Elaine’s Christmas Cookies


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Here is a walnut cookie recipe from my great-grandmother Victoria Lewinnek. It wasn’t until long after she passed away that it occurred to me to ask why my Jewish great-grandmother was making Christmas cookies at all — but regardless of what holiday it’s for, these cookies are yummy.  They’re a tasty almond-oil-and-walnut-flavored variation on basic refrigerator-cookies.

3 sticks butter, at almost-room temperature
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
1/2 pound of walnuts, chopped finely (I use the food processor to do this)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp almond extract
3 cups flour (best to place this in a 4-cup measuring-cup, then add the baking soda & salt in the cup measurement, then stir it up thoroughly before adding those dry ingredients all together into the wet stuff)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder

Let the butter come to room temperature.

In a large mixing bowl, blend the butter and the sugars. Then beat in the eggs. Stir in everything else. This will make a very sticky dough that needs to be stored in the refrigerator overnight — or up to a week.

My grandmother placed it in old milk cartons with one side cut off. My mother placed it in wax paper. I didn’t have either this year, and I found that parchment paper worked fine. Whatever you use, shape the dough into two logs, wrapped up in something waxy. Place those logs in plastic bags in the refrigerator overnight. My mother found it necessary to hide these bags from my siblings, who were liable to eat up all the dough before it got cooked. My husband, fortunately, is scared of raw egg, so he doesn’t eat the dough.

When you’re ready to cook it, slice the dough into fairly-thin slices and place it on a cookie sheet. My grandmother brushed the tops with egg white and then dusted sugar on, along with more walnuts, but I think these taste better without that fussiness. I just bake at 350 for 12 minutes.



UPDATE: My mother has just told me that it was my OTHER great-grandmother, Marguerite Shtein Conway, who gave us this recipe. No wonder. I should have known that it would be the Christian great-grandmother who made the Christmas cookies, but sometimes it takes a blog to learn things.


Sarah’s Sweet Potatoes


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“Divine,” says Karen.

“Loved it,” says Angelina.

I missed it, says I (your humble bloggess), but I can report that Sarah’s sweet potatoes were the hit of our pre-Thanksgiving potluck and — on everyone else’s testimony alone — I think I am going to add these sweet coconut-pecan yams to my Thanksgiving table this year.

Here’s Sarah’s recipe, in her own words.

We call it Scott’s Sweet Potatoes for my dad’s cousin Scott who introduced them to us.

Scott’s Sweet Potatoes

4 cups mashed sweet potatoes (these are really yams because the dish is orange)
2 eggs, beaten
2/3 cup sugar
2 sticks butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup milk

Mix all of the above.


1 cup coconut
1 cup chopped pecans
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup flour

Mix and sprinkle on top of sweet potatoes.  Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes.

Bon Appetit!


UPDATE: I cooked them and they were divine, even though I used only one stick of butter and half the sugar. Mmmmmmmm. My friends keep asking for the recipe, too.

Angelina’s Peanut Sauce for Pasta, Chicken, and Vegetables


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“I am NOT eating peanut noodles,” announced my toddler.

“That’s fine,” said my husband and I, almost simultaneously, because we know our lines. “All you have to eat is one bite. If you still don’t like it, then you get cereal or peanut-butter toast for dinner.” That’s our family rule. It eliminates a lot of strife.

Sophie tried one bite, then demanded her alternative dinner. But, while I was making her peanut-butter toast, she did take another bite of Angelina’s pasta with peanut suace. And then another.

Pretty soon, she asked for seconds. She even ate the bell pepper and scallions without blinking an eye. And then she requested that we save the rest of this “yummy pisghetti” for her lunchbox tomorrow. It’s that good.

Here’s Angelina’s recipe, in her own words.

Pasta with Peanut Sauce and Vegetables

This is a super yummy peanut sauce that you can put over grilled chicken or toss with pasta and julienned vegetables for a simple dinner.


This makes way more sauce than you need for a pound of pasta and will store well for about a week in an airtight container in the fridge.




1 cup vegetable oil

¼ cup rice wine vinegar

1/3 cup soy sauce

3 Tablespoons toasted sesame oil

1 Tablespoon honey

2 cloves minced garlic

1 teaspoon grated ginger

½ cup creamy peanut butter

Hot sauce to taste

Sesame seeds


1 lb cooked pasta (fettuccine or spaghetti are best)

Variety of julienned vegetables such as carrots, zucchini, red and yellow peppers – these should be raw or very lightly cooked so they are still crunchy

Cooked or grilled chicken, optional




Whisk all ingredients together. Toss with pasta and julienned vegetables, add chicken if desired. Another option is to buy a precooked chicken and add some. Yum!

Spinach Pesto Lasagna


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Eileen made this for me just after my second child was born, and this was the recipe that prompted my husband to say, “Can we have a third baby, just so playgroup people will keep bringing us dinner?”

He also asked why we don’t have spinach pesto lasagna every week. This recipe is so easy, with no-cook noodles and pre-packaged pesto, that we might just start having it every week.

