Growing up in South Orange, NJ, I had a lot of Jewish friends.  Most of my Jewish friend's mother's were more "order out" gals as opposed to the home cooked meal type, so I didn't really learn any tricks from them!  But just growing up where I did exposed me to: knishes on street carts; lox and cream cheese at every deli; matzah brei; and every self respecting diner in NJ has matzah ball soup on their menu.  Soup is always comforting.  It's warm, you can't gulp it down too fast, so it's a kind of relaxing, and it's filling.  Matzah ball soup also happens to be the only kind of soup my daughter will eat.  Dish it up and enjoy!  XO Martha

When you first drop the matzah balls in they will look puny...don't worry they will puff up!
A few minutes simmering and the matzah balls cook through and puff up.
Here's how I make my Matzah Ball Soup...be forewarned this is not fancy and I take a lot of short cuts!

1 box of matzah ball mix (usually comes with two packages to a box, make both)
3 boxes of organic chicken stock (one of the best inventions ever....or use your own stock.)
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
3 leeks sliced thin
3 carrots chopped up
3 stalks of celery chopped up
1/2 an onion
1 Tablespoon of parsley, fresh or dried
Salt and Pepper

First I follow the directions on the matzah ball box (add eggs oil, water, stir) and mix the matzah meal.  Then put it in the fridge to set up and chill while I start the soup.

Next I put the oil in the bottom of a big soup pot.  While it heats up I start chopping the veggies and toss them into the pot as I go.  Once the veggies are nice and tender (about 7 minutes) add the chicken stock.

While the soup is coming to a boil, get out the chilled matzah meal, wash your hands in cold water and start forming balls.  (Kids are a great help with this.)  I like to make my balls about the size of large walnut.  They "grow" or puff up when they hit the boiling soup, so make sure you don't make 'em too big.  

Drop the balls into the boiling soup, reduce heat, add seasonings, and cover with a tight lid.  Cook for 20 minutes......serve hot!

Corned Beef and Cabbage

Adapted from a recipe supplied to an unknown internet site (long before I knew I should remember that kind of thing) courtesy of a Mrs. Buckeye.  Thank you Mrs. Buckeye.  Whoever you are.

A package of corned beef brisket (whatever size fits your pot)
2 onions, quartered
Tarragon vinegar (or some sort of flavored vinegar)
small potatoes, whole
Carrots, sliced or baby carrots, whole
1 cabbage head sliced
2 cups of water

Combined it all in your pot with the carrots on the bottom and the cabbage on the top.  Cover and cook on low 10-12 hours or high 6-7 hours.  Perfect!

Click here to read more about Sarah's "ethnic" cooking

The key to good soup is making it from scratch.  So start by saving your turkey carcass.  Don't pick it clean, leave a fair amount of meat on the bones...and freeze the carcass, so no one suspects you of serving leftovers!

XO Martha

Pantry Must Haves:
1 Turkey Carcass
1-2 gallons of water
2 onions, chopped
4 carrots, chopped
4 stalks of celery, chopped
1 Turnip (optional) chopped
olive oil
onion salt, pepper, parsley, thyme, bay leaf
1-2 cubes of bouillon or 1-2 tablespoons of "Better than Bouillon" base
      Start by chopping one onion and sautéing it in olive oil on the bottom of a large pot (about 3 minutes).
Next add the frozen (or thawed) carcass to the pot and cover with water.  Add salt, pepper, parsley and thyme and one or two bay leaves, bring to a boil and then let simmer for at least 20 minutes.  Add more water as it boils down.  If your turkey isn't making as flavorful a stock as you'd like, add a little help with a cube of bullion or a spoonful of better than bouillon base.

      Meanwhile prep the other veggies for the soup and chop up the other onion, celery, carrots. Chop up the turnip but set it apart and don't worry about sautéing it...it will need to go into the pot before the other veggies to cook anyway.  Sauté the other veggies until al dente, in a little olive oil and season with salt, pepper and spices. Set aside.
      Strain the stock through a sieve and into another large soup pot.  Return the stock to the stove to continue cooking.  If you want to use turnips, add them to the stock now.  While the turnips start cooking, salvage all the meat from the turkey.  Lots of it will have fallen off the bones and just needs to be pulled into bite size bits.  I usually end up with a big cup full of delicious meat.  Make sure your turnips are starting to soften up and then add the meat back to the stock along with the other veggies.  Bring the soup to a boil and add pasta (or rice if you are cooking for my son...he prefers turkey rice soup).  Follow the package directions for cooking times for the pasta or rice.  Serve hot!
Usually when I make this recipe It turns out looking like "white chili" but whatever I did the other night it wasn't right...too much liquid, and the taste was flat.  So I added a big scoop of tomato paste and a big handful of fresh chopped cilantro....and a new white bean chili was born.  Enjoy XO  Martha
1 lb. ground turkey
1 onion, chopped fine
2 cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 quart (or box) of chicken stock
salt, pepper, chili powder...to taste
A big scoop to 1/2 cup tomato paste
handful of chopped rest cilantro or parsley...whatever you have or prefer.

