What I do while I figure out what to do next . . .

The BEST Orzo Pasta Salad

This is my absolute go to recipe for summer!  And since Memorial Day is coming up this weekend – I am off to the store to buy the ingredients for my first summer BBQ!.  I got this fabulous and EASY Orzo & Spinach Pasta Salad recipe at the request of my daughter –
Simply chop all items and put into large serving bow.

Simply chop all items and put into large serving bowl.

(who by the way doesn’t like 1/2 the ingredients on their own) – but loves how they all work together here.  So thank you to my good friend Jill for graciously sharing her recipe with me.  Hope it’s as big a hit at your house as it is at ours.

1 lb cooked and cooled orzo
3/4 lb crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup minced red onion
1/2 cup diced sun dried tomatoes (drained and blotted dry)
1 small can sliced black olives (either sliced or chopped)
3 cups fresh spinach, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
3 TBS balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Combine all ingredients, pour on dressing and
Sooo yummy!!!

Sooo yummy!!!

I’ve Finally Lost My Head!!

I did this cake for my twin daughter’s 15th Birthday.  We were going into Sleepy Hollow and they wanted something “in theme”  I looked at lots of cakes for ideas but everything seemed “too dark” so I found a way to incorporate the theme and also use their favorite colors.  I’m just so happy with how it turned out. AND that it survived a 40 minute car ride on a twisty turny bumpy highway to get there!DSC_0134 DSC_0135 DSC_0136 DSC_0137  I used Colette Peter’s White Cake recipe because while it has a nice flavor it is also dense enough to support all this fondant.  I was somehow out of my usual cake supports so cut wooden dowels to size for each layer.   I also added 3 different fillings.  The top layer has Nutella, the middle lemon curd and the bottom is homemade crab apple jelly from our orchard. I piped the horseman onto a circle of yellow candy melts and added a fondant jack o’ lantern head.  I don’t think it would have fallen without, but I put a toothpick behind to support the topper “just in case”

Mango Avocado Salsa for fish

Mango Avocado Salsa

Mango Avocado Salsa

This is the PERFECT topping for white flaky fish!! Once the weather starts turning beautiful, fish comes back onto my radar and this salsa is a definite keeper!  I forgot to buy the habanero chile when I was out at the grocery store the first time, so I whipped up the salsa a couple of hours ahead of time without it.  Just cover with plastic wrap in fridge.  If your kids do not like spicy you can skip the habanero completely, but the adults really liked the kick that it added. The original recipe called for 1/2 to 1 chile but I did less than 1/2 and it was quite spicy so play it by ear.  The red of the habanero adds a nice color so I would not substitute a milder jalapeno, but reduce the quanity.  My avocado also was a day or so away from being ripe and the time in the lime juice in the fridge brought it around to a perfect consistency by the time I was ready to serve.  So easy.  And so gorgeous!  I served on top of baked tilapia fillets (14 minutes in oven @ 400 degrees – pat fillets dry – place in baking dish sprayed with nonstick cooking spray, season with coarse salt and pepper and small pat of butter).  Salsa would work with any white flaky fish.


  • 1 avocado diced into medium size chunks
  • 1 ripe mango diced medium
  • 1 small red onion diced small
  • 1/4 finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 habanero chile, seeds removed, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 Tablespoon EVOO
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt


  • Only 1 step – combine in bowl!

Per 1/4 cup – 91 calories, 6.9 g fat, 1 g sat fat, .9 g protein, 8.2 g carb, 2.7 g fiber.

Adapted from: Everyday Food



Thanksgiving how-to: rehydrating dried cranberries

I just found it incredibly frustrating to do a search because I couldn’t remember exactly how I do it (once a year).  So, for all my faithful followers . . . Here is how to rehydrate dried cranberries.

My recipe called for 1 cup.  Treat the ratio like you do for rice.  Twice as much water as cranberries.

  1. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in small saucepan
  2. Add 1 cup dried cranberries
  3. Boil uncovered 15 minutes
  4. Drain

And that’s it. No special ingredients.  You don’t need cranberry juice, or white grape juice or vinegar or any of the other hosts of nonsense I found in my brief search.  Just do it.

