Chipotle Powder – heating things up in the kitchen!

There is something about chipotle powder that is magical to me. It has that combination of smoke and heat and spice that makes me want to dust it on practically everything. I am addicted…I sprinkle it in mashed sweet potatoes, ranch-style black beans and my homemade tortilla soup. It goes on my smoked ribs. It goes in my chili. If I think it will enhance a dish, it goes in…I even use it on ice-cream. One of my favorite flavor combinations is vanilla ice-cream with a drizzle of honey, sliced peaches – perfectly ripe of course, chopped pecans and an ever-so-slight touch of chipotle powder. The first bite yields the cold yet creamy taste of the vanilla ice-cream married with a sweet kiss of honey, soon followed by the juicy peaches and crunch of pecans…and at the very end you get a touch of heat on the back of your palate from the chipotle…Divine! If honey is the nectar of the gods then surely chipotle powder is the indulgence of the devil himself! Heaven and Hell join forces, creating this one beautiful pièce de résistance.

Life is way too short not to spice things up a bit…I dare you to give it a try!!

“Tea and Saltines…Grilled Cheese with Grape Jelly” or “My Grandmother was a Food Fusion Pioneer”

A friend recently said something which triggered a favorite childhood memory: that of sitting at my grandmom’s kitchen table, the two of us dunking saltines in hot tea. I loved spending time at my grandparent’s house. We only lived about 10 minutes away, so I spent many a day sipping tea and dipping saltines.

I have many fond food memories from that time of my life. When I was younger my grandmother still had a milkman deliver her milk and ice-cream – Breyer’s ice-cream – the original Breyer’s. It does not taste the same to me today as it did back then. I’m sure they have changed the recipe now that it is distributed country-wide. Or perhaps part of the taste lies in the memories…Whenever I spent the night she would offer me tea and ice-cream just before bed. We’d eat the ice-cream and then she’d bring out a cup of tea to warm us up. It was the play of cold against hot, yin vs. yang…a sort of balancing act.

My grandmother was a food fusion pioneer. ‘Tea and Saltines’ was only the beginning. One of her most innovative combinations was grape jelly spread on a grilled cheese sandwich. I never knew it was her creation until I went to college. I grew up eating them and never had had a grilled cheese any other way…the first time they offered grilled cheese sandwiches at the dining hall I asked where the grape jelly was. The cafeteria woman looked at me like I was crazy. “Grape jelly?” she asked, “Why do you want grape jelly? We put that away after breakfast.” Indignant, I turned to my fellow dorm buddies and asked, “Who doesn’t put out grape jelly for grilled cheese sandwiches?” It was at this point I noticed those around me eyeing me with looks of utter confusion, soon followed by grins and chortles – at my expense! In that moment I had what Stephen Covey would call a ‘paradigm shift’. I realized that I was the only one present who had ever eaten a grilled cheese sandwich smeared with grape jelly. I was astounded…and a bit taken aback. The flavor combo was a bit too overwhelming for them to even try it at first, but I am proud to say that by the end of the semester most of those around me were eating their grilled cheese sandwiches with a smear of grape jelly [insert smug satisfaction here].

So today I sit here, sipping my tea and dunking my saltines, remembering my grandmother and what a wonderful woman she was. She had a smile for everyone and a special twinkle in her eyes. And she would have loved the food offerings available today. I just wonder what combinations she would have created…I’m sure they would have been divine!

Homemade Applesauce

Last night I discovered several pounds of Macintosh Apples I had bought and stored (and forgotten about) and they were on the cusp of fading. So I whipped out my trusty peeler and promptly peeled and diced them all into a heavy duty cast-enamel pot. I cooked them down to a wonderful sauce within 20-30 minutes…soon we were enjoying one of my favorite fall dishes! Here is my recipe:

Homemade Applesauce

  • 8 large Macintosh Apples – peeled, cored and diced
  • ¼ to ½ cup water
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • ¼ c dark brown sugar (or less – I could have gotten away with no sugar this time)
  • 5 pieces of candied ginger
  • ¼ Apple Brandy (or to taste; the alcohol will cook out)
  • Cinnamon – about 1 tsp or to taste (optional)

 Place all ingredients in a heavy pot and bring to a boil. You may need to add a little more water if your apples are not very ‘juicy’…Reduce heat to medium and let cook, stirring occasionally, until apples are soft enough to mash with a potato masher. You can cook them to whatever consistency you like, ranging from silky smooth to extra chunky…your choice. It is also up to you whether or not to leave the ginger in or take it out. I prefer to find it as a surprise…my husband does not.

