strawberry, rhubarb, and a skillet crust



As soon as the first rhubarb of the spring season appears, this recipe makes a debut in my kitchen.  I make this pie every year and yet every year I am still surprised by how simple and perfect it is.  The crust is not a traditional pie crust.  It is made in a skillet with a quick melting of butter and vanilla followed by the addition of flour and sugar.  The crumbly mixture is then pressed into a pie dish, eliminating the extra steps of needing to refrigerate and roll out the crust.

I love everything about this recipe.  I love how the crust is more reminiscent of shortbread, with the top remaining crumbly and crunchy while the bottom absorbs the liquid slightly to create a more solid base and chewy texture.  I love how the rhubarb transforms the texture of this pie by giving the filling a beautifully thick consistency.  I love how pairing cardamom and strawberry as the main flavor profile seems to work so perfectly.  I love how the filling thickens and bubbles over the edge of the pie dish as it bakes, turning from pink to deep red.  I love how the tartness of the rhubarb plays with the sweetness of the strawberries in a way that keeps you going back for more.





Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with a Skillet Crust


1 1/2 pounds of stalks of rhubarb (leaves removed), sliced (about 4 cups of sliced)

2 cups hulled and sliced strawberries

3/4 cup sugar

Juice from 1 lemon

1/2 cup flour

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger


Skillet Crust:

3/4 cup butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup sugar

2 1/4 cups flour


Make the filling the day before.  Mix rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, lemon juice, flour, cardamom, and ginger in a nonreactive bowl.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.*

The next day, preheat oven to 350 F degrees.  Melt butter in a skillet then turn off the heat.  Add vanilla, sugar, and flour and mix well until crumbly in texture.

Place a 9-inch pie dish on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Spoon about two thirds of the skillet crust into the pie dish.  Press the crumb on the bottom and up the sides of the pie dish to make a crust.  Pour the filling mixture into the pie dish.  Sprinkle the remaining skillet crust over the top of the filling.  Place cookie sheet with pie on it in the middle rack of oven.  Bake for 30 minutes, turn pie, then lower oven temperature to 325 F degrees and bake another 45 minutes to an hour until golden brown and the juices are bubbly and thick at the edges.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool several hours (You must let the pie cool thoroughly to room temperature in order to allow the filling to set properly).

Serve alone, with whipped cream, or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.


*It is important to make sure and let the filling soak overnight (or at least several hours) as this will help the rhubarb to soften and have the right texture when cooked the next day.



seville orange chicken

Seville oranges, or sour oranges, are oftentimes considered “ornamental” because of the too-sour-and-too-bitter-to-eat quality about them.  They make a deliciously complex marmalade as well as a great marinade for any meat of your choosing.  This recipe has been adapted to eliminate the need to marinate the chicken beforehand, making it a quicker meal solution for those days when you are unable to prepare ahead of time. It can still be made any time of year with the simple substitution of sweet orange juice and lemon juice in equal parts, which is also a delicious combination.  Normally I would not skip the chance to marinate and infuse more flavor into a meat dish, but the marinade is strong enough and the chicken delicate enough that if simmered slowly together the result is the same.

another seville chicken



Seville Orange Chicken

3-4 pounds bone-in skinless chicken thighs (8 pieces), or about 3 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs

salt and black pepper to taste

5 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 cup Seville orange juice (or 1/2 cup sweet orange juice mixed with 1/2 cup lemon juice)

1/4 cup olive oil

1 cup dry sherry

1 large onion, thinly sliced

1 cup chicken stock

2 Tablespoons butter

2 Tablespoons flour


Rinse the chicken, pat dry, and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.  Brown chicken in olive oil on all sides in a dutch oven.  Add the garlic, cumin, orange juice, sherry, onion, and chicken stock to chicken.  Bring to boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 45-60 minutes until fork tender.

Remove chicken, and some of the onions if desired, from the dutch oven and place on a serving platter.  Strain the liquid from the dutch oven and set aside.  Using that same dutch oven, turn the heat to medium and add the butter and flour to the pot.  Melt butter and mix together for 1 minute.  Add the strained liquid, turn the heat to low, and simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes.  Pour sauce over the chicken.


