Thursday, October 28, 2010

Late Fall

More pictures from the view outside my kitchen window. I simply can't help myself - the colors have been amazing this year and then this storm blew through and the sky was really dark and the clouds were amazing and then the sun...

I have to share.

Early fall is all red and bright orange. Late fall is yellow and gold.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Penne with Chicken and Veggies

Before I start rattling off the wonders of this easy, colorful and, of course, delicious recipe, I have a favor to ask. If you are enjoying the blog and the recipes I'm passing along, would you please share the link ( with a friend? Or two? I would appreciate it, and hopefully, so will they!  Thanks!!

Now, on to the important stuff. Food!

This is a recipe I have perfected over the years. One night when the boys were in high school, I suddenly had three extra male teenage stomachs to fill at dinner. I took the chicken breasts I'd been planning to bake, grabbed the red onion from the salad and a couple of boxes of pasta from the pantry and pulled together Penne with Chicken, Red Onion and Walnuts. It was a huge hit and became a family staple. Once hubby and I were empty-nesters, I was able to add a few more ingredients without garnering editorial comments such as "What's the green stuff??"or "Eewww, anchovies?!". Yes, I said anchovies! But don't worry, they melt right in with the butter and olive oil. No one will ever know they're there, except to comment on the wonderful depth of flavor. I admit I pulled this idea from Giada DeLaurentis' recipe for Farfalle with Broccoli. Thanks Giada!

The other night I added sweet red pepper and spinach to the onions and chicken, but any colorful veggie that strikes your fancy will work. Broccoli florets or green pepper or asparagus or even carrots cut in julienne would all make a wonderful pasta dish. And another wonderful thing? It's a two-pot, one dish meal.  Easy to make, easy to clean up.

Buon Appetito!

Penne with Chicken and Veggies
Serves 4 to 6

1 pound of penne or other short pasta such as farfalle (bow-tie) or rotini 
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil (that's an estimate - I just ring the bottom of the pan a few times)
1 pound boneless chicken breast or tenders, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 tbs butter (again, does NOT need to be precise)
3 garlic cloves, minced 
3-5 anchovy filets (they come in a small, flat can and can usually be found with the canned tuna)
Sprinkle of crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 medium to large red onion, sliced thin
1 medium to large sweet red pepper, sliced thin
1 package baby spinach (doesn't really matter what size it is)
Freshly grated parmesan or romano cheese, to taste

1. Ring a large saute pan (mine is 14 1/2 inches in diameter) with enough olive oil to coat the bottom and heat over medium heat until oil is shimmering. Salt and pepper the chicken cubes, then add to the hot pan. Cook, turning once (the chicken is ready to turn when it no longer sticks to the pan), until browned and cooked through. Remove from pan and keep warm until ready to use. 

Note: if you don't have a large, teflon-coated saute pan, go buy one. I got mine at Sam's Club and use it all the time.

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.
3. While water is coming to a boil, prep veggies.

4. Over medium-low heat, once again ring pan with olive oil and add butter. When the butter is sizzling, add the garlic, anchovies and red pepper flakes. Cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally (this is when the anchovy will do it's disappearing act!). Be careful not to burn either the butter or the garlic.
5. Add the red onion and red pepper to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until veggies soften.

6. While veggies are cooking, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until just al dente. Reserve a cup or so of the cooking water, then drain the pasta. Another Note: if using broccoli florets, toss them in with the pasta for 2 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon and add to the saute pan.
7. Add spinach to the saute pan with the other veggies (It will look like a whole lot, but believe me, it will cook down to nothing!). Stir until spinach starts to wilt.

