Because Wedding Season is fast approaching………..another clever idea from my friend Beth!

I know this story isn’t really Cape Ann oriented, but since lots of you will either be hosting or attending a wedding shower sometime this Spring/Summer, I thought this was a really clever idea.

This project comes from my friend Beth at  I have posted a few of her ideas in the past, particularly at Halloween, because she is so creative but I think this idea takes the cake!  If you need ideas for pretty much any themed party, check out her blog.

Roasted Garlic Parmesan Cheese Ball Wedding Cake


1 whole head (bulb) of garlic
1 teaspoon olive oil
2/3 cup blanched and slivered almonds
2 – 8 ounce blocks of cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese (or freshly grated Parmesan)
pinch of salt
optional: pinch of white pepper (don’t use black)
optional decorations: a tub of cream cheese, or edible flowers, or white cheese slices

Ateco 5357 11 Piece Plain Round Cutter SetSpecial Equipment Needed:

4 1/2″, 3 1/4″, and 2″ round cookie cutters
food processor or an electric hand mixer
offset (angled) metal spatula
tin foil and plastic wrap
optional: piping bag fitted with a coupler and a #21 star tip


Preheat oven to 400 degrees (I use my toaster oven for small jobs like this.) Cut head of garlic in half and set on a piece of tin foil. Drizzle olive oil over garlic.  Fold foil and pinch edges closed. Roast in oven for 35-45 minutes until garlic is golden brown. Allow to cool to room temperature. Squeeze the two halves of the garlic to expel the soft roasted garlic. Note: I put my garlic through a garlic press, just to remove the darker outer skin of the garlic cloves, so that my cheese spread didn’t get too brown. It isn’t necessary, but I think the cakes look better cream colored than tan.
Roast the slivered almonds. Pour the almonds into a skillet set over medium or medium low heat. Stir often as they roast until they turn golden brown.  I usually heat the nuts until they just begin to brown, then I turn off the heat and allow the nuts to roast in the residual heat of the skillet.  I don’t worry about burning the nuts that way. Allow the nuts to cool to room temperature.

Combine the cream cheese, grated Parmesan cheese, roasted garlic, salt, and white pepper, if using, in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until creamy and smooth.  Add nuts and pulse 10 times just to incorporate the nuts.  If using an electric mixer, combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl, and blend until smooth and creamy, roughly chop the nuts and combine.

Line each of the round cookie cutters with plastic wrap. Spoon the cheese spread into each of the cutters, making sure to completely fill the cutter. Level off the cheese spread using an offset spatula.
Fold plastic wrap over the top of the cheese spread. Flip the filled cookie cutter upside down. You need to make sure the cheese completely fills the cutter. As you can see, in the middle picture, the cheese doesn’t completely fill the cutter on the left. Use your fingers to press the cheese to flatten it out so that it fills the cutter around the edges. If you skip this step, your layered cakes will have gaps where the cakes touch.

Chill for at least 2 hours, and up to several days.

Unmold and unwrap the chilled cheese rounds.  Set the 4 1/2″ cheese round on a serving platter or small cake stand.  Each of the cheese rounds (a.k.a. cake layers) will have a wrinkled looking exterior caused by the folds in the plastic wrap.  This is unavoidable.  To smooth out the top and sides of your cake layers, run an offset spatula under hot water, dry, then use it to smooth the top and and sides of the cheese round. I actually filled a glass with hot water and just dipped the spatula into the water, then wiped it dry with paper towels, and used it to smooth out the wrinkles.  Once you’ve smoothed out the bottom cake layer, stack the 3 1/4″ cake layer in the center on top of the first layer.  Smooth it out then add the third and smallest cake layer and smooth it out.

You can now decorate your cake any way you’d like.  Keep is simple and add a small cake topper, pipe cream cheese “frosting” in a lovely pattern on the cakes, cut slices of white cheese using mini cookie cutters into flowers or polka dots and attach them with a dab of cream cheese, or arrange edible flowers all over the cakes.

Making Baked Stuffed Clams with Clark Dexter…YUM!

Here it is, friends!

A new episode of Inspired Cooking airs on Cape Ann TV tonight at 8:30 and the show features one of my favorite guests the talented Clark Dexter!  Clark is a legend in the restaurant industry around here and is food can’t be beat.  Clark makes food that brings me back to my childhood–great memories of eating at The Hearthside in Essex for special occasions and enjoying every second of it!

Although this recipe is not exactly like the stuffed clams that Clark served at the restaurant he said it is pretty darned close.  So go and get some clams and treat yourself and your family to some excellent baked stuffed clams!

BAKED STUFFED CLAMS recipe by Clark Dexter

6 Cherrystone Clams
12 oz. Water
(2) 6 ½ oz. Canned Chopped Clams drained, reserve liquid
1 Med. Shallot – Chopped fine
6 Tbls. Butter
6 Tbls. Flour
2 Tbls. Fresh Parmesan Cheese
2 Tbls. Bread Crumbs
1 Tbls. Sherry Wine
1 Dash Tabasco Sauce
½ tsp. Worcestershire Sauce
1/8 tsp. White Pepper

Wash Cherrystone clams and put them in 12 oz. of water.

Bring this to a boil and cook until clams open. Remove clams and retain the water and the shells that the clams were cooked in.

