Wednesday, November 30, 2011

light lunch - avocado

I often eat five small meals a day
(keeps the crankiness at bay)
& this was my plate at 11AM today. 

Today's post is a 'Thank you' to my favorite witty Brit, Justine. One of my first meals at her home began so elegantly: a small salad with an avocado half in the center, filled with a delightful fig and walnut dressing.  Eating it with a spoon made it feel like a dessert.  Delicious!  It is not an overstatement to say that I fell in 'food love'.

I must admit, until a year or so ago, I bought avocados for guacamole or taco salad and not much else. Now, you'll always find two or three resting comfortably with the apples, pears and oranges in my fruit bowl.  I use them to garnish salads and soups, thicken my Divine Dressing or for this light lunch. Try it with your favorite dressing or one of my two ... Stonewall Kitchen's Cilantro Lime Dressing or Artisan's Savory Fig and Walnut Balsamic Vinaigrette.  I've found both at my local Whole Foods Store.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

product parade: american spoon salsa

american spoon salsa and lime tortilla chips
Last night, after 'Midnight Madness', I arrived home to a happy husband.  What was the recipe for his contentment? A blissful combination of: the children asleep in their beds, our dog asleep at his feet, Monday Night Football on the TV and a plate of chips and salsa in his lap.  Who wouldn't be happy?  Don't let the tropical colors fool you, this Mango Habanero Salsa packs a yummy one-two punch - sweet & heat!

As a devoted fan of all things American Spoon, I thought today would be the perfect time 'talk' about this little gem.  I discovered the Michigan based, American Spoon, more than a decade ago, while visiting my in-laws at their summer place.  The American Spoon storefronts are distinctive and each features an enticing 'tasting bar', showcasing their popular preserves.  (Christmas tip: They ship worldwide their delicious products in beautiful packaging)

If you don't know American Spoon, click here to visit their online shop and here to request a copy of their catalog.  When this baby arrives in the mail - I sit down and read it like a magazine. Great graphics, gift ideas and recipes!  Enjoy!

Monday, November 28, 2011

red lentil soup

red lentil soup over basmati
Last year I made a delicious discovery at our local library, Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison's Kitchen. It is a love letter to vegetable soups and a terrific resource.  This particular soup, a mix of vegetables and red lentils, brings a wonderful aroma to my winter kitchen. I love to serve it over basmati rice (prepared in advance in my rice cooker) with some additional toppings. As with most recipes, I've tailored it a bit to things I stock in my kitchen.

This post is especially for Jean - who has been so enthusiastic and supportive of my family's cookbook blog.  She and her granddaughter are trying to increase their repertoire of vegan meals.  My version of the recipe is vegetarian and can easily be made vegan by substituting safflower oil for the butter.  I hope you'll make a bowl of this sunny soup this winter - it is satisfying and just makes you feel good.  When friends or family are under the weather, this is the recipe I reach for.

adapted from 'Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison's Kitchen'

2 T butter (can substitute safflower oil)
1 onion, diced
4 carrots
1-2 celery stalks
1 zucchini
3 T (1/3 of a bunch) cilantro stems (reserve leaves for garnish)
1 t kosher salt
2 t turmeric
3 t cumin
1 14oz can diced tomatoes
1 c red lentils, rinsed well
7 c water
2 bay leaves
1 pinch of red pepper flakes (if you like a little heat)
1 lime

dressing it up:
basmati rice
additional lime wedges
cilantro or chives
diced avocado

chop veggies roughly
the same size

1. Melt the butter in a soup pot.  Add the onion and saute over medium heat while you finish your chopping. Dice your carrot into small rounds.  Split the celery in half lengthwise then dice.  Quarter the zucchini lengthwise then dice. Mince the cilantro stems.  (Seems strange? Gives great flavor and they all but disappear into the soup.)

2. Add the carrots, celery, zucchini and cilantro stems to the pot.  Season with salt, turmeric and cumin - stir to coat.  Cook for 5 minutes or so, till the vegetables begin to soften.

3. Add the diced tomatoes, lentils, water.  Also, add the bay leaves and red pepper flakes if you choose.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, partially covered, until the lentils soften - approximately 20 minutes.  Remove the bay leaves, season with salt, pepper and the juice of one lime.  Be sure to taste - your palate will guide you!

the turmeric colors this soup a sunshine gold

Sunday, November 27, 2011

claire's banana bread

golden, gorgeous, smells amazing!

