No Easier Cranberry Sauce than this one

Sometimes all you have to do is change one ingredient in a recipe and the entire dish tastes different. Like this one. I've made cranberries the same way for years -- bake them with sugar, let them cool, then add brandy.

This year I added some freshly grated orange peel. Huge difference! If you like the orange-cranberry duo, this recipe is for you. Plus -- this recipe is the next easiest thing after opening a can.

Baked Orange Scented Cranberries

  • 12 ounces fresh cranberries (3 cups)
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh orange peel
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice (or use brandy or rum)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Wash and drain the berries and place them in a single layer in a baking dish. Add the sugar and orange peel and toss to coat all the berries. Cover the dish tightly with a lid or aluminum foil. Bake for 45-50 minutes. Remove the cover and stir thoroughly. Let the berries cool. Stir in the juice. Chill thoroughly.

Makes 6-8 servings

Roasting a turkey half breast

Suppose you're not roasting a whole turkey for Thanksgiving?

For example, your family just likes white meat. Or dark.

A whole turkey does look festive. And is traditional.

Still, if you don't like one part or another, just cook the part you like.

Fortunately for me, my Thanksgiving gang likes every part of the turkey. But when it's just Ed and me, or when I have Eileen and Jeff over for dinner, it's breast-only.

So, if you'll be cooking turkey breast for Thanksgiving or some other time, here's one of my easy, go-to recipes.


Roasted Turkey Half Breast with Sweet White Wine

  • half turkey breast, about 4 pounds
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1-½ tablespoons chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1-½ cups sweet white wine such as Riesling


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Rinse and dry the turkey breast and place it skin side up in a roasting pan. Brush the skin with the olive oil. Reduce the heat to 325 degrees. Roast for 30 minutes. Pour the wine over the turkey. Continue to roast for another 40-50 minutes, basting occasionally, or until a meat thermometer placed in the thickest part of the breast measures 160°F. Remove the turkey from the oven and let rest for about 15 minutes before carving. Serve with pan fluids.

Makes 6 servings.


How Many Ways Can You Make Mashed Potatoes

I'm thinking mashed potatoes at the moment. Probably because Thanksgiving is coming. But really I don't need a holiday to think about this dish. I could eat mashed potatoes any time. Any day.

My mother used to make them using what she called "all-purpose" potatoes (or "Eastern" or "Maine"). She'd cook the spuds and use an old fashioned potato masher to get them smooth, then mix in the most fabulous goodies: butter, cream cheese or sour cream (sometimes both), milk and plenty of salt and pepper.

Life is good when you can eat like that.

Years later I read that many professional cooks prefer russet potatoes for mashing. I tried it, but frankly, my Mom's version is much better. So I stuck with all-purpose until Yukon Golds came along. Those make good mashed potatoes too, with the right texture and lots of flavor.

Still, there are other considerations when making mashed potatoes, besides the actual potatoes.

For example, maybe you don't want to include dairy ingredients. No problem. I've made awesome dairy-free mashed potatoes

Maybe you like a crust? Here's a recipe for you.

Other ingredients? Sure. You can mix in roasted garlic or spice the spuds up with horseradish, and lots more of course.

One of our family favorites was when my Mom mixed cooked spinach into the mashed potatoes. She called that "creamed spinach" and that's what I thought creamed spinach actually was until I got to college and discovered there weren't supposed to be potatoes in it. 

In Ireland, justifiably famous for its potato recipes, there's a dish called Colcannon (variation, Kailkenny), which is basically mashed potatoes mixed with cooked cabbage or kale. I'd say it's similar to my Mom's "creamed spinach." And it's just as good. It's also more colorful and pleasing to the eye than plain old mashed potatoes.

Colcannon, Kailkenny -- a terrific dish, especially as a side dish for your Thanksgiving turkey, vegetarian Thanksgiving or on some other day to accompany roasted salmon.


  • 1 medium bunch kale
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1-1/2 cups vegetable stock
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 6 all-purpose or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 5 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 1/2 cup milk, approximately (dairy, soy or rice milk)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • freshly ground nutmeg

Wash the kale thoroughly, discarding any thick stems. Dry the leaves with paper towels or in a salad spinner. Chop the leaves coarsely. Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook briefly. Add the kale and stir to coat the leaves with the oil in the pan. Pour in the stock, cover the pan and cook, lifting the cover to stir the ingredients occasionally, for 5-6 minutes or until the kale has wilted. Remove the cover and cook for another minute or until the liquid in the pan has evaporated.