8. Add chicken back to pan. Drizzle with olive oil and just enough of the reserved pasta water to moisten.

9. Add the cooked pasta and a healthy grating of parmesan or romano to the pan. Stir until everything is hot. Serve!


Friday, October 22, 2010

Braised Lamb Shanks

I wandered into our little grocery store last Saturday, looking for inspiration, and lo and behold! Lamb shanks on sale! Braised lamb shanks are one of our favorite, cold-weather, Sunday dinners.  Why?  Because not only are they delicious, they cook slowly all afternoon and make the house smell amazing.  And, if they're done before we're ready to eat (that would be the end of the Patriot's game - or half time if it's a late game), it doesn't do them any harm to stay warm in a low oven.

I grabbed four shanks (another plus - great leftovers!), dug deep into my gray matter and tried to remember the recipe - not used since last winter (the recipe, not the gray matter...).  I was thrilled and not a little surprised when I got home and opened the cookbook. I had remembered everything I needed!  Not bad for an old woman!

So, although we enjoyed our lamb shanks last Sunday AND Monday nights, I saved posting the recipe for today - hoping to inspire someone else's cold-weather Sunday dinner.

Lamb Shanks Braised in Red Wine
Serves 6 or 2-4 with leftovers
This recipe is taken directly from Cook's Illustrated The New Best Recipe Cookbook 
with only minor changes.

1 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
6 lamb shanks (about 1 to 1 1/3 pounds) - we only did 4 shanks and it was fine.
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 medium onions, sliced thick
3 medium carrots, cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces
2 celery ribs, cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces
4 medium garlic cloves, peeled
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
2 tsp minced fresh thyme leaves
2 tsp minced fresh rosemary leaves
2 cups dry red wine
3 cups chicken broth

1.  Adjust oven rack to the lower-middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat the oil in a large roasting pan or ovenproof Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Meanwhile, sprinkle both sides of the shanks generously with salt and pepper.

I was sous chef on this one, hubby was the chef.  Can you tell he likes pepper?
2. Place as many shanks as will fit in a single layer in the pan and cook, turning once, until nicely
browned all over. Transfer to a plate and set aside. If necessary, repeat until all shanks are done and set aside.

3. Drain all but 2 tbs of the fat from the pot. Add the onions, carrots, celery, garlic, tomato paste,   
    herbs, and a light sprinkling of salt.  Cook until the veggies soften slightly, 3-4 minutes.  

Okay, so I did forget an ingredient...  Note, no fresh rosemary.  Sigh...

4. Add the wine, then the stock, stirring to loosen the browned bits on the pan bottom. 

   5. Bring the liquid to a simmer.  Add shanks and season with salt and pepper to taste.

6. Cover the pan tightly with cover or foil and transfer to the oven.  Braise the shanks for 2 hours. Uncover and continue braising until the shank tops are brown, about 30 minutes. Turn the shanks and braise until the other side is browned and the meat is fall-off-the-bone tender, 15 to 30 minutes longer.

Remove the pot from the oven and let the shanks rest in the sauce for at least 15 minutes.  Carefully transfer the shanks to individual plates.  Arrange a portion of the veggies around each shank.  With a large spoon, skim the excess fat from the braising liquid and spoon some over each shank.  We had them with fresh, steamed brocolli and garlic smashed potatoes.  Heaven!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Is it right to offer a deal to a criminal who, to save his own skin, suddenly goes "honest"?

Scott Farah, the man who stole our life savings and caused devastating, irreparable financial and emotional harm to almost five hundred people, pleaded guilty last week.  A plea of "Not Guilty" would have been a joke, as the evidence was beyond overwhelming.

Apparently there's some equation for this type of white collar crime that determines the minimum and maximum sentence.  We've heard the maximum sentence he could get is 19 1/2 years, the minimum 15.  We received notification from the FBI that the Federal prosecutor is asking for leniency in his sentencing because Scott "cooperated" with them.  If he gets the minimum, I'm told he could be out in 10 years.  He's in his mid-forties, so he'll be in his mid-fifties when he gets out.  Certainly young enough to start over - or to disappear to wherever our money is stashed to live the next thirty or so years in comfort.  Either way he'll be better off than 99% of his victims.