We came home from NH to a bowl of over-ripe bananas; a perfect excuse to brag about my friend, Claire, and her amazing blog, I have been cooking since college, improving with the passage of time and brave friends but it wasn't until Claire started her blog, that I truly attempted baking.  Before that it was drop cookies, the occasional brownie and sugar cookies at Christmas.  But two years ago this January, Claire began her blog and we dove in with her Heirloom Cake.  Success! And my kids have been requesting her recipes ever since.

This is Claire's recipe for banana bread - her grandmother's - and a favorite here at Chez Stump.  Be sure to check out her blog - her food pictures are wonderfully helpful.  Baking this today made our house smell so yummy!

notice my ipad ... logged on to Claire's blog!

adapted from

⅓ c unsalted butter, softened
¾ c light brown sugar (substituted because we were out of dark)
2  eggs
2 bananas, mashed 
1/2 t vanilla (flavor to make up for light brown sugar) 
½ c half & half (substituted because we were out of whole milk)
1 ½ c all-purpose flour 
1 t salt1 t baking soda


Tip: I take the butter and eggs out early in the day so that they are at room temperature when I am ready to begin.  If I forget this step - I simply soften the butter with approximately 2 10-second spurts in the microwave. Then I put the butter in the bowl of my KitchenAid Mixer and use the wrapper to butter the loaf pan.  

my batter is a bit lighter today:
 due to the light brown sugar
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. If you haven't already, butter a loaf pan. 

2. Cream butter and brown sugar until smooth. Add eggs and bananas, (and vanilla, if using) and mix until blended. 

3. In a small bowl, with a fork, wisk flour, salt and soda together. Add flour mixture and milk to the banana mixture in a couple of batches, ending with milk. Mix until blended.  Bake for about an hour until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Great heated - try serving with vanilla ice cream & chocolate sauce!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

gingerbread construction (prep time!)

Trader Joes' Kit - so easy to assemble!

Four cousins (with some assistance) tackled their gingerbread houses with great enthusiasm.  You may recall that this year's kits are from Trader Joe's and they were the easiest I've ever assembled.  This amazing kit has holes positioned to make assembly puzzle-like - a must for those who are deterred by the frustration of collapsing walls and chimneys. We put all the candy out on display and each 'artist' collected supplies on paper plates for construction. Aunt Terry's quick recipe for icing follows - great for inspired architects who need more than the kit supplies. 

whipping up an extra batch of icing
Gingerbread House Icing
- courtesy Aunt Terry

2 egg whites
1/8 t cream of tartar
3 c powdered sugar
1-2 t water or lemon juice


Beat till a smooth, icing forms.  She uses her hand mixer - add extra liquid to thin if needed.

Friday, November 25, 2011

friday field trip: tree hunt

Once we finish a round of open-face turkey sandwiches (and perhaps a post turkey nap?) we move enthusiastically into the next stage of our holidays, 'crankin' out' Christmas.  The kick-off event is our annual tree hunt with the Hogan family.  In recent years, we take this tradition to Mountain Star Farm in northern New Hampshire.  I must say, it feels magical to hike through rows of Balsam & Frasier Firs, cousins running to and fro, adults searching for their version of the perfect tree. Our stories often take a farcical turn but the fun makes it all the more memorable.  Even if you can't cut your own tree this year, make your outing fun with a stop for hot cider or cocoa ... we made our pitstop in Bath, at their wonderful General Store.

 Enjoy these pics from today's field trip - made more beautiful by the recent snowfall.  Happy Tree Hunting to you!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

stuffed mushrooms

yummy bites for a hungry crowd

"Over the river and through the woods ..." to share Thanksgiving with my family, our tradition for more than 10 years.  I have many wonderful memories of sharing this holiday with my Aunt Terry and her brood so it is very meaningful to me that we are continuing that tradition with our children.

I always bring a few dishes to share with our extended family and this recipe for stuffed mushrooms is the most-requested.  They're wonderful for a large gathering - holidays, brunch with friends, football with a crowd ... you name it.  As with many of our favorites, I have a formula and will note ways that I often change it up.  

Many blessings, peace and joy to you and yours ~ Happy Thanksgiving!

