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Get Pickled!

Refrigerator Pickles

We keep it simple here at GetCookingSimply.  So when I was asked to teach a canning class for Sustainable Contra Costa County, I knew that refrigerator pickles were the answer to simple. My 93 year old dad makes them this way all the time! Traditional water bath canning is not so simple, but the difference is the jars are thoroughly vacuum sealed and can be kept on a pantry shelf. Refrigerator pickles must be kept refrigerated, and for as long as you like, though eventually will loose their crispness  — so just eat them up soon and make some more!

You’ll need pickling cucumbers or Persian cucumbers, which you should find now at farmers markets, or year-round usually at Trader Joe’s. Pickling cucumbers and Persian cucumbers have a thin skin that the brine will penetrate easily, plus they make cute crisp little pickles. The important thing is that the skin not be waxed. For color and interest, add other veggies like green beans, carrots, pearl onions, red onion, garlic, and fresh herbs. My favorite pickling herb is tarragon, especially with green beans.  At the Sustainable Contra Costa class, their garden had beautiful green and red okra. The gardener said pickled okra doesn’t have that typical slickery texture. Well, my results don’t concur, but the okra was crisp and tasty anyway. Give it a try if you like okra!
Print This Recipe

Refrigerator Pickles

Makes about six 1-pint jars.
Canning jars with two-part lids look nifty and traditional, but any food jar with a tight screw-top lid will work.

2-1/2 cups white vinegar
2-1/2 cups water*
3 tablespoons purchased pickling spice*
2 tablespoons sugar, or more to taste for sweeter pickles
1 tablespoon salt – not iodized
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional
2 lbs. pickling cucumbers, whole, cut lengthwise, or in chips
8-12 oz. green beans, trimmed
2-3 carrots, cut in thin strips
Pearl onions or garlic cloves, optional

  1. Place jars  in a large pot with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and use jars while still hot. If using two-piece canning lids, bring to a simmer in a separate pot for a few minutes; its best not boil the flat, rubber lined canning lids.
  2. Bring vinegar, water, pickling spices, salt and sugar to a boil for 1 minute. Reduce heat to low so brine stays hot.
  3. Remove jars from water and drain. Pack vegetables into jars, alternating a variety of ingredients for a pleasing appearance. Each jar can be a different combination — like green beans, garlic and tarragon; cucumber chips and red onion; or just plain pickled carrots. Have fun with it!
  4. Ladle hot brine with the spices into jars, filling to 1/4-inch from top. Wipe rims with a clean damp cloth then screw tops on. Turn jars upside down for 5 minutes. Turn right side up and let stand undisturbed until cool. Lids probably will seal but should be refrigerated for safest storage. Refrigerate for 2 weeks for flavors to blend and fully pickle the vegetables. Store refrigerated for several months.
Pickling Veggies

Pickling veggies and fresh tarragon. Note the red okra on the right.



Upside down for 5 minutes to start the seal.


IMG_6514 (3)

Cool then refrigerate. Nice and pickled in about a week.

*Kitchen Notes:

Some recipes use distilled water to prevent the brine from turning cloudy. I used tap water and the brine is crystal clear, but it might depend upon your water supply.

Pickling spice is sold in jars in the supermarket spice section or with canning supplies. Or make your own with a variety of whole spices such as mustard seeds, whole peppercorns, coriander seeds, dill seeds, allspice.  The amounts do not need to be specific, but I used roughly equal parts of each.

If you taste the pickles after a few days and they are too vinegary, add a few teaspoons water or sugar to taste. The vegetables will absorb the new brine.


