The Food Family Tree


Many years ago my mother made me a binder with all of her favorite family recipes. It is the recipe BIBLE. Sure, I might look online, or in any one of the myriad cookbooks in the bookcase, but the two nondescript black binders (one for ‘food’, one for baking) are indispensable. There are recipes in my 9-year old handwriting that my mother saved, recipes from my grandmother (Mom Mom’s Nut Balls!), clippings from newspapers from at least 3 decades, and lots of additions that I’ve made over the years. They’re more than recipes; they are my family’s history through food.

Now my daughter is almost 23 and living on her own, and she wants a black notebook of her own. It will be both a look back as well as a fresh starting point. Already an accomplished cook, her recipes for avocado pasta and lentil curries will be added to the Dinner Go Round Chicken, Fudgy Brownies and Selma Sorkin’s Apple Cake. And I’ve decided that I’m going to take Empire Food and Brew in a slightly new direction. I’ve always posted my recipe creations here, but I’m going to start adding in some of the recipes from the family tree. A virtual black notebook to share the food and the memories that go with it.


The first recipe I’m posting is perfect for January, especially when it seems like everyone is getting sick. It’s a cousin to matzoh ball soup, sort of the lazy-man’s matzoh ball. To my knowledge, it’s unique to my family, and must have been handed down from my grandmother. It also features a quasi-yiddish word all our own…and we love it. When you’re tired, when you’re sick, when you just feel a little ‘feh’…there’s nothing like Floksy Soup. Why floksy? I have no idea. I like to think that it’s from one specific shtetl in Galicia  – and maybe I’ll meet a long-lost relative someday who’ll also know of floksies and their magical healing powers.

Floksy Soup

To boiling chicken soup add this mixture.

2 egg whites or 1 egg

About 1/2 cup matzo meal

salt, pepper

a little water – start with 2 tablespoons

Mix all together; it will be fairly stiff. If you want softer floksies add more water. Drop into boiling soup, lower heat, cover & cook about 20 minutes

A couple of things to note:

  • You must make the chicken soup first, or can use a store bought broth in a pinch. Cook some carrots until soft and mash them in to add some homemade goodness, and some dill. It will help.
  • Gently grab a little floksy dough in your fingers and drop into the water; they don’t get formed like a matzo ball. The floksies should be little fluffy matzo poofs in the soup.


Cleanin’ out the Fridge

It’s long overdue…bits of this, stalks of that. The bumper crop at the farmer’s market is stuffed into my crisper and it’s bursting at the seams. When you can’t find the eggs, it’s time to Clean Out the Fridge!

What we have in our fridges will vary, but in mine, it’s usually a hodgepodge of veggies in various states of wilt, nubbins of cheese that are too good to waste, and maybe, if I’m lucky, a lone sausage or bit of smoked something-or-other. Individually, they’re poor, lonely ingredients that got left behind like McCauley Culkin in Home Alone (I know, so sad, right!?) And they’re going to be up to no good if you don’t use them soon.

So, here’s a few recipes that will use up the odds & ends…substitute with your overstocks  (they’re sure to be different than mine), and, with a bit of grain here, some eggs there, you’ll have some pretty darn good meals – dare I say new additions to your repertoire (even when you’re not using up wilted kale, not-quite crisp peppers, and almost-old cheese!)

Tonight I have a leftover wilted kale, manchego, and cheddar quiche in the oven, but I don’t know how it’s going to come out yet, so I won’t post the recipe, but I will say 5 eggs plus a cup or so of cheese, a little milk or half and half, and whatever’s been loitering around your fridge too long + a 400 degree oven for ~ 20-25 minutes = quiche. With or without crust, it’s all good. (just grease your pan if you’re not using a crust!)

Show your wilted veggies who’s in charge!

Delicious Quinoa Pilaf

2 cups cooked quinoa (cooked in chicken stock)

1/2 finely diced red pepper

½ finely diced red onion

5 cloves garlic, minced

~1 cup blanched asparagus, cut into 1” pieces

1 t olive oil



Cook quinoa in chicken broth as directed (2:1 ratio)

Sauté onion, pepper & garlic in olive oil until fragrant. Add blanched asparagus & cooked until all are combined & asparagus is heated through. Toss with cooked quinoa.


