About Me

I'm happiest when the food I make becomes a backdrop to a lively conversation. When I'm not cooking, I'm traveling or dreaming about travel. Come sit with me, and enjoy! Read more here.

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rice pudding with cardamom, pistachio, and rose water: a reason to linger at the table

I was always the last kid to leave the lunchroom. After the other kids piled up their lunch trays and ran to the playground, I would spoon lime Jell-O into my mouth, sliver by sliver, until it was gone. I think the cafeteria ladies felt bad for me but I didn't care. I liked the way Jell-O dissolved on my tongue and how I could make each bite smaller than the last and still have a lot of flavor in my mouth.

This kid never changed. I still enjoy lingering over sweets. Rice pudding with aromatic spices has the same effect on me. It's deliciously rich and time-consuming to make, which makes it worth lingering over.

There are endless variations of rice pudding. I like semi-sweet rice pudding with fragrant spices cooked on the stovetop. Here’s my version, inspired from a Saveur recipe, which uses basmati rice. My creamy Arborio version adjusts the amount of milk and adds vanilla bean, black peppercorns (just a hint of heat!), and finishes with a touch of sweet, raw honey.

Rice Pudding with Cardamom, Pistachio, and Rose Water

Serves 2 hungry adults for breakfast or 4 for dessert

4 cups of milk
1/3 cup Arborio rice, rinsed
2 tablespoons sugar
6 cardamom pods
2 vanilla beans
4 black peppercorns
1 teaspoon rose water
2 tablespoons pistachios, toasted
Raw honey, to drizzle on top

Place the rice, milk, cardamom pods, vanilla beans, and black peppercorns in a sauce pan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer on low heat, stirring once every 2 – 3 minutes for about 35 minutes.  With a small strainer, scoop out the cardamom pods and peppercorns when the mixture is still milky. Add half of the pistachios.

Continue stirring until the mixture thickens to a pudding. Served chilled or warm, straight from the sauce pan. Sprinkle the remaining pistachios and drizzle the honey on top to serve.


baked oatmeal with blueberries: getting back to my oregon roots

In my home town of Portland, Oregon, breakfast is a big social occasion. On weekend mornings, the popular breakfast eateries sport lines out the door. Nearly every one, including one of my long-time favorites, Cup and Saucer, features oatmeal on the menu.

When I moved to the East Coast, old-fashioned oats were, well, just old-fashioned. I longed for those Portland breakfast spots proudly offering up good, hearty bowls of oatmeal.

I first tried baked oatmeal in Alaska, a place even heartier and more staple-oriented than Oregon. I ordered it at a small little breakfast café in Ketchikan. The waitress brought the dish to my table steaming hot and crispy golden on top and served it with a small pitcher of cold milk. Sweet, crunchy, and soft in the center, it was delicious. Here’s my version. Enjoy!

Baked Blueberry Oatmeal

2 cups old-fashioned oats
2 cups milk
1 egg
1 pint blueberries
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch of salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ cup real maple syrup
1 tablespoon refined coconut oil (for medium-high cooking up to 360 degrees) or melted butter

Preheat the oven to 360 degrees (many conventional ovens are not set properly; always test the heat with a heat thermometer and adjust accordingly). In a glass 8 x 8 inch baking dish, fork-whisk the dry ingredients together: oatmeal, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and baking powder. Then stir in the milk, egg, maple syrup, blueberries, and coconut oil.

Bake for 45 minutes to one hour until all the liquid has been absorbed and it’s golden brown on top. Serve piping hot with cold milk (I love vanilla almond milk) and extra maple syrup if you like it sweeter.


chicken with cinnamon, almonds, and dates: a weekend indulgence

Simple dishes with fresh ingredients define my weeknight dinners. On the weekends, I want a feast that entails multiple napkins and second or third helpings.

Lately, I keep coming back to a Joanne Weir dish that delivers just that experience. It combines the sweetness of dates with chicken braised in stock, shallots, cinnamon sticks, and a ginger-cumin-turmeric-cayenne spice blend. When topped with crunchy toasted almonds and fragrant cilantro and served over fluffy couscous, this dish is transformed into the perfect weekend indulgence.

Chicken with Cinnamon, Almonds, and Dates

Adapted from a Joanne Weir recipe published in Bon Appetit

3-1/2 pounds chicken thighs and drumsticks
1 tablespoons of flour
6 - 8 medium to large shallots (about a pound), peeled and sliced in half lengthwise at the stem if large
3 cinnamon sticks
1-1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3-1/2 cups low-salt chicken stock
5 tablespoons lemon juice
12 dates, pitted
1/4 cup almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro to top

Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Season the chicken with salt and pepper on all sides and then dust with flour. In batches, brown the chicken and transfer to a platter. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the pot and discard. Add the shallots to the pot and saute until they soften, about 6 minutes. Add cinnamon sticks, cumin, ginger, turmeric, and cayenne. Stir until fragrant, one minute. Add the broth, chicken, and half the lemon juice and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, partially cover, and simmer about 20 minutes. Add the dates.