This man seemed to target older people for his scam.  At 59 and 60, my husband and I are among the youngest of his victims - and among the luckiest.  Although our savings were wiped clean and the investment income suddenly gone, we are fortunate.  Hubby was able to find a full-time job that is paying the bills and we have a beautiful home to sell.  I'll cry like a baby when we pull out of the driveway for the last time, but at least we have it.  This crook was able to convince many investors to take out equity lines on their homes and invest that money with him.  Now, many older people, who were completely dependent on their investment income to survive, are destitute.  These are people who worked hard their entire lives and were able to set aside a nest egg to insure a secure retirement.  They are now in their 60's, 70's and 80's.  Because of this man's arrogance, stupidity and greed, some have filed for bankruptcy and others have been forced to turn to the welfare system simply to survive. 

Because Scott suddenly decided that honesty is the best policy - simply to save his own butt - he deserves a reduced sentence?  In my opinion, the maximum sentence isn't nearly long enough.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Tomato onion sauce

The Italian name for this sauce is Pomodora Cipolla and it is a very delicate, light sauce; a perfect topping for capellini or linguine fine (the really thin pastas).  The basic recipe is only 3 ingredients, yet there are a few variations.  I tried a very simple version last winter, and while it was delicious, I felt enormously guilty making a tomato sauce without garlic or basil - the two staples of my very Italian mother-in-law's well-loved sauce.  After making a couple of minor additions to the basic recipe (I'll bet you can figure out without too much difficulty what I added...), I ended up with a sauce that was almost as easy as the original and, for me, a tad better.

Pomodoro Cipolla
Serves 2 as a main dish, 4 as a side

1 28-ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes, undrained.  Preferably San Marzano tomatoes.
   Note: San Marzano is a type of plum tomato that is usually recommended when making sauce.  
   Some are imported, some grown domestically, but most grocery stores stock at least one brand.
1 medium onion, halved and peeled
5 TBS. butter
1 medium or 2 small cloves garlic, minced (optional)
1 small handful of minced basil (optional)   
This is a very delicate sauce, so I didn't want to overwhelm it, just add a touch of extra flavor.

1.  If using the garlic, melt the butter in a medium saucepan, over medium heat.  Once butter is sizzling, add the garlic and cook for 3-4 minutes, being careful to not burn (or brown) either the butter or the garlic.
2.  Add all the other ingredients. (If not using the garlic or basil, just put the first three ingredients in the pot.)

3.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to keep sauce at a gentle simmer for 45 minutes, breaking up tomatoes as they soften.
4.  Using tongs, remove onion pieces and discard.  This step is also optional.  I once tried chopping the cooked onions and returning them to the pot, but I thought the onions overpowered the sauce.

5.  Pour over hot pasta, toss and serve.  

You're probably thinking: That's not capelli or linguine fine!  And you'd be correct.  That's spaghetti and all I had in the house.  I really think this sauce is made for a finer pasta and I enjoyed it one teeny, tiny bit less for not having it.

Freshly grated parmesan or romano?  Also optional.

Now, as my father-in-law used to say:  Mangiare!  Buon appetito!!


Thursday, October 14, 2010


I was going to toss another great recipe at you today, but instead you're going to have to put up with a bunch of Fall Photos.

Maybe because the house is on the market and there's no guarantee we'll be here for another fall, or maybe because this fall the weather has been so damn spectacular... whatever the reason, I've been taking a lot of pictures recently.  So, as the deadline for getting a post up today looms large, I've decided to share the glory of my surroundings.  Enjoy!

It had been storming all day.  The clouds began to blow out just as the sun was going down.   


Golden glow...
Yesterday was a perfect "10". 
Coming up our road.

A multi-colored tapestry next to the barn.

I love the play of light and colors.

Great pasta recipe coming tomorrow.  Promise.  Thanks for your tolerance with the pictures...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Gruyere Potatoes. Yes!