Cook the potatoes in a saucepan in lightly salted water for 15-20 minutes or until they are fork tender. Drain the potatoes and mash them with a potato masher, fork or electric mixer or hand beater set on low speed. Add the butter or margarine in chunks and continue to mash until the mixture is free of lumps. Add the milk, salt, pepper and a few grindings of fresh nutmeg. Stir to distribute ingredients. Add more milk if you prefer a softer texture. Add the kale and stir it in.

Makes 6-8 servings




Roasted Chicken with Ginger Preserves and Rosemary


My daughters used to say that we were all going to turn into chickens. Because we always ate so much of it.

We still do.

Fact is, chicken is easy to cook. It doesn't take long. It is the kind of food that you can use just about any seasoning or sauce on and it will taste good. You can fry it, bake it, broil it, grill it, braise it -- on and on -- and it's also good. Even the leftovers are useful and good.

With all those benefits, who wouldn't eat a lot of chicken?

Anyway, even though I have my favorite chicken recipes, I am always trying to prepare it in different ways, just so dinner won't be boring. This recipe, using ginger preserves, was a quick, easy, fabulous dinner.


Roasted Chicken Breasts with Ginger preserves and rosemary

4 large bone-in chicken breasts (or whole legs)

1/2 cup ginger preserves

2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Rinse and dry the chicken pieces and place them in a baking pan. Combine the ginger preserves, Balsamic vinegar, mustard and rosemary and spoon over the chicken. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350°F. Continue to bake for about 30 minutes or until cooked through.

Makes 4 servings.


Ginormous Parsnips

We are a parsnip-eating family and I am always amazed when people say they've never tried one. Or that they once had a bite of one from some soup or other.

This is a vegetable that doesn't get its due.

It should.

Parsnips -- those white-ish, carrot-looking things -- are sweet. Kids and vegetable-haters of all kinds also usually like them (after you convince them to take a bite). 

And there is so much you can do with them. Make "fries." Roast them with garlic and herbs. Glaze them with Chermoula. Use it for soup

Slim parsnips make the best fries or other vegetable side dishes. But these ginormous ones can be woody. It's best to use them for soup or recipes that require longer cooking (and you'll have to remove the hard, inner core. Cut the parsnips in half, crosswise, then cut around the core; discard the core).

This Parsnip and Potato Puree can be dairy or dairy-free. It's a good choice for a vegetarian dinner or Meatless Monday dish. It's also a nice side dish for Thanksgiving dinner because it tastes good with turkey and other poultry.

Parsnip and Potato Puree

  • 1 pound parsnips, sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 pound Yukon gold or all-purpose potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 2 McIntosh or other crisp, tart apples, peeled, cored, and cut into chunks
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine
  • 1/2 cup milk or unflavored soy milk, rice milk or coconut milk
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Cook the parsnips and potatoes in lightly salted boiling water for 10 minutes. Add the apples, lower the heat, and cook for another 5 minutes or until the parsnips and potatoes are tender. Drain the ingredients and return them to the pan. Add the butter and mash it into the other ingredients. Continue to mash, adding the milk gradually, until the ingredients form a smooth puree. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.

Makes 4–6 servings.


Apple-Pumpkin Streusel Muffins


A few weeks ago I bought about 60 pounds of apples.

That's a lot of apples.

And even I can hardly believe that after making many pies, a few cakes, some baked apples, apple crisps and apple brown bettys, mounds of applesauce, a couple chicken-apple recipes, including a salad, all my apples are gone.

Oh no! 

I still have a pancake recipe to try! 

Hard to believe I'll have to buy another few pounds. 

But before I ran out of apples, I did get to try these Apple-Pumpkin Streusel Muffins which are gorgeous and delicious and such a welcome, seasonal treat (with cider or coffee or tea) for Hallowe'en or Thanksgiving or simply for breakfast or coffee break.


