Just Being In the Mix is Enough


Like a hurricane competitive home cooks are a force to be reckon with. Our passion for quality food and proper cooking technique drives us to be the best of the best rating right up there with those more professionally trained. Our kitchen is our classroom. We study cookbooks like novels. We hone our skills by banging pots and pans together running recipes through countless trial and error practice drills. Sometimes we cause a stir and sometimes just being in the mix is enough. It’s rising to the challenge that makes us better.



It’s a busy month in the Keys kitchen as I prepare and put the finishing touches on my recipes for the World Food Championships. I love being in the mix of food competition and sometimes just being in the mix is enough. Like the saying goes, “can’t win them all”, but simply making the cut, being judged and recognized as a potential winner keeps one focused and motivated to try, try again. This oyster recipe is just one example of a winner, but loser. It got the attention of a professional culinary organization known as Chef’s Roll. The recipe made the top 25 list among mostly professional chefs. In fact, only 3 home cooks made the list. Gotta love and feel proud when a home cook rates right up there with the professionals and when one (my friend Rebecka) takes second place overall!


Montmorency Tart Cherry Crudo ~ photo by Rebecka Evans


Rebecka’s seafood recipe featuring montmorency cherries is as stunning as she is. You can check out her blog and get the recipe here: at home with rebecka and catch her next month on Food Network’s Clash of the Grandmas’ series. I hope she swoops in like a hurricane and takes those other grandmas down.


In the meantime, mix up my cherry salsa verde and enjoy some oysters. It’s prime season for these fresh bivalves, so take advantage of it.

Fried Almond Oysters with Dried Cherry Salsa Verde & Chipotle Crema

Dried Cherry Salsa Verde (recipe follows)

½-cup Mexican crema

2-teaspoons adobo sauce from 1-can chipotle chili peppers

1 dozen fresh oysters shucked (reserve 12 rinsed and dried shell halves for serving)

1/3-cup almond meal flour

¼ cup finely chopped blanched almonds

2 tablespoons all purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon sea salt

½ teaspoon cumin

avocado or canola oil for frying

Prepare dried cherry salsa verde; set aside. For chipotle crema, mix crema and adobo sauce until smooth; reserve in a squeeze bottle. In a shallow dish, whisk together almond meal, almonds, flour, baking powder, salt and cumin. In a medium skillet, pour oil to a depth of 2 inches, and heat over medium heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 350°. In batches, dredge oysters in almond mixture until well coated, shaking off excess. Fry 1 to 2 minutes per side or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Fill each oyster shell with about 1 tablespoonful of salsa. Top each with 1 fried oyster. Drizzle with chipotle crema. Serves 4 as an appetizer.

Dried Cherry Salsa Verde

2 medium tomatillos, husks removed, rinsed, quartered

½ cup coarsely chopped sweet onion

1-tablespoon fresh lime juice

1-teaspoon sea salt

1-teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon chopped garlic

1 teaspoon seeded and chopped jalapeno

½ cup fresh cilantro leaves

½ cup whole dried Tart Montmorency Cherries

½ cup small dice jicama

In a blender, process tomatillos, onion, lime juice, salt, sugar, garlic and jalapeno until nearly smooth. Add cilantro; blend well. Pour into a bowl; stir in cherries and jicama.






Flash Back to Apple Crisp Slices


It all started with the squirt of an aerosol whipped cream can. You know the sound….shirrrrrrrrg. The memories flooded in. Back to the days when the kids would scream with laughter as they filled their mouths with the sweet pillowy stuff and William would impersonate the famous John Belusi Animal House cafeteria scene. Duck for cover, I sure miss that goof-ball.


Will: Hey mom guess who I am Me: Who? Will: I am a sugar cookie

But where was the shirrrrrrrg coming from? I haven’t bought whipped cream in a can in years. Enter husband and daughter. I find them in the kitchen filling their mouths like back in the old days. They are delighted and I am cracking up that husband smuggled in a can without me knowing.