Stuffed Mushrooms


1-2 Italian sausages
2  10-oz packages of mushrooms (cremini or button)
1 large shallot, peeled and rough chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 T vermouth, to deglaze 
1 t Italian seasoning
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c italian bread crumbs
3/4 c grated parmesan cheese (plus extra for topping)


1. Remove the sausage from the casings and brown in a fry pan over medium-high heat.  As it browns, help it crumble with the edge of your spatula. 

2. Time to mince the stems, shallot and garlic.  I chopped by hand today, but have been known to use the food processor. Pulse gently - you don't want a paste. 

3.  Remove and drain the sausage on paper towels when cooked through. Add the veggies (stems, shallot & garlic) to the pan, deglaze with the vermouth, add the seasoning and saute for about 3 minutes over medium heat.  Salt and pepper to taste.

4.  Remove pan from heat and let cool a bit.  Transfer to a larger bowl for mixing with the breadcrumbs, sausage and cheese to make the stuffing.  

5.  Stuff the caps - a teaspoon works best - and place on a large, rimmed baking sheet.  I'm using mini-muffin liners to try to stabilize these for the trip to NH.  

- when ready to bake and serve -

5. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 

6.  Sprinkle the caps with a little extra parmesan cheese, if you desire.  

7. Bake for 15-20 minutes in the center of the oven.  Keep an eye as ovens vary.  You're looking for the top to brown but also for the cap to cook and become tender to the bite. 

Make it yours: 

~ you can alter the cheese ... romano, pecorino or piave, any good melting cheese
~ white wine, red wine or marsala can be substituted for the vermouth
~ apple & chicken sausage or crabmeat both would make a nice brunch filling
~ you can make it vegetarian by substituting spinach for the sausage 
~ add more herbs and spices (like red pepper flakes) for extra flavor

Yummy finger food for your next party!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

divine dressing

divine dressing makes delicious dipping!

This dressing is ridiculously good.  Perfect for dipping crudites (like we did last night during our homage to Joe), for spreading on sandwiches, jazzing up wraps and makes a spectacular potato salad. It is one of my favorites and I hope that you will give it a try this holiday season.  The fresh herbs may seem extravagant - but they are worth it.  It will ensure that your 'make to take' crudites platter is the hit of the party!

Divine Dressing
adapted from "Crudites with Green Goddess Dressing" Bon Appetite, December 2010


1 1/2 c mayonnaise
1/4 c chives, snipped
3 T tarragon, chopped
2 T basil, snipped
2 T champagne vinegar
  (my twist, called for white wine)
2 garlic cloves, peeled
  (originally called for 1 clove)
1 anchovy fillet
1 ripe avocado
  (ok without but so creamy with) 


1. When I say 'snipped' above it is to refer to when I use my kitchen shears for ease but chopping with a knife will work well, also. 
2. Blend the mayo in your food processor with the next 6 ingredients.  Scrape down the sides to incorporate. Then gently pulse in the avocado. 

2. This makes enough for two generous crudites platters.  So I stash a cup in the fridge for later use on sandwiches, etc. It generally keeps in my fridge for a week.

3. Have fun designing your crudites platter.  This is a great project for the kids.  There are some great ideas on the internet ... and I'll post pictures of the ones we make from time to time.

Happy dipping!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

homage to Joe: steak dinner

homage to Joe - steak for dinner!
Today's post is dedicated to my beloved father-in-law, Joe Stump, because this week would have marked his 66th birthday.  We lost him in 2008 but there is not a family celebration or holiday that we don't feel his absence.  Joe was a warm, funny, energetic and loving family man.  He had a gift for storytelling, practical jokes and most of all, for empathy. You would often find him outdoors - with projects, golfing, gardening, biking, boating, etc. He loved to entertain and spend time with family and friends. Many an evening took place on a porch or patio watching over a grill and laughing together.  A classic meal with Joe would begin with cocktails and crudite, and end with Nana's mushroom rice and a nice, big steak. So tonight, we'll pay homage to Joe with that menu and a toast - to a wonderful man who's influence remains a loving force for our family.
cheers to Dad!

Today I'll share with you the homemade spice mix that Jeff and Ryan made to season our steaks.  (Joe was a big fan of Lawry's!)

