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Buying mortar and pestle

Mortar and pestle, or molcajete and tejolote, as they call them, are used frequently in Mexican cuisine.


Adding a mortar and pestle, or molcajete and tejolote, is a wonderful way to incorporate simplicity, flavor and ambience into your kitchen as well as your meals. If you enjoy Mexican cuisine or just want to take advantage of fresh foods, consider adding this easy to use kitchen tool. Don’t let its simplicity fool you. For the best results, you’ll need to know what to look for when buying a Molcajete. This is another one of those items where one size does not fit all.

What to look for when buying a mortar and pestle

Here are a few things to consider before buying a molcajete and tejolote or mortar and pestle set.

Price – The price can vary, depending on the material from which the molcajete and tejolote are made and the size you choose. Molcajete sets typically range from $10 to $60.

Construction – A molcajete and tejolote set can be made from a variety of substances. Traditionally, they are made from volcanic stone but can also be made from granite, stainless steel, glass and ceramic as well as other materials. Some of these materials stain easily so are not recommended for frequent use. The key to choosing the construction material is to think about the importance of durability and frequency of use.

Dimensions/Capacity – If you plan to use this manual grinding set on a daily basis, you may not need a large capacity molcajete, or bowl. If your goal is to grind items in bulk, the larger bowl may be your better option. The three compared below range from 3/4 cup to 4 cups.

Weight – While heavier mortar and pestle sets tend to be more durable and authentic, they can literally be a pain to move. If you have arthritis or other problems lifting 10 pounds, you may want to choose a light-weight version.

Product Care – Depending on the material your molcajete set is made from, you may have a bit of extra work to do in order to clean and maintain your grinder set. For instance, you may need to season the set before initial use or may need to clean it by hand rather than use the dishwasher.

Extras – Some manufacturers may include a recipe book, care booklet, or storage pouch to help you maintain the integrity of your grinding set.

Comparison chart of features and consumer performance ratings


Vasconia Granite

RSVP Endurance
Authentic Molcajete




Volcanic Stone

Stainless Steel


7.1 x 7.1 x 3.5 inches
4 Cup

3 x 3 x 3 inches
3/4 Cup

4.1 x 4.1 x 2.4 inches
1 Cup


10 pounds

13 pounds

1.2 pounds

Dishwasher safe





Recipes & Care booklet

Non-Woven Protection Pouch

In order to get authentic flavor or take advantage of fresh ingredients, sometimes you need to use traditional tools and food preparation methods. When it comes to grinding nuts, seeds, herbs and spices on a daily basis, you just can’t beat a molcajete and tejolote set.

However, if you buy in bulk to save money, you may have a significant amount of grinding to do. In this case, you may prefer to save the wear and tear on your muscles and joints by using an electric grinder.

I hope this gives you a better understanding of what to look for when shopping for a molcajete set or manual grinder.

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Runner up to “Complement Your Barbecue”

The recipe contest “Complement Your Barbecue” was promoted in 2008.

Summer came and the winners to our seasonal recipe contest “Complement Your Barbecue” were chosen. We invite you this month to meet Melinda whose recipe Carolina’s rocking red sauce was chosen as the second runner up. She also gifted us robusta Italian style compound butter with which is probably as delicious, only it arrived too late to enter the competition.

Melinda’s story

Question: Tell us about your background: Where and when did you learn to cook?
Answer: I am an exceptionally blessed mother of three wonderful children and five fabulous grandchildren. I was born in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania in 1961 daughter of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania native Thomas and Zephyr Hills Florida native Dorothy. This is where I get being Yankee cook with southern charm.

I have five brothers and four sisters. I lived 33 years of my life in the north and 14 in the south. Growing up my mother often told me she just knew I would become a really good cook or a chef. I was always right in the middle of the kitchen when she was cooking asking a million questions. But, honestly; I know I was really getting on her last nerve, and dancing and I am sure it was a rock song and not the waltz. Seriously, some of my fondest memories of my mother were in her kitchen over food. The smells, sounds, much laughter and long hours of girl talk.

