The Art of Simple Food

Foods I Must Eat

Corny Corn Muffins


Political Chili Con Carne

So why do I call this political chili you ask? Well chili is like politics everyone has their own opinion as to what recipe is best. Some say no beans and some say it must have beans. Well this is my political stance…. beans and lots of flavor make this the best damn chili you will ever have. Try this and let me know your thoughts.



• 1 pound lean ground beef
• 1 can black beans, drained
• 1 can pinto beans, drained
• 1 can cannelloni, drained• 1 15 oz can tomato sauce
• 1 28oz can diced tomatoes
• 1 15 oz can green chiles
• 6 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 red bell pepper, chopped
• 1 medium jalapeno, seeded and minced
• 1 large onion, chopped
• 2 Tbsp. olive oil
• 3 Tbsp. chili powder
• 1 and 1/2 Tbsp. brown sugar
• 3 tsp. dried oregano
• 2 and 1/2 Tbsp. ground cumin
• 1/8 tsp. ground allspice
• 1/8 tsp. ground cloves

Stir in chili powder, brown sugar, oregano, cumin, allspice, and cloves, Add tomatoes and tomato sauce. Simmer on low heat for 15 minutes.

Add black beans, pinto beans, and cannelloni. Cook chili con carne recipe for an additional 20 minutes.
Cook’s note: If you like your chili con carne recipe to be a bit thinner, add beef broth, chicken broth or vegetable broth to the chili in small increments. Don’t add too much or you will have soup instead of a delicious chili con carne.

Tools of the Trade

The well equipped kitchen takes time to assemble but the rewards are priceless. It’s just not about having the right tools but its also important to know how you use it. Kitchen equipment falls into a number of categories. Electric appliances as well as those manual ones used to chop, Sieve, pound, mix, bake, boil and my favorite gadgets to make our lives easier.  Start with the basics including a good knife set, measuring cups, spoons and build up to the additional gadgets that make your experience easier. Below are a list of basic kitchen essentials to stock your kitchen.


This is the basic list of equipment and utensils for cooking beginners. There may be other items you want to add. That’s just fine! As long as a kitchen utensil or gadget works for you, and you use it, it’s a good buy. Shop for quality over quantity, especially at first. I have several knives I bought 20 years ago that are still going strong. You can do the same. Make sure to read Before You Buy, um, before you buy!

Knives – made of high carbon stainless steel

  • 3 or 4″ paring knife
  • a serrated knife
  • 8 or 10″ chef’s knife

Measuring Cups and Spoons

Various sizes, in metal, plastic or glass (I really like glass pyrex measuring cups). Get at least two sets of each, so you’re not continually washing them as you cook. Glass measuring cups with spout, for liquids are best.


  • slotted spoon
  • wooden spoons
  • sturdy metal spoons
  • Soup ladle
  • Mixing Utensils
  • hand held electric mixer
  • Wire whisks in different sizes
  • eggbeater
  • Spatulas
  • straight spatulas
  • angled handle spatulas
  • rubber scraper spatulas
  • Sieves and Colanders
  • nested varying size sieves, in stainless steel (work as flour sifters too)
  • steel or plastic colander

Pots and Pans

  • 1, 2, 4, and 8-quart saucepans with covers
  • 12″ skillet with covers
  • 6 or 8″ nonstick skillet
  • roasting pan
  • two 9″ round cake pans
  • 9″ square cake pan
  • 9″x13″ baking pan
  • 9″x5″ loaf pan
  • 9″ pie pan
  • 12 cup muffin tin
  • cooling racks
  • two cookie sheets


  • swivel-bladed vegetable peeler
  • grater with various sized holes
  • rolling pin
  • can opener
  • kitchen timer
  • kitchen shears
  • corkscrew

Fried Vietnamese Rolls – Cha Gio


Cha gio
When Noi came to America in 1975, banh trang — Vietnamese rice flour wrappers — weren’t available, so the use of wheat wrappers from Singapore and China became widespread throughout the immigrant community. While it’s easier to get banh trang these days, Noi still uses the wheat wrappers for this recipe.

