MVK’s Recipes for Autumn

After much thought in the past few months about where my food writing is going and what I would like to do with it in the future, I’ve decided to take a pause from writing for a few months. At first I thought I only had an either/or, just two decisions, either keep writing or stop completely. But on a long walk last week I realized I can make my own rules and stop writing temporarily. Five years are a very long time to keep my creative juices flowing week after week and I’ve started to feel like I’ve been uncreative in both my cooking and writing. I know whenever I start to feel this way about anything, I know I need to take a step back and reassess.  

That said, I’ll miss writing about my favorite season and holiday, but I have collected some of my favorite autumn recipes to get you through the next few months, plus tips for Thanksgiving Day! And on Sunday, I will be toasting my favorite city in the world with a Perfect Manhattan.

May your autumn be happy, peaceful, and full of the bounty of this glorious season!


Soups and Stews
Check out the farmer’s market and pick up some vegetables for my Late Summer Vegetable Soup.
Whenever I need some comfort, I make a pot of my Hungarian Mushroom Soup.
A delicious vegan meal, Autumn Red Curry Stew.

Main Dishes
This is one of my favorite chicken recipes, Chicken Stew with Old South Buttermilk Biscuits.
And another favorite chicken recipe, Braised Chicken with White Beans and Olives.
This recipe for macaroni and cheese is healthy and one pan!

Side Dishes
Although I love summer cooking, I admit I’m excited about root vegetables. Here are some of my favorite roasted roots recipes.
Fall means apples. Make some homemade applesauce!
I make this recipe for Roasted Delicata Squash all winter long!
Instead of the usual lettuce for salads, try my recipe for Autumn Kale Salad instead.

My mom’s recipe for pumpkin bread.
Make these popular miniature Halloween cookies!
My go-to gingerbread recipe, courtesy of Lynne Rossetto Kasper of NPR’s “The Splendid Table.”

Since I’ve cooked Thanksgiving dinner for years, I’ve collected several tips each year to make the day a bit easier. And here are two recipes for the best rolls in the world that I’ve made for the holiday!
Astor House Rolls
Flaky Dinner Rolls

It’s Labor Day Weekend Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

This time of year, the front meadow is a sea of goldenrod.

This time of year, the front meadow is a sea of goldenrod.

I always use Labor Day weekend as the benchmark for the end of summer. Kids are back at school, the days are getting shorter and cooler, and the local apple orchard is now open. So this weekend is a perfect time to say goodbye to the season and to invite some friends over for some a delicious meal! I’ve scoured MVK’s archives for some recipes that would be perfect for this time of year. I hope whatever you do this coming weekend, it is filled with good food!


Deviled Eggs
Who doesn’t like deviled eggs? Take this to a party and they will be gone in the blink of an eye!

Baked Artichoke Dip
While this is a little fussy, it is well worth the effort.

Homemade Hummus
Know the ingredients in your hummus by making a batch of your own!

Mediterranean Kebabs
You don’t even need to know how to cook to make this tasty appetizer!


Marinated Grilled Chicken Legs
Get the grill going for this flavorful chicken dish.

Linguine with Clam Sauce
If you can find fresh clams, this dish will be phenomenal, but canned work just as well.

Mystic Pizza
Impress your guests by grilling this pizza!

Marinated London Broil

Brazilian Fish Stew
This stew tastes like a professional made it. Show off your skills!

Salads and Such

Potato Salad
I made this over Fourth of July weekend and am still thinking about it!

Kale Salad
Instead of a usual green salad try using kale instead!

Quick Pickles
Because I love these!

And you can never go wrong with a platter of sliced fresh tomatoes with basil and a little drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.


Warm Roasted Peaches with Cream
Pick up some Amish peaches if you’re in the Northeast and roast them with a little cinnamon and nutmeg. You won’t be sorry!

You’ll make a friend for life if you make a couple batches of these incredible brownies.

Crumbly Peach Pie
A summer isn’t complete without making my grandmother’s peach pie.


Mad Men Manhattan



sunday dinner

(Photo Steve Cavalier/Alamy/Alamy)

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Should Sunday Roast Dinners Still be on the Menu?
One of the things I was most excited about when I was in London last year was going out for Sunday Roast, which is basically a full dinner at lunchtime. I have a version of that in my own home almost every Sunday because there is more time to cook; a really nice meal, usually a roast of some sort, to end the weekend and to have a nice start to the work week. Sunday just feels odd if I’m throwing together a stir fry.

So I really enjoyed this pro and con op-ed piece out of The Guardian last week for Sunday roast dinners.  Of course I’m in the “pro” camp; they truly are a comfort blanket meal. You can read the article in its entirety here.