I first realized my life would revolve around food at about age 10. I was sitting at the kitchen table making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Not your ordinary PB&J, I was making pinwheels out of my sandwich. I had extra jelly to drizzle on the plate and of course powder sugar. My parents had friends over that day and everyone just cooed and awed over this pinwheel sandwich. That was the moment that sparked a fire of desire to cook and make everything we ate beautiful.

I went on to attend College but had to quit for a while due to my mother becoming ill and later passing away. However; I had several impressive jobs in food service. I was catering extravagant and not so extravagant parties. It really did not matter to me as long as I could cook I was happy.

This went on for about 12 years and then one day I woke up and could not move my arm, the pain was just terrible. It lasted about a week. A few more weeks passed and I went to roll over in bed Lord, I let out a God awful scream. I could not move, the pain was so bad I literally could not move or be touched. I was hospital bound in an ambulance. They really could not tell me much, they were baffled. The hospital sent me home with heavy pain medicines and a referral to a Rheumatologist. This pain went on for 13 days, I thought I was about to die from pain. Something told me this was not going to be my last bout of horrendous pain. My appointment was in three weeks and after my diagnosis of Rheumatoid arthritis I thought it was simply an ache and a pain no worries I had survived so much in my life already this would be a snap. Well honey let me tell you, I was so very wrong. RA as it is often referred to is an auto immune system disease that effects your entire body, nasty stuff that RA.

The pain travels and what happens to the left happens to the right. So when my joints on the left deform so do the right side joints. The immune meaning that my immune system is attacking it’s self along with my entire body. My RA was, and still is, very aggressive. RA is a very debilitating and crippling disease and it is running havoc in my body. The pain was unbearable most days. I have now learned to deal with the pain and have taught myself yet more ways to accomplish my goals, I will not let this disease control my life I will control my disease. 

I was born with almost no use of my right arm, unable to lift it any higher than my waist. I made it through life just fine. I devised ways of doing things using other parts of my body. So now I had to fight this disease and find new ways of surviving without losing sight of my life or my dreams. My main goal was and always will be food!

I have several dreams. The first is to open my own restaurant and the second is to have a television show so I can teach thousands of handicap viewers how to cook, even if handicapped, and stay strong in their everyday lives. Not to fear the kitchen but use it as an outlet to live, be creative and thrive! As I said in the beginning I am truly blessed. I would not have it any other way. My less than perfect joints are working just perfectly for me. I am a woman on a mission to help as many people as I can.

Lastly but defiantly not least, my final dream was to write a cook book. My children and friends are always asking me for my recipes. I never really wrote anything down, making it hard to give anybody anything. So, here we are, I have spent 6 months making dish after dish and writing it down. Of course my twisted fingers are so twisted I had to type them no one could ever read my chicken scratch.

After I had some of them typed I checked out cookbook sites and recipe contests I decided this would complete one of my dreams. I would write a self published cookbook, which I have done. I called it Yankee cooking with Southern charm. I have begun to win recipe contests like yours. There is another dream completed.

I make up at the very least 3 to 4 recipes a week. Who knows what could come of this? At the very least my family will have all the wonderful recipes they grew up eating and loving.

As for myself, as long as there is breath in my body and the good Lord is willing, I will achieve all of my dreams.

Question: Which one is your favorite food?
Answer: As for your next question which one is my favorite food it would have to be my Southern Slaw Cake. It is a combination of garden vegetables with made just like a cake with cream cheese icing. Everyone swears it is carrot cake until they watch me make it. Then the jaw drops. I have never had a cake better. I do all the cooking and grilling in my home. I would not have it any other way. I truly enjoy it. I still have 5 people at home and about 4 of my 14 year olds friends -all football players- every week, so there is no empty nest syndrome in this house it is more like chaos.

Question: Which dish is the one you cook best?
Answer: I am famous for my homemade barbeque sauce on grilled chicken with my own chipotle rub.