Posted in Rosie's Kitchen, Vegetarian | 4 Responses

Sofrito Rice & Black Bean Salad

Sofrito Rice SaladDinner was quick and easy the other night with Rita’s Sofrito Rice turned into a salad.  Sofrito rice is flavorful so you just need to add vegetables and a vinaigrette. If using leftover refrigerated rice, briefly microwave to soften because the starch hardens a bit when it’s chilled.  Add the following in amounts to your taste (or what you have on hand!):

  • canned black beans (rinsed and drained)
  • frozen corn kernels, thawed (or fresh corn, raw or lightly grilled)
  • diced red bell pepper
  • quartered cherry tomatoes
  • chopped cilantro, mint or basil — or all three herbs

Drizzle with olive oil, lemon or lime juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Ready to serve!

Sofrito Rice Salad

Settle down on the patio with a glass of chilled Rioja and cool off! Refrigerate leftovers but this salad is best served fresh.

Posted in Rosie's Kitchen, Salads and Dressings | 2 Responses

Sofrito Rice – Caribbean Trio #3

Sofrito RiceThroughout the Caribbean there are as many versions of sofrito as there are cooks, but it is always a combination of onion, garlic, chiles, thyme, cilantro, and often tomatoes. Sofrito forms the base for many dishes throughout the islands, most notably Arroz con Pollo in Puerto Rico. This Sofrito Rice recipe was tweeked and then authenticated by my neighbor, Antonio, a native of the island. Similar to my jerk seasoning (#2 of my trio), this sofrito rice is the real thing. Try making all three recipes–including the Mango-Papaya Salad–and savor a taste of the Caribbean without leaving your kitchen!    Print This Recipe

Sofrito Rice 

1            tablespoon vegetable oil
3/4       cup finely chopped yellow onion
1/2        cup finely chopped green bell pepper or chiles*  
2            cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1/2        teaspoon salt
1/4        cup natural rice vinegar (unseasoned)
1            cup long grain white rice
1            cup diced fresh tomatoes
2           tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1            teaspoon dried thyme
1           can (14 oz) chicken broth (or 1-3/4 cups)

* Chile is referred to as aji in Puerto Rico.  Poblano or mild green chiles both work well.

Heat oil in a 10 to 12-inch skillet with a lid. Add onion, green pepper (or mild chiles), garlic and salt. Sauté over medium-high heat 4-5 minutes. Stir in rice vinegar. Cook 2-3 minutes more or until vinegar is absorbed. Stir in rice, tomatoes, cilantro and thyme. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender. Stir and serve. Garnish with additional cilantro, if desired.  Makes 4-6 servings.

Nutrition per serving: 230 calories, 5g protein, 44g carb, 4g fat, (0.5g sat. fat), 5mg chol, 710mg sodium, 2g fiber

Recipe by Rita Held     Photo by Suzanne Carreiro

Posted in Rita's Kitchen, Sides and Sauces | 2 Responses

Jerk Seasoning – Caribbean Trio #2

Caribbean Jerk MarinadeThe second recipe in my Caribbean trio is a jerk marinade — purely and deliciously Jamaican. The herb and spice combination is close to what an island local would put together, minus the hot chiles. If you have ever been curious about making jerk at home, this simple recipe is worth a try. It’s versatile and as easy as twisting off a few caps, so don’t be intimidated by the list of ingredients. Cook on the outside grill or kitchen stovetop.  Jerk flavors are delicious with chicken (thighs, breasts, legs); pork (chops, tenderloin, ribs); or fish (tilapia, halibut, salmon). Double the recipe if using more meat or fish than is called for in the recipe. Numero tres in my trio?  Puerto Rican sofrito rice.
Print This Recipe

Caribbean Jerk Marinade

Makes 3/4 cup marinade (enough for 1-1/2 lbs pork, chicken or fish)

1/4     cup seasoned rice vinegar
2         Tbsp. vegetable oil
2         Tbsp. soy sauce
1         Tbsp. packed brown sugar
2         tsp. ground allspice
1         tsp. dried thyme
1         tsp. ground ginger
1/2     tsp. garlic powder
1/2     tsp. cayenne pepper (less if you prefer)
1/4     tsp. black pepper
1/4     tsp. salt
1/4     tsp. ground nutmeg

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl or 1-cup measuring cup; stir well to dissolve brown sugar and smooth out lumps. Pour over fish, chicken or pork. Marinate in the refrigerator: Fish 4-8 hours depending on thickness. Pork and Chicken 24 to 48 hours depending on thickness. Turn at least once while marinating. To cook, drain marinade and discard. Grill, broil or pan fry.

