Scrubber (Lang) Salad

All right, here it is, folks.  Fondly referred to in my household as “Scrubber Lang” Salad, this SUPERFOOD salad will kick start your day, your diet, your week, your life!  I think of all of the crunchy, curly, fibrous kale and nutrient-rich, raw veggies literally scrubbing all of the muck out of my insides as it travels through my system.  You even get your protein, vitamins and healthy fats in the almonds and the dressing.

This salad is a BADASS, of the nutritional variety.  Kind of like its namesake, Clubber Lang… Simply put, I pity the fool who doesn’t make and enjoy this salad, often.

Need a Great New Pork Dish? Here it is!

This is the only picture I could find of this dish:  my now-famous Sour Cherry-Bacon Glazed Pork Loin.   I am in a hurry to post now, with this one substandard picture, because my sister loved it SO much the last time I made it, that she has requested the recipe to make for our Easter Sunday dinner!  So I couldn’t keep her waiting any longer… will put up pics of our feast on Sunday.  Maria, if you are reading this, I have an extra bag of sour cherries I can provide towards the feast.  And I’m bringing ravioli, too… Mom and I are in cahoots.

Friends, I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as my family does!  What will you be eating this Sunday?

Faking it & Making it Better

Hey-o!  Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix is one of those things that was really hard for me to let go of, because it is simple, inexpensive, and because it’s a comforting image from my childhood.  If you were born in the 50’s, maybe you remember this guy…

if you were born in the 70’s, this is the box you see in your mind…

and it looks just about exactly the same at the grocery today.  Jiffy mixes are still a pretty good bargain, at about $0.60 per box, and I honestly don’t want to take anything away from the Jiffy company, because in many ways, I totally support what they do… it’s a heck of a lot better for you and for your wallet to make a Jiffy mix than to buy a pre-made muffin or bread or cake at the store.

But since I’m kind of on a mission to show my friends that cakes and muffins and pancakes and waffles don’t actually come from boxes, and you can do it healthier, more simply and with less waste and expense yourself, I had to do away with Jiffy.  Also, since I usually make about six times one mix, the pile of waste created in paper packaging every time I had a hankering for a corn muffin was shameful.

Fortunately, others before me have done the measurements and have figured out the proportions, so a copy-cat Jiffy mix recipe, using only the most basic ingredients you already have in your pantry, is easy to find, and I’m making it even easier by copying it here!

2/3 cup flour

1/2 cup cornmeal

1/3 cup sugar

1 Tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

Just mix these dry ingredients with 1 egg, 2 Tablespoons of vegetable oil, and 1/3 cup of milk and bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes.  This mix will make about 6 small muffins.  I like to make about six times this amount, which will yield 12-14 giant muffins!  I’ve added that recipe here, so that you don’t have to do the math.  Of course, this recipe is only the base for the goodies you will add… you could make your muffins sweet by adding fruit and honey, or you could make them savory by adding bacon, cheese and onions, like I have done here.  Thank you, Jiffy, for your decades of service and corn-meal inspiration… but we will take it from here.

And Now it’s Time to Play: “What Do You Feel Like Eating Next Week????”


     This is me, every Thursday night at our house.

We finish eating dinner, and having just seen the contents of the near-empty fridges, I am reminded that in a mere 24-48 hours, it will be time to plan the meals and write the lists and hit the grocery store(s) and do the prep and get us pointed in the right direction for another week of breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks and treats!

So I say to my family:  “Hey, guys, guess what!?  It’s time to play, “What Do You Feel Like Eating Next Week?!?!”  Yes, I seriously say it like that.  I metaphorically call each of them to the contestant stand and drum up the suspense.  (They have to put up with a lot in exchange for all of this made-to-order food, you know.)

And then, like clockwork, the big one says, “Well, I don’t know–what are we doing next week–let me look at the calendar–short ribs are always good.”  And the bigger one says, “RED SAUCE.  Broccoli with red sauce, pasta with red sauce, quiche with red sauce… you know, any kind of food, covered in red sauce.”  (I don’t know who let them on this show.)

Tonight, we collectively came up with baked chicken with wild mushroom risotto (which, invariably, will happen on Tuesday night, ’cause that’s always risotto night around here), and some type of protein with polenta.  And red sauce.  I have some more work to do with this menu.