Question: Which ones are your favorite recipes/dishes at home? Eating out?
Answer: Another favorite is my homemade lasagna with homemade Bolognese sauce. But my cakes, and I have many, are my grandchildren’s favorite and my oldest sons, and, shush, don’t tell they are definitely my favorite. 

Believe it or not, my family wants to eat at home they like the food much better. We never eat fast food. Once in a while we will go out to eat but it is always at a nice restaurant and we order what ever the restaurant is most known for. We all love trying new things and most of us are game for anything. We are a very close and loving family and have many family traditions. 

At my last barbecue I made an edible center piece out of fresh fruits & vegetables with several different dips surrounding it. I used a basket and put a head of lettuce in the basket and built the vegetables and fruit to look like a full bouquet and set it on a wooden lazy Susan. The wooden tray had six cast iron dip holders with all different dips. I had a water Mellon swan fruit basket. Cold vegetable pizza, barbecue chicken, southern style baked beans. Chicken and asparagus potato salad, bacon & cheese macaroni salad, fresh baked yeast rolls, burdogs – hot dogs stuffed with cheddar cheese then wrapped in the hamburger meat and grilled – London broil for the beef eaters with my Rocking Carolina red sauce marinade, and last but not least crayfish for the crayfish race and then into the hot tub for a boil with sausage and corn and potatoes.

Question: What are your plans for the future? Where would you go from here?
Answer: As I told you earlier I have many dreams. I am only 46 years old. I have been sick with RA for 23 years. I still look very young despite the disease. I will keep entering contests. I am now working on another cookbook for the handicapped. I will continue working on achieving my ultimate dream of having the pleasure and honor of helping the millions of people in this world who think just because they are injured or handicapped that does not mean life is over. If they love to cook I will show them ways to do it pain free.

Melinda has been keeping us up to date with her good news. We know that she has won a second contest and she is on the final run for another one. Melinda has completed her training as a speaker for the arthritis foundation and is in talks to write a guide to handicapped cooking. Her first cookbook, Yankee Cooking with Southern Charm, is out.

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Interview with Stephanie

Meet Stephanie at the stove and as a food writer.

Stephanie has been publishing her own blog about the joys of frugal living before starting her contributions at All Foods Natural.

Interview with Stephanie Appleton

Stephanie at the stove

Tell us about your background: Where and when did you learn to cook?

I’ve been cooking for as long as I remember. My parents worked a lot when I was young. I made a lot of the family meals from about the time I was twelve.. Though I did some cooking with my mom, and of course watched her cook as a child, mostly I was self taught. I loved -and still do- to throw a little of this and a little of that in a dish, and see what happens. I learned to cook with what was on hand, and to use a recipe as a starting point for creative cooking.

Which one is your favorite food? Which dish is the one you cook best?

I like a wide variety of foods. It is hard to pick, but one of my favorite meals to cook and eat is lasagna, salad, bread, and cheesecake for dessert.

Who does the cooking at home? Do you cook for one or two, or a family?

I do most of the cooking. My husband can cook, and is willing to help out when needed. We cook for six most nights, but it is not uncommon to find many more than that around our table.

Which ones are your favorite recipes/dishes at home? Eating out?

Meals at home generally are simple, and use a lot of the foods we raise here. Eating out is expensive with this size family, so if we do go out we usually opt for what is cheap. If just my husband and I go out, for a special occasion, we often choose ethnic. I like to try new dishes, and things that I don’t normally make at home.

Please, share with us a typical menu you serve when you entertain friends.

 I’m not sure there is a typical menu. It depends on the friends and the occasion. I enjoy serving our home grown foods, but not everyone appreciates them, especially the meats, so I try to consider that when planning. I often do serve the meals mentioned in Easy dinner party recipes. In the summer, the grill is used a lot. I try to plan meals so that much of the preparations can be done before the guests are there.

Stephanie, food writer

What was your motivation to start writing about food and creating recipes?

I’ve always created recipes by cooking with what is on hand, and never exactly following a recipe. Trouble is I’m bad about writing the creations down. My husband jokes that we’ve never had the same dish in thirteen years of marriage.

Writing about food started on my blog. I began writing about food in the context of saving money on your groceries, and living a frugal and simple life.

