for a light and easy weeknight meal.

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Grilled Moroccan Meatballs with Yogurt Sauce


I have a quirky habit of perusing the Internet in search of gently used cookbooks to add to my collection. I always find great buys — beautifully photographed books that have barely been opened — and it’s such a treat when they arrive on my doorstep, full of inspiration. It’s the little things, right? ;) One of my recent finds is Curtis Stone’s What’s for Dinner? I’m slowly cooking my way through the book and this recipe is one of my favorites. Ground beef is laced with warm spices, fresh herbs and garlic, and then grilled in meatball form until smoky and charred. Served over couscous with a cooling yogurt-cucumber sauce, it’s a quick and easy meal that’s big on flavor.

Favorite Finds

Favorite Finds

To begin, you’ll need…


Combine the egg, garlic, cilantro, cumin, allspice, salt and pepper in a medium bowl.


Mix until well combined.


Add the ground beef and panko bread crumbs.


Mix together with your hands until just combined.


Use a 1/3 cup measure to portion out the meat and shape into discs.


Preheat your grill to medium-high heat and grease well.


Place the meatballs on the grill and cook for about four minutes per side, until charred and no longer pink in the center. As they cook, the centers will dome slightly, creating nicely shaped meatballs.


Meanwhile, make the yogurt sauce by combining the yogurt, cucumber, lemon juice, fresh dill, salt and pepper in a small bowl.


Mix to combine.


Serve the meatballs over couscous, topped with the yogurt sauce.


Note: In the original recipe, Stone forms the meat into kebabs onto long-stemmed rosemary, which is beautiful but hard to find. I’ve simplified the recipe by shaping the meat into meatballs. However, you can easily form the meat mixture into kebabs around wooden or metal skewers. I’ve also reduced the salt, adjusted the spices, and swapped regular yogurt for Greek yogurt in the sauce — but in essence the recipe is the same.

Grilled Moroccan Meatballs with Yogurt Sauce

Print Recipe
Servings: 8 meatballs, 4 servings
Cook Time: 8 Minutes
Total Time: 30 Minutes


For the Meatballs

  • 1 large egg
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-1/4 pounds 85% lean ground beef
  • 1/3 cup panko
  • Vegetable oil, for grilling

For the Yogurt Sauce

  • 1/2 English cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 cup plain low-fat or whole milk Greek yogurt (do not use non-fat)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, from one lemon
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
  • 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


For the Meatballs

  1. Preheat the grill to medium-high heat (about 500 degrees).
  2. Mix together the egg, garlic, cumin, allspice, cilantro, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Add the ground beef and panko and mix with your hands until well combined.
  3. Using a 1/3 cup measure, form 8 disc-shaped meatballs. (They will dome slightly on the grill, forming nicely rounded meatballs.)
  4. Lightly dip a wad of paper towels in vegetable oil and, using tongs, carefully rub over the grates several times until glossy and coated. Grill the meatballs, covered, for about 4 minutes per side, or until they are nicely browned on the exterior and no longer pink in the center. Transfer the meatballs to a serving plate and let rest for 3 minutes. Serve with the yogurt sauce and couscous, if desired.

For the Yogurt Sauce

  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl and mix well. Refrigerate until ready to serve.



Delicious to eat and fun to make, rugelach (pronounced rug-a-lah) are miniature crescent-rolled pastries posing as cookies. They’re made by rolling a triangle of dough around a sweet filling of fruit, nuts, chocolate or pretty much anything your heart desires. If you’ve never had them or made them from scratch, definitely roll up your sleeves and give this classic walnut-raisin version a try. They’re easier than they look and vastly better than store bought. I’ll be honest: they do take some time to make as the dough needs to be refrigerated for a few hours and rolled out, but I promise you it’s worth it. Fresh out of the oven, they’re buttery, crisp and flaky, with a sweet cinnamon scent that will tempt you to eat the entire batch.