Remove clams from shells and grind or coarsely chop.

Sauté shallots in butter until soft about 3 minutes.
Add flour to make your roux and cook about 3 minutes.

Add the rest of the ingredients to the liquid the clams were cooked in.

Next add the roux, cook until thick, then add the clams.
If the mixture seems too thick, add a little of the clam juice from reserved canned clam juice.

Let this mixture cool for a few minutes.


2 cups of fresh bread crumbs
1 cup of milk crackers
¼ lb. Butter
1 clove of finely chopped garlic
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
1/4 cup finely chopped celery
1/8 tsp. celery seed
1/8 tsp. onion powder
1/8 tsp. Italian seasoning which consists of marjoram, thyme, rosemary, savory, sage, oregano, and basil.
1/2 cup fresh parmesan cheese

Melt butter in a large frying pan. Add onions, garlic and celery to pan and sauté until soft ( about three minutes). Add seasonings and parmesan cheese. Cook about one minute.
Turn off heat, add bread and cracker crumbs.

With a tablespoon, put clam mixture into clam shells, not over-flowing the shell.

Now top with crumbs.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes on a baking sheet until the clams are golden brown. Serve with fresh lemon wedges.

*You can make the clams up ahead of time and refrigerate for up to three days.  They also freeze very well and can be kept frozen for up to three months.    If frozen, it’s best to thaw before cooking.*

This is my plate of clams…..I dug in the minute I could!

Thank you again Clark for sharing your recipes with us and I look forward to shooting another episode soon!

Lily’s Springtime Shortbread Cookies video from how2heroes!

Here’s the link to Lily’s awesome and easy Springtime shortbread cookies video that she did with how2heros last week.  They came to our house and shot her cooking in my Mom’s kitchen and she had a ball.  Because I don’t know how to imbed the video unless it is on youtube, all I can provide you with is the link so here goes:

The recipe is on the same page and it would be a great rainy day project for today!  Enjoy and if you watch, please leave a comment and I will be sure to share them with my girl–I am very proud of her!

Simple Spring Cream of Asparagus Soup

Hi friends!  Even though today is a little rough with that nasty wind and probably even a wind chill, here’s a nice easy seasonal soup for Spring and perhaps a first course at Easter Dinner on Sunday.

This soup came out really well.  Next time I make it I will probably substitute leeks for the onions and perhaps cut of the tips off the asparagus for garnish on top of the soup (that is a nice little tip from Chef Clark Dexter when I told him about my soup–you cook them in boiling salted water for about 3-4 minutes) but all in all, it came out really delicious.  My Dad, who is a big fan of asparagus has eaten practically the whole batch.

Simple Spring Cream of Asparagus Soup

2 1/2 pounds asparagus, woody stems peeled and spears cut in to 1” pieces*
2 cups chopped sweet onion
3 tablespoons butter
6 cups chicken broth–I used homemade but store bought is just fine
3/4  to 1 cup sour cream
Salt and pepper to taste

In a heavy bottomed pot (at least 4 quart) over medium heat, cook onions until tender and translucent, about 8-10 minutes.

Add asparagus an chicken broth and boil covered until asparagus is very tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Puree soup in small batches in a blender or food processor or with an immersion (stick) blender until smooth.

Stir in sour cream to taste and re-season with salt and pepper.  You can use low or reduced fat sour cream if desired.

And that’s it!  Serve immediately.  Makes about 8ish one cup servings and keeps refrigerated for about a week.  Enjoy!

*I used one bunch of whole spears and the peeled ends of three bunches that we had for dinner the night before because I am too frugal to throw things away

Two things: 1.I need your vote and 2. I am looking for new show ideas!

Happy Wednesday!  I need your help in this contest.  I know that GMG is everywhere and has lots of readers and this Cape Ann Girl needs some voting love from you.  My Spiced Cranberry Pumpkin Minis with Cashew Butter can win me some cash if I get the most votes by Friday night.  Easy to vote-simply go to:

and go to the top of the page to “Recipe Contest” and then “Vote”

You do have to register but they are not going to send you a ton of junk emails. You can print out the recipe for yourself from the page if you want to as well—thank you so much!

And now on to part two—Between cook offs, holidays, moving to a new place, life, vacations (no, not mine), cooking trips, new hips (again, not mine) and regular everyday life it has been a very very long time since I have shot a show–last Fall to be exact!

However, we are all in luck–my first guest of the year is going to be the famous Clark Dexter!  We are making baked stuffed clams from the Hearthside days and he will be sharing the recipe with us.  I will have all of the details on my blog and here on GMG before the show airs on Cape Ann TV.

Of all of the shows I have done, whenever I am out and about and people talk to me about Inspired Cooking, the comment I hear over and over again is how much people love watching Clark, hearing his stories and seeing him make his delicious food.  I love that stuff!

Does anyone else come to mind that you might like to see on Inspired Cooking?  I love suggestions.  And they don’t have to be professional chefs.  How about someone who makes the best cookies or cake you have ever eaten?  Someone who has developed a recipe that they want to share?  A neighborhood legend who makes the best bread or  sauce ever?  I want to highlight those people on Cape Ann and beyond and I need your help to find them.

Please send me an email at or comment on this post with your ideas.