How did you get started with writing? Do you have a special routine, a special place?

I really hadn’t written anything since college. I started my first blog, Adventures in the 100 Acre Wood, about three years ago to keep in touch with family and friends. Then started Stop the Ride to explore some different ways to earn money. Then Erin Phelan recommended me for a freelance job, and now here I am.

What problems did you have to face in order to balance your family time, your writing time and the work you do on your homestead? Did you use any specific time management techniques?

Balancing my time is still something I am working on. Since we home school, I have children under foot all day, every day. I find myself thinking about articles while doing tasks such as laundry, dishes or feeding animals.  It is challenging to find any quiet time to put the thoughts together. The best opportunities for writing are before the children get up, or after they go to bed. Unfortunately, I am not always at my best at these hours.

What would you do differently if you had to do it all over again? What would you do the same if you had to start over?

I’m pretty happy with the way things have developed. I do wish that I had been a little more mindful of time requirements. The writing started as I added several other things to my schedule, I underestimated the time requirements. I also wish some of my grammar courses were a little fresher in my mind.

If you had to advise a friend who wants to follow on your footsteps to become a food writer, what would you tell?

 I’m not sure. I’m still pretty new to this, so I guess I would tell them, “Let’s figure this out together.”

Thank you very much Stephanie, we hope to enjoy your writing for many more issues of this newsletter.

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Interview with Erin M. Phelan

Meet Erin at the stove and as a food writer.

An interview with Erin M. Phelan, a regular contributor to All Foods Natural and a successful blogger on her own right.

Erin at the stove

Tell us about your background: Where and when did you learn to cook?

As soon as I could reach the stove, my father began to teach me how to cook. It started with the muffin mix bags. Since measurements and instruction following was involved, I was able to follow complex recipes around the age of five. My first family size dinner that I made without help was at 6 years old. I made fried chicken, mash potatoes, cream corn and a chocolate mouse from scratch. My father has cooked all over the world. He taught me how to adjust recipes to make them fit our tastes, as well as cooking with non-mainstream ingredients and “gourmet” meals. My mother taught me the more down home type cooking. My training is home/family based, with a few years in a class as a child.

Which one is your favorite food? Which dish is the one you cook best?

My favorite food? That would have to be a mild Italian Sausage. A well- made Italian sausage is one of the most versatile meats I have ever run across; it goes wonderfully in just about every dish, from a potato’s O’Brian, to a sweet brown sugar laden casserole. The dish That I cook the best, and is my favorite is Candied Italian sausage with made from scratch Florentine with a simple Alfredo sauce.

Who does the cooking at home? Do you cook for one or two, or a family?

I do all the cooking at home, well my sons help as I am teaching them like my parents taught me. My 4 year old make wonderful cookies. I cook for a family of five, but it is not unusual for me to host surprise dinner guests.

Which ones are your favorite recipes/dishes at home? Eating out?

Besides the Candied Italian sausage recipe, my favorite would be homemade pizzas. The entire family gets involved and we have some interesting concoctions. No two are ever the same. We rarely eat out, maybe twice a year. We enjoy the family dinners, the uglier the building the better the food. However, my favorite when it comes to eating out would have to be sushi.

Please, share with us a typical menu you serve when you entertain friends.

We tend not to have typical entertaining when it comes to dinner parties. We have a set BBQ, though, which you can find that menu in the BBQ article. It depends on what guest I have. More often then not, we do homestead type meals of in season produce and meats.

Erin M. Phelan, food writer

What was your motivation to start writing about food and creating recipes?

Writing and cooking have always been a part of my life. It was just felt natural to combine the two.

How did you get started with writing? Do you have a special routine, a special place?

Just like with cooking I have been writing since I could talk. I know that seems like an odd statement. However, I began story telling as soon as I could form complete sentences. Then put them to paper as soon as I could handle a pencil. My routine is 1,000 words in the morning, before my children wake, and more after they have gone to bed. Special place? The computer area if it needs to be on the PC, otherwise where ever the urge strikes me.

