Cranberry Salsa – Spicing Up Thanksgiving

I’m going to Thanksgiving dinner and I’m bringing two pies, noodle pudding and a trunk full of Hanukkah presents. And, yeah, the pies are from the school pie sale and the noodle dish is from the market.   We did make some once in 78,000 years Thanksgivakkuh cookies (plain old cookies made extraordinary with chunks of gelt and autumn colored sprinkles).

Still, my homemade contributions felt a little skimpy.  I needed do something with a cranberry.  And cilantro.  Yes, cilantro. Ryan and I were smitten with Whole Foods Cranberry Salsa at their tasting event last week – this one may just become a holiday classic.  The appetizer was so popular that the chef ran out of recipe cards, but he jotted down the ingredients for us.


To prepare, pulse fresh cranberries in three separate batches in a blender, making sure to leave some larger chunks of cranberry.


On the last batch, add sliced green onions and cilantro, fresh shredded ginger, lemon juice and sugar.  Pulse, then mix remainder of cranberries in by hand.

Serve with crackers and cream cheese.  Voila. Instant holiday contribution — perfect for holiday parties from now through Valentine’s Day.


Now, let me get back to counting our blessings.

Baked Oatmeal To Cozy Up Your Weekend

My son’s school was closed on Election Day which gave us a perfect excuse to do NOTHING on Tuesday (except vote, of course – though only after my kids watched a movie in the parking lot of my polling place while I read about the candidates on my cell phone).

Our sole outing was a lunch date and a bike/scooter ride with good friends that we don’t see nearly enough. 


noah scooter

The day was a perfect re-charge, starting with the boys letting me sleep in (7:30 a.m. IS late after the time change) and a breakfast I just had to pop in the oven.  Overnight baked oatmeal should work as well on a Sunday as a vacation day Tuesday, so it seems just right to share on the eve of a long weekend for some.

Baked oatmeal title

We’ve tried this recipe from All for The Boys a few times.  My oldest devoured it and didn’t miss the extra butter and sugar in this lighter batch we put together.

Bonus: hot breakfast all week long (just reheat a square before school).


  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk (we used almond)
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • mashed banana (you can hardly taste the banana, but if you prefer not to use a banana, add 1/4 cup melted butter and 1/4 additional brown sugar)


To prepare the night before, combine the oats, brown sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl. Whisk the eggs, milk and butter in a separate bowl. Pour into the bowl with oat mixture and mix together well. Cover and refrigerator overnight.

In the morning, pour into a greased 9-in. square baking pan. Bake at 350° for 40-45 minutes or until set and golden brown on the edges. Serve with milk and a little maple syrup.

baked oatmeal

Enjoy your weekend.



Spooky Cupcakes — For Kids, By Kids

Enough about kale.  Halloween is here, and with it, fantastically sugary and chocolate-y treats.  I mentioned last week how one talented mom’s Spooky Cupcakes (gorgeously decorated spiders, mummies and eyeballs) sold out in minutes at our school farmer’s market.


Think you have to be a meticulous decorator to achieve such Halloween excellence?  Not so.  My son Ryan, niece Emily and I went to Stew Leonard’s cupcake decorating class on Friday – and we’ve got all the details.

welcome sign


If we were making these at home, I’d probably use a variety or two of boxed cake mix and focus on the toppings for one or two different kinds of cupcakes.  Unless you have the whole day free and very patient kiddos, I’d bake the cupcakes ahead of time and let the kids have fun decorating, instead of watching their interest wane as they mix, bake and wait for the cupcakes to cool.  Stew’s had batches and batches of gorgeous cupcakes in red velvet, chocolate and vanilla all ready to go at our cooking class.

red velvet

Stew’s talented teaching team, Bokai, Jackie and Tyler were super organized with the decorating supplies and very clear with their step by step instructions to the children.  There’s a lot of frosting and candy involved when twenty-five kids are decorated cupcakes and these three were pros and keeping the class fun, productive and sanitary.

team stew's

They showed the class samples of the six cupcakes we would be making and promised the kids could take all six home in their own decorated box, much to the delight of my little chefs.

emry cakes

The Owl

Ingredients: Cupcake, chocolate frosting, two oreos, M&Ms

Directions: Top cupcake with frosting.   Split oreos in half and use creme side up with M&Ms for eyes. Add an extra M&M for the nose.