Savory Steak Seasoning


2 t salt
2 t paprika
1 t freshly ground black pepper
1/2 t chipotle chile pepper (we used McCormick's)
1/2 t garlic powder
1/2 cumin (could also use coriander)
(you could add cayenne for more kick)


Mix together and season both sides of your steak.  You can do this up to a day in advance (storing in the refrigerator) and the flavors will deepen. Leftover seasoning will keep in an airtight container for a few months. This recipe can easily  be doubled or tripled.  This batch was more than enough for our four filets. These would be great on the grill and that is how we began. But it was so cold and windy that we finished inside on a grill pan.

PS  The steaks were wonderful; I'm amazed that both our boys can devour their own.  And we shared wonderful stories of Papa.  A great way to remember him and to begin a season where appreciating each other is so important.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Product Parade: Gingerbread Houses

Trader Joe's Gingerbread House Kits
I confess to loving a good and messy craft every once in awhile.  And why not at the holidays?   When our kids were little, they received gingerbread house kits from family friends (Thanks Noelle & Marjorie!) and so began an annual tradition of decorating gingerbread houses in our family.  One year it was a train (yikes - luckily Aunt Deb was around to help put that together!) and other years we purchased homemade kits through a local charity. 

This year we'll be decorating kits with cousins on the Friday after Thanksgiving and I snapped up four kits at Trader Joe's today. These adorable little ski chalet kits were only $7.99 a piece.  I understand the icing will take a little work - but extra icing is a must for this lavish crew. And although the kits include candy - we always add generously from a host of favorites and the occasional leftover from Halloween.  I think these kits will be perfect for a group - charming enough to inspire some creativity but small enough to finish in an afternoon.  We'll be sure to post some pics of the process and their masterpieces!  

Sunday, November 20, 2011

swiss chard soup

Swiss Chard Soup & a glass of Nebbiolo
I mentioned in Friday's post that the Goose Fair lunch features a Swiss Chard Soup, made by a small swarm of dedicated volunteers.  Try to imagine a group around a large industrial-type kitchen, all chopping away and making the building blocks of a soup that will nourish so many.  It is truly a labor of love.  My recipe is inspired by this and by a traditional bean and chard soup from Italy.  There is still some chopping and plenty of yummy vegetables - but can easily be put together for a family of 4+ (with extra for leftovers - this soup reheats well).  This batch will be lunch for me this week as we prepare for the holidays and our annual pilgrimage to NH.

Swiss Chard Soup

EVOO to cover the bottom of your soup pot
1/2 onion, chopped small
2 carrots, peeled and sliced into rounds
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1 stalk of celery*, diced (yikes - I was out so used a dash of celery salt)
1/2 t kosher salt
1/4 t fresh rosemary (can substitute dried)
2 anchovy fillets
1 t Italian seasoning
2 bay leaves
1 bunch of swiss chard (can substitute kale)
1 can red kidney beans
8 c of chicken broth
1 c of dried, small pasta (I use Ditalini)
salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan Cheese, grated for serving


1. Prepare your veggies - rinse the chard, chop your onions & carrots. I also took a moment to chop the chard stems in half-moons and the chard in short ribbons.  Drain your beans.

2. Heat your pot and cover with EVOO.

3. Add onions, carrots, garlic cloves and *celery to the pot. I use 1/2 t kosher salt here to help them 'sweat'.  Saute for several minutes until the onions are translucent.

4. While waiting, mince the anchovy fillets and rosemary together to almost a paste.  Add to the saute with the bay leaves.  Leave on med-low heat to soften further, 5 minutes or so.

5. Add your chard and beans - I covered to help the greens wilt a bit.  Once the leaves had reduced by almost half, I remove the garlic and bay leaves.  (If you minced your garlic, I think it is perfectly fine to leave it in the soup.)  Add the broth. Bring to a boil.  If your soup needs more liquid (some ingredients are not exact - it should be to your liking) then I recommend adding water or more broth.

5 Add the dried pasta, return to a simmer and let cook for 6 minutes more.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve with grated parmesan.

Great reheated the next day!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

homage to Kate: peanut butter cookies

best with milk
Today's post is an homage to my mother, on her 72nd birthday.  My mother is a strong, spiritual woman who has lived her life with a passion for education, literature, storytelling,  nature and nutrition. She is a well-loved (now retired) school teacher and I often reflect back on all the things she accomplished in any given day - while juggling a career and family.  While my mother was passionate about fresh fruit, veggies and fresh seafood - she was not fond of elaborate meal preparation or long hours in the kitchen.  (Often resorting to cereal for supper when my father was away on business! -  How wise she now seems!)  As such, the dessert she would make most often was not a cake or a pie ... but these delicious peanut butter cookies.  The recipe is straight from the only cookbook she ever owned, The Joy of Cooking. Click here for a glimpse into this book's amazing history.

