Thursday, December 29, 2016

Oven-Marinated Olives, Mushrooms & Artichokes

These are simple vegetable appetizers you can do ahead in the oven by combining various bite-sized edibles with herbs, spices, citrus peel and flavored oils.  They are nice warm or room temperature though they taste best if allowed to sit overnight to soak up all the flavorings.

Our olives get flavor from olive oil, orange peel, fresh thyme and red pepper flakes. Use two cans for a crowd with 2 tablespoon oil, peel of 1/2 an orange, 4-5 sprigs thyme and 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes.  Feel free to adjust amounts to suit your tastes.  This makes a fairly spicy olive.

We use small frozen artichokes that are defrosted before being mixed with olive oil, lemon peel, juice of 1/2 lemon, fresh parsley and fresh thyme.  Canned artichokes do not hold up as well in the oven.  If you only have canned ones, marinate them at room temperature after rinsing them with a strainer.  You will need at least a day in the refrigerator to marinate.

Our mushroom have a secret ingredient, fish sauce*.  A little goes a long way.  Mix a few drops with a squeeze of lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of oil oil for every cup of mushrooms.  Also add oregano and black pepper.

Wrap each mixture tightly in aluminum foil and bake at 400˚F for 15-20 minutes.  Allow them to cool in their packets then open and serve with toothpicks.  Store leftovers covered in refrigerator.

*Use soy sauce in place of fish sauce for strictly vegetarian.  There are one or two vegan Worcestershire sauces that can be used as well.

Happy New Year!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Baking Powder DIY

Holiday baking season is here.  Your heirloom recipes don't deserve stale baking powder.  Happily, t's easy to make your own with pure ingredients you probably already have in the kitchen.

Baking powder that's been on the shelf too long may not provide the expected leavening and I find it can impart a bitter taste to baked goods, as if the cream of tartar in the mixture can no longer stand up to the baking soda.

On top of the opportunity to degrade over time, baking powder comes in can sizes that are hard to use up within six-nine months if you are not a frequent baker.  When you make baking powder  yourself, you can make smaller batches and get the benefits of cooking from scratch with really fresh ingredients.  

The recipe is simple:
2 parts baking soda
1 part cream of tartar
1 part corn starch

Mix well and store in an airtight container.  I like to use a small sifter or strainer to really mix the ingredients together. For my baking needs, I might use these quantities to yield enough for the season:

Holiday Quantity Baking Powder
2 tablespoons baking soda
1 tablespoons cream of tartar
1 tablespoons corn starch

When I mix baking powder into flour, I sift it through a small strainer to keep any clumping at bay.

Happy baking!

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Beef Tenderloin Sale

Beef tenderloin is a cut of beef that is reserved for special occasions and at certain times of year it goes on sale.  If you see one, calculate your cost per serving and see if its worth picking up.  This week I paid under thirty dollars for a 5 pound beef tenderloin.  After butchering into tournedo steaks and chateaubriand roasts I netted out with at least 12 servings at $2.50 each.  

With no special occasion on the near horizon, I could have frozen the whole thing to serve at the holidays.  A beef tenderloin roasted slowly on low and served with a little horseradish sauce is a treat for hosts and guests.  But at $2.50 per serving I thought it would be nice to create several weekend meals for our small household instead.  

Most likely the beef tenderloin that you see at a great price has not yet been prepared for cooking.  The silver skin (connective tissue) needs to be removed and the chain, fattier meat running alongside, can be left on or removed for another use.  The procedure is simple.  Here's how its done:

Mastering Beef Tenderloin Preparation

  • Have on hand butcher's twine cut in 12-14 inch lengths, a sharpened knife and large cutting board.  I use a boning knife but you can also use a very sharp carving knife.  The blade should be thin and allow you to trim the silver away with precision.
  • Remove the beef from its package and wipe down with paper towels so the meat is dry and easy to handle.
  • Look for the chain, a fat encrusted sidecar running down the length of the tenderloin.  You will be able to pull it away partially with your hands.  Use your knife to cut away the rest from the main body.  Keep this to trim later.  It has some fat and tendon in it but can be braised.
  • Lay out the tenderloin so that the silver skin is on top.  This is a strip of connective tissue, not fat, that will not cook to tenderness so we cut it away.  
  • Lay your knife horizontal to the meat and with the tip nick in under the silver.  Wiggle and slide the knife between the tender beef and the thin sheath of silver skin.  Tilt the knife's edge toward the silver and slide the knife along the underside of the skin with the edge of the knife tilted up slightly. The silver will pull away from the beef neatly.  The first time you try this you may nick the meat a bit and pull small parts of the silver away but with a few cuts you will master the technique.  Be patient with yourself.
  • With the silver cut away, you can roast the beef as is, tied with butcher's twine every few inches and the small tail doubled over and tied to create a uniform piece of meat for even cooking.

  • Create a roast, known as a chateaubriand, with the fattest part of the tenderloin.  Cut 6-8 inches or follow the natural slope of the meat and cut up to the point that the meat gets smaller in diameter.  Tie this roast at intervals to create a uniform piece of meat for even cooking.
  • Make tournedos of beef wrapped in bacon by slicing steaks off the beef about 2 inches thick. Wind a slice of bacon around each and tie tightly with butcher's twine.
  • Finish up by trimming some of the fat and grizzle away from the chain.  You can yield about 1/2 pound of stew meat.
If you are not cooking the meat right away, freeze the prepared servings in quart or gallon freezer bags. Label the bags with the cut of beef and the date.  Use within 2 months.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Instagram Summer at PureFrances

Pure Foods Project blog is taking a summer vacation over on Instagram.  Find posts and follow me at PureFrances...
Yogurt Container Cucumber Soup

Lentil Salad with Yellow Beets and Goat Cheese

Smoked Salmon, Creme Fraiche & Dill Cucumber Cups 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Cherry Fontina Grilled Cheese

Serve Cherry Fontina Grilled Cheese on french bread for an open face summer bite alongside cocktails.  You know Fontina is a great melting cheese in pasta dishes and grilled cheese sandwiches.  Did you know Fontina cheese has an affinity for cherries?  The cherries are flavored with lemon juice, lemon peel, black pepper and a little ground cinnamon.  This is a fun grilled appetizer during the summer and a warming simple treat straight out of the oven when the weather turns cool.

