Happy Birthday, America!

I have my parents to thank for instilling in me a deep respect for honoring and celebrating (all things, really, but especially) the Fourth of July.  As a child, the youngest of five, my parents took us to wonderful places to celebrate the Fourth, the sights and sounds, tastes and smells of which are indelibly etched into my heart.  As a young child, we often packed up and drove halfway across the country, to our old neighborhood in Chicago, to visit our Aunts, Uncles and cousins.  My cousins and I would get positively waterlogged in their above-ground pool and fill up on Italian sausages in soft, sun-warmed rolls, hot dogs covered in mustard and “piccalilli,” and slurp down ribbon jello, watermelon and “pop.” We tore up the streets on our Big Wheels with streamers flying out of the handle bars and would sit on the curb at sunset sucking on roasted sunflower seeds, watching the older kids light roman candles and firework-tanks in the street.

They would bring us to our Uncle (“Captain”) John’s house on Lake Michigan for floating in the sun, water skiing, cherry pit spitting, pontoon boat fishing and roasting catfish and Lake Perch over an open campfire.

After corn on the cob, slathered in butter and salt, and homemade strawberry-rhubarb pie, we would lie on our full, warm bellies in pup tents on the lawn and “oooooh!!!!”  and “aaaaah!!!”  over the fireworks blasting over the lake.

As an older child, they took us to see fireworks all over the country, including one memorable Fourth at Disney in Florida, and we have had plenty of long, sun-drenched, sandy, salty, perfect days and evenings picnicking on our beloved Rhode Island beaches.  My mother’s famous submarine sandwiches (which began by slicing entire loaves of Italian bread down the sides, and contained pounds of deli meats, cheeses and garden-fresh veggies) would be sliced into two inch segments, wrapped in wax paper and packed in a cooler for lunch.  Del’s lemonade was our drink of choice on the beach.  For dinner, we would either grill hamburgers right on the beach, or we would head to the picnic tables at Aunt Carrie’s in Point Judith for fresh, hot fish, clam cakes and chowder.

Once I was old enough to work, the Fourth became both a holiday and an exciting work day… whether pulling in boats with flags flying at the Yacht Club or carrying endless trays of gin and tonics for the Country Club crowd, a working Fourth was always full of hustle and sweat and teamwork and fun.

And yet, the experience we had on the banks of the Charles River that one year in Boston (it must have been somewhere between 1989-1992) on the Fourth of July is unmatched…

Family beach days trained us well to arrive early and stake out our space with blankets and lawn chairs. We must have settled our territory in front of the Hatch Shell at 10:00 a.m. that day…  Then you relax.  Wait.  Try to cool off.  Eat from the cooler.  Take a walk on the River.  Complain that you’re bored. Marvel at how quickly the lawn is filling up.  Be proud and happy that you got there so early.  Complain about having to get there so early. Split up into factions and take turns going to get Nino’s Pizza on Charles Street.  Take a nap.  Read a book.  Eat again.  Nap again.

And then then, it’s time: the merriment begins.  The opening acts perform, and the Boston Pops take the crowd through a sing-a-long of patriotic favorites, and you are now packed in, shoulder-to-shoulder on the lawn, and you’re swaying, and you’re singing your little heart out, “This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land….” perched on top of your brother’s shoulders so you can see the orchestra, and it’s FUN and you feel connected to every person on that lawn and every person in this great land of ours…

And then it’s dusk.  And a reverent calm sweeps over the crowd of thousands as the fog creeps in off the Charles and the tympany begin to ever-so-distantly thunder the signal of cannons, as Tchaikovsy’s 1812 Overture takes you all the way back in time…

The piccolo and the snare drum lead us through the battle field, with all of its torture and tragedy and hope, its misery and its courage, its conviction, its elation and its triumph… you feel these things, and you feel the music piping through your veins…you smell the gunpowder, you tremble at the cannon blasts.  You startle and awe at the fireworks, and you remember, as if you had been there, what it means to be a part of this Great Experiment.  And THAT was what the Fourth of July was all about.

While I was in law school, I re-lived this 4th of July experience in Boston from the roof deck at Cheers, where I worked… the restaurant would empty, leaving half-eaten burgers, baked beans and Boston Cream pie on tables throughout the bar, as everyone poured onto the street to catch a glimpse of the fireworks and to be a part of that magical transformation on the banks of the Charles.  All of the servers, in our knee-high American flag socks and star-spangled headband antennae, would wipe our hands on our aprons and race upstairs to the roof to pause, watch and listen.