Number 200

200What began during a March blizzard in 2011 as a creative way to get my adventures in the kitchen out into the world has developed into a weekly ritual of cooking and writing. In three years’ time, you’ve come along with me to specialty food shops in Florida, our local agricultural fair, and the sites of New York; my birthday tribute to Julia Child (when the electricity went out); I Mad Men’d myself for cocktails and Caesar salad; I’ve passed along family recipes, recipes I’ve created, and of course those from Cooking Light.

Despite being a pretty good home cook, I know there always is room to grow and for improvement. I recently made pancakes for my nephew who dubbed them good and gobbled them up, but when I bit into them, I realized I had forgotten the sugar! Well, at least my audience was happy! Just like everything in life, I am always learning and all I can do is to keep trying and mastering my craft. A big thank you to all who have been with me along the way, and a special thank you to Marta T., my very first follower who wasn’t related to me! And I can’t let this post escape with without thanking the Eater of the House, who has withstood experimental, delicious (and not so delicious), and really late dinners because of my writing and cooking! He is my first test taster, so nothing goes here without his seal of approval!

So since this is Post #200, I decided to give myself a reprieve this week and revisit my favorite pie recipe since it’s August and peach season. What better way to celebrate these beautiful golden orbs than with a pie?

peach pie

I can’t take credit for this pie; my Mom baked this beauty!

Crumbly Peach Pie
2/3 cup sugar (scant)
3/8 cup (6 Tablespoons) flour
1/3 cup (5 Tablespoons) butter (scant)
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg 6-8 peach halves, skinned

Mix the ingredients together and place half of the mixture at the bottom of a ready-to-bake pie crust. Place the peach halves on top and add the remainder of the crumbly mixture. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, then 325 degrees for 30 minutes or until golden.

To peel peaches: Fill a large pan with water and bring to a boil. In the sink, fill a large bowl with extra cold water. When the water has come to a boil, add the peaches one at a time and let it sit in the water for about 45 seconds to a minute. (The timing is very important, as you don’t want the peaches to cook.) Transfer immediately to the bowl of cold water. If everything goes well, you should be able to slip off the skins easily with your fingers. If you find they don’t, you can stick them in the hot water a little bit longer.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Tourterelle, New Haven, Vermont
For my 200th post, I thought I would give you a little peek at food in other kitchens in the state. Tourterelle is one of my favorite local restaurants that is one where we go for special occasions. The Eater of the House took me out a couple of weeks ago as a thank you for the pick up and drop off during a hiking excursion. French in theme, it’s a little country house that has a beautiful bar and several rooms where you can dine solo, à deux, or with a party.

I wasn’t very hungry that night, but that didn’t stop us from ordering the Salade de Homard (lobster salad), chunks of lobster with crunchy kohlrabi, radishes, a thin buttermilk dressing, and topped with puffed polenta. I could have eaten three of those alone! For my entrée, I ordered the Crêpe à la St Jacques, a thinly folded crepe with fresh sea scallops and wild mushrooms in a thin wine sauce. (If I were at home, I would have licked my plate!)

Unless it’s going to our local pub, I like to go to restaurants that serve food I can’t or won’t make at home. I know I will never even attempt to make crêpes at home, so this was a lovely evening out with absolutely delicious food. So this week, let someone else do the cooking and tell me about your adventures!

It’s Mocktail Time!

One of my favorite things to do this time of year is sit outside in the sun with a book in my hand and a small glass of wine and some snacks on the table next to me. I will sit, getting warm and sun-drunk (note sun, not otherwise) for an hour or two until it’s time to go indoors and start making dinner. In the dead of winter I think about these days (often) and can’t wait for them to come back, where the attire is a t-shirt, shorts and no shoes, instead of many layers of fleece.

I decided to join a friend who was taking a week off from drinking alcohol for health reasons, all in the name of research. It was the perfect opportunity for me to create some mocktails for my special evening ritual! All three of these drinks are cool and refreshing, and virtually free of calories! Lots of times you’ll find people aren’t drinking alcohol for a variety of reasons and I find when I have guests it’s nice to offer something other than a glass of water. Next time you’re at the market, pick up some seltzer, limes, and mint and you will be able to sip to your heart’s desire with the knowledge your waistline will thank you and you can have as many as you want—with no after effects!


MVK Mojito
As a former bartender, I always cut my limes is length-wise, then into six to eight wedges, so you get lots of juice. This mocktail takes just one wedge.