Cherry Fontina Grilled Cheese 
Serves 2 as an entree, 6-8 as appetizers

6 slices french bread
1 cup pitted bing cherries
zest of 1/2 lemon
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon honey
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch salt
6 ounces Fontina cheese, sliced


  1. Lightly brown your bread slices while preparing the cherry mixture.
  2. Roughly chop cherries.  In a small bowl mix berries with lemon zest, lemon juice, honey, salt, cinnamon and black pepper.
  3. Cover browned bread slices a heaping tablespoon of cherry mixture and top with cheese.  Leave a few extra cherries to garnish finished sandwiches.
  4. Slide a trayful under the broiler or place them on tin foil on a hot grill.  Cover and let the cheese melt.
  5. Top with reserved cherries.

This sandwich is approved for breakfast, main course, appetizer or dessert!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Red Onion & Cucumber Salad

Red Onion & Cucumber Salad not only stands on its own as a hot weather side but can also top a regular green salad.  The sour cream & apple cider vinegar dressing is a great match for tomatoes, avocado and greens.

It is important to let this salad marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight.  The vinegar will break down the cucumbers and onion so that they are soft and flexible.  The red onion will taste less sharp.  The vinegar in the recipe contributes a fermented base that provides bonus goodness for your gut.

Red Onion & Cucumber Salad
Serves 4

4 small cucumbers*, unwaxed or peeled
1 medium red onion
3 tablespoons sour cream
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4- 1/2 teaspoon sugar or honey
salt & pepper


  1. Rinse cucumbers and peel away outer layer of onion.
  2. Slice as thin as possible.  Use a mandolin if available for even very thin slices.
  3. Place vegetables in medium bowl and add remaining ingredients.  
  4. Stir we'll so that all ingredients are mixed.  Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight. 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Meatloaf Parmesan Sliders

These little beef & pork patties give you the comfort of meatloaf in a slider that takes one third the cooking time and gets a mozzarella and parmesan topping.

Meatloaf Parmesan Sliders 
Yield: 6 sliders, 3 main course servings

1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese (plus extra for serving)
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 tablespoon ketchup
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons fresh, chopped flat leaf parsley
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 pound (6 thin slices) mozzarella cheese


  1. Place meat in a large bowl.
  2. Combine remaining ingredients, except mozzarella cheese,  in a separate small bowl to create a binding sauce.  
  3. Pour sauce over meat and combine well with a fork or your very clean hands.
  4. Form six patties and place on a foil lined rimmed baking sheet.
  5. Bake 375˚F for 15 minutes, top with cheese and bake 5 minutes more.  Drain any fat and juices off before topping with cheese.
Serve on mini rolls or as is over pasta with tomato sauce and sautéed mushrooms. 

Friday, June 3, 2016

Beans on the Side

These are low sodium black beans, heated with a little soy sauce and cumin.  Add beans to a summer buffets served in oven- and microwave-safe ramekins.

Fill each with 1/3 -1/2 cup hot beans.  Give them a reheat in the microwave just before setting out on a tray.

Garnish with sour cream, cilantro and a little hot sauce or set up a "bean bar" to let people add their own toppings.

Perfectly portioned and fiber rich, a bean side dish goes with grilled anything, especially if some tacos or tortillas are part of the menu.

Some other bean sides for the season, perfect for Father's Day and Graduation Parties...
  • Swap out different beans to suit your menu
    • Baked beans (serve with hot dogs and hamburgers)
    • Chili beans (serve with grilled steak)
    • White beans, rosemary and olive oil (Serve with grilled salmon or trout)
    • Channa Masala (serve with tandoori grilled chicken)

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Perfect Grilled Chicken Tips

Grilled chicken is one of my favorite Memorial Day Weekend foods. We grill it year-round-- rain, snow or shine.  If you are starting up the grill after a winter hibernation, here are a few reminders to get that perfect grilled chicken the first weekend of the summer instead of the last.

Chicken Grilling Basics
  • Pick the best chicken you can afford.  Keep it cold until it is ready to put on the grill.
  • If you marinate (in the refrigerator), wipe off excess so that oils do not drip into the flames.  We  prefer a dry method of seasoning the poultry and like to salt and pepper the pieces well, cook then add sauces and chutneys afterwards. If you want to add barbecue sauce, wait until the chicken is almost cooked, brush sauce onto one side, turn to allow it to caramelize a bit and repeat on other side.
  • Grill bone-in with skin intact to preserve moistness and impart the best 'chicken' flavor. You can remove skin after cooking (if you must).
  • Cook chicken on medium low heat for even and thorough cooking.  Chicken is safe to eat when it reaches an internal temperature of 165˚F. We use a charcoal grill and let the coals develop a nice ash before starting to cook.  This provides a moderate, even temperature.
  • Use a thermometer to check the internal temperature.  This is the most important tip on this list.  No amount of pressing on meat for tenderness can match the accuracy and safety of a good thermometer.
  • Use a grill cover to help the chicken meat cook on the inside while it is developing that lovely crisp skin on the outside.  
  • Dark meat, like thighs and legs, take a little longer to cook but stand up better to high and varying heat levels. They can stay on the grill to a temperature of 175˚F.  Chicken breasts need a little more care.  Provide even heat on the lower end of medium-low.  Chicken wings are high in fat and thus behave more like dark meat on the grill.  
  • Start chicken skin side up.  Turn chicken breasts when the breast's 'chicken tender' piece begins to split away from the larger muscle.  This takes about 12-15 minutes depending on the size of the piece. Turn thighs and legs when you see nice browning occur.  Start checking after 10 minutes.  These pieces can be turned a few times. 
  • Keep chicken fat out of the flames.  This causes flare ups and excess skin char which is not tasty.  Watch thighs in particular and move them to a cooler spot on the grill until they calm down.  Placing a cover on the grill, thus dampening oxygen flow, helps dampen the fire too.
  • Let the chicken rest after it comes off the grill.  Give it at least 10 minutes while you get the rest of the meal inside and served.  
  • Bonus tip: If you are charcoal grilling a different meat for dinner, pick up some chicken parts to put on the grill afterwards.  It is a great way to use the heated charcoal after the steak or burgers come off the grill.  Cooler charcoal takes a bit longer to cook chicken so put the pieces on, cover the grill and enjoy a leisurely meal, checking the chicken now and then.  (Use that thermometer.)
Lastly, cook enough to have cold grilled chicken leftovers.  After all, this is a holiday and we have important things to do, like thanking our lucky stars and the families of those who have bravely kept us safe.