These days, I like to honor and celebrate America’s birthday the best way I know how: by gathering family and friends for a good old fashioned backyard cookout with the summer foods that bring us each back to the celebrations of our childhoods.  This year, we are going to put a turkey and a brisket in the smoker and hot dogs, hamburgers, Italian sausage and marinated pork ribs on the grill.  I’ll make a big pot of clam chowder, corn salad, sweet potato fries, ribbon jello, cheesy jalapeno cornbread, baked beans, watermelon, and of course, a couple of blueberry and strawberry-basil pies.  Those who are in town and can make it will swing by for lunch or dinner or both.  We’ll miss all who can’t.  At sundown, we’ll have smore’s on the fire and cast our eyes towards the sky. With hands on hearts, we will listen to the 1812 Overture, and with all of the joyful reverence we can muster, we will ask God to Bless America on her birthday.

Have a delicious and magical Fourth, my friends!

Sweet Potato Fries

So easy.  So inexpensive.  So good.  So good for you.  Pick up a half dozen sweet potatoes the next time you’re at the grocery store.  Then follow this recipe and grill up some happiness!  Sweet potatoes contain tons of vitamin A and C, calcium, fiber and potassium. Some call them, “the most nutritious food in the vegetable kingdom!”  They have more grams of natural sugars than regular potatoes, but also have more nutrients and fewer calories!  Sweet potatoes contain an enzyme that converts their starch into sugar as they mature…their sweetness will increase during storage and once they are cooked…so you can let them sit on your counter for a week after you shop, and they will only get tastier!  These sweet potato fries are a seriously guilt-free way to indulge on fries and take extra good care of yourself, your family, your wallet and your time budget (they are quick and easy!), all at the same time.  ENJOY!

From the (Save Your) Summer Sanity Department:

Alright.  We’re back.  School’s out, sun’s out, and we are in full swing.  Time for a delicious summer.

No?  This is not you?  You’re not ready?

Me neither.  Don’t worry.  We’ve got this.  If your life is like mine, you have a house full of people, each with unique schedules, needs, preferences and tastes… your days begin early and run late, and there are sparks coming off the revolving door of your home, given the speed of all of the comings and goings, including your own!  In order to keep up with the controlled chaos and stay ahead of the demands of this life, we need a plan, and we need one fast. It has to be simple and efficient and meet lots of objectives with little time/work expended.

Here’s what one such (weekly meal/life) plan might look like:

Today is Saturday.  I want to go to the grocery store today, and not go again until Friday.  (That means that I don’t have to even think about the holiday weekend today!  I will mull over that plan as the week progresses and stir up some inspiration for grilling and smoking and summer salads to serve on America’s Birthday…later.)

I’ll start my thinking with dinner, the one meal of the day we try to eat together, and one meal for which we often have more than the four of us at the table.  Given the calendar for the next six days, I will need dinner plans for tonight (Saturday), Sunday, (leftovers Monday), Tuesday (friends coming for dinner), and Wednesday (I’ll be going out with friends on Thursday, and everyone else can forage on the inventory).

Tonight is easy: I’ll do turkey burgers and use the buns I have leftover from last weekend’s impromptu Fathers’ Day Cookout.  Tonight, I’ll also marinate a few pounds of chicken for tomorrow– maybe half in BBQ and half in my chicken marinade— for grilling.  That will pair beautifully with whatever seasonal veggies came in the farm share yesterday (I think there is kale, green leaf lettuce, arugula, baby bok choi and radishes), plus I have seven sweet potatoes that I didn’t use last week:  hello, sweet potato fries on the grill!  Those will be great with turkey burgers tonight, and we’ll re-heat the rest in the oven with chicken tomorrow.

I made a huge batch of sauce a few days ago, and there is still about 6 quarts left (despite Axel literally drinking it from a bowl for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the past three days).  I think I’ll make Eggplant Parm for dinner on Tuesday, for guests, along with grilled Branzino, littlenecks and a green salad of some sort (and mac and cheese for our friends’ kids, which I promised a long time ago).  I’ll make-ahead a big family-sized mac and cheese for Wednesday night, which we will devour with grilled pork chops and kale salad.

That covers dinner for the week.

Now.  I need an easy high-protein, convenient, delicious and savory breakfast that will re-heat beautifully and last all week for my hard working family who needs to be well fueled for long, hot days in the sun and on their feet at work.

I think I’m going with egg cups this week.  I’ll make 24 and get english muffins for quick and delicious egg sandwiches to go.  That covers us for breakfast.