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Black Bean Dip


I just got back from a family adventure in Costa Rica, where we rafted through the jungle, came face-to-face with monkeys, sloths and toucans, zip-lined over the rainforest (okay, I didn’t do that but my kids and husband did!) and — best of all — ate lots of delicious Costa Rican food. From homemade corn tortillas to rice and beans to empanadas, we tried so many native dishes that I can’t wait to recreate at home and share with you. First up, this creamy black bean dip. Admittedly, it’s not going to win a beauty contest, but it’s so flavorful, healthy and easy to make, you won’t care.

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Glazed Oatmeal-Maple Scones with Pecans & Currants


These comforting breakfast treats are like a cross between scones and oatmeal cookies: buttery and tender on the inside, crisp and craggy on the outside, and chockfull of oats, pecans and currants. The recipe is the first I tried from Joanne Chang’s wonderful cookbook, Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Bakery & Cafe, and it was love at first bite.

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Grilled Shrimp Skewers with Tomato, Garlic & Herbs


In this easy recipe, shrimp are quickly marinated in a bright and tangy mixture of olive oil, tomato paste, lemon, garlic, and herbs and then grilled until plump and slightly charred.  They’re perfect for entertaining — either as an appetizer or main course — because all of the prep is done ahead of time. All you have to do when your guests arrive is throw the skewers on the grill. But be forewarned: people will eat more than their fair share. Make extra!

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Zucchini-Basil Pistou


Pistou, Provence’s version of pesto, is traditionally made with olive oil, garlic and basil but this ingenious version also incorporates zucchini. The recipe comes from renowned chef, Thomas Keller — whose famed restaurants include The French Laundry, Per Se, Ad Hoc and Bouchon — and was featured in last month’s Food & Wine. The first time I made it, I was blown away by how impressively simple and delicious it was. I’ve since made it many times and can attest that it is fantastic on pasta, simply baked or grilled fish, toasted bread, scrambled eggs, or even on its own (yes, it’s that good that you’ll just want to eat it with a spoon).

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Chilled Creamy Tomato Basil Soup


This recipe was inspired by a chilled tomato soup I had at a restaurant recently that tasted brighter, sweeter and more intensely of tomatoes than any other tomato soup I’d ever tried. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was in it, so I asked the waiter and he told me the secret ingredient was orange juice. Brilliant! The orange juice highlighted the sweetness of the tomatoes and livened up the taste of the soup without calling any attention to itself. Now that you know, you’ll taste it but ask anyone to guess what’s in it and they’ll have no idea — they’ll just love it.

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Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread


This Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread makes the perfect afternoon snack whenever you’re in need of a chocolate fix.  It has a deep chocolate flavor from unsweetened cocoa powder and bittersweet chocolate chips, yet it’s not so sweet that it tastes like dessert. It’s also loaded with zucchini, so there’s some virtue in it.

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Thai Crunch Salad with Peanut Dressing


This recipe was inspired by the popular Thai Crunch Salad served at California Pizza Kitchen. It’s made with crisp Napa cabbage, crunchy vegetables and edamame but it’s the creamy peanut dressing — flavored with ginger, garlic, lime and honey — that makes it so good. I guarantee you’ll want to put it on everything! You can serve this salad as a light lunch or pair it with grilled chicken for a more substantial meal. It’s excellent with last week’s Honey, Lime & Sriracha Chicken Skewers.

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Honey, Lime & Sriracha Chicken Skewers


These chicken skewers marinated in honey, lime juice and Sriracha are every bit as good as they look. And, if you’ve never tried Sriracha — the Asian hot sauce named after the coastal city of Si Racha in Thailand — this is the perfect recipe to taste just how delicious it is.

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Summer Links & Inspiration


Photo by Sean Scheidt for Bethesda Magazine

Thanks to my growing readership — and to you all for helping to spread the word — I’ve been lucky enough to get published in several publications. Since it’s a holiday week, I thought it’d be fun to share some links to my articles and summer recipe round-ups.

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