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Classic Peanut Butter Cookies
from the Joy of Cooking

1/2 c flour
1/2 t baking soda
1/3 c unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
1 egg
1 c peanut butter (we use creamy)
1/2 t vanilla


1. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Whisk together the flour and baking soda to combine. Set aside. (I did this in advance and left out with the butter.)

3. Beat the butter and two sugars together until well-blended.

4. Add the egg, the peanut butter and vanilla.  Then stir in the flour mixture until blended.  Shape into 1-inch balls and arrange on cookie sheets, about 2-inches apart.  Press flat with a fork (see my picture).

5.  Bake for 10 minutes (I do one sheet at a time because my oven doesn't always cook evenly.)  Let stand briefly then transfer to a rack to cool.


Friday, November 18, 2011

friday field trip: goose fair

Since moving to MA, I try to burn off a little steam each Friday by trying something out of my normal routine.  This Friday after some wonderful time outside enjoying the fall weather, I went on my weekly 'field trip' - this time right in Winchester.  Each year, on the Friday before Thanksgiving, The Parish of the Epiphany hosts an annual tradition, the Goose Fair.  It is a wonderful expression of community spirit when people from all generations and beliefs come together to enjoy a meal, shop for hand crafted items or used books and reconnect in a wholesome celebration of the holidays. This year, my eldest joined me for a 'shift' in the kitchen and we saw first hand the loving attention paid to the foods prepared and served at the Fair.  It was a lovely way to embrace the beginning of what can at times be a hectic time of year.

I hope you and your family will have time for a small fair or festival this season.  We'll bring you a family-sized version of their Swiss Chard Soup later this weekend.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

super simple smoothies

When weekday mornings get busy, I often rely on smoothies to get nutritional and high-energy foods into my kids.  (Cereal and toast can't fill them up on their own!) I have a standard recipe that I taylor to the fresh and frozen fruit I have on hand.  Once you make these a few times, you'll grow confident enough to eye-ball the measurements. Both Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution and Mad Hungry's Smoothie recipes inspired us.  I'll share with you our smoothie formula and then the family favorite. 

Formula for Smoothies in Seconds:
1 serving of fresh fruit
1/2 c frozen fruit
1/2 c yogurt
1 c juice
1 T natural sweetener (optional)
1/2 c oats (optional)


1. Slice or dice your fresh fruit.  

2. Place in the blender with frozen fruit, yogurt and juice. Add oats for an extra energy boost.

3. Whir until smooth.  Taste and if you prefer, sweeten with honey, agave or maple syrup . 

Family Fave ~ Banana-Mango Smoothie
1 ripe banana, sliced
1/2 (heaping!) c frozen mango chunks
1/2 'Banilla' yogurt (from Stoneyfield)
1 c orange juice
1 T maple syrup

Sweet, smooth and sunny!
Great for cold, dark, New England mornings in the winter!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

sloppy joes from scratch

I'm definitely on a 'comfort food' kick.  Today I'm going to make sloppy joes from scratch.  As much as my kids love the original Manwich, I'm trying to eliminate most processed foods from the pantry.  Fingers crossed that we find a yummy compromise!


1/2 onion, chopped fine
1/2 red pepper, chopped fine
1 carrot, grated
5 cloves of garlic, minced
kosher salt
2.5 lbs ground meat (I used a combo of chicken and beef)
3 c tomato sauce (I used Hunt's)
1/4 c brown sugar
2 T tomato paste
1 T red wine vinegar
1 T Worcestshire sauce
1 t dry mustard
1 t chili powder


1. Saute the aromatics till they soften (5-7 minutes) in the EVOO: onion, red pepper, carrot & garlic.  Sprinkle with a little kosher salt to help release the moisture.

2. Add the ground meats and brown.  (I didn't really have any grease to remove since I was using grass fed beef (very lean) and chicken.)

3. Combine all the other ingredients to make the sauce.  Pour over the meat and veggie combo, bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes or longer.


PS - This was a huge hit! Our boys and friend devoured the sandwiches.  Great for busy nights when it is every man for themselves!