Now that Spring has Sprung hopefully I will be posting more regularly.  Thanks again for your voting support and please, keep those ideas coming!  Laurie

Recipes from Saturdays Home and Business Expo from Lily and Laurie

Good afternoon friends!

Thank you all so much for coming out to see our food demos at the Expo on Saturday.  It meant a lot to have you there and I am so glad that both Lily and I made lots of samples to hand out–you guys were hungry!

So here is the recipe I promised you all.   Remember, if you and your family are not fans of a particular ingredient, feel free to substitute or opt not to add whatever it is.  Just as long as you like pasta, cheese and some spices and some type of veggies you will be ok!

Please feel free to email me with any questions and I will happily help you!  And if you make either of these, please let us know what you think.

Kid Friendly Southwestern Mac & Cheese4 tablespoon canola or olive oil, divided
1 cup diced red, green, yellow bell peppers (use whatever you like)
1 cup diced sweet onion
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon sweet chili powder
1 tablespoon granulated garlic (or garlic powder)
1 cup corn kernels (canned or frozen defrosted is fine)
1 cup drained rinsed canned black beans
2-14.5 oz boxes Pasta Plus (yellow, purple or green box) Pasta
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 1/2 cups 1% milk
3 cups shredded reduced fat Mexican blend cheese
2 cups shredded reduced fat cheddar cheese
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
3 tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro
1 cup crushed reduced fat tortilla chips
Salt & pepper to taste 

In a medium skillet over medium, heat one tablespoon of canola oil until shimmering.  Add peppers and onions and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add spices and toss or stir to coat, cooking for a few more minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in corn and black beans.  Set aside.

In a large pot, cook pasta in well salted water.  Drain, toss with a bit of oil to prevent sticking and set aside.

In a large sauce pan, combine remaining 3 tablespoons of oil with flour and whisk over medium heat until lightly browned.  Slowly whisk in milk and bring to a low boil, whisking constantly.  Reduce heat to low and slow incorporate all of the shredded cheese.  Stir until smooth and creamy.  Add white pepper and check seasoning of sauce–add salt and pepper to taste.

Add cooked pasta and vegetables to the cheese sauce and stir to combine.  Stir in chopped cilantro and top with crushed tortilla chip crumbs (if ready to serve).   Serve immediately or transfer to an oven safe dish, wrap tightly and freeze.  Enjoy!

And now for Lily’s fabulous:

Chocolate Strawberry Goodness Pie

One package chocolate graham crackers (about 10 crackers), crushed to yield about 1 1/2 cups
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup melted butter
l-large box instant chocolate fudge pudding (uses 2 1/2 cups milk to make the whole box)
2 1/2 cups 1% milk
8 oz (one cup) semisweet chocolate
5 whole strawberries plus 2 cups chopped
Whipped creamCombine graham cracker crumbs, sugar and butter in the food processor or in a large bowl and mix well until combined.   Press into 9” pie plate.  Bake at 375 for 10 minutes.  Cool completely.
Combine pudding mix and milk and whisk until combined.  Refrigerate until ready to use. 

Melt chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave and stir until smooth and creamy.  Paint the cooled crust with the melted chocolate and dip the whole strawberries in the chocolate to coat.  Set berries aside on parchment paper to harden and cool.

When ready to assemble pie, spread sliced strawberries over chocolate coating on pie crust.  Spoon prepared pudding over strawberries and smooth.

Decorate pie as desired and garnish with chocolate covered strawberries and whipped cream.

Here it is….the Wild Card Finale of the Moovision Cook Off and the giveaway winners

Hi Friends!

This is the final episode of the Gourmoo Cook Off that I participated in last December in California, the Wild Card round.  As one of the remaining two contestants I was able to choose one final recipe, made with lactose free Lactaid Milk of course, to wow the judges and hopefully win a culinary dream vacation sponsored by Lactaid Milk.

Congratulations to Morena–she is a wonderful girl and a great cook and I am so proud of her.  She is taking a culinary vacation to Thailand to see her Father and I couldn’t be happier for her.  She is a talented cook who does a great job showcasing the food of her culture and I am honored to have cooked with her.

And now for the giveaway.  Remember, I randomly chose the winner from comments left here on GMG and on my blog,  And the winners are:

Donna Marie of Topsfield who wins the $25.00 Amazon Gift Card


Kathy Gentile of Gloucester wins the free Lactaid Milk coupons.

I will contact both of you (or you can contact me at so that I can get your prizes to you.  Thanks everyone for your great comments and support!

Episode #4 of the Gourmoo Cook Off–the Dessert Round–and a giveaway!

Hi Friends:

Here is the second to last episode of the Gourmoo Cookoff, the dessert round.  Check out the episode, our dessert creations and then after watching, let me know what you might have made with the delicious lactose free dairy products made by Lactaid and a one hour time frame.

Leave your comment below and on Tuesday, March 22nd I will make two random draws from all of the comments left here on GMG and on my blog and will award two winners with great prizes.  One winner will receive a $25.00 Amazon gift card, sponsored by Lactaid Milk, and one winner winner will get three (3) free Lactaid Milk coupons.

You can gain additional entries into my giveaway by tweeting or sharing this post on Facebook.  Just make sure you leave an extra comment indicating that you have done so.

