A Celebration of Food and Food Sustainability Projects

Author: Bonnie Dixon (Page 2 of 2)

Stark Sister’s Maple Almond Granola

I was blessed to interview Debra Stark owner of Debra’s Natural Gourmet in Concord, MA . She was just a delight.

‘Best of Boston’ Boston Magazine and ‘Best Mail Order Food Gift’ The New York Times, are just a few of the rave reviews Stark Sisters has garnered. Bon Appetit called it “one of the best we’ve ever tasted.” Featured in Boston Globe as “Hit of the Week,” Stark Sisters was dubbed “the Ultimate Granola.”

For almond lovers. For maple syrup lovers. For grain lovers. Allergies? Feel free to substitute one grain for another. If you want to use only oats, go for it. Although Debra likes variety and believes each grain brings something different to the table. Yes, use only organic grains. It’s that important!

Stark Sister’s Maple Almond Granola

Makes 12 servings. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

½ C dried unsweetened coconut 1 C barley flakes
3 C sliced almond 1 C maple syrup
2 C rolled oats ¼ C canola or sunflower oil
1 C wheat flakes 1 tsp real vanilla extract
1 C rye flakes ¼ tsp good salt

Mix dry ingredients except for salt in a large bowl. (If you don’t have a large enough bowl, divide between two bowls. For example, 1 C. oats in one bowl, and 1 C. in a second bowl).

Pour wet ingredients over dry and mix well using your hands or a rubber spatula. Add salt and mix again. Make sure all grains are well-coated.

Spread granola in shallow pans and bake until golden brown and dry, about 1½ hours. Stir gently every 15-20 minutes. Baking times vary due to weather, the size of your pans, and your oven.

When granola is dry and golden brown, remove from oven and stir. Let cool completely before storing in airtight containers.

Debra started making this in her shop, right back of the kitchen, and the smell would bring everyone back to the kitchen. Her granola never got a chance to cool because people refused to wait for a portion. When she started making it behind the store in large quantities, the smell of maple syrup and almonds was everywhere in West Concord Masscettussett. It was heavenly.

Although Debra doesn’t make this commercially anymore you can make your own Stark Sisters Granola at home.

Debra just released her book: The Little Shop That Could: A Retailer’s Love Affair with Community and Food? Available on Amazon

Order the Book on Amazon today!

Debra’s Natural Gourmet is a beloved, nationally-known and award-winning natural products shop in Concord, MA. For those people who think running a shop is simple, this is the story about turning on lights, buying a register, putting eggs in the fridge. It’s the story about “Open Sesame!” and the ensuing adventure and funny lessons learned. Running a store is a lot more than just paying for inventory like coconut water and aspirin. Okay. Debra’s Natural Gourmet has no aspirin. And sales of coconut water seem to be waning.

This book starts with childhood and a Mom who raised her family with organic food and natural medicine, who taught her children to question authority and march to their own drummers. This story introduces characters along the way these last 30 years and ends with a community that is strong, comforting and hopeful.

When is a Nut not a Nut?

Image by cgdsro from Pixabay

When it is a Peanut! Peanuts are not even close to being a nut, they are a legume. What is a legume you ask? It is a member of the pea family. Why are they called peanuts? Well, that is a good question. I couldn’t find the exact reason why. They were called ground peas or ground nuts at one time so maybe someone said hey let’s call them peanuts!

Who invented peanut butter? I thought it was George Washington Carver a scientist who created over 300 peanut products, but it was actually physician John Harvey Kellogg. Peanut Butter had a celebrated debut at the 1904 World Fair in St Louis Missouri.

Image by Huahom from Pixabay

All I know is besides peanut butter and jelly sandwichs, peanut butter cookies and I LOVE peanut sauce on chicken satay, crispy tofu or soba noodles!

Easy Peanut Sauce

Recipe makes 4-6 servings

    4 tablespoons peanut butter, natural

    4 tablespoons hot water

    2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari

    1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar or coconut sugar

    1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

    1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon or lime juice

Directions: In a small bowl combine peanut butter and water; mix until smooth paste forms. Stir in soy sauce, then brown sugar, cayenne and lemon juice. Mix by hand until well combined and smooth.