Do you guys have any ideas??  Some great Springtime inspiration??  We are stuck in the food doldrums and need something snazzy to pull us out of stagnation… What’s on your menu for next week??  What brightens up your day and heats up your appetites when you are tired of stews and soups and the weather is still too tiresomely cold and dreary to grill outside?  Big prizes are at stake here!  Submit your entries for a winning meal today!



Did I mention that I LOVE lemons?

Anyone who knows me and my runaway kitchen knows that I literally always have about a dozen lemons on hand, at any given time.  More, if I’ve just been to the store.        

Lemons are a staple in my kitchen like salt, and I use them a lot like I use salt: to punch up the flavor of most dishes.  Lemon and salt are alike in that they don’t necessarily make a dish taste like themselves (lemony or salty), but rather, they have that special quality of making an ingredient taste more like itself. Lemons bring out the best in their partners.  They are flavor enhancers, the ideal mate for just about any ingredient.  Lemon adds a hidden brightness to savory dishes and balances the sweetness or richness of desserts.

Since I always have lemons on hand, lemon bars are a go-to dessert, especially if I’m in a pinch for time, ingredients, and/or ideas.  Lemon bars are a special lemon occasion: the lemon gets to enjoy a starring role!  No backseat enhancement going on here– these lemons bars will keep lemon on your mind for days.

Lemon bars are fan-favorites around here, and apparently, throughout my social network!  So, I wouldn’t be a good food friend if I didn’t share this Easy, Peasy, Lemon Squeezy recipe and encourage you all to add lemons to your grocery list so that you can make these bites of sunshine and happiness today.  I made a batch yesterday, and I was so inspired by your comments, that I’m going to make another batch today… only this time, I’m going to substitute oranges for lemons and see how that goes! I’ll let you know.  In the meantime: pucker up!  These lemon bars are my favorite because they are so powerfully lemony.   If you’re looking for a mild or subtle lemon flavor, look elsewhere.  Enjoy!

Menu for a Mad Month (Part 4: Is it Over Yet?)

I’d like to say that this photo is a visual depiction of the peaceful, sanguine nature of this past week, and report that all of our days and all of our meals went off as planned, and were met by the roar of the happily feasting crowds, and everyone lived happily ever after.  Instead, what I will say is that despite the fact that we were all low on sleep, tight on time, and feeling the grips of overbooked schedules, difficult people, deadlines, emotional and physical stressors, not to mention the frustratingly freezing cold temps, we were able to churn through our collective responsibilities without too much turbulence, and eat tasty and healthy every day, without thinking about it or adding extra work into our week, when our collective focus was required elsewhere, as it was.

This photo, of the tranquil and breathtaking Newport Bridge, was taken from the venue where I was working on Tuesday morning, at an exhilarating press conference to announce the sponsors for the “local” race boat and team for the 2018 Volvo Ocean Race.  It was fun!  and exciting!  and awesome! And at this moment, it feels like it was a hundred years ago.  Here are Charlie Enright and Mark Towill, Skipper and First Mate, and the sponsors of the 2018 boat (Vestas wind and 11th Hour Racing) at the press conference.  And the Vestas boat in action during the race in 2015.  Pretty awesome, right?

Let’s just say, that with a week’s lineup like the one our household just tackled, it’s a good thing we went into it with a fridge (ok, two) full of prepped, baked, breakfast, lunch and dinner food ready to warm, grab, pack and eat… because there certainly wasn’t a spare moment all week for extra cooking, shopping, or thinking.  I had made chocolate cherry flaxseed muffins, quiche, red sauce, eggplant parm, farro tabbouleh and carrot ginger soup (a late addition to my meal plan) over the weekend.  I had stocked up on bananas, apples and mandarin oranges, yogurt, milk and coffee.  I  had peeled, cut and bagged carrot sticks and washed and bagged red grapes and sugar snap peas for snacks, so when I was making breakfasts, lunches and prepping dinner before sunrise each day, there was no thinking involved.  Just assembly.  Whew.

I made Bring Spring Risotto and baked chicken on Tuesday night (I don’t know why I always make risotto on Tuesdays: it just happens that way) with ingredients I had prepped in advance (cleaned and chopped leeks, pre-cooked asparagus and peas).  And on Wednesday night, we celebrated my sister’s birthday by going out for impromptu Mexican!  So, one day at a time, we made it.  And so did you.  Nicely done.