Here’s the episode and

good luck in the giveaway!

Pet Portrait Event to Benefit Cape Ann Animal Aid

Pet Portrait Event 

Underwood Photography will be holding a portrait event for your pet(s) to help raise money for the Cape Ann Animal Aid.
Saturday and Sunday, March 26th and 27th 9am-4pm

Package includes one 30-minute portrait session and one 5×7“ portrait for $49 plus one bag of dry pet food or can of wet food that Underwood Photography will donate to the shelter.

1/2 of the fee goes to Cape Ann Animal Aid and 10% of all additional proceeds goes to CAAA

Each pet receives a pet goodie bag with items from supporting businesses.

Portrait sessions must be booked in advance.  Please call 978-768-7472 for more information or to book your appointment.

Episode #3 of the Gourmoo Cook Off………the Entree Round

Hi friends.  Here’s episode three of the Gourmoo cook off that I participated in last December.  As you will see the competition was tough but I was proud of my dish, even though I did under cook the beautiful fish that Steve Connolly Seafood generously shipped out there for me.  But who wins this round?  You have to watch to find out!

Will be posting the next round tomorrow or Thursday, along with a generous giveaway from Lactaid Milk…….stay tuned!

Round one of the Gourmoo Cook Off–check it out!

Hi Friends!

No, I didn’t get stuck head first in a snow bank or lost in a blizzard…..these last few months have been chaotic and wonderful at the same time and it is time to finally come up for air……….and write a quick new post.  Getting settled in our new apartment and all is well 🙂

I know that some of you new that I went to the Gourmoo Cook off sponsored by Lactaid Milk the first week in December but if you didn’t know that, you do now :-).  I have to say, wearing flip flops in December was a real treat.

So, without further delay, here is the first installment in the series, the Appetizer Round:

PS–Steve Connolly Seafood shipped those gorgeous scallops out to California for me!  🙂  Thank you!

The perfect day for seafood chowder and yet another contest complete with recipe

Since Joey is stuck in Florida I am stepping up with another post this week, complete with recipe and a voting request, of course!  I have entered this recipe in the New England Country Soup “Ours vs. Yours” Challenge.  The object of the contest is to create a soup using some of the basic ingredients of the New England Country Soup (in this case, milk/cream, clams and potatoes) and if I make it to the cook off, judges will compare my soup to the New England Country Soup Clam Chowder for taste and nutritional value.

So, in order to get to the cook off, I need some easy clicks to vote please–and here’s the link:

You can vote daily through February 13th and there is no registration/information sharing necessary–I appreciate the support!

And here’s the recipe for you:

New England Clam and Seafood Chowder with Handmade Oyster Crackers

6 ounces finely diced salt pork
1 cup water plus more for boiling potatoes
3 pounds steamer clams
3 pounds diced skin on potatoes
2 cups diced sweet onion
1/4 cup salted butter
3/4 cup all purpose flour
8 cups clam broth
1 pound sea scallops cleaned and cut in to bite size pieces
1 pound peeled and deveined large shrimp
1 pound cod fillet, cut in to bite size pieces
1 pound chopped sea clams in liquid
6 cups whole milk
1-12 oz can evaporated milk
1 pound cooked lobster meat, cut in to bite sized pieces
1-2 teaspoons salt, to taste
3/4 teaspoon white pepper

In a heavy bottomed large pot or Dutch oven, render salt pork over medium low heat.  Remove crispy bits with a slotted spoon, allowing drippings to remain in the pan.  Add diced onions and butter and cook until onions are tender, stirring occasionally.  When onions are cooked, stir in flour to make a roux.  Cook and stir until flour turns light brown.

Boil potatoes in another pot until fork tender.  Drain and set aside.

In the meantime add one cup water to another large pan and steam clams, covered, until open over medium high heat.  When cool enough to touch, shuck the clams, clean and rinse in the water they were steamed in.  Set clams aside and strain broth through cheesecloth to filter out and grit and rinse the pan if necessary.

Add clam broth to filtered clam steaming water and bring to a simmer.  Add the scallops to the simmering broth and cook until just firm.  Remove from broth with a slotted spoon and set aside.   Repeat procedure with shrimp and cod and set aside.  Slowly whisk in hot cooking liquid into the roux and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and whisk in chopped clams and their liquid.

Stir in milk and evaporated milk and cooked lobster meat.  Add the cooked potatoes, steamers, shrimp, scallops and fish to the pan and slowly heat to serving temperature.  Season to taste with salt and stir in the white pepper.  If desired, finely chop cooked pieces of reserved salt pork and sprinkle it over individual servings of the chowder.

Serve topped with handmade oyster crackers and enjoy!