Happy Memorial Day.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Cornmeal Okra and Mushrooms

It's a short season in this area for okra-- so short that many have not quite gotten the hang of this 'seed pod' vegetable.   Too bad because okra is an excellent source of soluble fiber and quite tasty as a side to any grilled entree. Trouble is, the characteristic sticky inner chambers can be challenging.

The best advise about okra, is to go with the vegetable's strength. The slick liquid inside helps to thicken classic gumbo and will thicken any stew or soup it goes in.

The albumen-like liquid surrounding the seeds also create the perfect coating for cornmeal making sliced okra an extremely simple fried side dish that is quite a bit lighter than most fried vegetables.  Here's how it works:

Cornmeal Okra and Mushrooms
1 pound while okra
1/2 pound portobello or button mushrooms
1/4 cup fine cornmeal
salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

  1. Rinse whole okra well and dry it.  Really let it dry. Then, take a paper towel and wipe it again so it is dry.  (Water is the enemy here in this recipe.)
  2. Now, cut each okra into half-inch pieces, placing them in a clean DRY bowl or plastic bag filled with the cornmeal and seasoned with salt, black pepper and a little cayenne pepper. 
  3. Also add the clean, dry mushrooms, cut in nice chunks (about the size of your okra pieces).
  4. Toss the ingredients together and shake off excess cornmeal using a sieve or colander.  Shake of cornmeal coating twice.
  5. Note how okra's natural lubrication helps the cornmeal coating stick to not only the okra but also the mushrooms.  
  6. Is your skillet dry?  Wipe it down to be sure.  
  7. Add a layer of oil and heat over a medium high flame.  
  8. Add okra and mushrooms and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring to turn vegetables over.  
  9. When vegetables are tender, remove and serve at once.
Reheats well: toss in a hot skillet.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Morels In Town

I love the sculptural quality of morel mushrooms.  They remind me of the architecture of Antoni Gaudí, especially his unfinished Sagrada Família basilica  in Barcelona.

Fresh morels are in markets in the northeast now.  If you get your hands on some via a reliable forager or a market prepare them simply to bring out their best.

Pictured here is a five-minute sauté of morels and zucchini ribbons finished with a few tablespoons of cream and served over wide noodles.  A squeeze of lemon juice or a splash of white wine before the cream goes in brings up some of the more subtle flavors but be judicious so as not to overwhelm the delicate mushrooms.

Try this simple sauté with any combination of mushrooms or feature one special one as I've done here.  Variations?  Serve over grilled polenta instead of noodles.

This is a stand alone vegetarian dish or can be served alongside a grilled steak or chicken.

Did you know?
For those who crave morels at other times of year, they hold up to drying well.  Reconstitute in warm water for 10 minutes then proceed with your recipe. Don't toss the soaking liquid.  It has great depth of flavor. Use it in your dish boiled down or add to any savory sauce.  Terrific mixed with steak juices.

And.. I have read that one should not eat raw morels.  So please be careful and keep your stash away from pets.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Smokey White Beans

Walking through Zabar's food market in New York City recently, I noticed the the smoked fish counter was being swarmed by customers picking up freshly smoked mussels from Maine.  I joined the fray for this seasonal treat.

Smoked mussels come preserved in cans but these need to be refrigerated and eaten soon.  They are great on a plain cracker or chopped and mixed with cream cheese and sour cream or yogurt for a quick dip. Soma sites recommend tossing them with hot pasta.  I found one more way to use them -- stirred into white bean soup they lend the smokey touch that kielbasa or other smoked meats like bacon gives to beans.

No recipe just stir in your smoked mussels once the bean soup is nice and hot. This works for freshly made or soup made from canned beans.  If you miss the dish during the winter, open a can of smoked mussels, drain most of the oil and add to hot beans.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms

Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms are not just a great hot appetizer that can be made ahead.  The cream cheese in the stuffing creates a creamy light sauce when tossed with hot pasta, rice or other hot grain so you can toss leftovers, whole or halved, into your next meal.

Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms
Makes 14-18 

10 ounces portobello mushrooms, capped removed
1-2 teaspoons olive oil
8 ounces fresh spinach
2 ounces cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon dried dill (4 springs fresh dill)
salt & pepper

If serving right away preheat over to 350˚F.
  1. Place mushroom caps on a baking dish coated with oil.
  2. Steam well washed spinach until just wilted.  Drain very well, squeezing to expel water, and chop well.
  3. Mix together cream cheese, dill, salt and pepper.  Add warm spinach and combine.  Taste and adjust seasonings.
  4. Use a teaspoon to generously stuff mushroom caps, setting each one back in baking dish.  
  5. At this point you can cover and refrigerate mushrooms to bake and serve the next day.  
  6. To bake: preheat oven to 350˚F  .  Bake 12-15 minutes until cream cheese is heated and slightly melted.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Shrimp & Pesto Romaine Boats

Here is a simple do-it-yourself appetizer or buffet item for Spring parties like graduations, engagements, weddings and bon voyage parties.

Shrimp & Pesto Romaine Boats can even be made from fresh and pure store bought ingredients.