But, guys, I’m wiped.  I had a small meltdown yesterday morning when I realized that it was Friday and I didn’t have a single thought in my head for meals next week… ANOTHER week of March.  Cold, dreary, MAD March.  And we have dear friends coming over for dinner tonight and my family is coming over on Sunday!  So, I pulled the following menu/meal plan out of thin air and hit the grocery on my way home from work last night (terrible time to hit the grocery, but you do what you have to do).  I don’t know if I’ll have time to go back out for forgotten or specialty items, so it will be a “rely on the pantry” kind of week.  If we don’t have it, we won’t need it.  Here’s the plan:

Today, we will be smoking a brisket, two sockeye salmon filet, and a turkey, on this excellent smoker we acquired last fall.  As you can see, it’s nice and enormous, so we can fit all of that in there.  And I am not needed for its operation, which is perhaps the best part.  I’ll be making baked stuffed shells, lemon squares and quiche while the boys smoke!

We’ll have a cheese plate and crudités (green beans, red peppers, cucumbers, carrots and sugar snap peas–leftovers get bagged for lunches) with hummus, and two baked brie– one savory and one sweet.  I’ll make two pans of baked stuffed shells today (one for tonight, one for tomorrow), shaved asparagus salad and a big fresh green salad.  And lemon squares will make the perfect sweet-tart, bright, clean dessert after all of that smoked meat and cheese.  Lemon squares are loved around here and they’re easy, too.  I’ll show you.

To carry us through the rest of the week, tomorrow I’ll make another batch of peanut butter protein cookies and probably another quiche.  The quiche has been disappearing faster than I can make it around here.  My guys like to eat it with red sauce for breakfast.

Between that and the leftovers from this weekend, with a few extra veggies along the way, we should be good for our sprint to the finish of March.  How are you guys holding up?  What strategies are working for you?  Does anyone know anything about smoking fish?  What will you be in the mood for, come April?  I, for one, can’t wait.




Saint Joseph’s Chocolate Cherry Flaxseed Muffins for Hurting Hearts

It is Saint Joseph’s Day and it is our first wedding anniversary, and although we have every reason in the world (SO much joy and love, incredible family and friends) to celebrate, our hearts are hurting for dear friends who have lost their wonderful son to a tragic skateboarding accident.  The whole thing is so painful and so hard to process, especially on this day of fathers and sons and family… Instead of doing the big, traditional Italian feast day, we are keeping it a quiet one with lots of hugs and tears.  My incredibly kind, generous, hard working, sweetly loving husband had one request this morning: muffins.  And since there is no better way for me to process heartache and show love, I eagerly went to work on this recipe.  It turned out to be too good not to share, so I thought I would put it out here in the hope that it will bring some joy to your day.  Our time together is so short: eat the muffins and share the love.

Tabbouleh Salad: Nutritious, Herbaceous & Delicious

The beauty of making tabbouleh salad, apart from its enticing freshness (thanks to the cucumber, parsley, lemon and mint), is that you can use any type of grain you like (or is on sale or in your pantry at the moment)!  I have used bulgur wheat, quinoa and farro, each to great success.  Just now (pictured here) I used both quinoa and farro.  Do whatever you like!  That’s the most important part!

Here’s what Farro might look like if you buy it at Trader Joe’s.  Kind of looks like puffed rice cereal, before the puff.  It has a mild, nutty flavor and works well in place of rice, barley, quinoa or lentils.  Farro is an “ancient grain,” and is super trendy right now, thanks to the push for “plant based diets.”  Farro is tasty and touts a number of benefits to support good health, so I’m all for it!  Here are a few:  it’s high in fiber, and protein (5 grams fiber, 6 grams protein in 1/4 cup!); it has 20% of the Vitamin B3 (niacin) that you need per day, magnesium, zinc and iron.  So, this is a pretty loaded little salad if you’re using farro.

 But wait!  Quinoa has got it going on, too!!

This is a finished salad with quinoa.

Quinoa is a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids and also boasts a high fiber content and iron.  Quinoa also brings lysine (tissue growth and repair), magnesium (relaxes blood vessels, can help migraines, promotes healthy blood sugar control, body temperature regulation and healthy bones and teeth), riboflavin (improves energy within brain and muscle cells), and manganese, a powerful cancer-fighting antioxidant.