What problems did you have to face in order to balance your family time, your writing time and the work you do on your homestead? Did you use any specific time management techniques?

I am still having those issues. Things on the homestead can change abruptly, depending on the season. Time management is very important, and I am still working that one out. However, as writing, cooking and living a simpler lifestyle with my family is very important to me, I try hard to keep things running smoothly.

What would you do differently if you had to do it all over again? What would you do the same if you had to start over?

Differently? Possible more training when it comes to cooking. There are times I feel I am unable to properly write about a technique because I was never formally trained. The Same? Easy, enjoying both food and writing.

If you had to advise a friend who wants to follow on your footsteps to become a food writer, what would you tell?

Buy a thesaurus as you can only use so many words to describe something is yummy, experiment with your favorite recipes until it resembles nothing like the original, and love what you do. In addition, don’t give up. You will burn your baked goods, explode your soups and flatten your cakes.

Open up to new ingredients, things you might have hated in the past could become your favorite with just a touch of something new.

Moreover, never say quits because it has yet to work in your favor. Rejections and inedible food are all part of this job.

Thank you very much Erin, we hope to enjoy your writing for many more issues of this newsletter.

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Grill! by experienced food writers Pippa Cuthbert and Lindsay Cameron Wilson.

This book contains over 80 recipes and teaches readers how to achieve perfectly cooked food on the grill and in the grill pan.

Recipes from Grill!

Caramelized lamb chops

Grilling meltingly tender, marinated lamb chops is one of life’s simple pleasures.

Serves 4

1 cup (20g) cilantro, roughly chopped
6 Tbsp brown sugar 
4 Tbsp dark soy sauce 
4 Tbsp mirin, Chinese rice wine or sherry 
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped 
16 single-rib lamb chops

To serve: 
Grilled potatoes, green salad or steamed green beans

Combine the cilantro, brown sugar, soy sauce, mirin and garlic in a shallow baking dish. Add the chops, turning well to coat in the marinade. Cover and refrigerate overnight or for up to 24 hours.

Preheat the grill or grill pan to very hot. Brush with oil. Grill the chops to taste (4-6 minutes on each side for medium) until the edges are browned and caramelized. Transfer the chops to a platter and allow to rest for 2-3 minutes before serving with grilled potatoes and a green salad or steamed green beans.

Blackened halibut
Crispy heat

A hot grill coupled with a crispy, “blackened” crust adds a fiery, Cajun touch to halibut. New Orleans chef Paul Prudhomme is to thank for putting “blackening” on the culinary map.

Serves 4

For the rub:
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
¼ tsp hot paprika
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp fennel seeds, toasted and roughly chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

4 halibut fillets, 7oz (200g) each
Olive oil, for brushing
1 lime, quartered

Combine the ingredients for the rub in a small bowl. Place the halibut fillets in a shallow baking dish and brush with oil. Pat the rub all over the fish. Season with more salt and pepper. Cover and chill for up to 1 hour, in the refrigerator.

Preheat the grill or grill pan to hot. Brush the grill bars well with oil. Grill the fillets for 2-2 1/2 minutes on each side until charred and just cooked through. Serve immediately with a squeeze of lime.

Sirloin with chimichurri marinade

Chimichurri is a fresh herb-and-vinegar mixture used in Argentinean cuisine both for basting grilled meats and as a condiment. It’s incredible with steak, as you will see!

Serves 2

1 cup (250ml) extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp chopped thyme
2 Tbsp chopped oregano
2 Tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley 
1 Tbsp chopped rosemary
1 chipotle chilli in adobo sauce, chopped 
1 Tbsp sweet Spanish paprika 
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped 
3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp sea salt 
Freshly ground black pepper 
1lb 50z (600g) top sirloin steak about 1 in (2.5cm) thick

Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized saucepan until hot. Remove from the heat and set aside. Add the remaining ingredients, except for the steak, stir, and leave at room temperature to cool and infuse for 1 hour.

