Secret Recipes and Stories Provided by IDAers
From our families to yours –

Happy Holidays

Nonna's Escarole Soup

Growing up outside Philadelphia, we had this soup to start Christmas Dinner every year. It’s very easy to make and subtly flavored. This is a simple soup, perfect before a 3 hour Italian feast that always bizarrely ended with roast chicken an hour or so after dessert, “Just in case anybody is still hungry.”

One could make this vegetarian pretty easily by using veggie stock and making falafel for the meatballs.


  • 6 qt chicken stock, preferably homemade, plus 1 C water
  • 1 carrot, diced to about 1/4″ cubes
  • 1 head escarole (slightly bitter green), chopped finely
  • 1/2 lb lean ground beef
  • 1/4 lb ground pork
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tb milk
  • 1/4 to 1/2 C Breadcrumbs (traditionally, Progresso Italian Seasoned. I used Panko)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4C chopped parsley (leaves only)
  • Pecorino Romano, or parmesan to taste
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1/4C or so of pastina (a tiny star shaped pasta) or small elbow macaroni
  • A little bit of shredded chicken, optional
  1. Make the meatballs

Heat oven to 350, if baking meatballs, or get a large skillet ready. In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg, then add breadcrumbs, milk and oregano to mix. Season with salt and pepper, then add meats and mix thoroughly. Grate a little cheese on top and mix it in.

Roll the meatballs into little balls, just a bit bigger than a marble. Either fry these to brown in a little oil, or put in the oven for 20 minutes or so. Leave space between the meatballs so they brown, and don’t just steam.

Set aside.


  1. Make the soup

Bring the stock and water to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes, skimming foam if any. Add carrot and cook for 5 minutes. Add escarole and cook for 10-15 minutes, until it is dark green and very soft. Add the pastina, shredded chicken and meatballs, and simmer until pastina is cooked, about 5 minutes.


Ladle into bowls and serve with more grated cheese.

Kaju Katli

Kaju Katli is a traditional cashew fudge and is one of the most sought after and loved Indian sweets usually prepared during festivals.


  • 1 cup cashews – 160 grams
  • ½ cup sugar – 100 grams sugar
  • 5 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon ghee or clarified butter


  • Powder the cashew in a coffee grinder, blender or a dry grinder. The cashews should be in powdered form and not become pasty or oily.
  • On a low flame heat sugar and water in a thick bottomed or non-stick pan.
  • Meanwhile grease a plate with ghee/clarified butter and keep butter papers ready.
  • When all the sugar has dissolved in the water, add the cashew powder.
  • Mix and keep on stirring the cashew mixture non-stop on a low flame.
  • The cashew mixture will start thickening.
  • Cook the cashew mixture for approximately 7 to 9 minutes until the whole dough starts to come together.
  • Remove the whole lump of the cashew dough from the pan and place it on the greased plate.
  • Add ghee or clarified butter to the cashew mixture.
  • When the heat in the dough is hot enough to handle, then knead the cashew mixture lightly.
  • Flatten the dough and place it on a butter paper.
  • Place a butter paper on top and then using a rolling pin, gently roll the dough from all sides till you reach a thickness of 1/8 inch in the dough.
  • Remove the butter paper and let the rolled dough cool.
  • When completely cooled, using a sharp knife cut the cashew dough giving square or diamond shapes.
  • Gently remove the kaju katli with a butter knife.
  • Serve the kaju katli straight away or keep in an airtight container.

Armadillo Eggs

From a typed recipe page that my mom has from my grandmother.

We had these on Christmas morning along with an egg casserole.


  • Jalapenos
  • Monterey Jack Cheese
  • Sausage
  • Biscuits

Jalapenos – cut in half & remove seeds.  Soak in ice water several hours or all night if possible

Monterey Jack Cheese – cut into cubes that will fit into the peppers.

Put the cheese inside on half of a pepper and fit the other half on — WRAP THE PEPPER IN A THIN LAYER OF SAUSAGE (uncooked)  I make a thin patty and wrap around make sure it seals the entire pepper.

Biscuits – flatten and wrap around the sausage& pepper, make sure it seals all openings.

Bake at 350* till golden brown.  There will be some grease cook out, so you do not have to grease the cookie sheet before cooking.