For nuoc cham dipping sauce
  • 5 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce (preferably from Phu Quoc)
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar (not seasoned)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice (optional)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 fresh Thai chiles (2 to 3 inches; preferably red; including seeds), thinly sliced crosswise
For spring rolls
  • 7 1/2 oz very thin bean thread noodles (in small skeins, also known as cellophane or mung bean noodles*)
  • 2 oz dried wood ear mushrooms
  • 1 medium shallot
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 cups grated carrots (4 to 5 carrots)
  • 1 lb. ground pork shoulder
  • 1/4 cup Asian fish sauce (preferably from Phu Quoc)
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 lb shrimp in shell, peeled and deveined
  • 25 (8-inch) square frozen spring roll pastry wrappers made with wheat flour, thawed
  • 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten

About 6 cups vegetable oil

Special equipment: a deep-fat thermometer
Accompaniments: lettuce leaves and fresh mint and cilantro leaves

Make dipping sauce:

Stir together sugar and water until sugar is dissolved. Stir in remaining sauce ingredients, then chill, covered, at least 2 hours.

Prepare filling:
Put noodles in a large bowl and cover with hot water by several inches. Soak, pulling noodles apart and stirring occasionally, 10 minutes. Drain noodles and cut into 2- to 3-inch pieces (you should have about 3 cups), then transfer to another large bowl.

Put mushrooms in a bowl and cover with hot water by several inches. Soak 15 minutes. Drain and rinse mushrooms thoroughly, then drain again. Trim off and discard any hard parts from mushrooms. Finely chop mushrooms. (You should have about 2 cups.) Add to noodles.

Pulse shallot and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped, then add to noodles along with carrots, pork, fish sauce, sugar, pepper, and salt. Pulse shrimp in processor until coarsely ground. (Do not overprocess or it will become pasty.) Add shrimp to noodle mixture. Mix with your hands until well combined. Chill filling, covered with plastic wrap, until cold.

Assemble rolls:
Line 2 trays with wax paper.

Transfer one fourth of filling to a small bowl and keep remainder chilled, covered. Place 1 wrapper on a work surface, keeping remaining wrappers covered with a clean kitchen towel (to prevent them from drying out). Cut wrapper diagonally in half to form 2 triangles. With long side of 1 triangle nearest you, put 2 tablespoons filling along middle of long edge of triangle, and shape filling into a thin 5-inch log. Fold left and right corners of wrapper over filling, overlapping slightly and aligning bottom edges. (Wrapper will resemble an open envelope.) Dab top corner with yolk, then roll up wrapper away from you into a long thin roll, making sure ends stay tucked inside. Place on a tray, seam side down. Repeat with remaining triangle. Make more rolls in same manner with remaining wrappers and filling, keeping trays of rolls chilled, loosely covered, until ready to fry.

Heat 1 1/2 inches of oil in a 5- to 6-quart pot over moderately high heat until it registers 365°F on thermometer. Fry rolls in batches of 5 or 6, keeping rolls apart during first minute of frying to prevent sticking, until golden brown and cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes. (Return oil to 365°F between batches.) Transfer as fried to a colander lined with paper towels and drain rolls upright 2 to 3 minutes. To eat, wrap hot or warm rolls in lettuce leaves and tuck in mint and cilantro leaves. Serve with dipping sauce.

*Available at Asian grocery stores.

cooks’ notes:
· Rolls can be assembled (but not fried) 1 month ahead and frozen, wrapped well in foil. Thaw in refrigerator before frying. · Sauce and filling can be made 4 hours ahead and chilled separately, covered


Bacon and Basil Stuffed Artichokes

  • 3/4 pound bacon diced
  • 3 cups fresh bread crumbs
  • 3/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano grated
  • 3/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese grated
  • 2 Shallots chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp salt or to taste.
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 large artichokes
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Lemon cut in half
Yields: 4 servings Prep time: 20 min Cook time: 30 min

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

To steam the artichoke

Cut about 3/4-inch off the tops of each artichoke. With your scissors, snip off the pointed ends of each artichoke leaf. Cut artichoke in half from stem to top. Rub 1/2 lemon on all cut area to prevent discoloring. Place artichokes in a steamer on stove top and steam for 45-50 minutes. Remove and cool slightly before stuffing or overnight .

