By Karen Schulz

When I think of Thanksgiving, a few things immediately come to mind: family and friends gathered around the table; the Rockettes at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade; and mushy food.

Growing up, the Macy’s Parade was always on the TV while the cooking frenzy ensued. Gramma Napoli would be on high alert waiting to announce the moment when it was time for the Rockettes to perform. She would proudly gather everyone around to watch my second cousin, Barbara, seventh from the left, kick those famous kicks. This was such a thrill and to this day, I still pause for the Rockettes.

While I adore the meaning and many traditions of Thanksgiving, I am not a big fan of traditional Thanksgiving food. It is often bland, and there is no chocolate in sight. Mashed root vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, turnips, and parsnips fulfill your carb quota for the month and even the veggie casseroles and fruit take their place in the mushy parade. From the green bean casserole with mushroom soup and fried onions, to the canned cranberry sauce — I rest my case.

This Thanksgiving, maybe it is time to phase in some new traditions and flavors.

You do not have to eliminate the canned cranberry sauce, but you can also serve a beautiful Cranberry Apple Salad Mold. My mother introduced this salad years ago and it is now one of my favorite parts of the meal. It is colorful, refreshing, has texture, and is delicious. And, since you make it the day before, it’s one less thing to worry about on the day of, when the kitchen gets crazy.

Consider substituting Butternut Squash Tart with Chile Honey for one of the usual side dishes. It is a showstopper and is a perfect combination of sweet and spicy. You can even serve it as an appetizer in small slivers.

Each year we go to my brother’s house for Thanksgiving and I am on pie duty. I’ve often suggested some tasty alternatives to the traditional pumpkin, apple, and pecan pies but I get a lot of push back from the family. So, this year I decided to add more desserts! I will be debuting Pumpkin Whoopie Pies, which will bring the total to four desserts for eleven people. This might sound excessive, but these pies are worth it. I made them last week and to quote my 14-year-old son “These might be the best dessert ever. Can you please make them for Thanksgiving?” Done.

Happy Thanksgiving. May you find comfort in family, friends, traditions, and new flavors at your feast.




Short Stacks Aren’t Just for Pancakes

By Karen Schulz

When I think of summer, I immediately think of lobster, fresh corn on the cob, and glorious tomatoes of all colors. As a child, I remember eating tomatoes like apples, sprinkled lightly with salt. Mom would make all kinds of tomato salads on hot summer nights, depending on what was ripe in her garden.

Tomatoes can be the star of the show with just a little salt and pepper, some thinly sliced red onion, and a small amount of red wine vinegar and olive oil, or they can be a part of a bigger story. Just the other night I made a tomato salad with halved cherry tomatoes, three small sliced cucumbers, red onion, and an avocado. I drizzled some fig balsamic glaze on top with some olive oil, salt, and pepper and it was the perfect side dish to the rich steamed lobster with butter.

Nothing beats a classic Caprese salad with fresh mozzarella and basil. The kids can even throw that together for themselves. However, as I am always looking for delicious new ways to enjoy the handsome heirloom tomatoes grown in an extreme array of colors, I discovered a new favorite way to feature these showstoppers.

Stacking slices of heirloom tomatoes with avocado and red onion is not only a special and unique presentation, but also an absolutely delicious combination. I have served this salad for family dinners as well as dinner parties, because it is impressive-looking. The dressing will keep for a couple of days in the refrigerator, so consider doubling it to have on hand.

Stock up on some colorful heirlooms during your next trip to the farmer’s market and see how you stack up.

Heirloom Tomato and Avocado Stacks

Serves 4


⅓ cup low-fat buttermilk

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

2 T. reduced fat sour cream

1 T. reduced fat mayonnaise

½ t. grated lime zest

¼ t. minced fresh garlic

¼ t. kosher salt

⅛ t. ground cumin

Dash of ground red pepper


4 medium heirloom tomatoes (about 2 pounds), different colors

¼ t. kosher salt

¼ cup red onion, sliced vertically very thinly

1 avocado, small dice

Fresh ground pepper

To prepare dressing, combine first nine ingredients in a small food processor or blender; process 30 seconds or until pureed, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Cover and chill.

To prepare salad, slice each tomato crosswise into four equal slices (about ½-inch thick). Place one tomato slice on each salad plate. Sprinkle slices evenly with ¼ t. salt. Top each serving with a few onion pieces and about 1 tablespoon avocado. Repeat layers three times, ending with avocado. Drizzle 2 tablespoons dressing over each serving. Top with black pepper.

Dining In

By Karen Schulz

Brussels sprouts have had a bad rap. They may be the leading least liked vegetable out there, especially among children, as they can be bitter and can emit an off-putting aroma. 

But it’s easy to come to their defense, because, if properly cooked, Brussels sprouts are delicious. They are also high in protein, making them a go-to ingredient for those meat-free nights, and rich in Vitamins K and C. 