Gajar Ka Halwa (carrot halwa) - Pie Style

My mom always makes gajar ka halwa (carrot pudding) in the winter so I wanted to recreate that but gave it a holiday twist.

This recipe is vegan and uses no added sugar.

Total time: 45 mins
Makes one 8″ pie


  • 5 large carrots (you can also get shredded ones to save time)
  • 1 can of coconut milk
  • Your choice of sweetener – I used 3 tbsp of stevia
  • Dash of cinnamon and cardamom powder
  • Store-bought pie crust or make your own
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil or vegan butter

Instructions:Wash carrots and use a peeler or knife to peel the outer skin of carrots.

Grate carrots or blend them up! Traditionally, gajar ka halwa is made by grating carrots but, to save time, I chopped them up and put them in a pot to boil. In about 15-20 mins, they had softened. I, then, blended them in batches with about 1/4 of the can of coconut milk at a time.

Transfer your carrot puree to a pot on low flame, add a dash of cardamom and cinnamon powder and 2 tbsp butter.

You can make a pie crust at this point or use a ready-made one. I got a vegan, gluten-free, nut-free one from Trader Joe’s. If you are using a pre-made crust, let it thaw for 10 mins and then bake it at 400 F for 15 mins or until the edges are golden brown.

Transfer halwa to the cooked pie crust and enjoy your warm pie with some decadent coconut cream mousse! Top with your favorite nuts. Traditionally, halwa is served with slivered almonds, pistachios, plum raisins and cashews.

Leftover Turkey Jook - Rice Porridge

Our family loves Thanksgiving turkey but we get just as excited for the Jook (Rice Porridge) that we make with the leftovers.  Jook is one of those comfort foods for me and something easy to make the day after a busy Thanksgiving day!

This is a version I use as a guideline for proportions of ingredients.  Otherwise, we’ll add various leftovers to change the taste.  It comes out a little different every year and that’s part of the fun for us.  We like to add the turkey meat back in close to serving so it doesn’t get overcooked.


  • 1 cup long-grain white rice, rinsed briefly
  • 6 scallions, divided
  • 1 turkey carcass with some meat and skin
  • 1 (4-inch) piece peeled ginger, halved, divided
  • 10 cups water
  • Accompaniments: soy sauce; Asian sesame oil


  1. Simmer rice, 3 scallions, turkey carcass (break into pieces if necessary), half of ginger, and water in a 6-to 8-quart heavy pot, covered, stirring occasionally, until soup has a creamy, porridge-like consistency, 50 minutes to 1 hour.
  2. Meanwhile, thinly slice remaining 3 scallions and julienne remaining ginger.
  3. Discard turkey bones. Serve jook sprinkled with scallions and ginger.

Shuba - Spoiler alert: It has beets. And herring.

Selyodka pod shuboi (friends call it “shuba”), means “herring under a fur coat”.

This recipe is a classic and order is just as important as the ingredients. Here’s the recipe, as taken out of the old family recipe book, abridged for clarity:


  • 3-4 smallish potatoes
  • Carrots (roughly 1/4 pound)
  • beets (roughly 1/4 pound)
  • 3 decent size eggs
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • mayo
  • pickled herring*

Serve it cold, by slice, like you would a cake.

* you can find pickled herring in a Jewish deli or an Eastern European grocery.


  • Boil all root vegetables and eggs. It’s best to leave the skin on the vegetables for boiling. You can do it all in one pot. Take the eggs out first. Beets will take the longest. Check with a paring knife until soft all the way through. Let cool off and peel.
  • Layer everything on a plate just so (about 1/2″ thick):
  1. Thinly sliced herring(make sure there are no bones)
  2. Finely chopped onion
  3. Coarsely grated potatoes; season with salt and pepper and spread the whole layer with some mayo
  4. Coarsely grated 2 hard-boiled eggs (save one egg for later); gently spread the egg layer with mayo
  5. Coarsely grated carrots, spread with mayo
  6. Finelygrated beets; spread with good amount of mayo


Shape up and smooth out your “pie”, so it is nice and round.

Leave to rest in the fridge for a few hours. If you got up early, as you should have on the day of your dinner party, and began your work right away, your “shuba” will have plenty of time to marry all of its flavors.


Before serving, separate the last hard-boiled egg. Finely grate, first the white in a large circle on top of the “shuba”, then the yolk to fill in the white circle. You can stick a sprig of dill in the middle. Make it look good!