Homemade Oyster Crackers

2 ¼ teaspoons yeast
½ cup lukewarm water
½ teaspoon sugar
3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt, plus more for sprinkling if desired
1/2 cup cold butter, cut in to cubes
2 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
In a small bowl, combine yeast, water and sugar. Stir to combine and set aside until mixture is frothy and yeast is activated.
In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour and salt. Process for one minute to mix and aerate. Add butter and pulse until small crumbs form. With processor running, pour yeast mixture through feed tube. Process until a soft dough forms.
Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead in a little addition flour if dough is sticky. Roll out the dough as thin as possible into a rectangle. Fold in the long sides of the dough to the center and repeat with the ends to form a smaller rectangle. Roll out thin again and repeat this procedure two more times. Roll out one final time to a 9” x 11” rectangle.
Brush top of dough very lightly with milk and sprinkle very lightly with additional salt if desired. With a pastry cutter, cookie cutter or knife, cut crackers in to ½” – 1” squares or shapes as desired. Place crackers on prepared baking sheets. Bake for 12-15 minutes until lightly browned. Slide parchment off of baking sheet and allow to cool. Serve with seafood chowder. These can be made days ahead if necessary as they keep well stored at room temperature in an airtight container.

Calling All Local Artists! 2nd Annual “Messy Art Night” is Friday, February 4th

The Essex PTO is searching for local artists to participate in the second annual Messy Art Night on Friday, Feb. 4th from 5-8pm.   Do you know anyone who would enjoy sharing their talent and love of art with kids for an evening? It’s a fantastic event that’s open to the public.  I’ve attached a brief summary that you can forward on to people who might be interested.  Thanks for the help and I hope you will come to the event.  It’s so much fun!  — Jess

MESSY ART NIGHT INVITATION–here are the details:

It is time for the second annual Messy Art Night in Essex on Feb 4th!   Last year’s event was a huge success.  Over fifteen local artists showed off their work to 150 excited kids and parents, taught them to try new techniques and helped them have fun making their own art.  It was amazing!  We hope you will join us this year!

We have two goals for the night:

  • To publicize the vibrant art world in and around Cape Ann
  • To inspire Essex residents to create their own art by trying a variety of artistic mediums and techniques.

This year, Messy Art Night is scheduled Friday, Feb 4th from 5-8pm. All of the festivities will be held in the cafeteria and hallways of Essex Elementary School.  We expect 200 people to attend and move freely from station to station talking with artists and trying out a variety of techniques. The price for the evening will be $5 per person, which we expect to cover our costs.

If you would like to participate this year, please let me know before January 14th. Also, if you know of any other artists whom we should invite, please let me know.  We would love to expand our offerings!  If you have any questions, please feel free to email or call me at 978-768-0142.  Thank you for your interest!

Jess Yurwitz Essex PTO President

A pot of corn chowder for Lily

As it often happens, the hustle and bustle of the holiday season ends with my girl sniffling and blowing her nose, wrapped on the couch in quilts and this year was no exception.  When I asked her what she would like for dinner she said corn chowder so I figured the least I could do to make her feel better is whip up a batch.  So here is the end result:

Corn Chowder for Lily

8 cups chicken broth
3 pounds potatoes, washed and diced
8 oz bacon, diced
1 large sweet onion, diced
1/2 cup diced celery
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1/2 cup all purpose flour
4-15 oz cans corn, drained
2-15.25 oz cans creamed corn
1/2 gallon 2% or whole milk
1 pint heavy cream
1/4 to 1/2 cup Wondra flour (optional)
White pepper to taste
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

In a large Dutch oven or stock pot, bring diced potatoes to boil in chicken stock.  Allow to cook until fork tender but not soft.  Be sure to check doneness after about 7 minutes.

Set yourself up a colander with a bowl or pan underneath to catch the chicken broth when you drain the potatoes.  Drain potatoes and set them and the cooking broth aside.

In the Dutch oven render the bacon over medium low heat until the meat is crispy.  Remove the meaty bits with a slotted spoon and set them aside.

Increase heat to medium and add the onion, celery and thyme and season with a bit of salt and pepper.  Sprinkle in the flour and allow vegetables to cook down until softened, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add drained corn to pan and stir to combine.  Cook for a few more minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the reserved chicken broth and the creamed corn to the pot and bring to a simmer.  Add the milk (you don’t have to add all of it) and the heavy cream.

At this point you can slowly whisk in the Wondra flour by sprinkling it slowly in to the liquid, whisking constantly.  The Wondra flour will give the chowder a lovely “velvety” consistency–I learned this little trick from Gail “ The Chowder Lady” Matthews.

Bring the chowder to serving temperature, add some white pepper if you want to and re-season with salt and pepper and use the crispy bacon as garnish in individual bowls or just put it back into the pot and stir.

And look at that–Lily is feeling better–I think the soup helped!



Ladies, gentlemen and kids of all ages–fire up those ovens and bring your holiday cookies to Gloucester City Hall on Saturday, December 11th at 1:00pm for the second annual Good Morning Gloucester Holiday Cookie Contest to benefit The Open Door Food Pantry.

Entry fee is $5.00 and two non-perishable food items for The Open Door.

And here are the rules:

You may enter more than one type of cookie but you must donate $5.00 and two non-perishable food items per entry.

Your entries will be judged on the following criteria by qualified food professionals and local notables, all with excellent taste buds:

Taste 40%

Appearance (of cookies and overall presentation) 20%

Texture 20%

Overall Appeal of cookies 20%

And now, the particulars:

You may decorate and garnish your entries with holiday flair as desired, 12 cookies per plate please–presentation is important!

No professional bakers/chefs or culinary arts students allowed to enter please.

No mixes allowed.  All entries must be from scratch.