Slightly Spicy Hummus with Peppadews &Turkish seasoning 


Ok, so the only thing that was getting old was the peppadews, but hey, I’m trying to use it all up, and why buy hummus when homemade is so easy AND so good! Plus, I always have too many cans of chickpeas in my pantry!

1 can of chickpeas, juice of 1 lemon, 1/8 cup tahini, 1 t Penzey’s Turkish seasoning, 1/4 t Penzey’s Aleppo pepper, about 4 cloves of garlic and 3 peppadew peppers. Oh, and a dash of saffron & roasted garlic infused olive oil I mixed up in a jar last week (great to have around!). Sprinkle with zahtar  if you have & serve (preferably with cut up veggies that need to be eaten and crackers that are leftover from last time you had cheese & crackers)

Leftover Roasted Chicken Cacciatore

This is good with any leftover chicken that you’re tired of eating, and used up a bunch of things I had dribs and drabs of in my fridge

6 oz shredded cooked chicken

½ onion – diced

½ roasted red peppers

¼ cup diced kalamata olives

handful of fresh basil, chopped

3-5 cloves garlic

T olive oil

Dash powdered fennel

1t Italian seasoning

1 cup leftover marinara sauce + about ½ water swirled around jar

Splash of dry sherry to deglaze pan

Serve over whole wheat pasta

Saute all veggies but marinara, deglaze once they’re nice & caramelized. Toss in chicken, marinara & water & let simmer about 10 -15 minutes or while pasta cooks.

Toss & serve

Faux French Country Turkey Stew

1/2 cup dry Great Northern beans, soaked (or 2 cans cannellini or great northern)

2 links Chicken Sausage (mine were roasted garlic)

1 cup shredded leftover turkey (or chicken)

2 cups kale, chopped

1 T olive oil

2 carrots, diced

2 ribs celery, diced

3 t chicken base ( Better than Bouillon, Penzeys, Knorr, whatever)

A bunch of fresh herbs – or dry if you don’t have fresh; I used thyme, tarragon & sage

1/2 t garlic powder

1/4 t smoked paprika

1/4 fennel powder (it makes things taste like sausage!)

2 leeks, rinsed well & diced

2 shallots, diced

4 cups water

sort, rinse and soak beans as per directions

heat olive oil & saute leeks, shallot, carrot, celery until soft. Add chopped sausage

Add kale, stir

Add turkey

Drain & add beans

Combine chicken base with water, add to pot & bring to a boil, then reduce heat & add spices. Cook, stirring occasionally, until beans are soft – about 1/5 hours.

Serve alone, over rice or with a nice crusty bread


The 2 Ingredient Bagel Challenge: Boiled vs. Baked

I’ve recently become fixated on the phenomenon known as Weight Watchers 2 Ingredient Dough. In case you’re feed hasn’t been inundated with pictures of bagels, cinnamon rolls, and pizzas recently and don’t know what it is, 2 Ingredient Dough is a 1:1  mix of self-rising flour and Fage plain 0% yogurt (consistency is important, and Fage is the thickest commercial greek yogurt.) A recipe of 1 cup flour to 1 cup yogurt will yield (for me, anyway) 4 bagels, two pizzas, or several apple turnovers (which I prefer to the afore-mentioned cinnamon buns). For those of us on Weight Watchers, these goodies are a low-point bonanza, letting us eat bagels  & pizza while only eating a couple of points. But I digress. I can share other recipes, but this post is about one thing: how to cook the BEST 2 ingredient bagel.

I’ve seen two cooking methods floating around; one calls for simply baking the bagels, and the other starts with the traditional step of boiling the bagels first and then baking. Now I’m a New Yorker. Bagels are important. If you buy your bagels in a bag from the freezer section in your local supermarket, you might not care about the difference of boiled vs. baked. But for those of us who debate which bagel place is best, grew up going to the bagel place every Sunday morning to pick up a baker’s dozen, and travel down to their home town to pick up ‘real’ bagels because they’re just not as good where you live (ok, yes, that would be me), it’s a question who’s time has come.

