Having no boys around last week (at boy scout camp), my daughter and I had a few good meals.  The first was Farfalle with Mushrooms and Peas.  My husband does’t eat mushrooms so anytime he is away for dinner is an excuse to use mushrooms.  This was a light, summer pasta dinner that was easy to put together.  I tend to not measure a whole lot as I cook or watch the clock either so your mileage may vary.


1/2 box Farfalle (bowties) cooked according to package

1 pound mushrooms, cut any way you like.  Daughter likes them chunked but you could slice them thinly or halve them.  It doesn’t matter.

  • 1 package frozen green peas. You can defrost them if you want but it isn’t necessary as they will cook quickly.
  • 1 – 2 shallots, sliced thinly
  • 2 – 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Olive oil
  • Zest of one lemon
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup white wine
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup cream
  • Grated Parmesan cheese.  As much or as little as you want.


  1. Cook pasta according to directions on package.  When done,  turn flame off but keep warm for a few minutes until you are ready to pop it into the mushroom/pea pot.
  2. In a heavy bottomed large saute pan, heat olive oil (enough to go around the pan once) until shimmering.
  3. Add the shallots and the garlic. You should hear that lovely sizzling sound.  Stir them around and let them cook a few minutes until they are golden brown but not burned.  Add the lemon zest and a pinch of salt.  Be careful, they can flip in an instant from one to the other.
  4. Add the mushrooms and stir them to coat with oil.  Cook about 5 minutes.  If you are like my daughter and like her mushrooms crispy, then cook a few minutes longer.
  5. Stir in the peas and let cook another few minutes.  Now you can add the wine and lemon juice along with any seasonings you may wish to add.  Red pepper flakes, rosemary, fresh herbs from the garden such as oregano, parsley or basil would be lovely additions.
  6. Once all the flavors have melded together add the pasta that you ave been keeping warm and mix it all up.  Add the cream and let that cook together a few moments.
  7. Scoop into bowls and top with cheese. Salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Serve it up with a nice bread and a salad and you have a quick and easy dinner.

I’ve always been a big fan of flowers and gardens but I’ve not always been so good about taking care of my own garden.  Over the last year or so I’ve also been moving toward a more green, healthy lifestyle.  We’ve been buying more organic food and products.  One thing that I’ve struggled with is bug spray.  I’m a mosquito magnet.  If there is a mosquito anywhere nearby it will come bite me.  I’m not thrilled with putting all those chemicals only skin so I researched some alternatives.    I’ll be mixing up some bug spray later on but today I planted two garden boxes for my deck with plants that are supposed to repel bugs.  My boxes contain: citronella, marigolds, lavender and lemon grass.  Aside from looking pretty I hope they work. 




Hannah’s Brownies

My daughter, Hannah has caught the snow day baking bug. Her school was closed yesterday due to ice so she searched online and found this recipe from allrecipes.com. They came out delicious. Nice and dense, chewy and fudgy, just the way our family likes them.

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350
Grease a 9×9 pan
In a medium bowl, mix together the oil, sugar, and vanilla. Beat in the eggs. In a separate bowl, combine
flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Gradually stir the flour mixture into the egg mixture until well blended. Stir in nuts if desired. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the brownies begin to pull away from the edges of the pan. Let cool on wire rack before cutting into squares.

Review: The Pearl

The Pearl
The Pearl by John Steinbeck
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Rereading a classic can be a double edged sword. You may have terrible memories of being forced to read it in school. I remember reading this book in middle school and I had a vague recollection of the story. Reading it now for my book group was a completely different experience. Reading it in muddle school, we focused on plot and pacing, climax and other literary elements. Reading it now, I was free to enjoy and notice the beauty in Steinbeck’s sparse but by no means simple prose. At just shy of 125 pages, this short novella or parable is retelling of a classic Mexican folktale that Steinbeck wrote and published first in a Women’s magazine. He is rumored to have written it specifically to turn into a screenplay. I have not seen the movie and am not sure if I want to. I’m not sure that a movie can capture the simplicity of the life that Kino and his wife Juana led, nor can it capture the fleeting moment when their lives change as the scorpion bites baby Coyotito.

As with most parables, the characters are not fully fleshed three dimensional characters, they are carefully placed embodiments of base traits such as good and evil. There is little room for middle ground, unless you read and see beyond the page, to the subtleness that flows from the character’s actions. Of course, as a parable there is a moral to the story. What is the moral? Be careful of what you wish for? Don’t try to rise above your station in life? What is the point of trying to achieve success when there will be horrific repercussions? I’m not entirely sure what Steinbeck’s moral was, I’m not a literature professor, just a reader who enjoyed the book for what it was.