Easy Peanut Butter Cookies

1 Cup peanut butter

1 large Egg

1 Cup sugar

Optional: ½ cup mini chocolate chips and  1 tsp. real vanilla  

Mix together ingredients. Chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Use 1 Tablespoon dough per cookie roll into a ball. Take a glass and press gently to flatten ( you may sugar the bottom of the glass so the dough doesn’t stick)

Bake at 325 for 10-12 minutes. Leave on cookie sheet a couple of minutes.

Move to a cookie rack to cool. Makes about 20-24 cookies.

Variation Use ½ cup white sugar and ½ cup brown sugar.

May try other sweeteners as well honey, maple syrup, Sucanant, or coconut sugar probably will have a different texture and baking times.

May try other nut butters, or add small amounts of seed, nuts, dried fruit – like raisins

Savory Tofu Tahini Spread

Image by Pezibear from Pixabay

No more boring lunches instead get your craving on with this tasty spread. I love the crunchy texture from the sunflower seeds and Umami flavor from the miso. Super easy to put together and it keeps several days in the refrigerator.

1 cup mashed soft Organic Tofu

3 TBSP toasted tahini

2 TBSP Organic Red Miso

2 tsp kelp granules

2 tsp garlic granules ( or powder)

1 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice

2 TBSP Nutritional Yeast ( Red Star is good)

1 TBSP roasted unsalted, sunflower seeds

Mash the tofu, cream in tahini, then the miso, then the spices, lemon juice,

nutritional yeast, sunflower seeds.

Stir thoroughly. Keep in a tightly covered container.

Yummy on crackers, toast, lettuce leaf, cut up veggies, flour tortilla or pita bread.

Ribolitta Soup ~A Fabulous Italian Vegetable Soup

Ribollita Soup

This is my favorite soup ever! The recipe is from a cooking class at the Palazzo Bandino, Chianciano Terme, Italy. Of all the recipes we prepared this was the one that I fell in love with and have made many times over the years. I have made a few changes and suggestions, so make sure to add your own.

What is so good about eating this delicious soup is that you can feel the goodness from the vegetables. I have definitely tasted the difference when I use organic vegetables. There is a real flavor pop.

2-3 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 or more cloves of garlic chopped optional

1 big onion, chopped

2-3 large stalks of celery, sliced 

2-3 zucchini, sliced or diced

3 carrots, sliced or diced

1 small head cabbage, sliced into small shreds

1 28 oz can organic chopped tomatoes

1 bunch Swiss chard rough chopped. Red chard is pretty.

1 bunch spinach, rough chopped

Pinch Red hot pepper flakes

2 TBSP tomato paste

2 cans 15 oz Cannellini Tuscan beans , ( or small white beans)

About 1 quart water , veggie or chicken broth

Optional: Grated Parmesan cheese

Optional :One or two Glasses of white or red wine drink while chopping vegetables makes preparing the soup so much fun!

Crusty peasant bread, sliced

Prepare vegetables, set aside. In a large 8 qt soup pot heat olive oil over medium heat, add vegetables in order of recipe. Cover and steam veggies for about 10 minutes. Add the pepper flakes, tomato paste, beans and water or broth. Lower heat, simmer for 1 hour.

Makes about 10 hearty servings.

To serve: toast crusty peasant bread, drizzle with olive oil. Place toast in soup bowl, ladle soup into bowls, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese if desired. Garlic Bread or Garlic Sticks could also served on the side.

TIP : This soup is a good keeper.The second day the soup is even better! Also freezes well.

VARIATION: Add 8 oz cooked spicy Italian sausage for a flavor treat.

Best Cornbread Recipe EVER!

Recipe book

My Sister Bridget has made this recipe for 25 +years.

She uses a 13×9 inch baking pan. Bridget says “don’t overbake !”

She always gets raves and requests for the recipe.

Albers Cornbread

5 Min Prep Time
25 Min Cook Time
30 Min Total Time

Serves 6


1 cup Albers® White or Yellow Corn Meal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg, lightly beaten


PREHEAT oven to 400°F. Grease 8-inch square baking pan.

COMBINE meal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in medium bowl. Combine milk, oil and egg in small bowl; mix well. Add milk mixture to flour mixture; stir just until blended. Pour into prepared pan.

BAKE for 20 to 25 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Serve warm.

NOTE Recipe may be doubled. Use greased 13×9-inch baking pan; bake as above.