Shrimp & Pesto Romaine Boats
Serves 8

1 pound shrimp
1 8 oz container pesto (any variety)
2 heads romaine, large out leaves removed


  1. If you are using raw shrimp, steam and peel. Chill in refrigerator at least one hour. If you purchased cooked shrimp, begin at next step.
  2. Place shrimp on a pretty serving dish and be sure shrimp stays well chilled.  Set the serving dish over a larger platter filled with ice and some water.
  3. Tear individual leaves from romaine lettuce heads and place on a platter next to our surrounding a dish of pesto
  4. Let guests serve themselves by scooping some pesto onto a leaf then  garnishing with shrimp.

Variations on the theme:

  • Tuna or chicken salad with crunchy toppings like chopped celery and pickles, red bell pepper
  • Replace pesto with hummus and top with slices of grilled chicken
  • Replace pesto with homemade Russian dressing and top with crabmeat

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Lemon & Paprika Garbanzo Bean and Spinach Stew

Simple spring dinners combine with beans, spring vegetables and greens for pure and simple one-skillet entrees.  Top these bean stews with poached eggs for a little extra protein.

In this recipe, canned beans are used.  You can substitute freshly made if you'd like.  1/2 cup dried beans will yield about one 15-ounce can of beans.

Lemon & Paprika Garbanzo Bean and Spinach Stew
Yield: Serves 4

1 can low sodium garbanzo beans, rinsed
1 can vegetable or chicken broth
1 lemon, sliced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 9-ounce packaged baby spinach
optional: 4 eggs


  1. In a large skillet, combine drained beans with next four ingredients, broth through paprika.
  2. Cook uncovered on low heat  for about 10 minutes, until beans are heated through and liquid is reduced by about one third.
  3. Add spinach and cover.  Heat until spinach has wilted.  This will take just two to three minutes. 
  4. Uncover and add eggs.  Use a spoon to create 4 small craters or divers in the bean and spinach mixture. Crack one egg into each shallow crater.  Re-cover skillet and cook two minutes until egg whites are cooked through and yolks have just set.  
  5. Serve immediately with crusty bread. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

How to Hack Artichokes

If you've never cooked your own artichokes, this is the time of year to start experimenting.  They are easier to tackle than they look and are the world's best finger food. 

I am compelled to write this week's post by the most recent 'artichokes made easy' article I read in which the author recommended starting small, as in prepping baby artichokes.  This is an arduous task that pays off for only the truest of artichoke lovers.  If you want baby artichokes, by the frozen!  For beginners who want a freshly cooked artichoke, I say start big.  Find the biggest and heaviest artichoke in the bin and prep only one per person.

Here's how to tackle your first artichoke.

How to Buy Artichokes:  Artichokes can be very round or a bit pointy.  Either is fine.  Hold each one and pick only ones that are heavy for their size.  That means they have more water content and are fresher.  See any leaf tips that are bronze or tan?  Pick that one.  It means the plant went through a mild frost and has developed a deeper flavor.  Artichokes like a bit of heat and a bot of cold when growing.

Scroll down for simple cooking instructions.  If you already know how to steam or boil artichokes, enjoy this fresh spin on a classic that uses fresh artichoke and fresh spinach:

Easy Spinach Dip Artichokes
Serves 4
2 artichokes, cooked , halved and choke removed  (See method below if new to artichokes)
3 tablespoons good mayonnaise
3 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon grated cheese like mozzarella, cheddar or even some cream cheese
1/2 cup steamed spinach (start with 2 cups raw)
1/4 teaspoon dried dill
salt and pepper to taste
optional: 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese or panko bread crumbs
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F
  2. Place artichoke halves on a foil lined backing sheet.
  3. In a small bowl, mix remaining ingredients.  Taste and adjust seasoning. 
  4. Scoop dip into hollowed out artichokes.
  5. If using, top with bread crumbs or grated cheese (or both)
  6. Bake 20 minutes until artichokes are hot and dip is bubbling.  Cheese and bread crumbs will be browned. 
  7. Serve as is or add in extra dippers like bread sticks.

How to Cook Artichokes:
  • Get out a large pot with a top. Cut off the bottom stem of each artichoke, leaving about 1/2 inch.  If there are sharp points at the tips of the leaves you can cut these with kitchen shears but I usually skip this step.  I also do not bother to snip the little outer leaves around the base. 
  • Before adding water to your pot, place the artichokes inside so they are standing on their cut stems.  This is to make sure each will fit and you can cover the pot.
  • Now add water.  You can steam artichokes and this is the fastest way to cook them- about 30-35 minutes. Boiling is also a good option and takes about 45 minutes. 
  • Test leaves for tenderness about midway through.  To test, grab the tip of an inner leaf, one about halfway up the stacked leaves, and tug.  If it comes out easily, taste it for tenderness.  You should be able to bite the leaf lightly and pull the flesh off between your teeth.  If it's too hard to pull away, keep cooking for another 10-15 minutes and test again. Use large tongs to hold onto artichoke as you pull out the leaf.  They are in hot water and will be quite hot to touch.

Now what?
  • Artichokes can be eaten right away.  See below for eating tips. If you want to make life really easy do what they do in Rome and let them cool before messing with them further. Refrigerate a few hours or overnight . 
  • When the artichokes are cool enough to handle, cut them in half lengthwise with kitchen sheers or a very sharp knife.  Use a spoon to remove the inner purplish-green leaves and the fuzzy choke.  You now have perfectly prepared artichoke halves with hearts and edible leaves intact. 
  • Serve cold with a mayonnaise or reheated with melted butter and lemon.  Reheat over a steamer or in the microwave for a minute or two. Try the recipe for hot spinach  dip served in artichoke halves.  Great as an appetizer you can make ahead or serve two for a vegetarian main course.
Eating Tips
  • Serve freshly steamed whole artichokes on a plate with a side of melted butter or mayonnaise mixed with a little extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice.  Dip artichoke leaves and have a shared discard bowl available for the leaves.  No one likes a cluttered plate and you will need room for the best part-- the heart of the artichoke.  Once all the leaves are enjoyed, you are left with the 'choke' which looks like a fuzzy saucer with a tent of purplish-green leaves.  Pull away these leaves en masse then use a butter knife to scrape away the seed pods.  You are left with a little moon crater of goodness, the heart of the artichoke.  Cut this into bite-sized pieces and dip in the butter.  Pure heaven. 