Alu ko Achar - Spiced Potato Salad

Alu ko achar is a Nepali cuisine dish eaten as an appetizer or with lunch and dinner.
It is boiled chopped potatoes mixed carrot, cucumber and spices

  • 2 large boiled potatoes
  • 1 cucumber chopped (inside removed)
  • 1 medium carrot chopped or grated
  • 1 medium radish chopped or grated
  • 3 chopped green chilis
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp red chili powder
  • 2 tbsp. garlic ginger paste
  • 1/2 cup brown sesame seeds, toasted and ground
  • 1 tbsp. fenugreek seeds
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 1/3 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 lemon juice


  • Boil potatoes, peel, and cut them into medium sized cubes.
  • Thinly slice carrots, radish and cucumber (remove the watery part).
  • Slice green chilis.
  • Toast brown sesame seeds in a pan and grind to a powder.
  • Combine potatoes, carrots, cucumber, radish and a green chili in a bowl.
  • Add salt, garlic ginger paste, red chili powder and sesame seed powder
  • In a small pan, heat mustard oil and fry fenugreek seeds.
  • When fenugreek seeds turns black, add turmeric powder and a few chopped chilies, stir; and pour the oil in the achar mixture bowl.
  • Mix it together and add lemon juice and salt to taste.
  • Garnish with cilantro.

Pork Chops & Maple-Sage Pan Sauce

30 Minute Meal


  • 2 boneless, center cut, pork chops
  • 6 oz carrots
  • 5 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 apple
  • 1 bunch sage
  • 1 tablespoon Dejon mustard
  • 4 oz Brussel sprouts
  • 1 Delicata Squash

Prepare ingredients and start the sauce

  • Place rack in the oven and preheat to 450 degrees
  • Wash and dry fresh produce
  • Cut off the ends of squash and halve lengthwise.
  • Scoop out and discard seeds and pulp.  Medium dice.
  • Cut off ends of Brussel sprouts and quarter length wise.
  • Peel carrots and cut in half and cut in 2” lengths.
  • Core and medium dice an apple.
  • Pick sage leaves off the stems, discard stems, and thinly slice the leaves.
  • In a bowl, mix together mustard, maple syrup, and ¼ cup of water.


Roast the vegetables

  • Place the vegetables (squash, carrots, Brussels sprouts) on a sheet pan.
  • Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper
  • Roast 18-20 minutes in the oven until browned and tender
  • Remove from oven


Cook the pork and apple

  • Pat the pork dry with paper towels.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • In medium sauce pan, heat 2 tbsp olive oil on medium high until hot.
  • Add pork and diced apple in single layer
  • Cook 4-6 minutes stirring occasionally until pork is browned
  • Flip the pork and cover pan with lid. Cook another 4-6 minutes until pork is cooked through and apples are tender.
  • Remove port to cutting board and let rest 5 minutes with apples remain in pan


Finish sauce and serve

  • Add sauce to apples in the pan
  • Add sliced sage leaves to pan
  • Cook 1-2 minutes on medium high and stir or scrape browned bits (or fond) into the sauce.
  • Turn off heat, taste, season as desired with salt and pepper
  • Slice the pork crosswise in ¼” slices.
  • Serve the sliced port, with the roasted vegetables, and top the pork with the finished sauce and apples and serve
  • Enjoy!

Boter Koekjes - Dutch Butter Cookies


  • 1 Cup Butter (2 cubes) at room temperature
  • 1 ½ Cups Sugar
  • 1 Tsp Almond Extract
  • 1 Egg
  • 2 Cups Flour


  • Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees
  • Mix Butter and Sugar together until creamy.
  • Mix in Almond Extract & Egg until well blended.
  • Mix in Flour – dough will become dense and stick together in a ball.
  • Transfer ball of dough into 9” x 9” square metal pan.
  • Spread and flatten dough to leave a ½” – 1” space to edge of pan.
  • Dough will fill in to edges as it bakes.
  • Bake on center rack at 350 degrees for 25-28 minutes.
  • It is done when golden in the center and golden-brown around the edges.
  • Let cookies completely cool in pan = 3-4 hours or overnight.
  • Remove from pan and cut into equal cookies
  • (5 cuts vertically and 5 cuts horizontally).