To prepare the stuffing

In a large frying pan over medium heat fry bacon until crisp put on paper towel to absorb grease. In a food processor place bread and process to a fine crumb. Put bread crumbs in a large bowl. Place garlic,shallots, parsley, basil, salt, and pepper into food processor and process scraping bowl as needed until finely minced. Put into bowl with bread crumbs and add the cheeses and bacon and mix well.

To stuff and bake

When the artichokes are cool enough to handle spread the leaves of each artichoke as much as possible starting with the outer leaves and pack in a generous amount of stuffing around each artichoke. Place artichokes in a casserole or roasting pan just large enough to hold them close but not tightly. Drizzle olive oil in a slow and steady stream over artichokes.You want the oil to penetrate into the artichoke leaves. Place in oven and bake for 25 minutes uncovered, serve and enjoy

You can prep the stuffing and steam the artichokes up to one day before assembling and baking. Store in the refrigerator. Make sure to remove them from the refrigerator 1 hour prior to assembling and baking the artichokes.


  Oven Dried Tomatoes Until now I’ve had sun dried tomatoes from a jar and only after making these cute little babies did I realize what I’d been missing out on – über concentration of flavour. They are the same as sun-dried tomatoes, except that it doesn’t sound as fancy and the job gets done […]

Creamy Cream-less Tomato Soup


Creamy Cream-less Tomato Soup

adapted from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters

makes about 1-1/2 quarts ; serves 4

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 small leek, white and green parts, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 2 pounds ripe pear or cherry tomatoes, washed, cored and sliced (or whatever tomatoes you have on hand)
  • 1 scant tablespoon white rice (optional)
  • salt
  • 1/2 bay leaf
  • 1 small sprig of savory, thyme, or basil
    • 1 cup water

Warm a heavy-bottomed pan. Add the olive oil, 1 tablespoon butter, onion, leek and a pinch of salt. Cover and cook until soft but not brown. If necessary, add water to keep from browning.

Add the garlic. Cook for about 2 minutes, then add the tomatoes, rice, bay leaf, choice of herb and a large pinch of salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes fall apart. Add water and remaining tablespoon of butter.

Continue cooking for another 10 minutes, until the rice is tender. Remove the herb sprig and bay leaf. Carefully ladle the soup into a blender or food processor (or use an immersions blender). Blend until smooth, about 1 minute. Pass the pureed soup through a strainer to remove skin and seeds. You can also use a food mill, which purees and separates the skins and seeds simultaneously. Taste for salt. Add more water if the soup is too thick.


Omit the rice for a thinner soup.

Garnish the soup with crème fraîche and mint, or with buttered croutons, or with torn basil or finely cut chives and olive oil.

Fruit and Nut Cookies

These are one of my favorite holiday treats. These cookies are irresistible when they come out of the oven hot and crisp. The good things is they taste even taste better the very next day while not as crisp they are just as sweet and tasty as ever. Enjoy!

  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg (fresh ground if available)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 boxes dates, diced
  • 1 lb (approx. 1 1/2 cups) candied pineapple, diced
  • 1 lb (approx. 1 1/2 cups) candied cherries (green or red), diced
  • 7 cups pecans, roughly chopped


Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

In a mixing blow of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the butter and sugar on medium speed for 1 minutes.


Add eggs (one at at time) and alternate with the milk (don’t be alarmed if the mixture looks like curdled milk as this is the secret to the cookie formula)


In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon and baking soda and mix with the candied fruit and nuts. Pour into the butter/sugar mixture and mix lighly.


Spoon on cookie sheet fitted with parchment paper or a Silpat/ Bake for 20-30 minutes.




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