Note:  This recipe is an adaptation of a traditional cuban recipe and therefore pairs exceptionally well with a side of white rice (and cuban black beans, if you are so inclined).



carrot cake with olive oil, cardamom, and black pepper

carrot cake 2b


When I think of carrot cake, I think of the men in my life.  It seems that every time I am taking requests for cake from any of them, the immediate answer seems to be an emphatic “carrot cake”.  In an attempt to please them, that version of is always loaded with nuts, raisins, and coconut.  While I do love a loaded carrot cake, I also equally love and crave the simpler version.  Whenever Easter comes around I use the opportunity to make this crowd-pleasing style of cake.  Last year I decided to tweak this simple recipe and have since been looking forward to recreating the same one.  With Easter in mind, I was brought to thinking of this ancient holiday and it’s origin.  I started thinking about the oils and spices of the Middle East and was inspired to give this cake an interesting spin.  Instead of regular vegetable oil, I substituted a robust olive oil.  In place of the traditional trio of baking spices (cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg), I used cardamom and black pepper.  While I do love the warmth that the cinnamon and other spices give this cake, the traditional version seems to be more in keeping with a dessert that should be enjoyed in the fall and winter.  Because Easter is the celebration of spring, substituting the cardamom (with its lighter, more lemony essence) gives this cake the still familiar spice flavor but imparts a brighter flavor that seems more appropriate for the season.


carrot cake bite1b


Carrot Cake with Olive Oil, Cardamom, and Black Pepper


Cake ingredients:

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup olive oil

2 eggs, well beaten

1 1/2 cups grated carrots (about 2 large or 3 medium)

1 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom


Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients:

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup butter, softened

2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly grease and flour and 9×9 inch square cake pan.  Set aside.  Combine flour, salt, baking soda, black pepper, and cardamom in a small mixing bowl.  Whisk together and set bowl aside.  Combine sugar and oil in a separate large mixing bowl.  Add eggs and mix well.  Add grated carrots. Slowly stir in the bowl of dry ingredients.  Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 20 to 30 minutes until done.  Let cool to room temperature.

For the frosting, cream together cream cheese, butter, sugar, and vanilla with a mixer until smooth.  Spread on to cooled carrot cake.

Note:  For a more traditional carrot cake, you can substitute vegetable oil for the olive oil and use more traditional spices ( 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, and a pinch of cloves) instead of the black pepper and cardamom.



my juice has a vegetable in it

juicing layout


I am a casual juicer.  I do it because I like how it tastes.  I also love the idea of drinking a yummy fruit juice that has a sneaky vegetable or two inside it.  I don’t juice everyday nor am I ritualistic in my juicing habits.  For me, it is an easy way to get a few healthy raw vegetables in my diet while drinking a refreshing fruit drink.

My first few attempts at juicing went a little awry.  So I thought I would share a few tips that have made juicing easy and foolproof whenever my mood takes me there.


1) Apples.

Apples make a great base.  They are sweet, juicy, light colored, and mild flavored.  This makes them compatible with almost any other vegetable and fruit combinations.


2) Lemon.

Lemon is the salt of the juicing world.  Lemon helps bring out the other flavors of the juice while also adding a bright and fresh quality.  To change it up you can substitute orange, lime or even grapefruit, but just don’t forget it.  You will feel like something is missing.


3) Ginger.

If lemon is the salt of juicing, then ginger is the pepper.  Fresh ginger root adds so much flavor to a juice and it seems to also compliment any flavor combination.  A tiny 1/2 inch to 1 inch knob packs a big punch and is worth adding anytime.  To change it up you could substitute fresh turmeric root (although this is a little more difficult to find), which also compliments juice in a similar way but keep in mind that it has a very bright orange color which may not play well with certain juices.


4) Color.

Like laundry, juice like colors together.  This is not a hard and fast rule and it will not necessarily affect the overall flavor combinations, but it will prevent your juice from turning in to an unappetizing brown shade. Let’s face it, juice tastes better when its a pretty color.  The only exception seems to be when using red beets in a recipe since the burgundy color is so prominent, you can slip in some greens without causing the juice to go murky.  Keep your ingredients to a minimum.  My first mistake when I started juicing was thinking that the more vegetables and fruit I could mix together, the better.  After some trial and error, I have discovered that keeping my drinks simpler yields a cleaner and better taste.


juice trio 2


Purple Beet Juice

1 red apple, rinsed and cut into wedges

1/2 lemon, rind removed

1 knob fresh ginger root, about the size of a fingertip

1 medium carrot, rinsed

1 medium-large red beet (or 6 red baby beets), rinsed

beet greens from the beets, rinsed


Green Juice

1 tart apple such as Granny Smith, rinsed and cut into wedges

1 sweet red apple, such as MacIntosh or Gala, rinsed and cut into wedges

1/2 lime or lemon, rind removed

1 knob fresh ginger root, about the size of a fingertip

1 large bunch kale, spinach, or chard (or a combination of these), rinsed


Orange Carrot Juice

1/4 whole pineapple, trimmed

1 clementine orange, peeled

1 knob fresh turmeric root (or you can use ginger root if you do not have turmeric)