For Muffins

  • SPOON batter into 10 to 12 greased or paper-lined muffin cups, filling 2/3 full.
  • Bake in preheated 400°F oven for 15 minutes.

See: albers® corn meal & grits http://alberscorn.com/


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Southern Fried Chicken Recipe

The heart of most Southern meals is often fried chicken.

Recipe Source

By ImmaculateBites with some additional notes from Bonnie Dixon.

This is a classic Southern chicken recipe that is crunchy and crusty on the outside and juicy and flavorful on the inside.

A fantastic addition to your chicken recipe collection!


1 whole chicken cut into 10 pieces
1 1/2 – 2 teaspoons salt adjust to preference
½ -1 tablespoon Frank’s hot sauce
3-4 garlic crushed
2-3 teaspoons creole seasoning
Chicken Coating
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cornstarch
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt adjust to taste
2 tablespoon garlic powder
2 tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon white pepper
1- 1 1/2 tablespoon dried herbs Thyme, Oregano, Parsley
4 cups buttermilk


  1. Place chicken in a large bowl or Large ziploc. Then seasoned with salt followed by all the crushed garlic, hot sauce and creole seasoning.
  2. Pour buttermilk in the marinated chicken, transfer the chicken to a gallon-sized zipper-lock freezer bag and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, herbs and white pepper.
  4. Remove all the marinated chicken from the buttermilk. Then dredge in flour mixture, shaking any excess flour. You may use a Ziploc bag for this process, too.
  5. Double dip the chicken in the remaining buttermilk (add fresh buttermilk as needed) followed by the flour mixture – shake off any excess flour. Let the chicken rest for about 10-15 minutes while preparing oil. This will help the coating to stay on better.

Frying the Chicken

  1. Heat oil in a deep fryer or cast iron skillet to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Temperature will drop once you add chicken.
  2. Using a tong and carefully and slowly place the chicken in the hot oil. Work in batches. Do not overcrowd the skillet.
  3. Fry the chicken until golden brown, turning once every 10 to 20 minutes – depending on the size of the pieces. Chicken is done when it is no longer pink inside and its juices run clear. You may do a test by piercing the chicken with a fork.
  4. Drain the chicken on paper towels and then transfer them on a wire rack
  5. Repeat with remaining chicken pieces; let it cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Tips & Notes

  • After you flour coat and dip your chicken in buttermilk, let it rest first before frying it. This will allow your chicken to form a crust and warm to room temperature which will help it cook through evenly.
  • When frying, make sure that your oil is at the right preheated temperature. If it’s too hot, the outside of your chicken will get burned, if it’s cold, the chicken will get soggy and greasy. Use a deep fryer thermometer.
  • Do not ever use extra virgin olive oil on fried chicken as it’ll result to a bitter-tasting meat. Go for a neutral-tasting oil like canola, vegetable or, most preferably, peanut oil.
  • Do not over crowd your pan with chicken as this will lower down the oil’s temperature and hasten up the cooking time. Do it in small batches instead.
  • Cast iron pan is a must for a perfectly cooked fried chicken as it holds the temperature well and heat evenly which also results to a perfectly cooked chicken.
  • Rather than deep frying or submerging your chicken entirely into the pan or deep fryer, only 3/4 of the chicken should be covered in hot oil. The weight of the chicken will cause it to sit just almost above the surface of the oil which will create a crispy crust without burning.
  • Don’t let anything fried sit on a paper towel too long as it’ll start to steam and make it soggy. Instead, drain your chicken using a wire rack over a baking sheet. They’ll cool crisp and dry off all at once easily


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Southern Hush Puppies Recipe

Hush Puppies are a deep-fried savory ball made with a corn-meal batter.  Hush Puppies are often served with seafood in the South.

Recipe courtesy of Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking by
Nathalie Dupree & Cynthia Graubart

Serves 6


2 cups cornmeal
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons green onions, finely chopped
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons buttermilk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
vegetable oil or shortening for frying


  1. In a large bowl, sift together, cornmeal, flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
  2. Stir in the onions, buttermilk and egg until thoroughly mixed.
  3. Heat the oil to 375˚F and drop the batter by spoonful’s (about 2 teaspoons each) into hot oil.
  4. Fry until golden brown.
  5. Move to a plate lined with paper towels and serve hot.
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