Enjoy your holiday!


Fabulous Pumpkin Cupcakes

Let me just start off my saying that these will now be my go-to fall cupcakes.  They are sort of a combination of sweet muffin and cupcake and they are absolutely fabulous!  I have used browned butter in my blueberry muffins and have completely fallen for the wonderful and deep flavor that it adds to baking and these cupcakes are no exception.  Combined them with a cinnamon cream cheese frosting and pretty much YUM is all I have to say.

adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe


  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
Preheat oven to 325F
Line muffin tins with paper liners and set aside.  Batter will be enough for 12 cupcakes.  You could possibly make more if you do not eat as much batter as my family did.  It was worth it – I don’t think it is possible to ever make more than 12 in my family.
Brown butter.
Melt butter in small saucepan or medium heat.  This will take some time.  Expect around 10 minutes.  The first time I browned butter I kept wondering “is this it?”  You can walk away but the first time I would hang out stirring gently with a wooden spoon.  First the butter will foam up and then go clear.  When it is ready you will start to smell a wonderful nutty smell.
Then small rust-colored flakes will appear on the bottom of the saucepan. You are done. Skim foam from top, and remove from heat. Pour into a bowl to stop the cooking, leaving any burned sediment behind; let cool.
Grate the fresh nutmeg.
Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.
In another bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, both sugars, eggs, and brown-butter mixture.
Add the flour mixture, and whisk until just combined.Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full.
Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes.Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes.

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
recipe from Baked Perfection

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Beat butter and cream cheese with a mixer on medium-high speed with whisk attachment until fluffy

Reduce speed to low. Add sugar, 1 cup at a time, and then cinnamon and vanilla; mix until smooth.

Put in pastry bag with large star tip and frost in a circular motion beginning on outside of cupcake and finishing in center.


Lemon Vermouth Chicken

This is a fabulous tasting, easy chicken dinner that you can make with items that are already on hand in your pantry.  And by fabulous I mean I have 100% success rate with my entire family (pretty much that never happens). So to celebrate my awesomeness I have now made this twice in the last month.  First time I followed the directions entirely and bought chicken breasts and pounded them to an even thickness.  The second time I bought pre-sliced chicken cutlets.  The cutlets made the preparation so fast and also cooked much much quicker. Bonus in my house!

adapted from my much loved Williams-Sonoma Chicken cookbook)


  • 2 whole chicken breasts (4 breasts)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup dry vermouth
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • zest of one lemon
  • 4 fresh basil leaves for garnish (optional)


The recipe calls for you to halve, skin and debone the chicken breasts.  I have done that before.  I really have no need to do it again.  I am perfectly happy buying boneless skinless chicken breasts.  I don’t feel like less of a mother (I don’t care if it makes me less of a cook apparently).

Before you start, turn oven on to warm and place oven safe serving platter inside.

Place chicken breasts between 2 sheets of waxed paper and pound gently to an even thickness

Mix the flour and sage together in a flat bottomed bowl (I used ground sage the first time and dried the second.  Both work)

Dredge chicken breasts in flour/sage mixture and shake off excess.

Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat.

Add chicken breasts and saute, turning as the become golden 2-3 minutes each side.
(the larger breasts took longer – my cutlets were 1-2 minutes each side)

Transfer to a warmed platter to keep warm while you deglaze the pan.

Add vermouth and bring to a boil over high heat.  Deglaze by loosing any browned bits and continue to stir until reduced by 1/2. 2-3 minutes.

Add lemon juice and season to taste with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper.

Pour sauce over chicken and sprinkle with lemon zest and basil.



You should make this tonight!

It’s pouring down rain here — it’s not really miserable and cold, but it cries out for comfort food tonight.  Of course tonight I have to pick up my short child early from school to take to a lesson and then race home and supervise homework and then the short child also has jazz at dinner time (yes, this is all due to poor planning on my part)  that ends at exactly the same time I am supposed to show up looking all clean and shiny for parents night at her school.  Oh, and somewhere in between all that I need to make dinner for 6 people.  Can you say “crock-pot”???  By the way I own a crock-pot cookbook – I won’t make 95% of the recipes in it because either they have steps like browning and adding ingredients 1/2 hour before serving or they are based around cream of mushroom soup – seriously YUCK!