Apple-Pumpkin Streusel Muffins


1/3 cup brown sugar

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon butter, cut in smaller pieces, or coconut oil



2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup mashed pumpkin

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 large eggs

2 cups chopped apples

To make the streusel: place the brown sugar, flour and cinnamon in a bowl and mix to distribute the ingredients evenly. Add the butter and work into the dry ingredients with your fingers until the mixture looks crumbly. Set aside.

To make the muffins: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease 12 muffin tins. Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and salt in a bowl and stir with a whisk until the ingredients are evenly distributed. In another bowl, combine the pumpkin, vegetable oil and eggs and blend thoroughly. Pour the liquid ingredients into the flour mixture and mix until combined. Stir in the apples. Spoon the batter into the muffin tins. Sprinkle the tops evenly with the streusel. Bake for about 20 minutes or until tops are browned and crispy and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. 

Makes 12

What To Do With All That Leftover Pumpkin

pumpkin crumb cake.jpg

Every year around this time food writers offer up suggestions about what to do with "all that leftover pumpkin" from Hallowe'en. As if we actually use our jack-o-lanterns to make homemade fresh mashed pumpkin.

No, really!

Actually, because I am a food writer, I do cook one small pumpkin but, most of the time I use the canned stuff, like most everyone else.

Even so, I am always looking for new recipes for "all that leftover pumpkin" and I found a fabulous one this season: Pumpkin Crumb Cake from Miriam Pascal's new book: Something Sweet.

This cake is my kind of dessert. Dense, gently spicy, a sweet top crumb over cake that's not overly sugary. Wonderful with coffee. 

I believe that when you get a cookbook with even one good recipe it is worth the purchase.

And I figured if this recipe was so good, I might find others too.

So I made the Flourless Fudge Cookies, which I'll have to remember next Passover because my family gobbled down all 30 cookies rather quickly.

The Healthy Summer Fruit Crumbles were another winner.

Yes, you can see I am more the coffee cake/granola type. There's a lot in the book for me (yeast dough, Oatmeal Cookie Wedges, Sweet and Spicy Roasted Nuts). But there's plenty in this book for those with a bigger sweet tooth (Chocolate Chip Peanut Pie, for instance, drizzled with chocolate sauce! Or Rice Krispie Treat Truffles!). There are also chapters on beverages, candies, frostings, over and above the usual cakes, cookies, pies and pastries.

There are some handy points too. For example, each recipe indicates whether it is dairy or dairy-free (pareve), a nice addition for kosher keepers and those who are lactose-intolerant. And there are suggestions on how to use sugar substitutes for those who do, recipe variations, tips, (including how to plan a recipe ahead), as well as baking guide with info about equipment, ingredients and substitutions. 

For all those who are looking for a good recipe to use up "all that leftover pumpkin" here's Miriam's recipe. 

Pumpkin Crumb Cake


Recipe from Something Sweet by Miriam Pascal

Reproduced with permission from the copyright holders, ArtScroll/Mesorah Publications

Pareve | Yield: 10-12 servings

Who can resist a crumb cake? The only thing better than that dense cake on the bottom is the thick layer of cinnamon-y crumbs it’s topped with. I couldn’t resist doing a non-traditional take on this popular dessert, so I came up with this fall-inspired version. It’s full of cinnamon, spice, and, of course, pumpkin. And while I’m not going to claim that this is healthful, the sour cream you’ll usually find in crumb cake has been swapped out for pumpkin, so you’re definitely saving calories there.


¹⁄3 cup sugar

¾ cup brown sugar

3 teaspoons cinnamon

pinch salt

1¾ cups flour

¾ cup oil


1 cup oil

1 cup sugar

½ cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1 cup canned pumpkin purée (see Note)

1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

2½ cups flour


1.     Preheat oven to 325ºF. Grease and flour a 9x13-inch pan; set aside.

2.     Prepare the crumbs: Combine sugars, cinnamon, salt, and flour in a small bowl. Add oil; mix until combined and crumbs form. Set aside.

3.     Prepare the batter: In the bowl of an electric mixer, on medium speed, beat together oil and sugars until smooth.

4.     Add eggs, pumpkin purée, vanilla, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Beat until combined.

5.     Reduce mixer speed to low. Add flour gradually, beating until justcombined. Do not overmix.

6.     Pour batter into prepared pan. Cover entire surface of the cake with prepared crumbs (there will be a very thick layer of crumbs).