The great thing about the following recipe for Creamy Brussels Sprout Spaghetti is that the sprouts are thinly sliced, therefore the flavor is tempered due to smaller amounts in each bite. I also often buy the sprouts pre-sliced if I do not want to be bothered with my food processor, which upgrades this recipe from easy to super easy.  

The unsung hero of the recipe is the salty ricotta salata, which you add just before serving. It adds depth of flavor and your kids will love it. If your market has a fine cheese section, you’ll usually find wedges of it there.

I have served this dish to kids and have given the recipe to friends who boast the pickiest eaters and I have heard nothing but rave reviews. One mom even texted me to thank me because her daughter asked for seconds! 

It’s a win-win when nutritious food is also delicious.

<<Creamy Brussels Sprouts Spaghetti>>

Serves 4


1 lb. spaghetti

5 T. unsalted butter

¾-1 lb. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and sliced

2 garlic cloves, sliced

½ cup heavy cream (add more if you feel it needs it)

Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

3 oz. ricotta salata, thinly sliced


Cook the spaghetti according to the package directions. Reserving ¾ cup of the cooking water, drain the pasta and return it to the pot.

Meanwhile, heat 3T. of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the Brussels sprouts and cook, tossing occasionally, until tender but still bright green, 4 to 6 minutes. Add garlic, cook until fragrant, approximately 1 minute.

Add sprouts, cream, remaining 2 T. butter, ½ tsp. salt, ¼ tsp. pepper, and ½ cup of the reserved cooking water to the pasta and toss to coat. (Add more cooking water as needed.)

Serve topped with ricotta salata.

Add Frozen Shrimp to Your Staples

By Karen Schulz

One Wednesday at noon, a friend asked me what I was going to make for dinner. I had no idea. I’m famous for winging it, or if I’m being totally honest, procrastinating. I ended up making this tweaked version of Ina Garten’s fennel and garlic shrimp recipe and posted a picture of it on Instagram. The next Wednesday, my same friend said, “Really Karen? How can you not know what’s for dinner at noon and then whip out that crazy dinner?” The answer is simple; you should always keep a two-pound bag of frozen uncooked, peeled, tail-on shrimp from Costco in your freezer.

The key to delicious easy dinners is keeping certain staples on hand at all times. Frozen shrimp is one of them. Not only does shrimp cook quickly, it’s a great protein alternative to the often over-served chicken or beef options.

It was late in the afternoon, maybe 5 p.m., when I decided to make this dish and all I had to pick up was a fennel bulb and baguette. Since I had made this dish before, I had the bottle of Pernod on hand, and all the other ingredients are always in my house. (Do not be afraid of fennel, the flavor mellows and is a great compliment to the garlic.)

This shrimp recipe is the perfect solution to a late-night dinner, because it is so light. I served it with a baguette and Ina’s balsamic roasted beet salad, also very easy. Beets are another staple for me. I roast my own, however, if you know you want to make this salad, you can buy beets already roasted at June and Ho. And if you don’t keep Marcona almonds in your cupboard, you absolutely need to pick some up next time you are at June and Ho while buying your pre-roasted beets; you will never not have them on hand again. Marcona almonds are perfect for snacking, make an elegant peanut substitution for cocktail parties, and are delicious in salads.

Go out and stock up on these staples, so you can wing them into delicious dinners as well.





Fennel Garlic Shrimp

Serves 4


8 T. olive oil

1 fennel bulb, chopped (fronds reserved)

10 cloves minced garlic

½ t. crushed red pepper flakes

2 lbs. shrimp, defrosted

2 T. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

2 T. Pernod

1 t. sea salt

1 t. freshly ground black pepper



Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the fennel and sauté for 5 minutes or until tender but not browned. Turn the heat to medium-low, add the garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until the garlic just begins to brown.

Pat the shrimp dry with paper towels, add them to the pan, and toss together with the fennel and olive oil. If your pan is large enough, spread the shrimp in one layer and cook over medium for 2 minutes on one side. Turn the shrimp and cook for 2 minutes on the other side, until they are pink and just cooked through. If your pan is too small to spread shrimp in one layer, stir often until all shrimp are pink and cooked through.

Off the heat, sprinkle with parsley, 1 to 2 tablespoons of the chopped fennel fronds, the Pernod, sea salt, and black pepper and serve it with the bread to soak up the pan juices.

By Karen Schulz

Back to school also means, back to the kitchen, my favorite classroom, and this burrito pie recipe gets an A+.

This protein-packed dinner is not only delicious but yields plenty for leftovers. It can stand alone, as it incorporates all of your food groups, consists of ingredients usually already in your pantry, and is perfect for cooking together if you have kids who are willing.