Three legible copies of recipe must accompany all entries. Please include name, address and telephone number on the BACK of each sheet.  Recipes may be reproduced.  If your recipe is not original (your personal creation), please attribute its origin.

Judging will begin promptly at 1:30 and will conclude when all entries have been judged.  Announcement of the winners will follow the conclusion of judging.

You do not have to be present for announcement of the winners, but it will be more fun if you are.

The decisions of the judges are final.

All cookie entries will be packaged and donated to The Open Door the night of the event.

I am assembling prizes now so if you have something foodie/local/fun you would like to donate to the prize baskets, please let me know.    There will be adult first, second and third prizes and prizes for the kids too!

If you have any additional questions please feel free to email me at and I will help you.

Making Salmon and Dilled Potato Pie with Jerry from Cape Ann Pies–YUM!

Hi Everyone–I’m back after a whirlwind couple of weeks–cookoff madness but more on that later. I went to the world headquarters of Cape Ann Pies on Rockport last week to visit with all around nice guy and amazing baker/cook Jerry Ryan.

Apologies right off the bat here for lack of pictures in this post but my pics and myself are separated at this very moment and I cannot access them. Will add the pics tomorrow but wanted to get this recipe out for today as the show is airing on Cape Ann TV tonight at 8:30. Watch the show–Jerry is full of helpful hints to make pie making much easier and take the mystery out of making your own crust.

When I tell you that the afternoon slipped by like it was five minutes, I am not exaggerating. Jerry and I could have talked about pie crust, baking and quick breads until sunset for sure. He is very knowledgable about baking and cooking general and I advise you to make this savory salmon pie asap. His crust recipe is here too–a bonus for all of us–and we are so lucky to have him and his Cape Ann Pies in our community.

Salmon and dilled potato pie

This recipe is for a 10” deep dish pie. Serves at least 8 if you slice it into 8 generous slices.

Pie Dough — top and bottom crusts

White flour 2 cups, gently sweeped (11 ounces)

Salt 1 tsp

Sugar, white granulated ¼ cup (about 2 ounces)

Butter, cubed, chilled 8 ounces (two sticks)

Water, chilled 5 ounces (maybe. Depends on many factors)

 Filling—for a deep 10” glass pie plate.

Salmon– 1.5 lbs fish

Potatoes, red, par boiled and cubed 12 ounces (about 1.5 cups)

White onion, rough chopped

Half a medium sized onion

Celery, rough chopped About 1.5 cups

Carrots, peeled, rough chopped About 1 cup

Garlic, minced 1 tablespoon

Thyme 1 teaspoon

Dill 1 teaspoon

Salt 1 teaspoon (maybe more to suit your taste)

Pepper ½ teaspoon

Olive oil 2 tablespoons (at least)

Water 2 cups

Chicken stock 12 -14 ounces

Whole pepper corns 4

Bay leaf 1 or 2

Make the pie dough crusts first if you’d like. Or not. Mix dry ingredients thoroughly. Add the butter to the dry ingredients and dump it on a clean surface. With the tips of your fingers, press the pieces of butter down and away, creating flakes. Do this over and Over until your fingers hurt. Touch the butter as little as possible. Once the butter is mixed in and you’ve got flakes and small bits of butter/flour, it’s time to add water.

Create a depression in the center of the dough pile and add the water to this depression. Now you’ve got a pool. Mix the dry ingredients a little at a time to this very cold water. Add a tablespoon of water at a time if you need to bring the dough together. Mix just enough so the dough and hold together relatively well. It’s ok if there’s some dry flour.

Cut the ball of dough in to two halves and wrap with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least an hour.

Make the Filling Bring water, bay leaf, crushed whole pepper corns, (and a wedge of lemon if you’d like) to a simmer. Add salmon for maybe 2 minutes at a simmer. Remove and dry. Save 1 cup fish water for the filling.

Add olive oil to another pan. Heat the oil. Add carrots, celery. Let them cook awhile till you can smell them. Add the garlic and the dill, thyme, salt, pepper. Let cook until everything is soft. Don’t burn the garlic.

Add the potatoes and keep cooking. Add the chicken stock, 1 cup fish stock and the salmon. Mix it all together and cook. Add more liquid if you’d like. Cook and then cool completely before filling pie.

Prepare Pie

Take out the dough and roll a top and bottom crust. Place one dough in the pie plate (best to use glass) and fill this with the fish and dilled potato filling. Cover with the second crust and crimp and make it look nice. Brush with egg white.

Place in pre-heated 350 oven for one hour. Check the bottom of the pie to make sure it’s browned. Add more cooking time if necessary. Maybe lower the oven temp 25 degrees and more to lowest rack. Remove. Let cool for 20 minutes before serving.

This was one of the most delicious savory pies I have ever tasted in my whole life and I had to restrain myself from eating more than one piece…..

Seafood Throwdown at the Rockport Harvest Festival

When Heather Atwood from Food for Thought and the Gloucester Daily Times called me early in the week and told me that they were looking for a competitor for the Seafood Throw down because one of the hotel chefs was unable to compete, it took me about 5 minutes and a little convincing from Heather to say “what the heck, I’ll do it!”  In the last few months I have been involved in two live cook offs, one in Newport, RI and one in Chicago (more on that another time) and sent recipes to cooking contests at least once or twice a week–you could say that competition is in my blood I guess.   I was told that I could bring an assistant, someone to help me out with the cooking and chaos and together we would hope to create the winning dish.  Who would be available and willing to subject themselves to this type of competition at the last minute?