Pour one quarter of this marinade into a dish and add the steak, turning several times to coat. Reserve the remaining marinade to serve with the cooked steak. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Remove and leave at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Preheat the grill or grill pan to very hot and cook the steak for 2 minutes on each side for medium-rare. Transfer the steak to a chopping board and loosely cover with foil. Allow it to rest for 5 minutes before thinly slicing across the grain.

Serve with the reserved marinade.

Shrimp and chorizo skewers

All the juices and oils from the chorizo ooze out while cooking, leaving the shrimp succulent and spicy.

Makes 12

12 large shrimp
1 Tbsp harissa paste (optional)
2 chorizo sausages, about 6oz (150g) each
12 fresh bay leaves
1 Tbsp olive oil
12 short skewers, soaked in wood or bamboo

Peel and devein the shrimp, leaving the small tail ends still attached. Rub over the harissa paste evenly and set aside. Slice the chorizo into 1/2-in (1 1/2-cm) thick slices. Place 1 chorizo slice into the crook of each shrimp and thread onto a skewer. Add a bay leaf to each skewer and refrigerate until ready to cook.

Preheat the grill or grill pan to medium-hot. Brush the skewers with a little olive oil and cook for 5-6 minutes, turning once, or until the shrimp are translucent and the chorizo cooked through. Serve immediately.

Grilled sweet potato and mango salad

A sweet, succulent and refreshing salad.

Serves 4-6

1 sweet potato, peeled
1 large mango, skin removed

For the dressing:
3 Tbsp olive oil 
4 Tbsp fresh mint, chopped
Juice of 1 lime
1 tsp grated lime rind
1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1/2 tsp extra-fine sugar
Sea salt and pepper, to taste

1 head Bibb or Boston (round) lettuce
1/2 cup (10g) fresh mint

Preheat the grill or grill pan to medium.

Chop both the sweet potato and mango flesh into long wedges, about ¾-in (2cm) wide, 1/2-in (1 cm) thick. Place in separate dishes.

Combine the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and pour half over the mango and potato.

With tongs in hand, arrange sweet potato wedges directly over the grill and leave for 6-8 minutes, until grill marks appear and the bottom sides begin to soften. Turn and grill the other side for a further 6 minutes. While the other sides are cooking, arrange the mango wedges directly on the grill. Grill for about 2-3 minutes on each side. Transfer all the wedges to a cutting board and cut into cubes. Place them in a bowl and toss with the remaining dressing.

Arrange lettuce leaves on salad plates. Scatter the sweet potato and mango over the lettuce and add a sprinkling of sea salt and finely sliced mint.

Angel food cake with chocolate cream

I’ll never forget the day I first tasted grilled angel food cake with a dollop of chocolate cream. Nothing has really been the same since. Of course you can make your own cake if you prefer, but store-bought is the simple and guaranteed-to-be fluffy option.

Serves 8

For the chocolate cream:
8 Tbsp confectioners sugar
4 Tbsp cocoa powder 
2 Tbsp milk
1 cup (250ml) heavy cream
1 pinch cream of tartar

8 fat slices store-bought angel food cake
1-2 Tbsp confectioners sugar, for dusting

To make the chocolate cream, whisk together the confectioners sugar, cocoa powder and milk in a small bowl. Set aside. In a separate bowl, beat the cream with the cream of tartar until soft. Whisk in the chocolate mixture until well blended. Cover and refrigerate.

Preheat the grill or grill pan to hot. Dust the angel food cake slices with confectioners sugar. Grill the slices for 1 minute on each side until golden and grill marks appear on the surface. Transfer 
to serving plates and top with chocolate cream. 

Reprinted from Grill!. Copyright by Good Books ( Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Healthy Holiday dishes

As the holidays approach with the promise of abundant mouth-watering food, many of us, searching for a balance between deprivation and overindulgence.

We find ourselves musing over a childhood dream. Why can’t Brussels sprouts and broccoli be as tasty as mashed potatoes and apple pie?

This holiday season Chef Mary Nearn makes wishes come true. Her bold, flavorful, and delicious holiday recipes, low in fat and calories, allow holiday foods to be a source of guilt-free pleasure. Mary would also love to put a healthy spin on your readers’ favorite traditional recipes.