Wine and Artichokes
  •  Cynarin, the acid in artichokes which creates its unique aftertaste makes artichokes notoriously hard to match with wines. Artichokes make the foods and drinks paired with them taste sweeter and this mixes up wine in particular.  For years experts recommended not serving wine with artichokes and in fact beer is not a bad idea.  Recently some bold oenophiles have started pairing sherry or very high acid, dry wines with the vegetable to balance out the cynarin effect. 

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Our Favorite Chicken Sandwich Sports Watercress & Avocado

Chicken and watercress sandwiches on brown bread are a specialty of downtown Scranton, PA's PJ Scanlon's Restaurant.  They've moved around the city's square but still attract the courthouse and professional crowd alongside tony shoppers.  For years we did our best to imitate the original whenever watercress was in season.

Thinly sliced poached chicken breast on a light whole wheat bread-- just warmed-- and a schmear of mayonnaise to hold in a handful of peppery watercress.  We thought this lily could not be gilded. Then one day we added a few slices of avocado.


Our new favorite springtime chicken sandwich.

Thank you PJ Scanlons.  We never miss going back for the original to remind ourselves of how great, pure food should be made and served with joy.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Extra Light Waffles

These special occasion waffles are light as air thanks to separating the egg yolks and egg whites for a little extra whip. The stiffly beaten egg whites are folded back into the waffle batter just before cooking.  We reserve these elegant waffles for special occasions and Easter, the egg king of holidays, is one of them.  They freeze well so if your next special occasion is a little too hectic for a leisurely breakfast prep, make them ahead.

Those are not jelly beans on our waffles; they're blueberries heated with a little maple syrup and jam. For breakfast add a little plain yogurt and if you are having these for dessert, some freshly prepared whipped cream is the topper of choice.

Extra Light Waffles
Yield: 8 large waffles

1 1/2 cups milk
3 eggs, separated
4 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1 3/4 cups cake flour*
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon sugar

Use 2 large mixing bowls and one 2-cup liquid measuring cup to makes this recipe with ease.  

  1. Measure out milk in the measuring cup.  Separate eggs and add yolks to measuring cup and whites to the first large bowl.  
  2. Add melted butter to measuring cup and stir ingredients together with a fork.  Be sure the egg yolks break and are throughly mixed in.  
  3. In second large bowl, combine cake flour with baking powder, salt and sugar.  Stir dry ingredients together well. 
  4. Use a whisk to beat egg whites until stiff, but not dry.  If you have a hand mixer with a whisk attachment, use this but be careful not to over whisk.  
  5. Pour milk mixture into flour mixture. Combine with a few swift strokes.  Do not over mix.  Batter will look pebbly.  
  6. Turn on waffle iron so it preheats while you finish the batter.  Add egg whites to batter and fold into batter until barely blended.  It is OK if you see a few pockets of egg white.
  7. Cook waffles according to your machines instructions.  Our round waffle iron cooks these waffles in a little over three minutes each.  We use about 3/4 of a cup of batter for each thick waffle. The batter is thick enough to puff up your waffle iron and will not drip out like a traditional thinner batter.  Experiment starting with 2/3 cup of batter and add more if you are able.  

*Cake flour is the other ingredient that makes these waffles light.  You can use regular cake flour if you do not have cake flour on hand.  Waffles will still taste amazing.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Phyllis' Almond Butter & Yogurt Protein Dip

Lazy days poolside or hectic days deskside both benefit from a pure snack that's easy to whip up.  Our much loved cousin Phyllis shared her recipe for Almond Butter & Yogurt Protein Dip that will carry you through the afternoon.

Be sure to use plain yogurt, not flavored or even vanilla, to keep this dip really pure.  If you want to add a drop of vanilla extract, that's fine with us.

Phyllis' Almond Butter & Yogurt Protein Dip
Yield: a little over 1 cup

1 cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons almond butter
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
optional: milk to thin and stevia or honey for extra sweetness

  1. Combine yogurt and almond butter in a small bowl.  Use a fork or small whisk to combine yogurt and almond butter.
  2. Add in cinnamon.  If the dip is very thick, add a little milk - up to a tablespoon-- to thin dip to your desired consistency.
  3. Taste and add in a small amount of honey or stevia to sweeten.
  4. Serve with slices of apple, banana even graham crackers.
Thanks Phyllis!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Egg Avocado Toast

It's hard to get more pure than a three ingredient breakfast like this.  A perfect fried or poached egg on whole grain toast with mashed avocado. Salt & pepper optional.

Spring forward!

Egg Avocado Toast
Serves 2, easily halved or doubled

2 slices whole grain toast
1 avocado, mashed
2 fried or poached eggs

  1. While bread toasts and eggs cook, mash a ripe avocado roughly with a fork.
  2. Spoon a generous layer of avocado on warm toast.
  3. Top with cooked egg.  Link here for a great tutorial on how to cook our "froached eggs."
  4. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Mushroom Rice Pilaf

Toss dried mushrooms right into the cooking rice to impart a deep mushroom flavor to the liquid.  Chopped celery and onion and a few herbs like thyme and margoram create an interesting yet fast side to pork, chicken even salmon. 

Mushroom Rice Pilaf
Yield: 4 servings


2 celery stalks, chopped
1/4 onion, diced
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup rice
2 cups liquid-- water or broth
1 ounce dried mushrooms
1/4 teaspoon salt

  1. Place celery, onion and butter in a large pot over medium heat.  Use a large spoon to stir the mixture and begins to soften the onion and celery.  
  2. Stir in the rice and continue to stir to coat rice in butter and brown slightly.
  3. Add liquid and bring to a boil.  
  4. Lower heat to simmer.  Add dried mushrooms.  Cover and simmer 10 minutes.
  5. Stir in salt, cover and continue to simmer until rice is tender.  For white rices, this will be 10-15 minutes longer.  For brown rice, this will be 20-30 minutes longer.
Elegant Life Leftovers:  Extra rice can be mixed with cooked beans for a terrific cold salad or main coarse vegetarian entree.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Black Pepper & Cherry Savory Crackers

These tender crackers are for soft goat cheeses and tubs of homemade (or farm stand) ricotta cheese.  Black pepper and dried cherry feature here but feel free to swap in chopped rosemary and dried figs or walnuts and dates.  Try serving the crackers with drier cheeses too--Manchego comes to mind.