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Valentine’s Day Dinner

Pistachio Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb

I adore rack of lamb.  It is one of my favorites.  This was my first time making it at home.  It turned out so good!  I will definitely be doing it again, with some tweaks of course.  One note – it is essential to have a meat thermometer on hand to determine doneness.  I ended up having to put some of the chops back in the oven for a few more minutes.  Not a big deal.

photo (1)


  • 2 racks of lamb (remove some of the fat cap if there is a large amount, but you need some fat to sear it)
  • Salt and pepper

For crust –

  • ¾ cup pistachios (shelled)
  • ½ – 1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • Coriander seeds (I put a small amount in the middle of my palm, maybe ½ tsp, then did it again)
  • Rosemary – maybe ½ – 1 tsp
  • Green Peppercorns ( ½ tsp)
  • Salt
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard

To Prepare

  • Mix all except the mustard in a food processor until it forms a coarse paste.  I added a tiny bit of olive oil to help it come together.  (I made the mistake of adding the mustard to the food processor.  I should have spread the mustard on the lamb and then added the spices as a crust.  My crust while delicious fell off when the lamb was sliced)
  • Heat a cast iron or heavy bottom skillet to very very hot.  Sear the lamb fat side down for 4 – 5 minutes until nicely browned.  Flip and sear another 2 -3 minutes.  Remove to a baking sheet.
  • Coat the meaty side of the lamb with the mustard.  Then pat ½ the spice paste onto each rack of lamb. 
  • Roast the racks of lamb in the preheated oven crusted side up for 15 – 20 minutes.  The internal temperature should be:

¨       Rare:  120-130

¨       Medium Rare:  130-140

¨       Medium:  140-150

  • Loosely tent the racks with foil and let rest for 10 minutes.
  • Slice chops (single or double, your choice) and serve on a warmed platter.  They cool very quickly.


Roasted Cauliflower Salad with Radicchio, and Fried Capers
(Taken from Anne Burrell, with modifications)

I would definitely make this again but I would substitute maybe endive or red cabbage for the radichio.  Or use more cauliflower and less radicchio.  I like the bitterness of radicchio but it was a bit much for the family.  The original recipe called for adding Perorino but I was making this with lamb so I omitted the cheese and instead added a bit of honey to mellow out the dressing and ease the bitterness of the radicchio.



  • 1 large or 2 small heads cauliflower, cut into bite size florets
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup capers, patted dry
  • 2 radicchio, cut into chiffonade
  • ½ – 1 tsp Rosemary
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

To Prepare

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  • Add the cauliflower florets to a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and toss. Transfer to a baking sheet and roast until the cauliflower is very brown and crispy, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven to a large bowl and reserve.
  • Coat a large saute pan generously with olive oil. The oil should be about 1/8-inch deep. Heat the pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the capers. As the capers cook they will open up and start to look like little flowers (very cute). Fry the capers until they are crispy, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the capers from the pan, dry them on paper towels and season with salt immediately. (Go LIGHTLY on the salt, capers are already a bit salty but you did rinse them so a bit of salt is needed)
  • Toss together the cauliflower, capers, and radicchio. Dress the salad with lemon juice, honey, olive oil, and rosemary.  


It was also served with a simple quinoa that had some red chili flakes, salt, pepper and a little rosemary to tie it all together.  Oh, and a really nice red wine.

I photocopied this out of a cookbook but sadly forgot to write down what book it was.  My apologies to the creator of this delicious dip.  The way that it is listed here is how I altered it.


  • 2 cans (14oz) white beans (I used one can of butter beans and one can of small white beans)
  • 2 – 3 cloves garlic
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • dash salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin (I used a small mound of cumin seeds in my hand)
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika, plus extra for garnish
  • 1 small handful cilantro
  • Cracked black pepper to taste


  • Drain and rinse beans under cool water several times until the water runs clear.
  • In the bowl of a food processor pour the beans, lemon juice, olive oil, spices and most of the cilantro.
  • Process on high until smooth.  If it appears dry, you can add more olive oil, lemon juice or even a tiny bit of water to loosen it up.  It should be the same consistency as hummus.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste
  • Garnish with paprika and chopped cilantro.

Serve with chips, pita bread or veggies.

We try to plan our menus for the week on Sundays.  This week my daughter asked for Spaghetti Bolognese.  I’m not sure where she had it before or heard of it but she wanted it.  Fine by me.  I looked up a few recipes and was dismayed to find that not only did they contain pancetta but that they also contained butter and cream.  Since we keep kosher that was a big problem.  Luckily I stumbled on a version that touted itself as the Perfect, Authentic Italian Bolognese Sauce.  That is quite a claim!  Not sure it if is the perfect sauce or not but it was s big hit at our house.


  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 6 or so slices pancetta (I used turkey bacon)
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • stick of celery, chopped
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 lb ground veal or lamb (I used sweet Italian Veal sausage that I took out of the casings)
  • 2 cans (400g) diced or chopped tomatoes
  • 2 large glasses Red Wine (nice precise measurement, maybe that is why I love this recipe! I used a Cabernet Sauvignon)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Pasta (enough for 4 people, cooked.  Recipe suggested tagliatelle, but we used spaghetti)


  • Heat the oil in a large, heavy based saucepan and fry the bacon until golden brown over medium heat.
  • Add the onions and the garlic, sauteing until slightly browned and softened.
  • Increase the heat to high and add the ground beef. Saute until the beef is browned.  Remove from pan to a bowl.
  • Add the veal or lamb and saute until browned.
  • Add the onions, garlic and beef back to the pan.  Pour in the wine and boil until it has reduced in volume by about a third.
  • Reduce temperature to medium-low and add in the tomatoes, celery and carrot.
  • Allow to simmer for 1 – 1 1/2 hours until the sauce has reduced considerably.  Stirring now and then.
  • Pour sauce over the cooked pasta.  Enjoy!