You can prep the pie in advance and pop it in the oven at dinnertime, or you can cook it completely in advance and simply reheat it for dinner. Feel free to substitute ground turkey or chicken for the ground beef, and play with the heat. If your family is not afraid of a little spice, turn it up a notch with a little extra chili powder, or add some jarred jalapenos to one of the layers.

Kids who cook, are a lot more likely to try and/or eat something that they helped make. Trimming the tortillas and building the pie layer after layer are fun ways for the kids to help out with this dish. If you have picky eaters, definitely get them in the kitchen to help with the cooking. You can also have your child make a salad, which is a perfect accompaniment to this dense, filling main course. Let them choose what goes in the salad, maybe something harvested from your garden, or have them add colors with carrots and radishes.

Whatever is on the menu, the kitchen is a wonderful learning environment offering lessons in science, math, teamwork, patience, nutrition, motor skills, and so much more. So, whenever you can, rope a child in to help with dinner. Who knows, a fun conversation may happen over some chopping and stirring.

<<Burrito Pie>>

Serves 8-10


2 T. vegetable oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

¾ lb. lean ground beef

2 t. chili powder

1 t. cumin

½ t. kosher salt

¾ cup water

1 15-oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed

1½ cups frozen corn kernels

4 10-inch flour tortillas

½ cup sour cream

1 cup salsa

8 oz. cheddar or Monterey jack, grated

In a large skillet over medium-low heat, warm the oil. Add the onion and sauté for about 5 minutes until softened, stirring often. Add the garlic and stir for another minute.

Turn up the heat to medium, and add the ground beef, chili powder, and cumin. Cook until the beef is browned, stirring often, about 3 minutes. Add the salt, water, black beans, and corn, and bring to a boil. Stir occasionally, until the liquid evaporates, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes.

Heat oven to 350°. Using the rim of a 9-inch spring-form pan as a template, trim three of the tortillas to the size of the pan. Leave the fourth tortilla untrimmed. (If you do not have a spring-form pan, you can use a 9-inch round cake pan and serve it like lasagna.)

Butter the bottom and sides of the pan. Press the untrimmed tortilla evenly into the pan’s bottom. Spread 2 T. of the sour cream over the tortilla, followed by ¼ cup of the salsa. Spoon and spread a quarter of the beef mixture over the salsa, then sprinkle a quarter of the grated cheese evenly over the top.

Place one of the trimmed tortillas on the top of the cheese, then repeat the layering of the sour cream, salsa, beef, and cheese. Continue this until the ingredients and tortillas are used up. You should end up with four layers, topped with the final sprinkling of cheese.

Bake the pie until heated through, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and remove the rim from the spring-form pan, if you used one. Slice the pie into wedges using a sharp knife.

By Karen Schulz

Chances are, you’re either hosting a Memorial Day weekend barbeque or going to one. And in all likelihood, burgers are on the menu. After all, what’s more American? If you want to know the simple secret to a perfect burger, read on.

Burgers have definitely taken on a life of their own in the culinary world and who knew how fancy, elaborate, and complicated they could be? There are numerous kinds of meats, toppings, sauces, and buns to choose from, and cooking techniques to navigate.

Frankly, I never really knew how to make a great burger until a few years ago when I read a magazine article on “the best burger ever.” I remember thinking, ‘No way, that’s it?’ Seemed a little too obvious, but the authors were right and I’ve made every burger the same way ever since.

To elevate the ordinary burger to extraordinary, keep it simple and follow these steps.

• Make sure your beef has 20% fat. Less than that will result in a dry burger. So buy 80% lean meat.

• <<Do not>> over handle the beef while making patties, unless you like eating hockey pucks. The secret is to gently press your thumb in the middle of your patty to make a small divot. That way the burger expands as it cooks and stays juicy.

• <<Do not>> press down on burgers with a spatula once they are on the grill. That will only release all of the fat but create huge flames.

•The best cheese? Good old American cheese. The best buns? Soft potato bread rolls.

Sound too simple? Try it and have a tasty Memorial Day weekend.

<<Foolproof Burgers>>

Serves 4.


1 pound lean ground beef

4 slices American cheese

4 potato bread rolls

<Suggested toppings>

Sliced red onions





Japanese mayo (or any mayo)




Preheat grill to medium heat.

Gently divide the ground beef into four patties. Take extra care not to over handle or over pack the patty. When done, use your thumb to make a divot in the center. No need to add any salt or pepper.

Place patties on the grill with thumbprint facing up. Grill for 5 minutes before flipping.

After about 3 minutes, or just before taking burgers off the grill, lay a slice of cheese on each one. Also open up and lay your buns face down on the grill to toast. Close the lid for 30 seconds, or until cheese is melted.

Place a burger on each bottom half of a bun. Let everyone fix their burgers to their liking before putting on the top half.

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