Chop onion and soften in a big pot with a tablespoon of olive oil, add turkey and cook through.  (Lean turkey meat will not need to be drained.)  Add beans, chicken stock and seasoning.  Bring to a boil and add tomato paste, reduce heat and simmer for a minimum of 10 minutes.  Add fresh cilantro, mixing through chili.  Serve hot!
Tortilla Soup for Amigos
adapted from The Family Dinner
by Laurie David

- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 onions
- 1 large tomato
- 1/2 green pepper
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 8 cups chicken stock
- 2 pounds chicken breasts (double what the original recipe suggests)
- tortilla chips
- avocado
- cheddar cheese grated
- cilantro for garnish

Dice up one onion, 1/2 green pepper and the tomato into a chunky salsa and set aside.  Cut the other onion into wedges.  In a large pot, heat the oil until shimmering.  Add the onion wedges, garlic and cumin.  Saute for 3 or 4 minutes until fragrant.  Add the oregano, salsa, stock and chicken breasts.  Bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat.  Simmer for 15 minutes then remove the chicken breasts.

Add a large handful of crushed up tortilla chips.  Simmer until soft, about 5 minutes.  In a blender, or with a handheld blender, blend the soup until smooth.  This may take a few batches.

Shred the chicken and return to blended soup.  Prepare your toppings - dice up avocado, grate cheese, chop cilantro.
Chili Con Nikki
(Serves 6-8)

1.5 kg beef brisket, trimmed and sliced into 2cm thick pieces
1 cup good coffee
Good pour of olive oil
2 tspn ground cumin
2 tspn smoked paprika
2 tspn dried oregano
1 tspn coriander seed
2 red onions, peeled and diced
3 – 4 fresh chiles (small green ones are good)
2-3 cinnamon sticks
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
Salt and black pepper
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
2 Tbspns brown sugar
75gm darkest chocolate
1 red and 1 yellow pepper, seeded and chopped
2 x 400g tins of beans (kidney, butter or pinto), drained
Sour cream
Large handful chopped parsley or coriander, chopped

Make coffee. 
Put oil in a large casserole pot (with lid) and gently heat on low.  Add cumin, paprika, oregano, coriander seed and onions. Fry for 10 minutes, until the onions soften. De seed and chop your fresh chillies and add to onions and spices.

Add the meat and stir well to coat with onion and spices, and then add cinnamon sticks, garlic, salt and pepper, coffee, tomatoes, sugar and chocolate. Cover casserole dish with lid and simmer for around 31/2 hours, stirring occasionally. 

After a few hours break up the meat and pull it apart using a fork. 
Add the sliced yellow and red peppers and the beans and leave to simmer for 30 minutes with the lid off until the meat is completely falling apart and delicious.  If mixture gets too dry, add a little beef stock, if too runny, leave to cook a bit longer til liquid reduces.

Ideally leave in fridge overnight, bring back to room temperature and heat through before serving.
Sprinkle with fresh herbs and serve with rice, corn chips, corn bread and sour cream.
Beer and Tequila optional!
Chicken, Mushroom and Thyme Casserole
(serves 4)

5- 6 chicken pieces (legs and breasts work well)
1 red onion sliced
1 Tbspn olive oil
2 - 3 cloves of garlic 
salt and pepper
2 cups mushrooms chopped
1 can of mushroom soup (I used Campbells Portobello Mushroom and Madeira Soup*)
1/3 cup of water
Handful fresh thyme, chopped

Brown chicken in oil in a medium casserole or dutch oven. Add onions, garlic and mushrooms and saute until golden.
Add mushroom soup, water and thyme, mix and then cook in oven with lid for approx 1 hour stirring occasionally.

Serve with rice, couscous or mashed potatoes.
This recipe comes from Amanda, one of Sarah's sisters.  It's in her own words and it comes with a few disclaimers: 

*I only use thighs.   I am not a fan of chicken breast.......  kinda like chewing the hide off a buffalo--dry and tough.  Yuck. 

*(I have been waiting years to say this....) I don't measure my seasoning... Does that make me a cook!!!!?????  Ok, not really.... my daughter doesn't measure either or I would have gravy to go with my cold biscuit and eggs........ 

*I also only know how to make a BIG  BIG pot.  You might wanna downsize some if you are just feeding a few lucky souls.  Or you might be eating it for a looooong time. 

*This recipe is best if made the night before so all the flavor and yummy can soak overnight.  Trust me....  yuuummy. 
Blonde Gumbo

12-18 boneless skinless thighs
1 large package of the Zummo sausage (the one that has like 15 links....) 
1 jar chicken boullion cubes
5 green bell peppers
4 red bell peppers
3 yellow bell peppers
1 carton of beef stock
1 1/2 cup oil
about 2 cups, give or take a few flurries, of flour
steak seasoning
minced garlic
salt pepper
4-5 batches of green onions
1 pkg of frozen okra WITH tomatoes.  If that is not available, use a frozen pkg of okra and dice a small tomato.  (the acid in the tomato cuts the slime off the okra) 

You do realize this is making me think and my brain is beyond thinking at this very moment...... 