Remove the lid and continue cooking for about 20 minutes until liquid thickens. If too thin, place 2 - 3 ladles full of liquid into a saucepan and reduce by half, then place back in the Dutch oven. Add the remaining lemon juice. Top each serving with chopped almonds and cilantro and serve over couscous.


black quinoa with cranberries, turkey, and lime: a delicious power lunch

I cycle, run, and weight-train six days a week so a high-protein diet is important to me. While a lot of work-out junkies munch on flavor-flat protein bars, I say skip the bars. Eat real food.

It's actually not difficult or time consuming to get the protein you need and eat deliciously. Take an hour on a Sunday, and presto, you have lunches for the week. So here it is, folks, my #1 power lunch: black quinoa with turkey, cranberries, and lime.


The color of this dish alone makes me want to nosh on it endlessly. But the bright flavors of lime, cilantro, cumin, and cranberry make this worth eating every day. Quinoa, a fiber-rich relative of leafy green vegetables like spinach, is a complete protein packed with all nine essential amino acids. The added low-fat turkey gives this dish a one-two protein punch.

For the cilantro-averse, like my good friend, Lou, replace with parsley. It's fabulous both ways.

Black Quinoa with Turkey, Cranberries, and Lime

1 cup black or red quinoa
1 medium red onion, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small bunch of chives, minced
1 small bunch of cilantro, minced
1 pound turkey deli meat, sliced from the deli ¼-inch thick, and diced
Juice from 1 lime
½ cup dried cranberries
Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium-sized sauté pan, heat the olive oil with the cumin seeds until seeds start to sizzle. Add the red onion and garlic and sauté until soft, 2 – 3 minutes. Meanwhile cook the quinoa according to the instructions on the package. Let red onion mixture and quinoa cool completely. Toss together with the cilantro, chives, cranberries, and diced turkey. Top with the lime juice, season, and mix well.


cod with tomatoes, olives, and thyme: a weeknight fave

When it comes to delicious, easy-to-make dishes, I'm a serial monogamist. I'll make the same dish again and again. Some might call it boring; I call it smart.

Cod paired with grape tomatoes, shallots, olives, and thyme simmered in balsamic vinegar topped with a squeeze of lemon is one of those dishes from which I’ve never strayed. Served with fluffy wild rice, it’s a satisfying and tasty weeknight dinner.

When I first started making it more than five years ago, cod served as a cheap, weeknight protein. Now, at nearly $17 a pound at Whole Foods, the sustainably caught variety is a splurge.

Due to the declining populations of cod, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program says to avoid trawl caught Atlantic cod from the U.S. and Canada. Hook-and-line caught cod is more sustainable, especially if it’s from Iceland, which garners a “best choice” rating.

Cod with Grape Tomatoes, Olives, and Thyme

 For 2 people

1 pound of cod (hook-and-line caught Icelandic, preferably)
1 large shallot, diced
1-1/2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
½ cup olives (kalamata or nicoise work best), halved
6 sprigs of thyme leaves, plucked from the stem
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 – 4 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
2 lemon wedges, one per plate to serve

In a medium size sauté pan add the olive oil and shallots and sauté over a medium flame for about a minute. Add the tomatoes, thyme leaves, and olives.

Place the oven rack in the middle of the oven and turn on the broiler to high. Brush the cod with grapeseed oil and season it with salt and pepper. Place the fish on a broiler pan and center it under the broiler flame. Cook for 7 minutes (this may vary depending on thickness). Serve with wild rice and lemon wedges to squeeze over the top.


pistachio cherry granola: bring on the good fats – and the big flavor

When I was a teenager, I was afraid of anything high in fat, even in so-called healthy foods. I desperately clung to the weight I had managed to maintain through regular exercise.

Granola? Forget it.

Avocados? No way.

I finally got the good fat-bad fat concept through my noggin. (What, you mean good fats like coconut, sesame, and walnut oil actually control your weight, protect your heart, and support your physical and emotional health? Yep, it's true.)

With that past me, I can finally enjoy a guilt-free handful of almonds and tasty bowl of granola. What a relief, because I always loved those foods but was too afraid to eat them. This recipe is inspired by one in Nigella Lawson’s “Feast." She uses brown rice syrup, which is a great alternative sweetener to refined sugar to curb those blood sugar spikes. And of course, with rolled oats, this granola is loaded with good carbs. But forget about health, this is one great bowl of cereal. The husband agrees.

Pistachio Cherry Granola with Cinnamon and Ginger

4-1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup toasted salted sunflower seeds
¾ cup sesame seeds
¾ cup apple sauce
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
¼ cup honey
¼ cup brown sugar
2 cups shelled pistachios
1 cup dried cherries
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, mix together everything but the cherries so that all the ingredients are evenly coated. Spread the mixture out on one large roasting pan or two medium-sized baking sheets (you want to make sure it spreads in an even layer). Bake for one hour, stirring the mixture mid-way through to get an even crispiness throughout. Remove from the oven, cool, and mix in the cherries.

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