For lunch, I’ll stock extra pasta and grains (I’m sure I’ll throw in a few side dishes of polenta, faro salad, pasta salad, etc., depending on what I see on sale at the grocery today.  Leftover turkey burgers, chicken and pork chops will be packed up over grains/greens for lunch all week.) I peeled and chopped 10 pounds of carrots yesterday, and I’ll stock up on melon, grapes, apples and sugar snap peas for snacking.  I recently stocked up on craisins, walnuts, cashews, almonds, and chocolate chips, so there will be lots of trail mix to-go ahead of us.  I’ll add a baked good or two if I have time to bake tomorrow… maybe some banana bread (I have some bananas tucked away in the freezer for just this purpose) and/or blueberry muffins, just to let them know I love them an extra lot and smooth out the transitions we’re all facing this week.

I’d better tend to my grocery list…

Grocery List:

6 lb. ground turkey

4 lb. chicken breasts and thighs

Pork chops x 8

Branzino x 6

5 lb. littlenecks

2 lb. bacon

3 dozen eggs



Eggplant x 4





Sugar Snap Peas

English muffins

Keep in mind that my pantry is STOCKED with cheeses, grains, pastas, everything I need to make a marinade (oils, vinegars, spices, etc.) and pretty much every baking ingredient (flour, sugar, baking powder/soda, vanilla, etc.)… so I can usually keep my grocery list TIGHT and limited to perishables (proteins, dairy and produce), plus replenishing pantry ingredients that are running low.  This week, I also need to replenish paper goods, so I’ll be adding toilet paper, paper towels and napkins to my list.

I’m going to chronicle the making of the sweet potato fries for you here, so look for that recipe, coming soon!  Happy Saturday and good luck!!

Iced Coffee

Coffee.  That one word brings up a world of emotion (and dependency), doesn’t it?  It’s comforting, it’s delicious, it’s aromatic and wonderful… it’s a drug delivery system without which many of us could not (or would not want to) function.  I enjoy Starbucks and Empire (in Newport) as much as the next girl, but I’m so picky about my coffee that I enjoy it most when it comes out of my kitchen (and is therefore exactly how I like it).

And when we are talking about iced coffee, there is only one way to do it: with frozen coffee cubes instead of ice!  This concept is admittedly simple, yet game-changing.  It doesn’t even count as a “recipe,” but I wanted to share in case you haven’t thought of it yet.  No one likes watered-down coffee, right?  So, instead of ice, freeze your leftover coffee in silicone molds (you can get them anywhere: grocery stores, Target, Christmastree Shop, etc.) like this one…


and pop them into your freezer on a tray.

Store coffee cubes in a container in your freezer, and store some leftover coffee in a pitcher or mason jar in your fridge, and you will continue to enjoy the kind of coffee you like best, at the strength you intended it to be, all iced out and fabulous for the summer!  

Before you gulp, here’s one more tip:  because sugar has a hard time dissolving in ice-cold beverages, use confectioner’s (or “powdered”) sugar instead of granulated sugar.  It will dissolve into your icy eye-opener and you won’t get that grainy-sandy texture as you sip your heavenly caffeinated delight.

Have an awesome summer weekend!



Meal Planning: It Doesn’t Have to be the Worst

Can we call it something else?  It feels like adding a full time job to my already overloaded life to call myself a Meal Planner.  And an extra full time job just adds negative connotations on top of the way I’m already feeling about the daunting, never ending but essential task of meal planning.

I’d like to call it “Life Prep,” because that’s what it really is.  We all know that you can do Life without it, but if you prepare, you’re going to be able to face whatever Life throws at you, a little easier.  And if you believe in the awesome power of preparation (like I do), then it begins to feel like a task worth doing.  So, I’m sitting down to do some Life Prep, this early Saturday morning, and I thought I would share my thoughts with you.

What do our lives look like next week?  Well, we have a family cookout tomorrow, school (the countdown in the last three weeks of the school year is brutal), work for all four of us, running, yoga, paddle boarding, gym and sailing, end-of-year sailing party (to which we are bringing food), and some work at the condo. As always, we will need three or four real, sit-down dinners, tons of grab-and-go high-octane lunch and snack food, and a great make-ahead breakfast idea that will last all four of us, all week (cause no one likes making breakfast at a morning hour that starts with an “F”).