The Mummy

Ingredients: Cupcake, chocolate frosting, oreo cookie crumbs, giant marshmallow, M&Ms

Directions:  Top cupcake with frosting. Dip in a bowl of cookie crumbs. Make three slits in the jumbo marshmallow and fill with M&Ms to make eyes and a nose.



The Scarecrow

Ingredients: Cupcake, yellow frosting (vanilla frosting mixed with a little yellow food coloring), black and green gel icing, vanilla wafers, green M&Ms or Mike & Ike’s, candy corn

Directions: Top cupcake with frosting. Break off a third of a wafer and set the pieces atop the cupcake to look like a straw hat. Add green candy for eyes and candy corn for mouth.  Use the green icing to draw hair, black icing to draw mouth and center of eyes.


The Spider

Ingredients: Cupcake, vanilla frosting, black gel icing, plastic spider

Directions:  Top cupcake with frosting. Use gel to make a swirl, then using the end of a toothpick or skewer, scrape gel from outside of the swirl to center of the swirl, to give the spider web effect.  Add a plastic spider (not edible).

spider web

the spider

The Vampire

Ingredients:  Cupcake, purple frosting, black gel icing, marshmallow cut into small triangles

Directions: Top cupcake with frosting. Use gel to create hair, eyes and mouth.  Add triangle marshmallow fangs.

vamp decorating


The Eyeball

Ingredients: Cupcake, vanilla frosting, strawberry jam, green icing/frosting, M&Ms

Directions: Before frosting, scoop a small spoonful of cake from the center of the cupcake top.  Fill with jelly. Then frost.  Add jelly on top, along with green icing and M&M for eyeball.


There you have it! Six kid-decorated, Halloween-inspired cupcakes.


To be a little fancy, you could pick up these candy eyes, instead of the M&Ms.

Candy eyeballs by Wilton. Readily available at Michaels and most party and grocery stores.

Stew Leonard’s has a slew of cooking classes for kids of all ages at their New York and Connecticut locations. View the Stew Leonard’s class schedule here (for Newington, CT) and know that classes fill up fast!  Children five and older do not need an adult present in class (just in the store), so you can shop while they are in class.  The supervision, hands-on instruction and supplies provided were awesome.  My only suggestion: I’d love to see the kids get written recipes/instructions to take home so they can share the lesson with their families.

Check out some other Halloween favorites on the Love Them Madly Facebook page and click LIKE to stay current on all our creations.

Disclosure:  Stew Leonard’s provided me with a free kid’s cooking class to review.
I was under no obligation to
 review it, nor was I under any obligation to write a positive review.

Kale: Give it One More Moment

A headline on my newsfeed last week made me click through: Is Fish Sauce Having its Kale Moment?  I know fish sauce is in many of my favorite Asian dishes but you aren’t going to see me cooking with it anytime soon.

Kale, though, is still having its moment in my kitchen.  Judging by the amount of kale we sold at our school’s farmer’s market yesterday, others have moved on.  Our best sellers at our most successful market ever: honey, carrots, baguettes and frosted cupcakes. Greens were not having their moment.

Market pics

Our best-selling products. Next year, we may carry fish sauce.

Our farmer’s market funds our school gardens.  You know, the gardens, where we grow things that are good for us to eat?  Like kale!  Since very few customers purchased kale yesterday, I have to think people still don’t know what to do with it.

Here’s my latest, inspired by a simple salad I ate at Cascabel Taqueria, a casual Mexican restaurant in NYC.

kale quinoa ingred

Packed with protein (quinoa and pumpkin seeds), plenty of greens, sliced avocado (not pictured) and some sweets (golden raisins and cherry tomatoes), this is one of those complete salad lunches — the kind that doesn’t leave you certain you need a hunk of chicken or a slice of baguette on the side to make it to your next meal.

kale quinoa

Kale Quinoa Salad


  • one bunch kale, any variety
  • cooked quinoa, red or white
  • cherry tomatoes, sliced lengthwise
  • golden raisins
  • pepitas
  • avocado
  • olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper


  1. Wash, trim and slice kale in thin ribbons.  Sprinkle with olive oil and massage well.
  2. Mix greens with quinoa. The ratio is up to you.
  3. Add cherry tomatoes, raisins and pepitas.
  4. Add lemon juice and mix well.  Add additional olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Slice avocado on top.