3-4 mint leaves
1 wedge of lime
Plain or lime-flavored seltzer water

Place the mint leaves and squeeze the lime juice into a rocks glass. (Set aside the lime wedge.) With the end of a wooden spoon, “muddle” the juice and mint together, pounding the leaves to get them soft. When finished, add an ice cube, the lime wedge, and seltzer water to the top.

Pomegranate Mocktini
This is the same recipe I use to make my Pomegranate Martinis in the winter, it’s just omitting the alcohol!

1 wedge of lime
Orange flavored seltzer water
Pomegranate juice

In a martini glass, squeeze the lime and leave in the glass. Add seltzer water to fill the glass, then top with a splash of pomegranate juice.

Strawberry Bellini
It’s strawberry season and this is the perfect mocktail to ring it in!

About 1 tablespoon of pureed fresh strawberries
Sparkling apple cider

Spoon the strawberries in a champagne flute and add the sparkling cider to the top of the glass. Top with a mint leave, if desired.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week
I read with interest the story last week of “Dr. Oz Goes to Washington.” The cardiothoracic surgeon was on Capitol Hill testifying before a Senate committee about false and deceptive advertising for weight-loss products. He has been known to promote weight-loss pills that have little to no proof that they work. I remember a couple of years ago, those “spam” ads you see on websites would have Dr. Oz touting how green coffee beans will make you lose weight. Although he was taken to task by the senators for using his show as a way of promoting these pills, he defended his promotion of these products, saying he has intensely studied them.

If I thought I could take a pill and could eat and drink what I want and not worry about gaining weight, I would have done this years ago. But what bothers me the most about this story is Dr. Oz has a following and many people believe what he says because he’s a medical doctor. Please don’t!

You can read more about the story here.


A Homemade Valentine’s Day Dinner

I thought I’d pop in early this week to pass along a Valentine’s Day dinner menu for you in case you were thinking of making a special meal on Friday night! I’m not one to really celebrate Valentine’s Day, but I never need an excuse to make a nice dinner. Restaurants always raise their prices and they’re usually packed, so I usually opt for making a special dinner at home. CookingVintageValentineSince Friday is a work night, the choices on this menu is special enough for the holiday, yet easy enough to put together after a long week at the office.

So let’s start with cocktails! Since it’s a special night, it calls for making a special cocktail! Care to go retro? Try my ManhattanIf you want to splurge on the juice, try a pomegranate martini. Or if your meal is on the spicy side, how about a margarita?  

You must have something to serve alongside your cocktails! The stuffed mushroom recipe I make is easy, and you can make these the night before and just pop them in the oven when you get home. If you have extra time, this recipe for gougères is to die for, and are best right out of the oven–just don’t burn your tongue! Or this recipe for Artichoke Dip is always a crowd favorite. If it’s just the two of you, you can refrigerate the leftovers and warm the next evening and it will still be delicious.

Soup or salad? I will always go for salad whenever given the choice. You could make a simple salad of  greens but include something special like avocado or my favorite, Hearts of Palms. These run about $3+ a can, so I buy them only on rare occasions. Maybe a few grape tomatoes, a quick vinaigrette, and you’re set!

I always think seafood makes a special meal. You could make this scallop recipe (and forego the aforementioned salad), or linguini with clam sauce, which is quick and easy. Or what about this salmon recipe? Just pop the fish in the oven and make the quick sauce on the stove. If you have a little extra time and money, this Brazilian Stew is fantastic! A bit of crusty bread and dinner is served!

Dessert anyone? If you want something chocolaty, you could make these brownies the night before and serve warmed with a little bit of vanilla ice cream. Or what about gingerbread? This cozy cake is another recipe you can make in advance. Of course, one of the most special recipes of all is Julia Child’s chocolate mousse. This must be made in advance, so that way it will be ready and you can focus on the rest of the meal.

Whatever you have or make for dinner on Friday, whether it’s an elaborate four course dinner or takeout pizza, I hope you can share it with someone you love. Happy Valentine’s Day!

“Mad Men” Caesar Salad and a Manhattan Cocktail

Just a regular evening for me after a day at the office!

Just a regular evening for me after a day at the office!

One of my favorite shows is “Mad Men.” This month I’ve been rapidly re-watching Season 4 so I can catch up with Season 5. While I love the psychological and interpersonal parts of the show, I really enjoy looking for vintage cookery items. Betty Crocker’s Hostess Cookbook that Betty had displayed on her kitchen counter (I have a copy!), the vintage barware and cocktail glasses that everyone drinks out of at work (I’ve searched high and low on eBay!), and the visits to restaurants.

In Season 1, I remember watching a restaurant dinner scene where a Caesar salad was made and served table-side. Ah, how romantic! Wouldn’t it be lovely to have a Caesar salad made just for you, while you watched the waiter gently take the lettuce, add egg and lemon, toss, and serve?