Boil the chicken with the boullion cubes (the whole jar) add:

about approximately guesstimate......  5-10 shakes of the steak seasoning, salt, and pepper. 

Add 1 tablespoon of minced garlic

While the chicken is boiling to a yummy fall apart need a sieve to take it outta the water softness.... cut up your veggies and sausage. 

Remove chicken from water, add veggies and let boil/simmer for 10 - 15 minutes

Add sausage and let boil/simmer for 10- 15 minutes while you break up your chicken into yummy bite size pieces.  Don't shred it; just break it up. 

Add chicken back into broth

Let that come back up to a slow boil.

In another pan, heat the oil up on medium heat... almost high but not really.  When it is hot, add your flour a bit at a time until you have a thick, curdled look to the whole mess.  If it gets play doh-ey, add some more oil.  You want it pliable, but also want it to "settle" back into a liquid state after you stir it. 

DO NOT..... DO NOT WALK AWAY FROM YOUR ROUX.  It will burn really fast and then it is ruined.  Stir continuously until you have a desired darkness.  Now, remember..... too dark and it is burned.  Too light and you have no flavor.  I prefer tanned..... like my dream me as she strolls down my dream beach in my dream body.... with my dream man.  :)

Add the roux to the pot.  It will bubble and steam... wear oven mitts or prepare to endure the heat.  Youch.  Oh, and don't drop the roux on any body parts... I did that once and ended up with a hole and 15th degree burn on the top of my foot that like to have never healed.  Be careful!!!

I stir my roux in with a wire whisk.  It might appear to be lumpy, just continue to stir.... it will all settle in nicely.  Like my body in my big, soft, comfortable bed. 

Ok... Now let the whole mess settle and cool for a while.  You want all the grease and gunk to rise to the surface so you can skim it off.  This is very important.  You don't want all that gunk in your food while eating....  it is similar to eating slimy slime with some chicken and sausage.   Euuwwwww. 

Let it cool overnight and then in the morning... skim that yuck away again.  Heat and enjoy!!!!!!!

Helpful hint:  If you take some of the stock out BEFORE you add the roux it makes an excellent addition to the rice when you cook it.  Whatever water you use to cook the rice... go 1/2s with the stock (half water/ half stock).

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1 Butternut Squash (peeled & seeded)
1 Onion
2 T olive oil or butter
6 cups (or a box) of Chicken Stock
Salt and Pepper

I used this super easy recipe, with a squash, an onion and chicken broth.  But I added some apple cider when the broth started cooking down faster than the squash cooked.  It added a nice zing.  Since then I've found a bunch of other great ways to "soup" it up even more, like blending in cream cheese or cooking it with other veggies...especially carrots to give it more color or potatoes to help thicken it, or to add sherry for a richer taste.


In a big pot melt the butter or heat the oil.  

Add diced onions and cook about 7 minutes.  

Add the squash diced up in 1 inch chunks and the chicken stock.  

Simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the squash is nice and tender.  

Then remove the solids to a food processor with a slotted spoon and puree.

Return the blended squash and onions to the pot and add seasonings to taste.

I served the soup with "Naan Grilled Cheese" with apples...inspired by Little Red's Halloween supper!


If your family needs some good "homey" cooking; hot, yummy, comfort food: Chicken and Dumplings fits the bill.  Easy and delicious, and you can make it in under 30 minutes!

3 Chicken Breasts, cut in chunks
flour, salt & pepper (to coat chicken)
olive oil
1 onion 
2-3 stalks of celery
2-3 carrots
1 potato
2-4 cups of chicken stock
biscuit mix or can of pre-made biscuits or use a gluten free alternative (I've got a goody I'll share later with y'all!)


I like to cook this recipe in two pans.  I have a great "dutch oven" pot with a lid that is perfect and an oversized frying pan that I cover with tin foil.  If I'm making this to give to a friend for supper I make it in a throw away pan right on the stove top...just really watch the flame if you do this because those pans are super thin and stuff will burn easily.  

Put some olive oil in the pans and get it heating up over a medium flame.

Cut up the chicken and coat the pieces in the flour, salt and pepper.  Start the chicken browning in the pan while you dice the veggies.


Dice the veggies and once the chicken is browned on both sides add them to the pan.  I usually wait to add the potatoes along with the chicken stock.

While the veggies are softening, I make the biscuit dough.  I usually just use a box mix or bisquick. Sometimes to fancy up the biscuits I add fresh parsley to the mix.  Leave the bowl of dough nearby.


Give the pans a good shake or stir the chicken and veggies around and then add the potatoes and chicken stock, about 1-2 cups per pan, plus about a 1/2 cup of water to each pan.  The liquid should almost entirely cover the solids.  Like this picture. <

Once the liquid starts to boil, drop spoonfuls of the biscuit mix on top of the stew and cover the pot.

Reduce the heat and let it simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Serve piping hot! 

Enjoy XO Martha