More kale recipes I love madly:

Kale Confetti Salad 

Kale Caesar Salad

Oprah’s Kale Brussel Sprout Salad

Garden Fresh Marinara – The Simple Kind

Last year, kale and cucumbers ruled our garden. This year, while little white moths enjoyed our kale, we ate cukes ’till we were sick of them and picked tons of tomatoes. Beautiful red cherry and black cherry tomatoes and a larger variety called Rose de Berne that grew huge and plentiful. We harvested the remaining fruits this week, and advised by a local farmer, wrapped the still green ones in tissue paper and stored them in our cool basement.

tomato crop

I wanted to make a simple marinara out of our tomatoes but most of the recipes called for boiling, peeling and seeding the tomatoes, which sounded entirely un-simple.  I was psyched when Chef Anthony Camilleri from our local Rizzuto’s Restaurant & Bar shared his fresh marinara recipe on NBC Connecticut’s Taste of Today a few weekends ago.

I tweaked the recipe a bit, reducing the garlic and onions to my family’s liking.  It’s fantastic and just the really, truly simple kind of sauce I was looking for. I used mostly my beefy tomatoes with a few cherry tomatoes mixed in.  I’ve made it twice and now have a nice stash in my freezer.  Tomatoes are aplenty at the farm stands around here so it is not too late to make a few big batches.

tomato sauce

Garden Fresh Marinara Sauce


5 large local tomatoes, in season (or a good imported brand, canned)
8 large garlic cloves
1 medium Spanish onion
handful of fresh basil (chopped)
2oz EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)


Slice garlic cloves thin and toast in the EVOO until lightly golden brown. Julienne the Spanish onion (if you are pureeing the sauce, you can get away with a larger chop) and add to garlic along with fresh basil and if you like some spice, a small pinch of chili flakes.

Cook on medium heat stirring every few minutes for 15 minutes until the onions are cooked down and lightly caramelized.
Cut the fresh tomatoes into a large dice and add to the pot with the kosher salt.
Cook on medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring every few minutes the tomatoes will begin to soften and the sauce will reduce.

rustic tomato sauce
Continue to cook on low for a final 15 minutes.  Add kosher salt to taste.
At this point you can serve the Marinara sauce as-is or puree in a blender or food processor for a smoother consistency.


We paired our sauce with one of those seasonal Trader Joe’s delicacies, Honey Roasted Pumpkin ravioli.

smooth sauce

I like it chunky but the pureed version sells better in my house.

I Can’t Believe Its Butter

I always wanted to be Laura Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie. She wasn’t as smart as Mary and not as cute as Carrie, but she was happy being Laura. Always grinning and up for fun with her sisters or Pa. The contented middle daughter. A bit like yours truly.

We made butter last week. Twice. Three different kinds.

butter varieties

Prairie living dreams come true for this Laura Ingalls wannabe.  The kids had fun too.  I mean, we made butter, and then we ate it a lot of different ways. It’s hard not to like.

I know.  Many more amazing things have been created since the Prairie days. Space shuttles, iPhones, Rainbow Loom.  I can’t make those things but I can make butter.

And you can too.

how to make butter

Really, that’s it. Homemade Butter in 5 Minutes.

I read about a zillion variations and fancy tweaks to this recipe on-line, but this simple recipe we learned during family day at The Fells, a historic estate and conservation area in New Hampshire, worked just right and FAST!

DIY Butter

1. Buy a quart of heavy cream. Whipping cream may work, milk might work, but so far I’ve only tried heavy cream.

2. Leave the cream out on the counter (scary, I know) for 11 hours.

3. Fill a 12 ounce glass jar with about a cup of cream (leave some room at the top) and close the jar tight. Then shake.  Let the kids shake it until they get tired. They can even roll the jar gently on a soft surface. After a few minutes, you will feel and see the cream thickening, eventually to a solid ball of butter.

4.  Place in a colander, reserving the buttermilk in a separate container.  Mix in any additions you like (we added honey and cinnamon to one batch, sea salt to another).

5. Rinse under cold water to wash away any remaining cream.

You may also press it in between waxed paper to squeeze out any cream, and if you want REALLY perfect butter (with no little droplets of cream remaining), you can then put your butter in a blender. We did not take these extra steps.  Do you think the Ingalls girls had waxed paper? And have you ever cleaned butter out of a blender?

Ours came out just fine.

butter trio

What is going on here?  According to our guide at The Fells, heavy cream is mostly water and butter fat. When the cream is shaken, the butter fat globules begin to join together.  The leftover liquid is buttermilk.

What do you do with all that buttermilk? After making four batches with our quart of cream, we had nearly two cups of reserved buttermilk, just enough to make a batch of Martha Stewart’s Buttermilk Waffles.