The spinach lasagna recipe is here. Eileen is the queen of internet links, and also the expert at modifying what she finds. Here’s her instructions:

I added a little more sauce when I made it for you. I was afraid it would be too dry with only a jar of sauce. And the recipe calls for an 8 oz package of pesto but I could only find a 7 oz one.  I think it came out fine with that. Also, I covered it with tin foil for most of the time it was cooking.  I took it off at the end to brown the top. All the other lasagna recipes I’ve used always say to cover when cooking it.

Good advice, because I can testify that Eileen’s lasagna looked better than the one at that website and had just enough pesto.


UPDATE: My supermarket ran out of lasagna noodles (apparently, there’s a nationwide shortage, this week), and so I modified this lasagna recipe into an even simpler version of TASTY WEEKNIGHT SPINACH SPAGHETTI

1 package spaghetti

1 container ricotta

1 container pesto

1 package frozen spinach

Boil some water, cook the spaghetti, and, when the spaghetti is done, throw in the frozen spinach to warm that spinach up. Drain this spinach-spaghetti and serve it in a bowl where you have combined the ricotta and pesto. It is that simple — and it gets my toddler to eat a lot of spinach. I think I’ll cook this before my husband’s next long bike-race.

Samara’s Pumpkin and Black Bean Soup


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This soup was the hit of our playgroup’s potluck halloween party.
1 Tbsp vegetable or canola oil (1 turn around the pan)
1 Tbsp butter (a couple pats)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
(I also love the flavor garlic adds and like to add a few finely chopped cloves)
1 can (14.5 oz.) chicken or vegetable broth
1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes in juice
1 can (15 oz.) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin puree
1/2 cup heavy cream (3 turns around the pan)
1 1/2 tsp curry powder (1/2 palmful)
1 tsp ground cumin, a little less than curry
3 pinches cayenne pepper (1/4 tsp)
coarse salt, to taste
Heat a deep pot over medium heat.  Add oil and butter.  When butter melts, add onion and sauté, 5 minutes, til tender.  Add broth, tomatoes, black beans, and pumpkin.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and stir in cream, curry powder, cumin, cayenne, and a few pinches salt.  Simmer 5 minutes, adjust seasonings and serve.

Renee’s Japanese Peppers


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I’ve only found them at the farmers market…but if you find them here’s how to make them.

Wash them. Heat some olive oil in a large pan, just enough to coat the bottom, and then throw all the peppers in, stem on, and “fry/sauté” for a few minutes. They will puff up and some of the sides will turn brown. Once you take them off they will deflate a bit, sprinkle some sea salt and enjoy!! We dipped them in ponzu sauce too. Eat all but the stem…these are not hot peppers although they say one in ten will have a little kick 😉

Treats with Vegetables


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It’s dessert, but it’s also vegetables.

Eileen found most of these links. We’re not sure how she does it.

Pumpkin Muffins

Banana Bread (okay, that’s a fruit, but still, I’m putting this link here)

Karen makes Lime & White Chocolate Cookies and takes a couple of big ice cubes of pureed swiss chard, defrosts and bungs them in  — offset by being heavy-handed with the other dry ingredients.

Kale Pear Smoothie




Angelina’s Grilled Chicken


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Super fast and easy.


2 tsp dijon mustard

1 lemon, juiced

salt & pepper to taste

1 tsp dried oregano

olive oil


Place first 5 ingredients in small bowl. Whisk in olive oil to make a thin paste. Place chicken (breast, thigh, whatever pieces you like) into a large zippered bag along with marinade. Squish around to coat all the pieces. Place bag into baking dish to prevent spills. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to 6 hrs. Grill. It’s that easy.

This also makes a yummy salad dressing.

Eileen’s White Chili with Salsa Verde


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You might not keep diced green chiles or tomatillo sauce in your pantry, but it’s worth shopping for these ingredients because this is a surprisingly easy yet unusual soup that is a hit with everyone who tries it.
You only have to chop the chicken, onion, & garlic. All the other work is basically opening packages — and it tastes fabulous.
4 pieces or so of boneless, skinless chicken
3 cups water
1 tsp lemon pepper
2-3 tsp cumin
olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 stalk of celery if you feel like chopping that too
1 carrot if you feel like chopping that too
2 or 3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 package of frozen corn, or 1-2 cans of corn
1 small can diced green chiles, undrained, as spicy as you like it
3 cans of white beans (cannelini or great northern or whatever you like), undrained
1 can of salsa verde (trader joe’s has a good one) or just 2 cans of tomatillos
Toppings (all of which are optional)
1-2 limes, juiced
shredded cheese
chopped cilantro
tortilla chips
and/or anything else you like
Cut the chicken into bite-size pieces. Put the chopped chicken into a large soup-pot with the water, lemon pepper, and cumin, and simmer for about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, chop up the onion, optional carrot, optional celery, and the garlic and saute it in a skillet over medium-low heat till it’s soft. Add the sauteed veggies to the simmering chicken.
Then add all the other ingredients, too, except for the toppings. Add more water if it needs it. Bring to a boil and simmer for a few minutes, but that’s actually all you have to do. It’s incredibly easy.
Add the toppings and enjoy. Or freeze it for later. Or take it to a friend in need. It’s good for all those uses.