Alright, so we’ll start with breakfast.  I’m sick of English (or Portuguese) muffins with peanut butter, banana and granola.  I don’t even eat them every day, and I’m sick of them.  Let’s make a couple dozen egg cups this week.  (Add: LOTS of spinach or kale, 2 dozen eggs, cheddar x 3 and bacon to grocery list if they are not already stocked in your fridge/freezer.  You’ll use the greens and the cheese all week, so make sure you get enough for a week of lunches and recipes below.)  Will make those tomorrow.

Lunch food… well, lunch food has a lot to do with what we are having for dinner the night before, so we’ll come back to that.

Dinner this week:  since we are grilling tomorrow, I’ll put a few extra pieces of meat on the grill for Monday and Tuesday.  I thought I would also make some grilled cheese and roasted tomato soup tomorrow, since it’s supposed to rain.  Maybe we’ll do flank steak that can be sliced over greens or grains, and a couple chicken breasts that can be re-used the same way.  That means marinating the meat tonight.  (Add: plum tomatoes, basil, onions, chix and flank steak to grocery list.  You’re already getting greens, and you have canned tomatoes, vinegar, dijon, Worcestershire, olive oil and herbs/spices for the marinade in your pantry.)  That brings us to Wednesday (and the sailing party on Thursday)… I think I’ll make a huge, double-double batch of pasta salad (pasta, spinach, grape tomatoes, artichoke hearts and basil) and serve half on Wednesday night for dinner (add jalapeno-chicken sausage) and bring the other half to the sailing party cookout on Thursday night.  (Add: jalapeno-chicken sausage, artichoke hearts, grape tomatoes to grocery list…you already have the spinach–I told you to get a LOT–and the basil on your list, and you have the pasta and stuff for dressing the pasta salad–red wine vinegar, oregano, basil, garlic powder and olive oil–in your pantry.)

Dinner Friday night?  It’s probably fair to let Friday night be an “eat the inventory” kind of night, but if there aren’t any leftovers kicking around, let’s go ahead and make pizzas.  BBQ chicken with cilantro and grilled corn and a regular mozzarella, tomato, basil.  (Add: pizza dough, BBQ sauce, a dozen ears of corn, cilantro, mozzarella and tomatoes to grocery list.  You already have grilled chicken from the other night and cheddar cheese, some to be used for egg cups, some for grilled cheese, some for snacking, the rest for the BBQ chicken pizza.)

Now just look at all of the wonderful things we will be eating for lunch this week: roasted tomato soup, marinated, grilled steak and chicken with greens and pasta salad with chicken sausage!  Maybe add an avocado or two to slice into your salads!  Squeeze a lemon over your avocado-flank-steak/chicken-over-greens salad with a sprinkle of salt and pepper and you/we will be happy campers!  (Add breakfast and lunch support items to grocery list: yogurt, avocado, apples, berries, cantaloupe, watermelon, bananas, dried cranberries and almonds/walnuts for trail mix, seltzer.  Also add Life support items: coffee, milk, lemons, fresh bread, and birdseed for the six goslings who are growing up in your backyard, if applicable.)  Maybe the mood will strike me to make some granola bars this weekend, or some flaxseed muffins… if you want to have granola bars on hand but can’t wait for my runaway recipe to come out, add to grocery list for now.

And there it is: one week of hearty, healthy, no-frills, grab-and-go, easy-peazy, lemon-squeezy meals to support all that Life will ask of us this week.  Now I’d better get to the grocery store while the getting is good!  Have a delicious and happy week!

Mouth-Watering Marinades

Just because it’s because it’s been raining for the past two months straight doesn’t mean you aren’t going to do some serious grilling this Summer.  If you’re like us, you’ve already started!  Here are two GREAT, EASY marinades (one for steak and one for chicken) that will literally make your mouth water and have your family cheering for more.  Bonus: you can make both of these with stuff that is already in your pantry, saving you the $5 – $10 on bottled marinades, and keeping that single-use plastic out of the environment.  No to go on and on, but another thing I love about these marinades, apart from the facts that they keep your meat juicy and the flavor is outstanding, is that when you make your own, you know exactly what’s going into them: no strange chemicals, no artificial flavors, no sugar, no preservatives, no MSG, no tricks, no worries!

How do I know you are going to love these marinades?  I’ll tell you.  We had them both last night.  When Axel, the world’s biggest steak lover, passes up steak in favor of this marinated grilled chicken, you know you’re on to something.  As for the amazing flank steak, I only wish there was more left over.  Time to whip up some more marinade!