This season you will be able to greet New Years with uninhibited enthusiasm. Gleefully slip into that slinky new dress stashed in your closet!

Begin your meal and delight your guests with the delectable Charred Roma Tomato and Basil Soup with Balsamic Onions and Parmesan Crackers, or the seasonal Toasted Barley and Apple Salad.

Serve a traditional Roasted Turkey as your main course. Follow Mary’s instructions to baste your turkey in her special Achiote Paste rather than fat or butter. Further enhance your turkey with the suggested spices and seasonal vegetables. 

 Pleasantly surprise guests by serving Roast Root Vegetables with Wild Mushroom Crusted Tenderloin of Beef Port Wine Glaze and Horseradish Aioli. 

Delectable desserts are a staple of celebration and once again Mary manages to create healthy low calorie dishes with no compromise to taste.  Complete your meal with an irresistible Baked Apple Tortelli or the succulent Chocolate Napoleon Sheets with Pumpkin Mouse.

Here are some of Mary’s delectable holiday recipes:

Charred Roma tomato and basil soup with balsamic onions and Parmesan crackers

To serve the soup, ladle equal amounts into bowls, place a teaspoon of the balsamic onions in the middle of each bowl and top with the chiffonade.  Set the cracker on top or on the side.

16 each Roma Tomatoes – charred and chopped- large dice
1 each small White Onion- medium dice
3 small cloves Garlic – minced
3 cups Chicken or Vegetable Broth
1 Tablespoon Dried Basil
1 Tablespoon Canola Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
4 teaspoons Basil Chiffonade

Yield: 4 servings

Heat the oil in a medium size saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion, basil and garlic and let sauté until onions are just translucent.  Add in the tomatoes and broth.  Let the mixture simmer for about 30 minutes.  Depending on the amount of moisture in the tomatoes you may need to add more liquid. 

Place the soup in small batches in a blender, puree until smooth and pour through a strainer to remove skins and seeds.  Place soup back in the saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Adjust seasoning and set aside.

Balsamic onion relish

1/2 each small red onion- small dice
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 Tablespoon oil

Heat oil in a small skillet over medium high heat.  Add in onions and cook until caramelized and soft.  Add the Balsamic Vinegar and let cook until onions are evenly coated and the vinegar is only on the onions not in the pan.  Set aside.

Parmesan and olive crackers

4 Tablespoons shredded Parmesan
1 teaspoon chopped Kalamata olives
Pinch dried basil

Use a silpat non-stick mat.  Sprinkle each Tablespoon of Parmesan cheese in a pile separate from the others.  Spread the cheese evenly, then sprinkle with the olives and then the dried basil.  Place in 350-degree oven for about 5 minutes, check to see that the cheese is not browning too much let cool for a few minutes and remove from the silpat.

Toasted barley and apple salad

2 cups barley
5 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh mint
1 red delicious apple, cored and sliced
1 granny smith apple, cored and sliced


1/4cup lemon juice
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup apple juice
1/3 cup flavored rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fruit sweet or honey
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Yield: 9 Cups

Heat barley in a medium sauce pan.  Stirring constantly until lightly browned.  Add vegetable stock, bring to a boil, cover and simmer about 25 until barley is soft.  Remove from heat and drain.  Combing barley, remaining salad ingredients in a mixing bowl.  Whisk together vinaigrette ingredients in another mixing bowl.  Add to barley and mix well.

Roast root vegetables with wild mushroom crusted tenderloin of beef Port wine glaze and horseradish aioli

1 recipe for roasted root vegetables
6 (4ounce) beef tenderloin with wild mushroom crust
3/4 cup horseradish aioli
3/4 cup port wine glaze

To plate: On each plate arrange a mound of root vegetables, divide among the 6 plates.  Slice the tenderloins into thin slices and fan over the vegetables.  Shape 1 tablespoon size quenelles out of the aioli and place 2 on each place.  Drizzle each plate with 2 tablespoons of port wine glaze.