Black Pepper & Cherry Savory Crackers
Yield 2 dozen crackers

½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
¼ teaspoon salt
1/2-1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 ¼ cups flour
¼ cup brown sugar
1 large egg
½ cup dried fruit, chopped(cherries, cranberries, nectarines,
¼ sliced almonds, lightly toasted


  1. Place the butter in a large mixing bowl and use an electric beater to mix until fluffy.  
  2. Add salt, pepper and brown sugar and continue to beat until sugar has melded with butter.  
  3. Add flour as you continue to beat so that the flour is nicely coated in butter mixture.  Do this in three batches but work quickly so you do not over work the flour and create a tough cracker.
  4. Add egg and mix in.  
  5. Use a large spoon to mix in dried fruit, nuts and any extra flavorings (herbs, citrus zest, etc).  
  6. Using your hands, form the dough into a log.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour or overnight.  
  7. Once chilled, preheat oven to 350˚F.  
  8. Slice dough in ¼ inch slices and lay on a parchment lined baking sheet.  
  9. Bake 10 minutes until crackers are just browning on the bottom.  
  10. Remove to a cookie rack to cool.  Crackers will crisp as they cool.  Store in an airtight container. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Avocado Pasta with Bacon

An avocado sauce on pasta has a creamy texture similar to Alfredo sauces.  This recipe uses lemon juice, olive oil and pasta cooking water to thin down the mashed avocado.  A sprinkling of Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper and basil provide complimentary flavors.  The thick noodles shown are bucatini, long spaghetti with a hole down the middle, like a long pipe.

Bacon is my favorite garnish for this cheesy version.  Later in the spring, I'll cut back on the cheese and add tiny tomatoes, corn kernels and sliced black olives and serve this alongside burgers or grilled chicken.  
Avocado Pasta with Bacon
Yield: Serves 4 as a side dish, 2 main course servings

1 very ripe avocado
juice of 1/2 lemon (about a tablespoon)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese 
salt & black pepper to taste
large pinch of dried basil or 5-6 fresh leaves, sliced
optional: 1 clove crushed garlic
1/2 cup pasta water (reserve from cooked pasta)
4 ounces uncooked bucatini or favorite pasta
4 slices cooked bacon

  1. In a small bowl or food processor, combine avocado, lemon juice and olive oil.  Pulse to combine.
  2. Add cheese, salt, pepper, basil.  Pulse again and taste.  Add more more salt, pepper, cheese or lemon juice to suit your taste.  
  3. Cook pasta following package directions.  When the pasta is ready, scoop out a 1/2 cup pasta water and set aside.  Drain pasta.  
  4. Stir half the pasta water into the avocado sauce.  
  5. Add avocado sauce to drained pasta and stir to combine.  Add the remaining pasta water as needed.  The sauce should be creamy and coat all the pasta. 
  6.  Add bacon at this stage or serve and garnish with bacon and extra cheese.
Try this:  If you are serving this as a main course for two, add a poached egg to each plate of pasta. The egg yolk will break and ooze onto the pasta and mix with the bacon. 

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Sweetheart Chicken Salad

This chicken salad is easy to make at any time of the year and especially welcome as the days begin to get longer.  The recipe stands on its taste alone but also gets points for heart health.  It has no mayonnaise, uses lean chicken breast meat and delivers antioxidants via dried cherries and pecans.  Cap that off with a little fiber from the pears and celery.

Serve it on warm rolls, wrapped in lettuce cups or alongside some cottage cheese (the pears form a nice taste bridge to cottage cheese).

You can use fresh, poached or roasted pears in the recipe.  We love it with our roasted pears recipe and our 20-minute poached pears recipe but you can use canned pears in juice.  (Rinse them off if in syrup.)

Sweetheart Chicken Salad
Serves 3

2 cups  cooked, chopped skinless chicken breast
2 small pears, peeled and chopped (canned, roasted, poached or raw)
2 celery stalks, chopped
1/3 cup dried cherries
1/3 cup chopped pecans

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
6 tablespoons olive oil
salt & pepper

  1. Place all chopped ingredients in a large bowl-- chicken, pears and celery.  
  2. Roughly chop cherries if large.  Add to mixture with pecans.
  3. Make dressing: combine vinegar and mustard in small bowl.  Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and whisk to emulsify.  Slowly add remaining oil as you continue to whisk to create a creamy dressing.  Stir in salt and pepper to taste.  Use a heavy hand with the black pepper; it compliments the tart cherries and mustard.  Pour over the chicken mixture and toss to coat.  
  4. Let chicken salad stand about 15 minutes to meld before serving.  Recipe can be made up to a day ahead.  Cover and refrigerate.

Valentine's Day note: If you are poaching or roasting fresh pears, make a few extra for dessert.  Drizzle with chocolate sauce and serve with some vanilla ice cream or vanilla yogurt for a sweetheart dessert. 

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Denver Versus Carolina Wings

Super Bowl recipes are everywhere and I am no different in wanting something fun to serve while watching the "big game."  This year it's chicken wings with two sauces: one to celebrate Denver and the other for Carolina.

For the Broncos, it's got be chili verde wings. Denver residents, including my brother, put their famous green chili sauce on everything from breakfast to through dinner. We all know the Carolinas are famous for several types of great barbecue so for the Panthers we'll toss the wings in a thin vinegar-hot sauce that reminds me of little of Buffalo wings.

Get ready-- it's game on.

And by get ready, I mean the cook should enjoy the party too.  The wings are cooked right out of the freezer, drained then finished in their sauce.  You can even make them ahead. 
Denver Versus Carolina Wings
Recipe makes enough sauce for 3 dozen wings and can be doubled or tripled.