***Be careful! The apples are hot and if they cook at too high a temperature the mixture will begin to bubble up. I found out the hard way just how hot it can get when a big bubble burst as I stirred the mixture. I ended up with a dollop of steaming applesauce on my bare arm…did I mention it was hot???

I served this with pork tenderloin encrusted with mustard and herbs, roasted on a bed of onion, carrots, garlic and mushrooms (mushrooms added the final 15 minutes of roasting); a mixed green salad with a mustard-vinaigrette; and sweet potatoes mashed with butter and chipotle powder.  A Sunday ‘Fall Harvest’ feast!!

Gingered Apple Cider Cocktail

Autumn is my favorite time of year. The fading flavors of summer combine with the oncoming flavors of fall, leading to a wonderful marriage of taste sensations and possibilities. My creativity seems to increase a thousand-fold this time of year! Last week there was leftover apple cider (Zieglers – my favorite) in my fridge, and I wondered what I could do with it. I perused my liquor cabinet – my fully stocked liquor cabinet – and found a bottle of Canton Ginger Liqueur I had special ordered last year. It is a bit sweet and I had not yet figured out how best to use it. I thought it would taste nice in the apple cider. There actually is a recipe that came with the Canton bottle that mixes equal parts Canton to apple cider. That was a bit too sweet for my taste buds. After tasting I decided to mix in the juice of about ¼ of a lemon…PERFECTION!! I think I have found my new fall cocktail!!!


Gingered Apple Cider Cocktail

  •  2 parts apple cider
  • 2 parts ginger liqueur (such as Canton)
  • Squeeze of lemon
  • Candied ginger


Pour apple cider and ginger liqueur over ice; add lemon juice and stir. Garnish with candied ginger and enjoy!

Indian-Style Pumpkin Soup

This pumpkin soup is my own recipe. I created it when I discovered my older son, who did not often eat healthy at that time, loved pumpkin. He also preferred Indian-style flavorings, so I experimented until I came up with this result. Although I consider pumpkin soup to be an autumn dish, I have made this in every season. The main ingredients can be kept on hand in your pantry, and the perishables are basic and may be items you already keep stocked…they should certainly be easily accessible year-round. This soup can start off your Thanksgiving meal; however, I like to make it the day before Thanksgiving – I will have a pot of this on the stove while I am baking my 12 pies and smoking the turkey breast…and it is a healthy meal to have the day before the big feast.


  • 1 T Olive Oil
  • 2 carrots, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 apple, peeled/diced
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 2 tsp Cumin (or to taste)
  • 1 T Curry              
  • 2 tsp Garam Masala
  • 1 – 2 tsp Sea Salt
  • 1-2 bottles Hard Apple Cider (optional) – my (now-not-so) secret ingredient!! 🙂
  • Chicken or Vegetable Broth – 4 cups
  • 1 14.5 oz can pumpkin (I use organic) – you can also use fresh pumpkin which has been roasted in the oven
  • 1 can Coconut Milk – NOT Lite!!
  •  garnishes at end (feel free to use any combo, all, your own or none…): goat cheese, smoked chicken, honey

 **I also like to serve it w/ the prosciutto-pepper baguette from Central Market…but I have also used cranberry bread, bleu cheese bread w/ walnuts, and just plain old regular bread…

 TO PREPARE: Sauté carrots, apple and onion in the olive oil on medium heat until softened. Add salt and spices and stir for about a minute. If using, add the hard apple cider and bring to a boil. Let reduce to about half. Add in stock and bring back to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook for about 30 minutes. Using an emulsifier, puree the ingredients (alternately, you can use a blender or food processor). Add the pumpkin and coconut milk and cook on low for another 15 minutes.

 NOTE: You may want to sample a bite after adding in the pumpkin and coconut milk to assure the spices meet your taste preference. I sometimes find the need to add in extra curry or garam masala, especially if my spices have been in the cabinet for awhile. You can experiment with what works for you and your family/friends.

 How I serve it: I ladle some in a bowl, mound smoked chicken in the center, and then crumble on a bit of goat cheese. Next, I drizzle the soup with a bit of honey – I use Tupelo, but any will work. Sometimes I sprinkle in cooked black beans for extra texture/protein. The Indian spices give it a different flavor than the traditional ‘pumpkin pie’ soups I have had in the past.

 It is great served with the baguette I mentioned earlier and a salad of Arugula, Red Onion or Shallots, Sliced green apple, walnuts, goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette…