Birthday Dinner

January 21, 2015 § 1 Comment

One of my favorite Free Day activities (day disconnected from work for non-Coach peeps) is to cook, and that’s what I did on my birthday.  This was a super easy porchetta recipe fromthe  January issue of Bon Appetit.  To accompany the porchetta we had a simple salad, and thinly sliced roasted sweet potatoes.

Had an awesome birthday dinner over the weekend at our favorite local spot, Affresco, and indulged in their homemade Cavatelli!


We also packed lunches for a local charity- Uncle Pete’s.


The Weeknight Porchetta was super easy, but special.  Great to serve at a dinner party, so that you have lots of time with your guests.

Weeknight Porchetta


Servings: 4

  • 4 garlic cloves finely chopped; plus 2 heads, halved crosswise
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh rosemary, plus 4 sprigs
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds, coarsely chopped
  • teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1½-lb. pork tenderloin
  • 4 slices bacon


active: 10 min total: 1 hrs
  • Preheat oven to 425°. Toss chopped garlic, chopped rosemary, fennel seeds, salt, and 1 Tbsp. oil in a small bowl; season with pepper.
  • Rub garlic mixture all over tenderloin (if you have time to do this in the morning, great; refrigerate pork until dinner). Scatter rosemary sprigs in a large baking dish and set tenderloin on top. Wrap bacon slices around tenderloin, tucking ends underneath so bacon stays put. Nestle halved heads of garlic around tenderloin and drizzle everything with remaining 1 Tbsp. oil.
  • Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of tenderloin registers 145° for medium, 40–45 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest at least 10 minutes before slicing.


May your days be many and your troubles be few.  May all God’s blessings descend upon you.  May peace be within you, may your heart be strong.  May you find what you’re seeking wherever you roam.

– Irish Blessing




January…it’s cold, it’s dark, it’s time to focus on health

January 11, 2015 § 3 Comments

I’m recovering from a night with a sick kid which evens it out to two sick kids in the house.  January is always a busy month for me both personally and professionally.  And after a wonderful 2 week vacation the kids ended up with three inclement weather days where they called off school.  What to do?  We have already gotten rid of the Christmas cookies and candy from the holidays.  My resource guide this week is the January issue of Bon Appetit.  It is chuck full of great healthy ideas for the new year.  After a trip to Whole Foods I’m stocked up for a detox week.

For an afternoon snack at work I like to have baggies full of my own trail mix of raw walnuts, unsweetened shredded coconut, cocao nibs, and raw sunflower seeds.

Breakfast is a tough one for me, so I can pre-cook grains such as oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice to make a quick easy porridge with seeds, nuts and/or berries.  Or I can make ready-made freezer bags with berries, and greens (kale, spinach, mustard greens- whatever is available) to blend with  coconut water (or coconut milk) and raw unsweetened protein powder.  It’s all about making it simple.

I like to have at least one 8-10 oz glass of Unfiltered Raw Apple Cider Vinegar (With The Mother) in my water during the course of the day.   I drink anywhere from 64-96 ounces of water every day.

Here are a couple of the recipes I used this week:

Seedy Cherry-Quinoa Bars


Servings: Makes 12

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 1 cup chopped almonds
  • ½ cup raw quinoa, rinsed
  • ¼ cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • ¼ cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup dried tart cherries
  • 2 tablespoons brown rice syrup
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt


  • Preheat oven to 350°. Coat 8×8” baking pan with nonstick vegetable oil spray; line with parchment, leaving overhang on all sides. Toast almonds, quinoa, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds on a rimmed baking sheet, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 10–12 minutes. Let cool.
  • Reduce oven temperature to 200°. Process cherries, brown rice syrup, salt, and 2 Tbsp. water in a food processor until smooth. Transfer to a medium bowl and stir in toasted almond mixture. Press firmly into prepared pan and bake until no longer sticky, 20–25 minutes. Let cool, then cut into bars.
  • Do Ahead:Bars can be made 2 weeks ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.


Brothy Poached Chicken With Mushrooms and Fresh Chile


Servings: 4

  • pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 3 large)
  • 1 head garlic, halved crosswise
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 whole allspice
  • teaspoons kosher salt, plus more
  • 8 ounces maitake or shiitake mushrooms, torn into bite-size pieces
  • 1 fresh red chile (such as Fresno), thinly sliced
  • 1 1” piece ginger, peeled, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Sliced scallions and cilantro sprigs (for serving)


active: 40 min total: 40 min
  • Place chicken, garlic, bay leaves, allspice, and 1½ tsp. salt in a medium pot. Cover with 6 cups water and bring to a bare simmer over high heat. Immediately reduce heat to medium-low, cover pot, and cook 8 minutes. Remove chicken from liquid and let cool slightly, then shred into bite-size pieces.
  • Strain stock through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean pot; discard solids. Add mushrooms, chile, ginger, vinegar, and soy sauce to stock. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until broth tastes rich and flavorful, 8–10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then add shredded chicken and simmer just until meat is warmed through.
  • Divide soup among bowls and serve topped with scallions and cilantro.
  • Do Ahead:Chicken can be poached 2 days ahead. Let chicken and broth cool separately. Wrap up chicken and transfer broth to an airtight container; chill.