Recipe by Rita Held    Photos by Suzanne Carreiro
Caribbean Jerk Marinade

Posted in Entrees, Rita's Kitchen | 2 Responses

Mango-Papaya Salad – Caribbean Trio #1

Mango-Papaya Salad 1This first recipe in my tropical island trio is a simple and delicious fruit salad combo. It’s a refreshing accompaniment to spicy Caribbean jerk (yes, #2  in my trio will be a jerk recipe). What makes this salad unique, other than the fruit, is allspice and ginger in the dressing. Both spices are common throughout the Caribbean, as are many other spices that we typically think of for baked goods — nutmeg, cinnamon etc. Also, you can see in my photos that mangos and papayas vary in color from yellow to orange depending on their country of origin, variety, and ripeness.
Print This Recipe

Mango-Papaya Salad

Makes 6 servings
2       Tbsp. Nakano seasoned rice vinegar – 0riginal
1        Tbsp. packed brown sugar
Dash  each ground allspice &  ginger
1-2    mangos
1        papaya
1/2    cup sliced celery (1-2 stalks)
1       Tbsp. finely diced red onion
6       leaves Boston or bibb lettuce

Combine seasoned rice vinegar, brown sugar, and generous dashes of allspice and ginger; stir to dissolve sugar. Cut mango and papaya into cubes. Use about 4 cups fruit for this salad.  Combine fruit, celery and onion in a medium bowl. Pour dressing over fruit and stir. Serve in individual lettuce cups.

Nutrition information per serving: 60 calories, 0g protein, 15g carb, 0g fat, (0g sat. fat), 0mg chol, 90mg sodium, 2g fiber

Recipe by Rita Held for Nakano. Top photo by Rita; photo below by Suzanne Carreiro Mango Papaya Salad 2

Posted in Rita's Kitchen, Salads and Dressings | 4 Responses

Summer Smoothie Fest

Coastal Living B&B smoothieSmoothies are my go-to summer refreshers-–delicious, nutritious, and easy. For me, frozen bananas are the starting point. Over-ripe bananas beg to be frozen. They add flavor and body to smoothies. I always have a stash in my freezer, ready to go. Just peel the banana, break into 4 chunks, wrap in plastic wrap, and then into a baggie. Often, my bananas are in the freezer 6 months or more, and turn brownish. But I’ve never detected an off flavor, and they do their job as deliciously as if frozen 2 weeks.
Below are three simple smoothies. Each uses frozen bananas and other fruits that are accessible in summer, and winter. The first recipe here appeared in Coastal Living Magazine with a collection of banana recipes I developed for the magazine’s feature article Tropical Punch in a Bunch.
And… since this is a smoothie fest, see Rosie’s Awesome Banana Walnut Shake that she developed for the Walnut Board. Do you have a favorite? Share it with us: click on “responses” at the bottom of this post!

Print This Recipe
Berry Banana Smoothie
1          frozen banana, broken in chunks
1          cup frozen blueberries
1          cup orange juice
1          cup plain yogurt or milk*
1          tablespoon wheat germ (optional)
Combine ingredients in blender container. Cover and blend on low speed at first, then high speed until smooth. *If using milk, add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. Makes two 12 oz. smoothies (3 cups total).

Pineapple Banana Smoothie
1          frozen banana, broken in chunks
1          cup frozen blueberries
1          can (8 oz.) crushed pineapple or pineapple slices
1/2      cup (or more) orange juice
Combine ingredients in blender. Cover and blend on low speed at first, then high speed until smooth.  Makes about 2-1/2 cups.