 Roast root vegetables

1 medium carrot, peeled, cut into 2-inch sticks
1 medium parsnip, peeled, cut into 2-inch sticks
1 large Yukon gold potato, peeled, cut into 2 inch sticks
1 large sweet potato, peeled, cut into 2-inch sticks
1 large turnip, peeled, cut into 2-inch sticks
1/2 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4teaspoon sea salt
 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh herb mix

Makes: 6 servings

Preheat the oven to 450°F

Place the vegetables on banking sheet and mix with the olive oil.  Season with the salt, pepper, and herbs.  Roast the vegetables for 10-15 minutes, or until lightly browned and just starting to soften.  Remove the vegetables from the oven and transfer to a clean dish.  Keep warm in 200-degree oven.

Beef tenderloin with wild mushroom crust

6 (4ounce) beef tenderloins

For the mushroom Crust
2 cups assorted dry wild mushrooms to include chanterelles, shiitakes, morels and ceps
1 tablespoon fresh herb mix-basil, oregano, thyme, and parsley
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Yield: 1 cup ground mix

Place mushrooms in a clean coffee grinder and process until a fine meal.  You may need to repeat a few times to process all mushrooms.  Combing mushrooms and remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl.  Coat the beef or chicken on both sides with the mushroom crust.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Heat an oven proof sauté pan over medium high heat and lightly coat bottom of the pan with cooking spray.  Place the mushroom crusted tenderloins in the pan and brown on one side for about 2 minutes.  Turn over and brown for one minute.  Place the pan in the oven and cook for about 7 minutes for medium rare beef.

Horseradish aioli

1 tablespoon roasted garlic
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
1 cup mayonnaise substitute or low-fat mayonnaise, or soy based mayonnaise
1 tablespoon minced fresh horseradish
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/4teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

Yield: 1 cup

Place the roasted garlic, fresh garlic, mayonnaise, and tarragon in a blender and process until smooth.  Add the pepper, salt and olive oil.  Pulse to combine.  Refrigerate until ready to use.  Can be made 1 day ahead.  Will keep for 5 days in the refrigerator.

Port wine glaze

2 cups (16 ounces) port wine
2 tablespoons corn syrup

Yield: 1/2 cup 

Heat a small saucepan over the medium heat and add the wine and corn syrup.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Boil until reduced to a syrup consistency, about 10 minutes.

Chocolate Napoleon sheets with pumpkin mousse

To assembly, place one phyllo rectangle on a plate.  Place a layer of pumpkin mousse on top with either a spoon or pastry bag.  Cover with another layer of phyllo and repeat one more time ending with phyllo on top.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar or cocoa powder, and garnish with strawberry fan and fresh mint sprig.

Napoleon sheet

2 sheets chocolate phyllo dough
Vegetable cooking spray and hazelnut oil
1 tablespoon raw cane sugar (for sprinkling)

Yield: 4 napoleon

For the napoleon sheets, place one sheet of phyllo dough on a flat, clean surface. Spray sheet evenly with cooking spray and lightly sprinkle with sugar. Repeat this process 1 time. On the 2nd layer, spray and sprinkle again, then fold the sheets in half. Cut into 12 even rectangles and bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes.

Pumpkin mousse

1/4 cup fruit sweet
1 cup packed pumpkin
4 gelatin sheets or 4 tsp. of gelatin powder
1/2 cup white chocolate
3/4 cup pasteurized egg whites
1/4 cup raw cane sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
2 tablespoon water

Yield: 1 quart

For the mousse, melt the chocolate over a double boiler and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, combine the pumpkin with spices. Add the white chocolate to the pumpkin mixture.  Soften the gelatin in 2 tablespoons of water. Heat the fruit sweet in a small saucepan and add the soften, drained gelatin. Stir until melted.  Add to the pumpkin mixture and stir to combine.

Using an electric mixer whip the egg whites with sugar until stiff peaks form.  Fold the egg whites into the pumpkin mixture. Refrigerate for 1 – 2 hours until the gelatin has set.