Last year, The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook by Judy Gelman and Peter Zheutlin was published. I’ve never been one for cookbooks based on television shows, but I was able to get a sneak peek of some of the recipes online. The salad dressing recipe struck my fancy, because if this was “Mad Men,” I imagined it would be an authentic Caesar dressing I could make at home.

One thing, this made more than 2 cups of salad dressing, way more than I could use up for one dinner (or even two). It also has a raw egg, so I questioned how long it could last in the fridge. (I used it a couple of weeks later and have lived, but that’s about as far as I would push it.) So if you cook for a small family, you might want to set this recipe aside the next time you have a dinner party. While the ingredient list is long, it’s just the blender and pulsing, so not a lot of work went into making this.

A Manhattan is one of my favorites wintertime cocktails. Dark and brooding, one sip and you can imagine yourself sitting right next to Don Draper in a lounge! This recipe is the way my uncle makes Manhattans and I love the added flavor of the Southern Comfort, but you can always use the traditional sweet vermouth if you prefer.


Caesar Salad
From The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook by Judy Gelman and Peter Zheutlin

Courtesy of Executive Chef Bill Rodgers, Keens’ Steakhouse, New York, New York
Note: At Keens the waiters dress the salad and add the garnishes tableside.

The recipe makes one large salad portion. You’ll have leftover dressing and croutons. Executive Chef Bill Rodgers also recommends using this delicious salad dressing for marinating grilled chicken.

For the salad
3 1/2 cups clean, cut romaine lettuce
2 ounces Caesar Dressing (see recipe below)

For the topping
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

For the garnish
Raw egg yolk
4 thin slices pimiento
2 anchovy filets, cut in half (4 pieces)
Caesar Croutons (see recipe below)

1. Make the salad: Place lettuce in a serving bowl. Toss with dressing.

2. Sprinkle Parmigiano-Reggiano on top, garnish with egg yolk, pimento, anchovy filets, and croutons and toss well.

Yield: 1 large salad (serves 1–2)

Caesar Dressing
1 1/2 ounces water
1 ounce lemon juice
3/4 cup canola oil
3/4 cup pure olive oil
1 1/2 ounces red wine vinegar
1 egg yolk
6 peeled garlic cloves
10 Italian anchovy filets
2 2/3 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoons light brown sugar
3/4 tablespoon dry mustard
3/4 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1. Make the dressing: Combine the water and lemon juice in a measuring cup and set aside.

2. Combine canola and olive oils in a measuring cup and set aside.

3. In the blender, combine the remaining ingredients and mix for 10 seconds. With the blender running, slowly begin to add the combined oils in a slow and steady stream. As you continue to add the oil, the mixture will begin to thicken. When the mixture thickens, thin it out with 1/3 of the water/lemon juice mixture. Repeat this process until all the oil has been incorporated.

4. Chill dressing until cold.

Yield: 2 1/2 cups dressing

Caesar Croutons

Note: Place the bread in the freezer for 10-15 minutes before slicing to make it easier to cut even squares.

Whole melted butter can be substituted for the clarified butter, but will brown the croutons faster. To make clarified butter, melt 4 tablespoons of butter slowly in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and allow to cool a bit until it separates. Skim off the foam that rises to the top, and gently pour the butter off of the milk solids, which will have settled to the bottom.

6 slices white bread, crusts removed and cut into 1/4-inch squares (see note above)
2 tablespoons clarified butter, melted (see note above)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh herbs (rosemary, parsley and thyme)
1/8 teaspoon Kosher salt

1. Pre-heat the oven to 350°F. Toss bread cubes in a bowl with the remaining ingredients.

2. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes or just until slightly browned and crisp. Let cool at room temperature before serving. Store covered in an airtight container.

Yield: Croutons for 6 large Caesar salads

Cook’s Notes:
• You’ll notice I did very little in the way of accompaniments with my salad. I like it almost unadorned, hence why I didn’t include the various salad garnishes.

• I also didn’t make the croutons as described here; I made my usual. Stale Italian bread, cubed, tossed with a little olive oil and salt and pepper, bake at 350 degrees until brown. A lot quicker and simpler than their croutons, although they sound delicious!

Manhattan Cocktail

Two parts bourbon
One part Southern Comfort
One maraschino cherry

Blend the two ingredients together in a cocktail shaker, stir, and serve up in a martini glass. Add cherry and a drop of cherry juice, if you like.

If you don’t have Southern Comfort, you can easily make this with three parts bourbon and a small splash of sweet vermouth.