This is 2 steps.  Put in ingredients and shred.  That’s it.  And it tastes awesome and it keeps well and you can serve it as leftovers if you need to.  It is also immensely adjustable to feed the size crowd you need.

RECIPE Shredded BBQ Chicken on Ciabatta Rolls:

  • 5-6 boneless breasts of chicken (this is totally flexible – I have 7 in tonight because they looked small)
  • 1/2 cup Italian dressing
  • 1/4 light brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 bottle BBQ sauce (your choice – I like Bulls Eye Original because it doesn’t have High Fructose Corn Syrup or ingredients I cannot pronounce)

And that’s it.  Seriously.  Dump it all in.  Mix it around if you feel the need to create more steps. Turn it on and forget about it.  I have it on low for the next 8 hours.  It would be fine in 6.  I have cranked it up to high and had it ready in 4 hours.

Because you should make this tonight I am posting this now with just the in process picture.  I have no idea if it will be possible to grab a final product pic with my night tonight but I will try 🙂

When you are ready to eat take 2 forks and shred the meat.  This will take longer than you think it should.  But it’s not remotely complicated.  Tonight I will either do it in advance of Jazz class and set crock-pot to warm for 1 hour or I will have my big girls shred it while I am gone so it is ready to eat when I roll in on 2 wheels and toss the short child out the window on my way to parents night.

I buy nice buns — Ciabatta Rolls – not hamburger buns for this.  It does make a difference – my kids voted.


Well this is just crazy!!!

I don’t really have a green thumb, but apparently once you put a whole lot of effort into building raised beds and hauling really, really awesome dirt from really far away in your yard (trip, after trip, after trip) you can be a rather negligent gardener and then still reap the benefits for a good portion of the summer.  I do try to plant things my family likes, green beans, corn, broccoli, basil etc.  I also plant things I like and will eat daily or will can like pickles and tomatoes.  But then I get suckered into planting things like squash and zucchini (which I like drizzled with olive oil and grilled) which my family just tolerates and unfortunately, those plants tend to be the things that I am shockingly most successful at growing (see above picture for proof).  Hence my quest for the ultimate zucchini bread recipe.  Stay tuned for that recipe, plus bread and butter pickles, a pesto straight from the Ligurian coast (via my backyard) and an awesome go-to dip that will take you from summer barbeques to football tailgates and beyond! 🙂

I am a Salmon Goddess!

I am. I really am.  And I don’t even eat salmon. EVER.  I think it’s gross. I only (very recently) even started eating white flaky (non fishy) fish and that was only because my husband’s boss served it for dinner.  And you can’t really go, “ick” and refuse to eat fish at the bosses house.  But somewhere along the line between I DON’T EAT FISH and now when I tried it again, it turned out my taste buds have changed and I actually like it.  I even purposely order it on the menu even when there are other things I like too.  Shocker!

So here it is summertime and I am looking for new recipes to try.  Around this time my husband has also decided to be not only dairy intolerant but also iffy on the whole pasta thing.  JOY!  Enter Salmon.  It’s healthy.  My husband likes it.  My children have never even tried it so they don’t know whether or not they hate it yet.  Plus it’s pink and summer looking.  Why not?

That’s how I ended up standing clueless at the fish counter one afternoon at 5pm.  There were two kinds of salmon.  Alaskan Sockeye wild salmon which was bright red on sale for 9.99 lb (regularly 19.99 lb) and a lighter pink farm raised salmon that said “dye added”  also for 9.99 lb.  Luckily, there was a super cool “I know about food” guy standing right in front of me who was ordering the sockeye – so I hit him up for the scoop.  Already, I don’t like the idea of dye added to a food I am buying to be healthy, and as a self respecting woman, I am almost honor bound to buy the more expensive salmon on sale.  Plus, cool guy sealed the deal when he said the wild salmon is much for flavorful and firm.   I did a little more research when I got home.  In addition to having no color added, wild salmon is less fatty, has more omega 3’s and protein than farm raised salmon.  Also farm raised salmon has more toxins and is given antibiotics to ward off disease from being raised in close confines.  Honestly, if wild salmon isn’t on sale, just save up your $$ and eat it less often rather than ever going for the farm raised.