But wait!  You are NOT coming in third if you choose to make this with classic bulgur wheat.  This is cooked bulgur wheat.

Despite the black eye it’s gotten from gluten-haters, bulgur wheat is just like quinoa and farro, in that it is also a complete protein, low in fat, high in minerals like manganese, magnesium and iron, and high in fiber, and some research suggests that it has powerful anti-inflammatory effects on the body, which makes it great for high performance athletes.

Listen, I’m not going to lecture you on the outrageous health benefits of every single ingredient in this simple salad, but I am just going to tell you that you can’t go wrong with any of these three grains, plus the veggies and herbs:  fresh tabbouleh is a health food, plant based, delicious, herbaceous KNOCKOUT little salad.

It’s important to follow the cooking instructions on the package of whichever grain you are using. Cooking times and methods vary.  For example, quinoa and bulgur wheat each require you to MEASURE the water you are using, because instead of straining the excess liquid, it is expected to be absorbed by the grain, i.e., you won’t have any excess liquid if you measure properly.  Farro is like pasta: you use a big pot of water, and in 8 – 10 minutes, it’s tender/done, and you strain it.

Top tabbouleh salad with another protein like fish, chicken or steak, or let it stand alone.  Enjoy!


Menu for a Mad Month (Part 3: Anniversary Week)

This is my all-time favorite picture and moment from March 19, 2016.  It takes my breath away.

This Sunday, March 19th, we will celebrate one truly, madly, deeply happy year of marriage and of family-ness, and what better day on which to do that, than on Saint Joseph’s Day!  (We sort of rigged it so that our anniversary falls on an Italian feast day every year.  Pretty brilliant, right??)  Last year, we feasted on zeppole from Scialo Brothers’ Bakery (Federal Hill, Providence) at our perfectly beautiful wedding at Matunuk Oyster Bar.  We also had the MOST delicious almond-flavored cake from Scialo’s.


This year, we will again enjoy zeppole from Scialo’s, but instead of a white satin dress, I’ll be wearing a white cotton apron at my mom’s house, while we make my other favorite Saint Joseph’s Day treat: sfingi.


Sfingi are basically fried batter rolled in sugar, a truly decadent and simple Italian version of a donut.  As my mother said at our wedding, come on over for some sauce and a sfingi on Saint Joseph’s Day: our door is always open, and we’ll set a place for you.


I could reflect on these pictures and that perfect and delicious-in-every-way day, almost one year ago, all night, all week, all year!  But instead, I’m going to set up my corned beef, cabbage and potatoes in my crock pot for slow-cooking tomorrow, and get a jump on menu/meal planning for next week.  It’s going to be another wicked one… and I have to admit, my friends, I’m feeling uninspired at this point in this month.  I may have front loaded all of my best moves into the first half of the month!  This past week’s menu was pretty solid, but was heftily bolstered by the addition of a last minute snow day-induced red sauce with spicy chicken sausage and cavatelli, both of which (sausage and cavatelli) had been slumbering quietly in the freezer for a few weeks.  This unplanned meal became a great addition to our lunches all week.  I also made an awesome black bean, corn, jalapeno, cilantro salsa that we had with our chicken taco bowls, which was awesome all by itself.  Will update those recipes soon.

I’ll have to add an additional meal to next week’s menu so that we don’t come up short.  I’m still gunning for dishes that will “BRING SPRING” into our lives and will leave a little cash in the bank!

Here’s what I have so far:

Baked Chicken Thighs with “Bring-Spring Risotto” (leeks, fennel, peas, asparagus and lemon)

Eggplant Parmesan with Classic Marinara

Chili (from the freezer!) with Melted Cheddar, over pasta

Seasoned Steak Tips and Farro Tabbouleh Salad

Citrus Beet Salad over spinach with goat cheese and Dijon-Balsamic Vinaigrette

Marinated Teriyaki Tuna with basmati rice

Breakfast, snacks and sweet treats for next week haven’t come to me yet… maybe I should go work on dreaming of them now!  What’s on your menu next week?




French Onion Soup

If it could be any more delicious, it would.  But it can’t.  There is nothing like a bubbling, steaming, rich, unctuous crock of cheesy french onion soup to make you glad it’s a sopping wet mess outside (or at least not mind so much)!  Try to eat this without grinning.  Good luck!