New Year Cheer!

In the last week, the ground was green and we've had a wind storm, a rain storm, and now a snow storm that has brought us more than a foot of snow! It will be a white New Year's!

In the last week, we’ve had a wind storm, a rain storm, and now a snow storm that has brought us more than a foot of snow! It will be a white New Year’s!

I always find the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day a perfect time to invite friends and family over for some cheer and small snacks. Cocktail parties are perfect any time; simple drinks and some nibblies to munch on make for an enjoyable evening (for the cook!) that isn’t focused on a large meal.

I have been making this stuffed mushroom recipe for years and always around the holidays. Relatively easy to put together, they always are a hit, and are easy travelers; you can assemble and bake when you arrive. They are, of course,  best right out of the oven, nice and hot.

The pomegranate martini is a based on one I saw Rachael Ray make on an episode of Oprah years ago. I wrote down the measurements, but through the years I’ve developed my own recipe.

However you celebrate the new year, I hope 2013 will be even better for you than 2012!

Stuffed Mushrooms
From Prevention’s The Healthy Cook, p. 550.

16 large mushrooms, cleaned
1 Tablespoon olive oil
3 Tablespoons dry sherry or nonalcoholic white wine
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
1 Tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tablespoon unseasoned dry bread crumbs
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Coat a 9” x 13” no-stick baking dish with no-stick spray and set aside.

Remove and finely chop the mushroom stems; set aside.

In a cup, combine the oil and sherry or wine. Pour 2 tablespoons of the mixture into a medium no-stick skillet, reserving 2 tablespoons. Warm the skillet over medium-low heat. Add the chopped stems and sauté for 6 minutes, or until the mixture is dry.

Add the parsley, Parmesan, bread crumbs, garlic, thyme, oregano, salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and stir in 1 tablespoon of the remaining sherry mixture until moistened.

Spoon the mushroom mixture into the caps. Place in a single layer on the prepared dish. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the caps are tender and heated through. Halfway through the cooking time, brush the caps with the remaining 1 tablespoon sherry mixture. Serve hot.

Pomegranate Martini
Serves 1, can be easily doubled, tripled, etc.

2 parts vodka
1 part orange flavored liquor
A splash of 100 percent pomegranate juice
Juice of a lime quarter

Cook’s Notes
• While I love Cointreau, the cost is prohibitive most of the time. Triple Sec is a good substitute that is a lot less expensive.
• For the juice, use only 100 percent pomegranate juice, no additional fruit flavors. Trust me, I’ve tried other mixtures, but the Pom Wonderful juice is the best.

Appetizers for Two: Guacamole and Chips with Homemade Margaritas

My favorite thing to do on the weekends during the spring, summer, and fall, after a long day at work, or after mowing the lawn, working in the garden, or kayaking, is sitting in the sun with a good book. And of course, having pre-dinner munchies always makes it better!

These two recipes are simple, easy, and perfect for two people; one avocado is the just right amount for two with no wondering what you will do with leftovers–you won’t have any! If you want to double it, that’s easy to do, and measurements are mostly based on taste. As with most of my recipes, I like a little bit of heat, so I add some cayenne for that extra kick. If I have some cilantro in the vegetable bin, I’ll add some, but it’s not mandatory, it’s delicious with or without. It seems like a dash of salt is always needed, so be sure to add to taste. I love the flavor of fresh limes, which are inexpensive this time of year, so I add it liberally.

I wanted to create a summertime margarita that didn’t rely on a pre-made, sugary mix. You can get the same flavor with Triple Sec–or it’s more expensive cousin, Cointreau. No worries if you buy a whole bottle of TS, it’s relatively inexpensive, lasts forever, and is great in a pomegranate martini, too! (That’s a winter cocktail, stay tuned in November/December!) And of course, if tequila isn’t your liquor of choice or you don’t drink alcohol, plain seltzer water with a lime  is also a refreshing drink!

1 soft avocado
1-2 cloves of finely minced garlic
Juice of ¼ to ½ lime
Sprinkle of cayenne (if desired)
A few sprigs of cilantro (if desired)
Dash of salt

Spoon out the avocado into a bowl and smash with a fork. Add the garlic, lime juice, and if using, cayenne and cilantro. Stir. Add a dash of salt to taste. Spoon into a serving bowl and add corn chips.

Homemade Margaritas
In a cocktail shaker with ice cubes and add :

4 ounces  tequila
2 ounces Triple Sec or another orange-flavored liquor
The juice of 1/4-1/2 fresh lime juice

Shake and divide evenly between two glasses filed with a few ice cubes. Add juice of the lime slice to the glass and drink!