The kitchen antics remind me that many years ago I represented Connecticut in a recipe contest sponsored by a company that makes aerosol whipped cream. As a winner I was given a set of recipe cards that included all the state winners and their recipes. I dug those out and looking back I am so pleasantly surprised to see some of my dearest contest friends among them. We’ve come a long way and am so humbled to be in your company.


Moving on and creating new memories I took Annabelle to  Barnard’s Orchard to pick up some fresh apples. The farm is 74 acres of preserved land that has been in the Barnard family for 4 generations. It’s a real gem of a place open all year long.

f2f2c1af-0b5e-45b6-ad08-88d466ab6873Annabelle loved her first farm visit with Kiki (I think) and we were delighted to find some of my favorite heirloom varieties.  This grandma will probably have Annabelle cooking before she can even eat solid food let alone stand at the counter, but she watches me in action and you know the best food memories have to do with the aroma of the kitchen.


So, let’s bake some apples and create some warm memories. I love baking with a Stayman apple. These apples are crisp, juicy, spicy and tart, but best of all bake up tender and still hold their shape. This seasonally delicious and memorable recipe is just as easy to bake for two as it is for a whole crowd.



Apple Crisp Slices

2 baking apples, peeled, cored and each sliced into 4 rings

3 tablespoons butter, melted

6 Stauffer’s Apple Pie Snaps*

¼ cup pecan halves

2 teaspoons turbinado or demera sugar

Aerosol whipped cream

Heat oven 450F. Line a rimmed baking sheet, just large enough to hold the 8 apple rings in a single layer, with heavy-duty foil. Brush foil with a little of melted butter. Place cookies and pecans in food processor; pulse until mixture is just crushed. Place cookie mixture on a flat plate. Brush apple slices all over with melted butter and then press each side into cookie mixture to coat. Place apples in prepared pan. Mix any remaining butter with any remaining crumbs and sprinkle over apples. Top apples evenly with sugar. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until apples are tender. Watch carefully to make sure crumbs don’t burn during the last few minutes. Serve with your favorite whipped cream. Serves 4.

*Note: if you can’t find Snaps then substitute cinnamon graham crackers


The Chosen One & Quinoa 3 Ways

img_3180Earlier this month I received a most flattering email from Chosen Foods. You may recall  the brand for the avocado oil featured in my funfetti zucchini bread. Chosen Foods promotes a healthy, conscious and happy lifestyle and feels Good Grief Cook fits in with the company’s philosophy. How could I resist a collaboration with a brand I already love and one so kind to seek me out with such nourishing words:
“We love sharing our products with inspiring influencers (like you!) in the health and wellness space.” Well, Chosen Foods you inspire me to get in the kitchen.


This first recipe is for my brother, Louis. He is a huge Rutger’s University football fan and spends quite a bit of time tailgating. It’s unfortunate that we have a genetic predisposition to high cholesterol and heart disease, so I thought he could benefit from a new and improved heart healthy artichoke dip that he could share with all the Big Red fans.

Artichokes, shallots and jalapeño get a quick roast in avocado oil and then bathed in a creamy avocado oil mayo dressing including the usual parmesan and fresh lemon plus a crispy topping of toasted nutty quinoa instead of heavy butter drenched bread crumbs. BTW-the avocado oil mayo mixed with a little fresh lime juice is also perfect in your favorite Mexican elote corn recipes.


A Better Roasted Artichoke Dip

1 (12 oz.) package frozen artichoke hearts

¼ cup sliced shallots

2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and sliced

1 tablespoon Chosen Foods Avocado Oil

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

½ cup Chosen Foods Avocado Oil Mayo

¼ cup mascarpone cheese or low fat cream cheese

1-tablespoon fresh lemon juice

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons toasted Chosen Foods 100% Organic Royal White Quinoa*

Heat oven 450F. Line a small baking sheet with foil. Toss artichoke hearts, shallots and jalapenos with avocado oil and spread out on baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt. Roast for 25 minutes; cool slightly. Transfer mixture to food processor and pulse 6 or 7 times to chop artichokes. Reduce oven temperature to 375F. Meanwhile, in a bowl whisk mayo, mascarpone and lemon juice. Stir in ½ cup parmesan and artichoke mixture; spoon into a small ready to serve baking dish smoothing the top.

