Pear Butter

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When the temperature drops below freezing, and the snow has been falling for hours (or days!), there's no better way to help make the house feel warm and cozy than having the sweet smells of cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg waft through your home. Fruit butter (apple butter, pear butter and the like) takes hours of slow simmering on the stove. It also needs to be stirred every 15-20 minutes or so, so it doesn't get stuck on the bottom of the pot. So when you are staying at home on a snowy day, or just staying at home "because" - that is the time to make this deliciously fragrant and silky pear butter. The original recipe is from my brother, Ari M. Sobel. Ari is a Culinary Institute of America-trained chef extraordinaire! I have adapted the recipe and made some changes that suit my tastes. It's very flexible. You can use whatever fruit you like: apples, pears, a combination of the two. Or, in the summer, use plums, nectarines, peaches. You can add strawberries or blueberries. You can use all the spices I've added, or just cinnamon - or leave them out entirely. Use your imagination!

My Friend Lynn’s Rustic Apple Cranberry Tart

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My friend Lynn Burton is a wonderful baker! She loves to present her friends with wonderful gifts from her kitchen. I had this delicious apple cranberry tart once at her house and she graciously shared the recipe with me. I love it because you can quickly make the pastry dough in the food processor and you can substitute whatever fruit you would like for the filling.

Middle-Eastern Scented Vegetable Stew

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In the middle of a New England snow storm that was threatening to shut down New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and New England for up to three days, I was craving something warm, comforting and sustaining - that wasn't going to take all day to cook. I've been trying to eat healthier as well. So I look for ways to pack those vegetables into my meals: green smoothies loaded with vegetables (and very little fruit so as not to up the glycemic index), turkey meat-loaf "muffins" stuffed with shredded broccoli, carrots and zucchini, "zoodles" - zucchini noodles made with a nifty gadget called a "spiralizer." Anyway, last Monday, I developed this delicious and hearty vegetable stew. Caramelizing the onions and roasting the grape tomatoes is key to adding lots of full-bodied, rich flavour to the stew. It's well worth the time and effort. The Middle Eastern spices waft through the house as it cooks. And you can make it as "hot and spicy" or mild as you like.

Cold Melon Soup Duo

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"Summer time, and the living is easy..." This is the season when we want to eat lightly and not spend hours in the kitchen preparing food that's cool, refreshing, delicious, and beautiful. My dear friends Judy and David introduced me to this delicious and beautiful cold melon soup duo. It's the perfect starter for an easy summer lunch or dinner (or, you can even serve it for dessert with some vanilla ice cream on the side). I've "tweaked" the recipe a bit to suit my taste. What's so wonderful about it, is that the prep time is minimal, but the impact on presentation is huge! It's important, however, to prepare it at least several hours before you plan to serve it (or in the morning). It needs to sit in the fridge for a few hours for two reasons: 1) the flavors need time to "marry"; and 2) it is best served chilled.

Sharon’s Sweet and Spicy Mixed Nuts

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Sometimes you just need a something that's a little sweet, a little salty and a little spicy to have with drinks before dinner. Or to add a little zest to a salad. Or to nibble on for a snack while you are watching the game on TV. Many of the recipes I saw used corn syrup. So I developed my own recipe, using one single beaten egg white, and a combination of flavours and spices. Feel free to use your own spice combination.