When I told my 9 year old Lily that I was doing a Throwdown in Rockport on Saturday the first thing she asked me was, “who is going to be your assistant” and that answered my question right there—I pointed right at her.  She leaped up from her chair and gave me a giant hug and the smile on her face was priceless.  Lily loves  to cook!

Here’s Lil before the action got underway posting with the shredded money scarecrow in front of the bank.

The fun thing about these Throwdowns is the mystery seafood.  Although Lily is allergic to all seafood–fish and shellfish–I figured that she could deal with other elements of the dish so that was the plan.  And as for plans, we talked about what we could make with a fillet, a fish steak, lobster, mussels and even steamers and we felt pretty good about our strategy.  I was assured that because I had not gone to culinary school and have absolutely no formal training I would not have to contend with a whole fish–whatever the secret ingredient was, it would be ready to cook.   We packed the car with ingredients, equipment including my Cuisinart, pans, bowls, tongs, spatulas, you name it……we were ready!  And also a list for the grocery store to grab perishables on the way.

We arrived at the big tent on T wharf and since we had a few hours before the competition, Lil and I enjoyed the Rockport Harvest Festival for a while.  Even though it was really really blustery people seemed in good spirits and there were lots of people in town enjoying the festivities.   And then, it was time to cook.  The classic comment from Lily was “look Mom, I’m getting my game face on!” with a big growl after it……..

Here is Heather Atwood and Sandy Farrel introducing the competitors–it was me and Lil against Chef Steve Ryan from the Emerson Inn ( in Rockport and his chef brother.  But we were undaunted–we had a plan for almost anything and we were sticking to it……..remember that……..a plan for ALMOST anything…….

and the secret seafood is…..JONAH CRAB!  Ooops…we didn’t have a plan for that.  As a matter of fact I had never cooked a crab in my entire life.  And I rarely eat them, as delicious as they are.

But we forged on.  With a few little tips from our judges and our audience we got the crabs going.  Whenever I watch a cooking challenge show on TV I get nervous if the contestants don’t get their protein on quickly–these things take time to cook and deal with.  With the crabs in the pot I had time to think………..until one tried to escape!

So I put a pile of pans on top of the baking sheet and that was the end of that!

We got some claws and whole crabs cooked and in the meantime, Lily was working on the grilled sweet potatoes.  It was a very important job and she did it beautifully.  I also cleaned and stemmed the rainbow chard and got it ready to cook.

Lily was the most wonderful assistant possible.  However, we were at a distinct disadvantage—Lily is allergic to all seafood and therefore couldn’t help me pick the meat out of the crabs.  So I got down to it.  And cracked shells, and picked meat and cracked more and picked more—I wasn’t making much progress but it gave me time to think about what i was going to do with this meat–and I decided to make crab cake but needed a heck of a lot more meat to do so.

And then our great friend Jannine and her husband Dan showed up at the back of the tent to cheer us on—and asked me if I needed help.  Since Lil was allergic it was determined that because I had a disadvantage that Jannine could come in an pick the crabs for me–and thank goodness for her!  I now owe her big time!  She picked enough for me to make six gorgeous cakes.

I had Lily prepping ingredients for the cakes, zesting lemons, chopping herbs etc.  We didn’t want to do too much to the crab because like with most delicate seafood, you don’t want to mask its natural flavor.  Luckily, I had brought eggs, panko crumbs and herbs from my garden with me and we went for it.  Remember–I said we were prepared for everything!

I formed the cakes gently (the secret to good crab cakes), heated some olive oil and placed them in the pan.  I gave them time to brown, held my breath and flipped them over—and voila!  Gorgeous!

I whipped up a sauce in the food processor (yes, I dragged it all the way down there) using more herbs and olive oil etc., heated the honey glaze for the beautiful grilled sweet potatoes that Lily had made and seasoned the chard that had been cooking with the shallots and garlic.

We were ready to plate–and await our fate.  But win, lose or drawn it was an amazing day—and I could not be more proud of my girl Lily for her skill and help and more thankful to my friend Jannine for pitching in to help when I needed her (desperately) and being a great friend!  And this is the plate we came up with:

Yes, I should have put a lemon wedge or something in the middle of the plate because the blank space looks funny, but I was pretty darned proud of our efforts.  The judges, two wonderful men from Rockport, Bill Lee and Bob Smith, with vast experience in both cooking and eating local seafood were the judges.  And I must say, before we go any farther, how terrific our competition was–Chef Steve and his brother, also a local culinary professional, produced a gorgeous plate, using the meat of the crabs and the shells and bodies to make a stock and produced a gorgeous plate–they also made a crab cake and a crabmeat stuffed crab shell–but because I was cooking I didn’t get a picture of it!  The were wonderful, friendly generous guys who were as honored to be there as we were and I would say had as much fun as we did–and they had a great time with Lily too, not taking themselves or the competition too seriously for sure–they were terrific competitors!

Anyway,  it all came down to the judging–and this is what happened–thank you to my friend Donna Ardizzoni for the great video!