Banana Carrot Cooler
2          medium-size frozen bananas, broken in chunks
1          cup carrot juice
1          cup orange juice
Combine ingredients in blender. Cover and blend on low speed at first, then high speed until smooth.  Makes two 12 oz. smoothies (3 cups total)

Berry Banana Smoothie

Posted in Beverages, Rita's Kitchen | 4 Responses

Florentine Toast ‘n Egg Cups

Toast 'n Egg Cups

For a simple Mother’s Day brunch or a lazy weekend breakfast, these toast ‘n egg cups are super easy and look so cute!  And you can make a lot of them at once. Just spread butter or olive oil on whole wheat sandwich bread, tuck into muffin cups, add baby spinach leaves, shredded Parmesan cheese and an egg. Top with a little more Parmesan and bake. Serve with marinara if desired, or change it up  with different cheeses, then serve with salsa or a favorite hot sauce. Print This Recipe

Florentine Toast ‘n Egg Cups

Prep time: 10 minutes  Bake time: 25 minutes
Makes:  6  Increase proportionately to desired servings, up to 12 per 12-cup muffin pan.

6            slices square-shaped whole wheat bread
6            teaspoons butter or olive oil
36          leaves baby spinach, stems removed
6            tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
6            medium or large size eggs*
Fresh cracked black pepper
Marinara sauce or salsa for serving

1.    Preheat oven to 375°F. Use a non-stick coated 6 or 12-cup muffin pan.

2.    Spread bread with butter, or brush with olive oil. With buttered side against the inside of the muffin cup, press and tuck each slice firmly into cups. Crust edges will extend above cup.

3.    Overlap 6 baby spinach leaves around the bread cup. Add 1/2 tablespoon Parmesan. Crack an egg over the cheese. Sprinkle with another 1/2 tablespoon Parmesan and a generous grind of black pepper.

4.    Bake 20-25 minutes until eggs are just set or desired doneness. Scoop each egg cup from pan with a silicon spatula. Serve warm or room temperature with marinara sauce or salsa if desired.

*If eggs are very large the white may spill over the bread and stick to pan. If using larger eggs, lightly grease the top of the muffin pan between the cups.

Before baking.

Baked in muffin tin.






Original recipe developed and photographed for PotsandPans.com 



Posted in Entrees, Rosie's Kitchen | 11 Responses

Roasted Asparagus with Warm Bitters Mayonnaise

Roasted Asparagus w Bitters Mayonnaise

It’s Spring!  Time to indulge in asparagus, and time to try something new. The vegetables for this tasty side dish can be cooked in an iron frying pan, or on a stovetop griddle, on the barbecue, or roasted in the oven. Because I prefer “cooking simply”, I go the stovetop route. But I will never sacrifice flavor. That’s where my love affair with Angostura bitters comes in. It is a flavor game changer. Really. Print This Recipe

Roasted Vegetables with Angostura Mayonnaise Drizzle

(or simply… Angostura Mayonnaise  See bottom of page) *

Angostura Mayonnaise Drizzle for Roasted Vegetables
1/2    cup mayonnaise
2       Tbsp. grated pecorino Romano cheese or tangy Parmesan
1       Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1       tsp. grated lemon peel
1       tsp. Angostura aromatic bitters

Whisk together mayonnaise, grated cheese, lemon juice, lemon peel, and 1/2 to 1 tsp. Angostura bitters; set aside.  Note: If you have not used Angostura bitters in food before, start with 1/2 teaspoon in the mayonnaise. Taste, then stir in the remaining 1/2 teaspoon if desired.

Roasted Vegetables
1 – 2   lbs. asparagus, green beans, or broccoli rabe
1/4    cup olive oil
2       Tbsp. soy sauce
1        Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1        tsp. Angostura aromatic bitters

Rinse vegetables and drain well. Break off tough ends from asparagus. Remove stems from green beans. Whisk together olive oil, soy sauce, 1 Tbsp. lemon juice and 1 tsp. Angostura bitters. Brush liberally on vegetables; let stand 15 minutes.