So, having gotten the nod and the wink from super cool food guy. I head home with my purchase to experiment.  I read a couple of recipes, but it is already getting late and I really need to just get going already so I minimize to GREAT SUCCESS!  I’m serious.  Salmon Goddess.

INGREDIENTS (to serve 6)

  • 2 lbs wild sockeye salmon
  • 1/4 cup mounded light brown sugar
  • 3 TBS creamy country Dijon mustard
  • coarse salt and freshly ground pepper.


Preheat broiler

Place salmon on tin foil lined rimmed baking sheet.  This is REALLY REALLY important.  When you see the after picture you will understand why.

Lightly score salmon along serving lines and sprinkle with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper.

Mix together country Dijon and brown sugar into a glaze. I used a creamy country Dijon – so with the mustard seeds, but also with a nice texture.

Completely cover salmon with glaze.  I needed to let the salmon sit with the glaze for a while because my dear husband did not in fact leave the office when he said he would.  The glaze runs all over, so I would reapply as much as necessary before popping under broiler.

Broil 10 minutes – do you see what I mean about the tin foil being vital!  I think without it, I would have just had to throw the pan away.

Serve immediately.  We also had a jasmine rice, some crusty bread and grilled asparagus to go along with the salmon.  Did I mention I ate it too!  Seriously, awesome.  Even for me.  Everyone liked it (well boy child ate it but, really, as we know, only really loves tacos, spaghetti and meatballs and the like – I think he might have said meeh in a sort of positive tone – which I took as a success from him)





Tomato, Cucumber and Feta Summer Salad

It is one of those too hot to eat days and this salad is just perfect for days like today.  I saw the picture this morning on Pinterest and I just had to whip it up.  I didn’t even need to go to the grocery store because the ingredients are all my favorites and I had them either in the house or growing in the garden.  It was just that easy!  Well, I did have to go outside into the smoldering heat and climb up a slight incline to said garden to pick the basil (which is thriving despite being planted WAY too close to a sprawling pumpkin vine).  FINE, my husband was right.  I over-planted again, but I just cannot bring myself to thin out plants that have sprung up from tiny seeds – it just seems too mean.   Anyway, back to the salad. . . I halved the recipe this time because it will not keep without getting mushy.  Also, I’m probably the only member of my family who could live on cucumbers and tomatoes. So plan accordingly.  You can make ahead, but do not add in the dressing until 1/2 before you want to eat.  You can eat right away (I did) but the flavors will keep developing if you give it a little time.

Adapted from a recipe from Local Kitchen


  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 1 English cucumber
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 1/2 cup crumbled Feta cheese
  • 1/4 shredded basil
  • 1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt.

Quarter cherry tomatoes and add to a large bowl

Dice cucumber and add to tomatoes

Yes, you are correct.  That is NOT  1/2 a red onion.  My house ATE my 1/2 a red onion.  Instead I found 1/2 a large shallot.  It worked.  It was fine. But you should use 1/2 a red onion instead.

Now add the 1/2 cup of crumbled Feta cheese.  I really like this picture.  I don’t know why.  Maybe it’s the heat and I’m just easily impressed.

Finally add the shredded basil and toss to combine.  I tried to have my son take a picture of me shredding basil, but he’s too short.  You just saw forearm.  See below.



So You will just have to use your imagination and know that I once I was done taking pictures with my right hand, I went back to two-handed shredding 🙂

To a small bowl add red wine vinegar, EVOO, sugar, sea salt and pepper and whisk until emulsified.

Drizzle dressing over salad.

Toss and you can either eat right away or  let it sit for 1/2 an hour for flavors to develop.

And I was wrong about this salad only appealing to me (in my family).  My short child proclaimed that not only did she like it.  She LOVED IT! But that may be because she doesn’t have a Prada backpack 🙂


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