5 medium sized carrots, rinsed



chicken stock from leftover roasted chicken

chicken stock


Whenever I have a roasted chicken, store-bought rotisserie chicken, or roasted turkey, I hang on to the carcass after we have sufficiently consumed the majority of the meat.  We often skip the wings altogether and save those especially for stock.  If I don’t have time to make stock right away, I slip the carcass in to a ziplock bag and put it in the freezer until I can get to it.  Sometimes I wait until I have a few at a time and then make an extra large batch of stock, divide it up, and freeze the stock to have on hand when I need it.  This simple recipe makes a delicious and flavorful stock that I use to make some of my favorite soups.  Although it seems odd to only use the bones of a leftover chicken, if simmered for half a day it yields a delicious and rich result.  If you want to know why, read my Stock vs. Broth below.


stock veggies 3



Chicken Stock from Leftover Roasted Chicken


1 Tablespoon vegetable oil

1 carcass from a roasted chicken, roughly pulled apart or chopped in to large pieces that fit easily in to a pot

1 large onion, roughly sliced in half circles

2 medium carrots, washed but not peeled, cut in to thirds

2 stalks celery including tops and leaves, rinsed and cut in to thirds

3 sprigs of fresh thyme or 1 Tablespoon dried thyme

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns


Put a large stockpot on stovetop on medium heat.  Add vegetable oil and onion and saute for about 2 minutes or until translucent.  Add the carcass, stir, and cover.  Let carcass and onion continue to brown for about 15 minutes, stirring periodically (the purpose is to brown the carcass and the onion well, but be careful not to burn it).  This step of browning the onion and the carcass with help give the stock even more depth of flavor and color.

Add 16 cups of water, carrots, celery, thyme, bay leaves, and peppercorns.  Turn heat to high, bring to boil then turn down to low heat.  Cover and simmer for a minimum of 4 hours to 6 hours (if possible).  About half way through add 4 more cups water, or more if needed.

Turn off heat, allow to cool slightly, and strain through fine sieve.  Refrigerate overnight.

Next day, skim off the fat.  Use immediately or freeze for later.

Yields about 2 quarts (8 cups) of stock.


Note:  You may have noticed there is NO SALT in this recipe.  That is intentional.  I prefer to wait to add salt later when preparing a dish with the stock.  That way I can prevent over-saltiness if I end up cooking down the stock or adding it to something that is already plenty salty.

Tip:  This stock can also be prepared with raw chicken.  For this recipe, simply substitute about a pound of raw chicken wings for the carcass and continue according to the directions.

Another tip:  I mentioned earlier that I save my turkey carcasses for stock as well.  I use this same recipe, but double or triple the ingredients depending on the size.


Why does this recipe work?

Stock vs. Broth:

Broth is the derived from simmering meat with aromatics.  It is a light liquid both in color and taste.  While still flavorful, it is not so strong as to compete with whatever you are using it to cook with, but simply adds depth of flavor.  It has a purpose for cooking items such as risotto, sauces, and other dishes where liquid is needed but not meant to be the main flavor.

Stock is derived from bones with aromatics.  Long simmering of the bones will extract a much stronger and meatier flavor than from the meat only.  This liquid is rich in flavor and has a bit of a cloudiness to it (as opposed to the more translucent broth).  Stock is meant to be the main source of flavor in a dish, such as in a classic chicken noodle soup.  Making your own stock is time consuming because it needs many more hours of active simmering than broth does to extract all that goodness from the bones and connective tissue.  Also, because you will be extracting gelatin from the bones, the stock will be rather gelatinous (think jello) when cool.  Again, this translates in to flavor, so if you refrigerate your homemade stock and it thickens slightly (don’t worry, it will liquify when reheated), then you can pat yourself on the back because you have succeeded in making a proper stock.

broth vs stock

Above is a comparison between the two.  I made both of these on the same day with the same recipe above, the only difference being that I used raw chicken meat parts only for the broth (on the left) and a roasted chicken bone carcass with raw chicken meat parts for the stock (on the right) to show the difference in result by the simple addition of bone (and cartilage, and connective tissue, and collagen, etc).