I started out with a half-recipe of dough, which I was leftover from my pizza the night before, rolled into a ball  and thrown in the fridge. First, a word about the dough. Although the proportion is 1:1, in my experience, you will need to add a little more flour to get it to the right consistency; otherwise it’s a little too sticky. It shouldn’t stick to your hands when rolled into a ball or on the rolling pin when rolling out to make a pizza. So sprinkle with flour as needed. And, while I left the dough unseasoned this time, the last time I made the bagels, I added Penzey’s Mural of Flavor to the mix , but there’s an infinite variety of flavors you can add to your dough. For pizza, Italian seasoning and garlic are great, and if using for apple turnovers, I like to add cinnamon or Penzey’s Pie Spice.

I cut my dough in half and made two nice-sized bagels. about 4″ in diameter.  I prefer them a little on the flatter side, so I ‘schmush’ gently with my palm after they’re shaped. This makes them more like the flagels (aka flattened bagels), which I’ve made road trips to New City for. Hint; it gives you more of the yummy ‘outside’ of the bagel than a rounder bagel, which has more of the doughy inside. I’m sure you can tell which I prefer.


post-boil bagel

I brushed my first bagel, the baker, with an egg wash, sprinkled on some sunflower seeds  (I’m experimenting with toppings, too), and put in my air fryer for about 12 minutes at 350 degrees.  You can use an oven, of course, but the air fryer is my new toy, and it really gets both sides of the bagel nice and browned. While that was cooking, I boiled up a pot of water and  once it came to a rolling boil, put bagel #2 in and boiled for 2 minutes, turning over after the 1st minute. After that I drained, brushed with the egg wash, sunflowered, and also put in the air fryer. I checked the bagels after 10 minutes and gave them a couple of more minutes to get nicely browned. Total cooking time is between 11-15 minutes. I think this will vary depending upon personal tastes and oven temperature variations. Just check them and pull ’em out when they look good to you.

The Results!


Boiled = Bigger!

Visally, they both look great, but the boiled bagel is definitely larger, and has a ‘puffier’ feel. But what do they look like inside? Sure enough, the boiled bagel is less dense, and has more, and larger air pockets. The interior of the baked only also felt stickier to the touch.


Boiled has more air pockets


On to the the taste test. I toasted both of my bagels;  I’ve found that the 2 Ingredient Bagels, while a great way to be able to have my bagels and eat them too, need a light toast; it’s a dense dough, and the gummier inside greatly benefits from it. I toast just enough to dry out the inside just a bit. I like them with eggs (because eggs are free on the new Weight Watchers, and who doesn’t like egg sandwiches?)

And the winner is…Boiled! Those air pockets made the bagel cook a little better, yielding a less sticky interior, and the outer crust was, well…crustier, and packed a more satisfying crunch and chew combination.


It’s boiled for the win!

All in all, it’s a subtle difference, but I’ll be taking the extra few minutes to boil my bagels.     For those of you who aren’t as fanatical, boiled might not be worth the extra time, and just baked might be fine or you. Either way, make a bagel, grab a schmear, and enjoy!

Note about toppings: I really preferred my everything bagel mix to the sunflower seeds. I’ve heard that Trader Joe’s Everything but the Bagel spice is great, but I didn’t have that, so I mixed my own from what I had on hand: black & white sesame seeds, dried minced garlic, onion flakes, and kosher salt. Yum.

The Food Family Tree – Fruited Chicken

There are two similar dishes in the big black binder of recipes my mother made for me; one is labeled “Delicious – very spicy”  – “Chicken w/olives, prunes, apricots, raisins or canned apricots”, and the other is “Dinner Go Round Chicken”. They’re both riffs on the same theme – a really tasty chicken dish that you prep in advance, stick in the oven and can hang out in the oven until you’re ready to eat without overcooking. In fact, it only gets better the longer it cooks. In other words, perfect for every day, holidays, and company. Indeed, “Dinner Go Round Chicken”  was a recipe that was popular for synagogue progressive dinners, where groups of people rotate houses for different courses – apparently they called these “Dinner Go Rounds” back in Mom-mom’s day. Same as a progressive dinner now, but I’m guessing they served jello molds instead of hummus during the appetizer round.