Lindquist Soup: Better than DayQuil

Is anyone else sick?  Seems like this whole state is congested, whether with ear, throat and sinus infections or just plain old, annoying seasonal allergies.

Don’t worry!  Lindquist Soup is here to give your congestion a run for its money.  

We call this Lindquist Soup because I invented it the other night when half the household was sick, and because, like the Lindquists, it’s comprised of a bunch of crazy ingredients that, when thrown together, come together perfectly and pretty much kick butt.  My Eva calls it “zingy!” and I have to agree.  It’s nothing if it’s not zingy.  Enjoy, and may we all feel better and breathe easy soon.


Grilled Romaine

There is nothing easier or more surprisingly satisfying on a hot summer evening than grilled romaine salad.  It’s the perfect base for any protein (think: sliced flank steak, grilled salmon, chicken or pork) and takes minutes to prepare.

The surprise is that when seasoned, grilled and dressed, romaine takes on a nutty, smoky flavor that will leave you wanting more every time.  Seriously, we can’t get enough of it.  We’ve had it for the past two days, and when asked what my family wants to eat this week, I got three replies of “more grilled romaine, please!”  Romaine is one of those magical greens, like kale, that can hold up its crunch even after exposure to heat, dressing, and time.  That makes this a great salad to pack in lunches and/or eat the next day: it will still be nutty and smoky and crunchy, even after being grilled and sitting in the fridge with dressing on it, overnight!


In this recipe, I’ve added another of our summer staples: grilled corn.  You can, and should, add anything you like!  The corn adds sweetness which is addictive.  I also love to slice white radishes into my grilled romaine salad for an extra fresh, sharp crunch.  I will shred beets, carrots, and/or jicama into it from time to time.  But to be honest, the simplest and fastest way to make this salad is just with whatever you can fit onto your grill.  If you have corn on there, great: add it.  If you have chicken on there, great:  add it.  If all you have on there is romaine, well, aren’t you lucky.

Click here for how-to and tips.

How much does my family love grilled romaine, you ask?  Good question.  The answer is that we love it so much that my wonderful, creative, hilarious stepson had these t-shirts made for all of us a few years ago (Calvano is my maiden name).  Clearly, we live to eat… grilled romaine.



It’s Chowda Time!


It’s really, finally spring here in Little Rhody.  Which means it’s mostly rainy and cloudy and brisk, with a few gorgeously bright, warm, sunshiny days sprinkled in to remind us that the page on the calendar is about to turn into Full Blown Summer.  It’s prom season, end of school frenzy, what-are-you-doing-this-summer-time, time to switch out winter clothes and shed our winter coats.  It’s time to stock up on charcoal and propane and fill your pantry with clam stock and all of the ingredients you need to make this chowda!  I find myself unable switch over into Summer Mode without making and indulging in this clam chowder every year, in May.  It’s the ultimate Season-Opener comfort food.

Here’s the thing that is often widely unappreciated: even though the harsh winter has ended and we’re looking at soft, hazy days ahead, we really do need some comfort at this transition.  It’s a big one.  And I’m not ready.  Yet.  I made this chowder last weekend for Mother’s Day, and I’ll make it again on Memorial Day, and then I’ll be ready to tackle the three-month headlong-sprint that is Summer.  We’re talking hearty, quick breakfasts and lunches for hard working, big kids who’ll be on-the-go, working in the heat, on their feet, all day long… we’re talking easy, portable “boat food:” wraps and crackers and cold salads with protein-packed grains, grilled romaine and loads of veggies and high-octane snacks… we’re talking frozen grapes and watermelon, protein shakes, iced coffee and ice cream!  We’re talking extra laundry, yard work, house work, washing cars and prepping boats for the season.  We’re talking holidays and birthdays, end of year parties, pool parties, beach parties, weddings, bonfires and graduations.  Then there’s always work for the adults, sailing and cookouts after work and on weekends, and marathon training for me.  You know what I’m talking about:  it’s a lot.  You’d better sit down and have some hot, creamy chowder before you tackle what’s ahead of you this summer.

I’ll be back soon with more from the Summer Sanity Planning Department…

Italian-Style Potato Salad

When I think of potato salad, I think of warm, red bliss potatoes covered in tangy dijon-chive vinaigrette, Nothing could be farther from my mind than mayo, eggs, and chopped celery.  Once you have tried this version of Italian-style potato salad, you’ll never go back to mayo-based again.  Again, I’ve never made less than 10 pounds at a time (but often have made more)… cut this in half if you aren’t feeding an army.