7.     Bake for about 1 hour, until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean

Note Be sure not to use canned pumpkin pie filling, as it has ingredients not needed here. Of course, homemade pumpkin purée is great, too.

Plan Ahead This cake freezes well in an airtight container. For best results, freeze whole and cut into squares just before serving.

Pumpkin Spice Corn Muffins


It's October, almost Hallowe'en, which means you're going to see "pumpkin spice" everything. Cake. Ice cream. Latte. Whatever.

I decided to get in on the act. Especially because I have been experimenting with mashed pumpkin for a variety of recipes and have (actually, had) loads of it in my fridge.

These Pumpkin Spice Corn Muffins are among the tastiest results.

Corn muffins are some of my favorite breakfast breads but sometimes they're too dry or too grainy. I have several good recipes though. 

Adding mashed pumpkin and autumn spices to the batter gives the corn muffins a warm and comfy flavor. In addition, the muffins are dense, moist and tender. Not dry, not grainy. 

Pumpkin Spice Corn Muffins

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1-1/4 cups cornmeal 
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2  teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup mashed pumpkin

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease 10 muffin cups. Melt the butter and set it aside to cool. In a bowl, mix the cornmeal, flour, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon until well blended. In another bowl mix the egg, milk, pumpkin and cooled butter until well blended. Pour the liquid into the cornmeal mixture and stir to blend the ingredients. Spoon equal amounts into the muffin cups.

Bake for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown.

Makes 10



How to Substitute Ingredients: a Lesson for Kids and Everyone Else

Children learn a lot when they cook, and not just about food. You can ask the youngest ones to hand over the red pepper, not the green one. You can show them that a pie tin is round, a loaf pan is a rectangle.

Older kids can hone their measuring skills. Some begin to understand the difference between 1/4 cup and 1/2, what a dozen means, why a cake rises.

Recently my grandchildren, ages 3 and 5, learned another important cooking lesson: when and how to substitute ingredients. 

We happened to be baking Jam Cookies. 

I didn't have the chopped dates called for in my recipe. So we changed those to dark raisins.

I didn't have dried apricots, figs or cherries, so we used dried cranberries instead.

They wondered whether they could include chocolate chips.

Of course! Just throw some into the bowl.

Finally, we used a mixture of orange marmalade, rhubarb and apricot jam because I didn't have enough of any one kind except raspberry, which I couldn't use because of allergies.

The recipe worked.

But more than that, the cookies were absolutely delicious. Even the adults gobbled them. The children were happy, they learned more than they realized.

They want to cook with me again. I love that.

Jam Bars

  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 cups quick cooking oats
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 14 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 3/4 cup golden or dark raisins or chopped dates or a mixture
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries or chopped dried cherries or other chopped dried fruit
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1-1/2 cups jam

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 9"x13" cake pan. Mix the flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl. Add the oats and brown sugar and mix the ingredients thoroughly to distribute them evenly. Cut the butter into chunks and work into the dry ingredients (with fingers or process on pulse in a food processor) until the butter is completely mixed in and the mixture looks crumbly. Mix in the raisins, dried fruit and chocolate chips. Press the mixture evenly inside the prepared pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool in the pan. Cut into bars or squares. 

Makes about 24





Remembering my Dad

I'm remembering my Dad today. Remembering the hugs and the "I love yous."

Missing him always but especially on this day, his 20th yahrzeit.

This was one of his favorite desserts.

william vail's favorite Apple Brown Betty

  •  4-5 pie apples such as Granny Smiths, Rhode Island Greenings or Golden Delicious
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 cups diced homestyle white bread
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup melted unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Peel the apples and remove the cores. Cut the apples into bite sized pieces. Pour the lemon juice over the apples and place them in a baking dish. Combine the bread dice, brown sugar, melted butter, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a bowl. Toss the ingredients to distribute the ingredients evenly. Place the bread mixture on top of the apples. Bake for about 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown and crusty. Let cool slightly, but best when served warm.

Makes 4 servings