Start with the Wings:
36 frozen chicken wings  (about 3 pounds)
  1. Preheat oven to 425˚F. 
  2. Line two roasting pans with tin foil.   
  3. Place half the wings in each pan and roast for 15 minutes then drain wings.  While wings roast, prepare sauces. 
...for the Denver Wings
Chile Verde Sauce
2 Poblano or Anaheim peppers (canned is OK according to Denver residents)
1 jalepeño chili pepper
1 medium tomatillo*
½ medium onion
1 clove garlic
½ teaspoon oregano
¼ teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon salt
handful fresh cilantro
¼ cup water
*If you cannot find tomatillos, substitute a seeded tomato and a tablespoon of lime juice
  1. Roast, peel and seed fresh chilies if using.  If using canned, skip this step.   
  2. Roughly chop chilies, onion and peeled garlic clove.  (You may use jalepeño without roasting.  Seed and remove veins before chopping.) 
  3. Add chopped vegetables, spices and cilantro to a food processor.  Pulse to create a puree.   
  4. Add water by tablespoonful if pulp is very thick.  You are looking for a thick but pourable sauce.

...for the Carolina Wings
Vinegar Barbecue Sauce
½ cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon maple syrup (or brown sugar)
2 teaspoons hot sauce (or ketchup if you do not want spicy wings)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
  1. Combine all ingredients in a jar.  Seal the jar and shake well.
Finish Wings:
  1. Pour the Chili Verde Sauce in one pan and the Vinegar Barbecue Sauce in the other.  Toss each sauce with the wings to coat completely.   You may have a little leftover sauce. 
  2. Roast uncovered for 30 minutes.  Halfway through turn the wings over in the sauce and switch their positions in the oven.  Wings  are ready when they reach a temperaure of 170˚F.  Serve immediately or cool and store covered.  (If using fresh wings, check after 20 minutes.)
  3. If you want your wings to have crisp skins, turn each wing so that it is sitting skin side up. Turn the oven to broil and place the roasting pan on the top rack.   Broil for 5 minutes, watching carefully.

Wings can be served plain or with dippers like sour cream, guacamole or buttermilk based dressings or drag them through some bean or beer-cheese dip. The Carolina wings also taste good with blue cheese dressing inthe style of Buffalo wings.

Store cooled wings covered in the refrigerator.  Reheat wings uncovered in a preheated 325˚F oven for 15-20 minutes.  Wings can be reheated in the microwave  with a cover --like a piece of paper towel to absorb any slattter.  They do not crisp up as well in the mircowave as in the oven.

If you have a litttle more time and care about the amount of fat associated with chicken wings you can roast the wings for 15 minutes, drain the fat and then combine the wings with their respective saauce.  Cook another 10-15 minutes until the wings reach a temperaure of 170˚F.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Weeknight Paella

Is Paella possible on a weeknight?  Yes, if you just think of it as enhanced chicken & rice and don't worry about cooking it in the traditional wide paella pan over an open flame.

Basic chicken and rice (or Arroz con Pollo) is simple.  In a large pot, cook two cups of uncooked rice in 4 1/2 cups of liquid seasoned with salt, pepper, oregano and paprika. I like short grain brown rice but regular rice is acceptable and also faster cooking.  Use water, chicken broth or a combination of both as your liquid. Sometimes I add a little tomato paste or chopped tomatoes, especially if they are very ripe and need a good home.  During the last fifteen minutes add cut up boneless chicken pieces and a cup of frozen peas. Cover and cook until the chicken is done.

Turn this into weeknight paella with the following enhancements (complete recipe is below). If you have saffron, add a few threads to your rice.  If not, try a combination of smoked paprika and turmeric instead.  Add bottled clam juice to your rice liquids.  Substitute clam juice for all or most of the water.  I use half chicken broth; half clam juice. 

While the rice cooks, sauté an onion, some red bell pepper and celery in a separate skillet with a few tablespoons of olive oil.  I also add chopped carrots and sliced green beans.  Add these ingredients to the rice when the rice is halfway cooked.

When your rice is almost tender and has about 10 minutes left to cook, add cut up boneless chicken pieces, peeled raw shrimp and slices of chorizo sausage.  Now is the time to add frozen artichoke hearts and frozen peas.  Check the liquid.  Add more broth, clam juice or water.  At this stage I usually add about 1/2 cup more liquid and carefully bury the new ingredients in the hot rice mixture. 

When the chicken and shrimp are completely cooked, garnish your paella with some black olives and fresh chopped parsley and dish into wide bowls. 

Here is the recipe.  The ingredient list is longer than I usually use for weeknights but you can mix and match vegetables to keep it easy. To me the key flavors in paella are saffron, red bell pepper, poultry, seafood and garlicky chorizo.  Most vegetables work well so pick some your favorites from the group listed. 

Weeknight Paella
Serves 4


2 cups rice (short grain brown rice preferred)
5 cups liquid (chicken broth, clam juice and/or water)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon oregano
pinch saffron threads
1 medium white or yellow onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, cored and chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
optional: 2 carrots, peeled and chopped, 1 cup green beans, sliced, 1 medium zucchini sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound boneless chicken— breasts or thighs, cut in bite sized pieces
1/2 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 box frozen artichoke hearts
1/2 pound Chorizo sausage*, sliced (about 12 slices)
1 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup black olives 

3 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley


  1. Combine rice, 5 cups liquid, salt, pepper, paprika, oregano and saffron in a large covered pot.  
  2. Bring rice to a boil, lower heat to simmer and cook covered. (Brown rices will take 45-50 minutes; white rices will take about 30 minutes.)
  3. While rice cooks, sauté onion, red bell pepper, celery and any other fresh vegetables you like in two tablespoons olive oil.  
  4. Add vegetables to rice when rice is abut halfway done.   
  5. About ten minutes before the rice is finished, taste the rice to see if it is done.  It should be hard in the center but you will be able to bite through it.  At this point a bowl of paella is about 10 -15 minutes away! Add chicken, shrimp, chorizo, artichokes and peas.  Give the pot a good stir to bury the new ingredients and check your liquid to make sure the bottom of the pot is not dry.  If needed, add 1/2-1 cup extra liquid to ensure rice is wet enough to share a little steam with the chicken and shrimp.  
  6. Cover and cook paella on low until chicken and shrimp are cooked through.  Taste the rice and adjust seasoning as needed with a little extra salt, pepper or paprika. Serve topped with black olives and parsley.
And… some of us add a little extra virgin olive oil from Spain and a squeeze of lemon to paella at the table.  