I serve this combo dish on Jewish holidays, bring it to potlucks, and recently made it for a  meeting that I hosted, prepped in the morning so I didn’t have to do anything later. I like to bring out the mediterranean flavors in the dish and serve it over either couscous or quinoa; I like Nutty Roasted Cauliflower Quinoa (recipe below)

Expand as needed, most people eat one thigh each, but many want seconds. This recipe is for 4-6 thighs. Mine happened to be a combo of bone-in and boneless, skinless thighs, just because that’s what I had.

You’ll need:

4-6 skinless chicken thighs

1 large onion

knob of ginger – about 1-2″, grated

2-3 clove garlic, sliced

1/2 orange juice

1/2 jar apricot preserves

~1/4 cup cooking sherry

~1/2 cup total (or more to taste) coarsely chopped dried apricots & prunes

1/4 capers

dried garlic




  1. Slice onions into thin, long strips and scatter on bottom of 9×13 pan.
  2. Remove skin (if necessary) from chicken & trim fat. Place on top of the onions.
  3. Scatter fruit and capers evenly
  4. Combine orange juice, jelly and garlic in saucepan until melted & pour over chicken
  5. Bake at 375 for 45 minutes, or longer, basting occasionally. Keep covered for the first 20 minutes, then uncover & cook until the chicken is well browned and onions are caramelized. It can hang out in the oven on a low heat for a while & only gets better. If prepping earlier and cooking from cold, it will take longer.

Serve over:

Roasted Cauliflower Quinoa (easy to make ahead and reheat)

1 cup quinoa

1/2 cauliflower, cut into small florets

olive oil

Penny’s Sweet Curry or Turkish Seasoning

1/2 cup slivered almonds

chicken stock

saffron (optional)

  1. Combine chicken stock and saffron and cook quinoa in it according to directions. Salt optionally, depending on taste and whether you used salted stock.
  2. Toss cauliflower in olive oil & desired spices and put on a parchment or foil lined cookie sheet – roast at 400 degrees until cauliflower begins to caramelize & brown
  3. Toast slivered almonds in a small pan, watching carefully so they don’t burn
  4. Fold quinoa and cauliflower together, sprinkle almonds on top. You can add a chiffonade of fresh parsley if you have it around for a bright finish.

Beer ‘n Bugs – a great combo

We’ve had a busy couple of weeks at Planet Grub…after a much-needed vacation camping in the Adirondacks, we started working on new flavors and perfecting some recipes. Crickatoffee was our first cricket treat, but we knew we wanted to keep working on it until we found the perfect buttery, brown-sugary ratio and get that toffee […]

via The joint is jumping! — PLANETGRUB

Nine Pin gets a perfect ’10’

My 4-pack of Nine Pin is chilling in the freezer, and it won’t be cold soon enough! I discovered Nine Pin last summer, when I sampled the Original, Belgian, and Ginger at the Troy Farmer’s Market. I went home with a bottle each of the Original and the Belgian, but only because my hands were too full to safely get a Ginger home safely. Since then, Nine Pin has made itself at home in my fridge, tucked into the door with the IPA’s and Gosling’s Ginger Beer (the best Ginger Beer for a Moscow Mule, in my very humble opinion. I know there are a lot of ciders out there, but with the exception of a quite good offering from Argyle Brewing (in Greenwich), I haven’t branched out from Nine Pin yet, unless you count going from bottle to can. It’s just so darned good. Light and refreshing, and it’s the perfect choice when you can’t decide between a cold beer or a glass of wine.

Mike G. is making me dinner tonight (yes, I am a lucky woman) – roasted duck with wild rice and butternut squash. He’s been trying to convert me over to duck – “the other dark meat”  since I met him. This duck, marinating in a fragrant concoction of orange-pineapple juice, soy sauce, pomegranate molasses, sherry, ginger, red onion, garlic, and sesame oil, might do the trick. That Original is going to be mighty tasty with it.