I’m so glad real butter is back in fashion again after too many years of margarine and “not butter” chemicals.  If you are afraid of butter, you should really meet Seymour, my grandmother’s 95 year old boyfriend, still lean and healthy after years of spreading pat after pat of butter on his toast and potatoes. It may be good genes and his active lifestyle – Seymour bowled and golfed until very recently and still dances a mean tango now and then – but I like to think the butter has something to do with it.

Buffalo Cauliflower: Hot Veg Gets Hotter

I’ve long held my sister Kim’s fashion advice as gospel, but since her diet consisted solely of Doritos for much of her childhood, I never imagined taking vegetable direction from her.

plain cauli

Yet, ever since she named cauliflower the hottest vegetable of the year, I’ve been buying a head or two a week.  Mostly, I roast it with olive oil and add parmesan, lemon or sea salt, or on a fancy day, mixed with pine nuts, mint and Meyer lemons:

Photo and Recipe from Yummy Supper

I’ve also tried letting cauliflower be something else entirely, like steaming and smashing it into cauliflower “rice” for a stir fry.

Photo and Recipe from                                Whole Living Magazine

And now I have a new favorite way to enjoy this trendy veg.


I’ve been making variations of Buffalo Cauliflower since Superbowl Sunday – beginning with pan frying cauliflower first battered in cornstarch, egg and panko.  To lighten it up a bit, I then tried dredging cauliflower in flour and then baking.  Yummy, but just as messy.  And it didn’t make sense.  Why take a perfectly lovely healthy (not to mention trendy) vegetable and bread/fry the thing and pretend its healthier than chicken?  And both variations took far too long to make considering how quickly I consumed it.

I’m learning what makes a dish stick in my repertoire: I have to be able to make it without looking at a recipe, using the fewest pots possible. I’ve deconstructed this enough that you can now barely call it a recipe. It’s more just an outstanding combination – perfect for a summer BBQ.  This tastes like junk food, but truly isn’t – just cauliflower, a little olive oil, and low-calorie/low-fat buffalo sauce.

Buffalo Cauliflower – The Easy Way

Chop and rinse your cauliflower and pat dry. For wing look-a-likes, you can chop larger pieces of cauliflower, but I prefer bite size chunks.


Spread on baking pan covered with parchment or aluminum foil.  Drizzle olive oil on top and toss with your fingers to distribute.  For a little extra crisp/breading, you can sprinkle with panko or breadcrumbs.

cauli + evoo

Bake at 425 for 25 minutes or until cauliflower starts browning. Remove from oven and toss with your favorite Buffalo sauce (I like Bella’s or Frank’s).  Serve with whatever fixings you like.


Hoping you enjoy a nice long weekend.  To our nation’s military families, we are thinking of you and the many sacrifices made for our freedom.  Thank you for your service.

Granola Bars: Out of the Box

Overheard this week in my house:

“Which hummus is that? The one we made or one you bought?”

And then…. “Will you ever buy hummus again? I really miss the kind we buy.”

I hear you, buddy.  My homemade hummus is not quite there yet.

My granola bars, on the other hand, are right on the money.  As long as I keep these granola bars (and the oat-free version I’ll share next week) coming, no one seems to be missing the store bought boxes.

sq bars

Just five minutes prepping, mixing and pressing. No bake, no box, no complaints.

No Box Needed Granola Bars

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients (10 bars)

 For Chocolate Chip Granola Bars
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup honey or agave
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 cups quick cooking oats
  • 1 cup crispy rice cereal
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons mini chocolate chips

For White Chocolate Apricot Granola Bars

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/8 cup honey
  • 1/8 cup agave
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups quick cooking oats
  • 1 cup crispy rice cereal
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons each: white chocolate chips, chopped apricot, unsalted pepitas, cranberries

I only had rolled oats in the house, so I pulsed them in the blender for a minute. Voila. Quick Cooking Oats.


Stir oats and rice cereal together in a large bowl and set aside.

In a small pot, melt butter, honey/agave and brown sugar together over medium high heat until it begins to boil and thicken. Reduce the heat and cook 2 minutes. Pour in vanilla and stir, then add to dry ingredients. Mix well and add chocolate chips or other “toppings.”

Pour into lightly greased 12 by 8 glass or metal pan. Use parchment paper (and some brawn) to press mixture into dense 3/4 inch thick bars.


Tasting is mandatory.

noah tasting

Cool on a countertop to room temperature for two hours or until the chocolate is set before cutting into bars. Wrap in parchment or plastic wrap and store at room temperature.