Elegant Life Leftovers: Weeknight Paella can be frozen for another easy night.  Cool completely in the refrigerator then pack into serving sized freezable containers or freezer bags.  Reheat in the microwave on a low setting or pop the serving out and into a pan with a few tablespoons of water.  Reheat over low heat. 

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Winter Veggie Stew

Butternut squash and white beans predominate in this simple vegetable stew making it easy to spice up in several different directions.  One pot of stew can be your vegetable side for several different dinners or feed a tableful of hungry vegetarians on a cold night.

Serve Winter Veggie Stew with a variety of Indian chutneys and plain yogurt and some warm naan. Or during the last few minutes of cooking, go mediterranean by adding a little extra virgin olive oil, black olives and sun dried tomatoes (in oil).  Fresh rosemary or thyme for garnish and a fat slice of a baguette on the side.  You can even pack this thick stew into a flour tortilla with sliced avocado, fresh cilantro sprigs, lime juice and salsa. ¡Olé!

Winter Vegetarian Veggie Stew
Serves 4-6, recipe can be doubled

1 ½ cups (1/2 bag) white beans, soaked (or one can low sodium white beans)

5-6 cups water
2 cups celery
½ onion
3 carrots
2 T oil

1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon  turmeric
1 teaspoon Hungarian sweet paprika
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon oregano
2 medium potatoes (eastern or low starch)
1 small butternut squash (or ½ a large squash)
1 ½ cups green beans
1 medium zucchini
½ red bell pepper


  1. If using dry beans, soak 8 hours (over night or during work day). Drain beans and rinse.  If using canned beans, read directions below.
  2. Place beans in 5 cups water and bring to a boil.  Cover and simmer.  Add tomato paste, turmeric, Hungarian sweet paprika, salt, pepper, and oregano.   Simmer beans, stirring occasionally for one hour.  
  3. Prepare vegetables: Chop celery, including leaves.  Chop onion and dice one carrot.  Sauté chopped vegetables in oil until limp.  Add to pot.
  4. Cut remaining two carrots, potato and butternut squash in large chunks.  Set aside.  Cut green beans in thirds (no longer than 2 inches). Set aside with other vegetables. 
  5. Prepare zucchini and red pepper.  Slice zucchini in large chunks.  Core and seed red bell pepper.  Cut into 1 inch pieces.  Sauté in skillet or place in a small baking dish tossed with some oil, salt and pepper and roast at 450 degrees F for 20 minutes until crisping. 
  6. Check beans.  Taste and if they are softening, add buternut squash, potates, carrots and green beans and enough water or vegetable broth to just cover all ingredients.  Continue to cook until vegetables are cooked and beans are very tender—about 15-20 minutes more. 
  7. Stir in cooked zucchini and red bell pepper.  
Serve alone in wide bowls or over rice, short pasta.

Directions for Canned Beans
If using canned beans you will add them at the end of the recipe.  Season the water following step 2 (omit beans) and add 3-1/2 cups water to your pot. Add all the vegeatbles to the pot except the zucchini and red bell pepper.  Simmer for 15-20 minutes while you prepare the zucchini and red pepper following step 5.  Once all the vegetables are tender add the canned beans and cook about five minutes more.  (Drain but do not rinse the canned beans.)

Elegant Life Leftovers: Add broth to make a soup.  This stew is vegetarian but you can replace some of the liquid with chicken broth if you'd like.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Sugar Alternatives

Ah, lists.  Here are six realistic ways to cut back on sugar.  Pick just one or try all six.   A goal of swearing off sugar for good is great and a way to get there is even more useful.  Don't be without a plan as the winter gets colder and New Year's pledges start to look small in the rear view mirror. 

Six Ways to Cut Back the Sugar in 2016
  1. Plan to eat fruit at least once a day.  The fiber is satisfying and you will soon find you crave really sugary treats less.  Give it time; it takes most people about two weeks to adjust their taste buds back to non-artificial levels.  Look forward to how good real food is going to taste. 
  2. Change what you buy at the food store starting today.  If it is not in the house, it will be easier to avoid.  Buy fruit instead of cookies, whole grain varieties of breads, flour, rice and pasta and low sodium canned whole beans and proteins instead of processed meals with a high amount sodium and sugar in the ingredients. 
  3. Bake it yourself.  If you have to work harder to eat a cookie and see what goes into the recipe, you will learn how much sugar is enough.  When you bake, use whole grain flour (look for white whole wheat) and look for recipes using less sugar per serving.  I'll be postng a few of these in the coming year.
  4. Measure what you do use with a real measuring spoon in order to reduce the amount you use over time. Use 1/2 and 1/4 teaspoon measures.  Consider replacing white sugar with smaller quantities of natural sweeteners like honey and maple syrup.  If you like your morning coffee a little sweet, try stirring in maple syrup.  A little goes a long way.  
  5. Take a long, hard look at the yogurt in your life.  If you are eating flavored yogurt because you think it is a healthy treat, you may be surprised to learn that the sugar content is often higher than that found in the pudding aisle.  Try buying plain yogurt and adding crushed fruit and a small amount, 1/2 teaspoon, of honey or maple syrup. Consider the whole milk or low fat varieties.  Non-fat does not always satisfy and can lead to more cravings.  
  6. Speaking of sugar cravings, notice what is really happening during a craving.  When we are hungry our bodies often request the fastest way to refuel-- sugar and carbs.  If you have not eaten a real meal in several hours you may simply be hungry, and with good reason.  Eat some protein and a complex carbohydrate.  Plan for this at key times like the late afternoon and be ready with a handful of nuts, a piece of cheese or other pure, real food choice.