The recipe I'm about to share with you is an all-time family favorite and one of the most requested recipes in my repertoire.  Best of all it is EASY, can be partially prepared in advance and left-overs are wicked yummy.  What could be better?  A perfect accompaniment to beef or lamb.

Gruyere Potatoes
Serves 6

4 large or 5 medium russet or Yukon Gold potates
1/2 pound Gruyere cheese, grated
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup chicken broth

1. Peel potatoes, then slice into 1/8" slices (this can be done up to 2 days in advance. Keep slices covered with cold water until ready to use.)

About a year ago I bought this mandolin (the slicing thingy) at Target. It wasn't expensive and makes slicing the potatoes a breeze.  Plus, they are all uniform thickness.  Well worth the money.

2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
3. Spray 9x13-inch glass baking dish with cooking spray.  Layer half of the potato slices in the dish.
4. Sprinkle the potatoes with half the cheese, then with salt and pepper.

5. Repeat.
6. Gently pour the chicken broth over the casserole.  Cover with foil - tenting so the melting cheese doesn't stick to the foil.

7. Bake for 30 minutes.  Remove foil. Bake, uncovered, for another 30 minutes.

8. Serve to rave reviews.

You're welcome!!  :-)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Columbus Day rituals

For hubby and me, Columbus Day weekend is when we "winterize" the yard.  The patio and most of the porch furniture gets carted to the barn, my little water feature gets drained and covered, and all the flower pots get cleaned out and put away.  This the is weekend the large American flag that is hung from the porch on Memorial Day, is taken down, carefully folded and put away.

This morning
This ritual marks the end of the warm weather and our preparation for winter.  The snow blower takes up it's position right inside the garage door, where it stands ready to do battle with snow that will soon fall.  The fire is lit in the kitchen fireplace to ward off the morning chill and I'm back into my almost constant cup of hot tea.

Winter Office
 I like this time of year.  I like pulling on jeans and soft sweaters and sticking my chilly toes into my fur-lined Merrill's.  I like soups and stews and snuggling in front of the fire on Sunday afternoons to watch the Patriots play.  By the end of January, I'll be singing a very different tune, but that's then.  This is now and I like this time of year.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Housekeeping note:  I posted a recipe yesterday, but it was never emailed and I've finally figured out why.  I have the email set to be sent daily between the hours of 5 and 7 pm EDT.  Apparently, "between the hours of" means 2 minutes after 5 pm and I didn't get yesterday's done until 5:05 pm.  I believe it will go out with this one and be right below it.  You really don't want to miss it because it's a great recipe for Jambalaya!

Sunday afternoon, Zoe was standing by the kitchen sliding glass door, wagging her tail in her usual "Please let me out" stance.  Being the doting mom that I am, I immediately walked over and opened the door.  She was out like a shot and when I followed her with my eyes, I was startled to see her nose-to-nose with a big, black, shaggy dog. When the other dog turned to run - with Zoe in hot pursuit - I realized it wasn't a dog, but a bear cub.  Hubby and I were out the door in an instant, hollering for her.  We'd watched a mama bear and two cubs forage for acorns in a tree that sits at the edge of our field about a week ago and figured mama and sibling were close by.  If Zoe ran headlong into Mama, she'd be in big trouble.  Cub and dog disappeared into the woods and then there was silence.  We continued to yell and about 60 seconds later Zoe came prancing out of the woods looking very pleased with herself.  We figured the cub had outrun her, but she wasn't going to admit that.  She'd chased it off and was tickled to death with her own bravery.  It's easy to be brave when the intruder is your own size (well, only double your size).  Last fall, she was far more cautious when Papa Bear came to visit.

There are four, very large oak trees in our yard that produce thousands of acorns.  Just walking across the grass this time of year is like walking across a dry, rocky creek bed.  The bears, who have to consume something like three times their weight before snuggling down in a cozy cave to sleep through the winter (both of which sound pretty damn good to me), seem to love our particular kind of acorns.  How do I know this?  One Saturday morning last October, I crawled out of bed and happened to glance out the window on my way to the bathroom. 