Heat a large iron fry pan over medium heat. Place vegetables in pan in a single a layer. Cook about 5 minutes or until lightly browned. (The time depends on how thick the vegetables are.) Turn and cook 3-5 minutes more or until tender. Cook in two or three batches, as needed. To serve, warm up Angostura mayonnaise in microwave for just 15-30 seconds; stir well. Drizzle over hot vegetables. Garnish with lemon peel.

Makes 8 side-dish servings.  Nutrition information per serving with 2 lbs asparagus:
190 calories, 3g protein, 6g carb, 17g fat, (2.5g sat. fat), 5mg chol, 380mg sodium, 2g fiber

                                                 Recipe and photos by Rita Held for Angostura USA

* Like mayonnaise?!
Make the mayonnaise only, do not warm it up though, and use it as a dipping sauce for fresh veggies (photo below).  And/or use it in sandwiches instead of plain mayonnaise. It will stay fresh in the refrigerator for weeks, well covered.
Angostura mayo 1 tight

Posted in Appetizers, Rita's Kitchen, Sides and Sauces | 6 Responses

Carrot Cake — Redux


Dairy-Free Carrot Cake

I usually avoid baking cakes that call for whipping egg whites separate from the yolks, it’s too much work! (Though I’ll make exception for egg whites in my favorite angel food cake recipe by baking expert Flo Braker). So I nearly passed up this recipe for carrot cake that my daughter Ariel makes from a German recipe for  ‘Karotten Kuchen ohne Butter”. Since Ariel bakes in gram weights from when she worked at Cafe Valentin in Berlin, I first converted the recipe to cup measurements from metric. Then adjusted the amounts to my liking and tested it her way, whipping the whites separate from the yolks – but I thought: for GetCookingSimply it needs to be simpler!  Why not whip the eggs and sugar into a froth, then gently fold in the rest of the ingredients. It works! It’s simple, it’s light, it’s spicy just like carrot cake, and no dairy or added fat!

I like finishing the cake with a lemon glaze

DSC_2435 (2)

and it is also lovely with a dusting of powdered sugar just before serving.

Carrot Cake                        Or if you’re not dairy/fat free, then slather the top with cream cheese frosting!
Print This Recipe

Carrot Cake — Redux

Prep time 20 minutes  Makes 8 servings

5            eggs
3/4        cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar (180 grams/ 6 oz.)
1-1/2      teaspoons vanilla
1-1/2      cups (lightly filled) all-purpose flour (180 grams/6.25 oz.)
1-1/2      cups ground almonds-see note* (120 grams/4.25 oz.)
1-1/2      teaspoons cinnamon
1/2         teaspoon baking powder
1/8        teaspoon salt
2            cups grated carrots, lightly packed (250 grams/9 oz.)
1/2         cup golden or natural raisins (80 grams/2-3/4 oz.)
1/2         cup chopped walnuts (56 grams/2 oz.)

Lemon Glaze or powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Place eggs in a bowl and set bowl in a larger bowl of very hot water for about 15 minutes, stirring once or twice, until eggs are room temperature.

Meanwhile: Measure flour, ground almonds, cinnamon, baking powder and salt into a bowl; whisk well, breaking up any lumps. Grate carrots and set aside. Line the bottom of a 9-inch spring-form pan with parchment paper. Lightly grease sides of pan. If pan is non-stick you can omit paper and greasing, but it will come out of the pan easier if greased. You can use a regular cake pan, but the pan needs to be at least 4-inches in height. Could also use two standard 9-inch rounds and reduce the bake time.

Beat eggs, sugar and vanilla in a large bowl with an electric mixer (preferably a stand mixer) until very light and fluffy. Until at least triple in volume, 3-5 minutes.