I am so proud of my girl,  grateful to my friend Jannine and so happy to have been part of the ThrowDown!

Food Feuds In Essex–the Great Fried Clam Battle Airs Tonight–It’s CLAMTASTIC!

“Iron Chef, Michael Symon dives into this seafood battle head first. In Essex Massachusetts ( it’s all about fried clams but Woodman’s and JT Farnhams make them better than anyone else. Michael Symon jumps in their kitchens, talks to foodies and even goes clamming to figure out who has best fried clams in Essex.”

I grabbed this blurb about tonight’s episode from Internet Movie Database online because it pretty much sums up the action that took place here in our gorgeous town in July—but I have a few behind the scenes photos to share with you, courtesy of the wonderful crew at Essex River Cruises ( who took Chef Symon to the clam flats to see where these delicious fried morsels of seafood goodness came from.

Iron Chef Michael, Dillon from Essex River Cruises and the TV crew prepare for the clam digging–looks like they are waiting for the tide to go out a little more to me.

Receiving instruction on how to dig for clams–and it is a good thing because that clam fork is pointed and sharp!

Iron Chef Symon finds a razor clam.

Something you don’t see to often and might never again–makeup touch ups on the clam flats.

Chef Symon, Producer Mark Summers and the crew.

As much as I wanted to be there, I was taping my TV own show that day.  However, I asked a friend who works at Woodman’s to get me an autograph, and she did–thank you Roisin–and thank you Chef for taking the time to sign it:

I love what is says!

The fried clam was invented in Essex so this was the perfect place for such a food feud for sure!  Here is a link to they history of the friend clam

and in the interest of fairness, here’s a link to JT Farnham’s listing on the Visit Essex dining page:

Be sure to tune in at 10:oo pm Eastern Time tonight to Food Network and find out who wins this epic battle of the fried clam.

I know………….but I am not telling!

Here’s a blue ribbon winner from the Fair….Sweet Sesame Crusted Shrimp with Asian Ginger Garlic Sauce

You know I love the Fair.  Lil and I spend a ton of time there during the 11 days volunteering, seeing friends, eating and having fun competing in the food contests in Coolidge Hall.  We both were very lucky this year and did well in the competitions and are so grateful for our good fortune!

If you think that the competition is not tough at the Fair you are mistaken.  There are women and a few men who compete in the food competitions in Coolidge Hall that have enough ribbons to make a giant blanket and probably paper one wall of their house–my friends Jannine Fisk, Donna Marie Ryan, Susan Laurence, Deb Stewart, Sheryl James are included in that group and so many more.  I didn’t even know these ladies a few years ago but they accepted me in to their circle of “Fair Weather Friends” and my life, and Lily’s,  has been enriched by them in so many ways since I joined their ranks in 2007.  Going to the Fair, seeing our friends and lots of friendly competition make us look forward to the first week in October every year.

There are competitions every weeknight and weekend days throughout the Fair.  The week started off this year with Fleishmann’s Yeast “Bake for the Cure” which I was thrilled to place third (  On Tuesday, Pillsbury Pie Crust Championship came an went without any ribbons for me but my friend Susan Laurence brought home the blue ribbon and I was thrilled–her pie was a lovely creation loaded with strawberries and just gorgeous, topped with chocolate curls–maybe I can pry the recipe out of her?

Wednesday rolled around and it was time for one of my favorite contests, Make it With Malto-O-Meal Cereal Contest.  As you know, I love to both cook and bake and this is my chance to give up the rolling pin for the night and cook.  Malt O Meal is a low cost cereal sold at some grocery stores and discount chains and the varieties offered mimic some of the most popular brand name cereal in the aisles today.  They have their own version of frosted flakes and that is what I chose for my creation.  I decided to do a crusted shrimp but I knew that the sweetness of the cereal needed to be tamed.   I added some panko breadcrumbs and toasted sesame seeds and created a delicious appetizer that the judges liked enough to award me the blue ribbon!

Here’s the recipe and a few pictures—the ribbon comes with a nice little cash prize as well and I am still very excited to have won!

Sweet Sesame Crusted Shrimp with Asian Ginger Garlic Sauce

2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger root
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1/4cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoons honey
1 clove minced garlic
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoon chopped scallions for garnish

Whisk together ginger root, sesame oil, soy sauce, vinegar honey and garlic in a bowl.  Set aside for 30 minutes.  Strain sauce through a fine sieve and serve with shrimp.

2 cup Malt O Meal Frosted Flakes
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 cup sesame seeds
12 large shrimp, peeled and de-veined
1 egg white
1/4 cup canola oil

In the bowl of a food processor, process Malt-O-Meal cereal, panko crumbs and salt.  Add sesame seeds, pulse once to combine and pour prepared mixture in to a shallow dish and set aside.

In a medium bowl, toss together shrimp and egg white. Crust shrimp, four to six at a time, in crumbs and press crumbs on to shrimp to adhere if necessary. Set aside when coated and repeat procedure with remaining shrimp.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Cook shrimp, six at a time in a single layer in pan and cook for 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Remove shrimp from oil and drain on a flattened brown paper bag. Repeat with remaining shrimp and serve with Asian Ginger Garlic Sauce.  Garnish with chopped scallions.