If your granola bars fall apart, pack the mixture in a bit tighter or thicker, or place in therefrigerator for a few minutes to firm up.  If they still fall apart, call it granola and sprinkle on yogurt. And next time you make it, cook the butter/honey/sugar mixture a bit longer.

Adapted from a recipe from Lauren’s Latest, which had been adapted from Rachel Ray.


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Maple Snow Candy: A Sweet Taste of Winter

Wondering how to get through the last month of winter?  An extra hour of daylight (thank you, whoever thought of that brilliance), spring skiing in the sunshine and maple candy made in the snow should certainly do the trick.


We recently spent an uber-New Englandy Saturday morning tapping maple trees at a local farm.  The kids loved drinking the fresh sap along with a few sips of locally made maple syrup.


I don’t think topping the tapping experience off with maple candy was entirely necessary, but we had to do something with all the snow that arrived a few days later.

We modified Catherine Newman’s maple snow taffy recipe into these coin size sucking candies.  The kids played Willy Wonka as they made candy molds in the snow and  wrapped and decorated our treats.

maple candies

Maple Snow Candy


  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup salted butter
  • clean snow (or ice cream)


In a medium-sized pot over medium heat, melt the syrup and butter together until the mixture reaches 220ºF-235ºF (about 5 minutes after it comes to a boil) or until the mixture is a bit thick and a light brown caramel color.

mixing syrup and butter

Let the mixture cool for a couple of minutes. You can pour it by the spoonful over bowls of clean snow (or ice cream). We made our candies by poking holes in a tray of clean snow (with a clean finger or the tip of a funnel), then filling in the holes with our syrup mixture.

poking holes


filled tray

In a few minutes the maple candies harden.  Now just a little snow removal and you’ve got homemade sweets.

maple candy snow mold

We poured some of the maple syrup mixture into a plastic candy mold and also made lollipops to be a bit safer for my little one.  You can see quite a bit difference in the candy colors – the candy mold batch was a nice light caramel color which looked and tasted much better than the slightly burnt lollipops.


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Sweet Start Your V-Day

We know Valentine’s Day is not really about the kids.

It’s fun to make decorations and eat candy while grumbling about how the holiday is so over-commercialized by greeting card companies, chocolatiers and jewelers.

But why not just give in and take a day or night to spoil your relationship a bit? It’s not a terrible idea.

Bedtime last night was interrupted by the arrival of a dozen of the World’s Tallest Roses in a giant vase . They are beautiful and amazingly hilariously taller than my kids (pics to come) and I do feel deliciously spoiled (and okay, kind of excited to see what we can make with the four foot long box they came in).

So, for Valentine’s Day, here’s my advice: start the day with a sweet treat for everyone, then consider the kids DONE and move on to taking care of your true Valentine.

cin rolls

These cinnamon rolls are not exactly healthy, but they are a lightened up version of the usual and they are miniature enough that you can’t do too much damage as long as you stop after a few.

vday rolls

My three year old loves making these – it’s a totally kid-proof recipe.
Noah Making Cina-bunsPretty instantly delicious, though the wait for something so yummy is never easy.

noah waiting

finn roll sq

Mini Cinnamon Buns

Recipe from Iowa Girl Eats

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes


Ingredients (16 minis)

  • 1 8-ounce Tube Refrigerated Crescent Roll Dough
  • Butter (1-2 TBSP)
  • Cinnamon
  • Brown Sugar
  • 1 TBSP Skim Milk
  • 3/4 cup Powdered Sugar
  • 1 tsp Maple Syrup


Preheat oven according to dough package directions. Spread out half the dough (4 triangles) on a cutting board and pinch all the seams together. Flip over and pinch the seams on the other side.

Smooth the seams and roll the dough with a rolling pin. Brush the dough with half the butter, and sprinkle with cinnamon and brown sugar. Roll into a log and cut into 8 pieces.

Place mini cinnamon rolls into a mini muffin tin coated with butter or cooking spray. Repeat steps 1 and 2 with the other half of the crescent roll dough. Bake according to package directions.

Mix maple syrup and milk in a bowl. Add in powdered sugar until desired consistency is reached. You can also add a bit of strawberry jelly to tint the frosting pink.

For an alternate cream cheese icing, mix 2 ounces cream cheese (softened) and 1/4 stick unsalted butter (softened)  and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. Add 1/4 cup powdered sugar or more to taste.

Drizzle over warm cinnamon rolls.

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