Fold half the flour mixture, then the carrots, then the remaining flour into the eggs. Gently mix in walnuts and raisins. Turn into prepared pan.

Bake 35-45 minutes until center is set and a pick inserted in center comes out clean.  I found just 2-3 minutes makes a difference between over and under-baked, so watch carefully. Usually 40 minutes seemed right, but ovens vary.

Cool in pan 10 minutes. Remove pan sides and let cool completely. Drizzle cake with glaze or dust with powdered sugar just before serving. Cake is best served within 2 days. Store well-covered to prevent drying.

Lemon Glaze:  Stir together 1 cup powdered sugar and 4-5 teaspoons lemon juice until smooth and pourable but not too thin. Pour over cake.  Let stand to firm before slicing.

– Use ground almonds not almond flour. I usually buy the Trader Joe’s brand.
– If you are planning to make the lemon glaze, zest the rind first and add to the cake if you like.
– I converted the recipe to cup measurements from gram weights but weighing is faster and more accurate.
– This recipe would likely adapt well to gluten-free. If you try that, let me know how it works!



Posted in Desserts, Rosie's Kitchen | 2 Responses

Browned Butter Bananas with Toasted Pecans

Winter or summer, bananas sit prominently on many kitchen counters. One of my breakfast favorites is a peanut butter and banana sandwich made with toasted whole grain bread. It’s fast to make and healthy. Add a glass of milk or cup of hot coffee on the side.

Bananas for dessert? Of course. They’re the foundation for traditional banana splits, but hey, it’s cold outside!  So here is an easy, scrumptious, warm, and rather classy banana dessert – perfect for wintertime (or summer). The bananas are simmered in browned butter, and served with a rum-laced sauce, topped with toasted pecans.

A few kitchen tips:  Browning the butter adds a rich, nutty flavor to the sauce but it’s tricky to see in a dark, coated skillet (as I did for the stovetop photos below). It’s best to use a stainless steel skillet to make sure the butter reaches a golden-brown hue without burning.   Also, I tested the sauce using brown sugar, but it was a bit grainy in the end. And I tried 3 tablespoons rum; it was too strong, masking the browned butter and banana flavors.

Give my dessert a try. Let me know your honest opinion by adding a comment (aka response) at the bottom of this post.

Print This Recipe

Browned Butter Bananas with Toasted Pecans

Prep & Cook time:  23-25 minutes total      Makes 4 servings with about 1/3 cup sauce

1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
Ground cardamom
2  Tbsp. milk
2  Tbsp. dark rum
Grated peel of one lemon
3  Tbsp. butter
3  medium bananas, green at the stem
Toasted pecan halves

In a 1-cup glass measuring cup or small bowl, stir together powdered sugar, cinnamon and a generous sprinkle of cardamom. Add milk, rum and lemon peel; stir until smooth. Set aside.

Melt butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium-low heat. Cook about 5 minutes, swirling butter a few times, until butter just starts to turn golden. Meanwhile, peel bananas, cut in half, then cut in half again lengthwise (see photo below).  When butter is golden, place bananas in pan, flat side down. Cook 2 minutes only. Turn with a spatula; cook 1 minute more. Immediately reduce heat. Transfer bananas to serving plates, 3 pieces per serving.

Pour powdered sugar mixture into skillet. Increase heat to medium; cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Pour sauce back into measuring cup and let cool 5 minutes.

Stir sauce and drizzle over each serving. Add 4-5 pecan halves.  If desired, top with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream.

This is just one of the banana recipes I developed for Coastal Living magazine, March 2012 issue. Click link to see more.

Bananas simmering in browned butter

Bananas simmering in browned butter

Browned butter rum sauce cooking

Browned butter rum sauce cooking

Browned Butter Bananas w Toasted Pecans


Posted in Desserts, Rita's Kitchen | 7 Responses
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