There was a very large bear calmly walking across the yard.  I went out on the porch, made some noise and it disappeared back into the woods.  We left for the day shortly after that and when we started up our road late that afternoon, I jokingly said to hubby, "I wonder if Mr. Bear is there waiting for us."

He was.

He hung around for seven straight days.  Zoe lay quietly on the kitchen side of the glass slider and watched him.  When she needed to go out, I'd open the door, tell him to "Shoo!" and off he'd go.  She'd go out, do her business, looking over her shoulder nervously as the slightest sound.  Then she's scuttle back in the house and resume her watch dog watching.

Our neighbor showed these pictures to a NH Fish & Game Warden who said it was the largest black bear she had ever seen.  She estimated his size to be 450 to 500 pounds.

Yesterday afternoon, I saw Junior scamper across the yard.  No sign of the rest of the family.  Yet.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Last Friday night I picked up both Paul and some friends who were coming for the weekend, at the airport.  Knowing we wouldn't get home until 8:30 or so, I wanted to be able to have dinner on the table within a half hour, but didn't want to be running around the kitchen like a crazy woman during that half hour.  Catching up in front of the fire over crackers and cheese and a glass of red wine sounded much more appealing.  The weather was rainy with the chill of early fall in the air, so I wanted a meal that would be warm and welcoming, as well as able to be made in advance.  My trusty Jambalaya recipe fit the bill on all counts.

I first discovered this recipe in the Junior League of Denver's 1987 Cookbook: Creme de Colorado. I've made some changes such as adding chicken, eliminating celery (I'm not a big fan of cooked celery) and modifying the spices, and now it's exactly the way we like it.  It's perfect Sunday Football food when your team is playing at 4 pm.  Speaking of football and my team... did I mention the Patriots beat the Dolphins last night on Monday Night Football?  They did and it was a game worth staying up ridiculously late for.

Anyway... the recipe is below and some additional adaptations are included.  Hope you like it!

Serves 8


Olive oil
1 pound Andouille sausage, sliced about 1/2 inch thick (you can substitute lite kielbasa is you prefer less fat and less spice)

1 pound boneless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 sweet, red pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
handful minced fresh italian (flat leaf) parsley
2 16-ounce cans chopped tomatoes, undrained
5 1/4 cups chicken broth
1 cup (about) sliced green onion
1 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp chili powder 
1/4 tsp cayenne (optional if using Andouille sausage. If using kielbasa, some heat is probably a good
      idea.  Modify as desired)
Freshly ground salt and pepper to taste

1 1/2 pounds medium shrimp, shelled and deveined, if necessary.  If you buy them frozen with the tails on, remove the tails.

About 6 cups of rice.  I use a brown rice blend, but any kind is fine.

To make the stew:

1.  Ring bottom of large soup pot with olive oil.  Over medium-high heat, add sausage or kielbasa and brown.  Remove with slotted spoon and set aside.

2.  Brown chicken in same pot. (tip on browning any protein - put it in the hot pan and don't turn it over until it no longer sticks to the pan.  It will be perfectly brown at that point.)  When done, remove with slotted spoon and set aside.

3.  Pour excess grease out of pot.  If using kielbasa, you may have to add additional olive oil. 

4. Add red pepper, garlic and parsley and saute until fragrant and peppers are tender - about 5 minutes.

5.  Add undrained tomatoes, chicken broth, green onions and all spices.  Add reserved sausage and chicken.  

Jambalaya can be prepared a day in advance to this point.  Cool, then cover and refrigerate.  Bring to room temp before proceeding.

6.  Before serving, bring stew to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
7.  Start rice according to package directions.
8.  When ready to serve, add shrimp to stew and simmer just until shrimp curl and turn pink.
9.  Place spoonful of rice in warmed, individual bowl and ladle stew on top.  Serve with warm, crusty bread and salad.