Bake for 15 minutes. Mix remaining 2 tablespoons of parmesan cheese with toasted quinoa and sprinkle evenly over top of dip. Return to oven and bake 10 minutes more or until artichoke dip is bubbly. Cool slightly before serving with whole grain crackers.

*To toast quinoa: Heat oven to 375F. Toss 1 cup of quinoa with 1 tablespoon of avocado oil; spread out on a baking sheet. Bake for 5 to 8 minutes or until quinoa is golden brown. Cool and store in a jar in the refrigerator.


Up next is a recipe inspired by my nephew, Cole. Cole runs cross-country and loves quinoa. Quinoa is an energy packed, high protein seed that is the perfect food for the athlete in all of us. Simmered or toasted it can be used in everything from appetizer to dessert. Cole is also known to like a bit of heat, so Chosen Foods Spicy Sesame Oil is just what this salad needed. I am a huge fan of ordering salad dressing on the side. Nothing worse than an over-dressed soggy salad, so since I don’t know how you like your salad I advise following the recipe as written and then add more of the dressing to your taste.


Quinoa Fruit Salad with Miso Honey Vinaigrette

Miso Honey Vinaigrette

2 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon white miso paste

tablespoons grated fresh ginger

2 tablespoons seasoned rice wine vinegar

tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

2 tablespoons Chosen Foods Avocado Oil

1/2 teaspoon Chosen Foods Spicy Sesame Oil

freshly ground black pepper

Quinoa Salad

 cup Chosen Foods 100% Organic Royal White Quinoa

1 tablespoon Chosen Foods Avocado Oil

1 ½ cups water

plumcot (hybrid fruit of plum and apricot) or nectarine pitted and diced

cup dried tart Montmorency cherries or dried sweetened cranberries

4 scallions, thinly sliced

 cup honey sesame cashews (I buy at Trader Joe’s)

In a small bowl, whisk together honey and miso until smooth and blended. Add vinegar, lime juice, and ginger. Drizzle in 2 tablespoons avocado oil and spicy sesame oil, whisking until well combined. Season with pepper. Set aside. Stir quinoa and 1 tablespoon of avocado oil in a large skillet over medium heat until golden and nutty. Add water; bring to a gentle simmer. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat; let stand 5 minutes. Fluff quinoa with a fork. In a large bowl toss quinoa with pluot, dried cherries and green onions and half of the vinaigrette. Top with cashews. Pass remaining vinaigrette./recipe]


Okay, here is where I get a little crazy with what I think is a genius gluten-free tiramisu breakfast cup. With the flavor of bittersweet espresso, a creamy layer of mascarpone and a sprinkle of “super food” extra dark chocolate it is the perfect pick-me-up. Next time I might top it with a few fresh berries to round out the food groups. Add a little “spirit”coffee liqueur or marsala to the mix and this could easily become dessert instead of breakfast. All you gluten-free, tiramisu loving folks you are welcome!

Quinoa Tiramisu Breakfast Cup

2/3 cup water

1 teaspoon instant espresso powder

1/4 cup Chosen Foods 100% Organic Royal White Quinoa

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon raw agave or honey

2 tablespoons mascarpone cheese

2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt

1 tablespoon shaved dark chocolate

In small saucepan, stir water, instant espresso, quinoa and vanilla until espresso is dissolved. Bring mixture to a gentle simmer. Cook, covered, for 20 minutes or just until liquid is absorbed and quinoa is tender and moist. Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes. Add 2 to 3 teaspoons of agave (sweeten to your taste) and fluff with a fork. In small bow, mix mascarpone, yogurt and 1 to 2 teaspoons of agave until blended. Layer half the quinoa in serving glass. Top with half the cheese-yogurt and half the chocolate. Repeat layers.


Thank you Chosen Foods for sharing your goodness with me. Can’t wait to try those chia seeds and cooking sprays, but until then let me remind you all that avocado oil has that fabulously high smoke point which is best for roasting the end of summer harvest.