AND NOT on the Detox plan were these muffins for Vince:

Cranberry Lime Olive Oil Muffins from Baker Street

  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest
  • 2 teaspoons lime zest
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk
  • ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ⅔ cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • ¾ cup chopped dried cranberries
  • Powdered sugar, for sifting
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Place paper liners in a 12-cup muffin tin.
  3. In a medium bowl, blend together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  4. Using an electric mixer beat the sugar, eggs, and zests in a large bowl until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the vinegar and milk. Gradually beat in the oil. Add the flour mixture and stir just until blended.
  5. Crush the almonds with your hands as you add them to the batter and stir in the dried cranberries until mixed. Fill the muffin tin almost to the top of the paper liners.
  6. Bake until golden on top and a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out with moist crumbs attached, about 20 to 25 minutes.
  7. Transfer to a wire rack and cool for 10 minutes. Remove the muffins onto a platter and let cool for 5 more minutes. Sift powdered sugar over the muffins and serve.



“You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.”

– John C. Maxwell

I want to thank my friend Heather for motivating me to getting started blogging again.  Happy 2015 All!



Easy Week Before Traveling

August 16, 2014 § Leave a comment

We’re already back from our trip to Michigan, but wanted to share the week of dinners leading up to our vacation.  Looking ahead, I really wanted an easy week because I needed to pack, and plan for traveling.  Used a few more recipes from Dinner:  A Love Story (thank you, Suzanne)!  Also, tried out a couple of recipes to fit in with the Virgin Diet.  Here’s what it looked like:

Saturday- Chicken Tomato Wraps, Big Salad, Corn on the Cob
Make Lemon Meltaways
Make Chickpea Flatbread (to be used as pizza crust or sandwich bread)

Sunday- Great Grandma Turano’s Meatballs, Pasta, Green Beans
Cook Quinoa
Make Lemon Blueberry Muffins

Meatless Monday- Grilled Tomato and Cheese Sandwiches,
Get Slow Cooker prepped

Taco Tuesday- Slow Cooker Shredded Beef Tacos
Apricot-Pistachio Muffins

Wacky Wednesday- Leftover Spaghetti and Meatballs

Slow Cooker Thursday- Brat Gyros

Friday- Leave for Michigan


Chicken Tomato Wraps

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of all visible fat and cut into 1/4-inch-wide strips
1 large onion, chopped (1 cup)
2 cans (14.5 ounces each) diced tomatoes with jalapeno chiles
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
2 small firm, ripe avocados
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 cucumber, peeled
4 large (11-inch) flour tortillas or sandwich wraps (plain, spinach or sun-dried tomato), warmed following package directions (NOTE:  I used gluten-free, vegan, soy-free wraps…you could also use big lettuce leaves instead of a tortilla)
8 large leafy lettuce leaves (about 1/2 large head)

1. In large deep skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken and onion; sauté until chicken is lightly colored and onion is softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add tomatoes with their juice, cumin and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to boiling; cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thickened and most of liquid has evaporated, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat. (Mixture can be made ahead and refrigerated, and then brought to room temperature before proceeding.)
2. Halve avocados; remove pit; peel. Cut lengthwise in 1/4-inch-thick slices. In small bowl, toss avocado with 1 tablespoon lime juice and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Halve cucumber crosswise, then halve lengthwise; seed. Cut pieces into thin lengthwise slices. In bowl, toss with remaining 1 tablespoon lime juice and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
3. On work surface, spread out 1 tortilla. Cut off 1 inch from edge of each tortilla. Arrange tortilla, cut side away from you. Spread one-fourth of chicken mixture, about 1 cup, across lower fourth of tortilla, about 1 inch from bottom. Top chicken mixture with 2 lettuce leaves, one fourth of the avocado and one-fourth of the cucumber strips. From bottom edge, tightly roll up tortilla. Arrange, cut edge down, on work surface; slice diagonally in half. Repeat with remaining tortillas and fillings. (Wraps can be made up to 6 hours ahead and individually wrapped in plastic, and then refrigerated. For best flavor, serve at room temperature.)

IMG_9458 IMG_9457 IMG_9456  IMG_9454IMG_9459IMG_9446

Lemon Meltaways

  • •1-1/4 cups almond flour or ground almonds, cashews, or sunflower seeds
  • •1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (plus extra for rolling)
  • •2 tablespoons coconut flour
  • •1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • •3 tablespoons honey, coconut nectar, or Grade B maple syrup
  • •2 tablespoons virgin coconut oil, gently melted (not hot)
  • •2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • •1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
  • •1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or the seeds of 1 vanilla bean)

1.In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, process the almond flour, 1 cup shredded coconut, coconut flour, and sea salt until finely ground. Add the honey, coconut oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla. Process until a rough dough forms.

2.Form the dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in shredded coconut if desired.

3.For a no-bake treat, simply refrigerate until firm and enjoy!

4.For a more traditional meltaway cookie texture, place the balls on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 250oF for 20 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. Cool completely. Store cookies in an airtight container in the refrigerator.


Chickpea Flatbread

  • 2 ½ cups chick-pea flour
  • 3 ½ cups cold water
  • Salt & black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1.  In a large mixing bowl, pour in the flour and add the water gradually, while whisking, to keep any lumps from forming. Mix until smooth.

2.  Add the salt, olive oil and whisk until smooth. Let mixture stand at room temp for about 3 hours.

3.  After the 3 hours, heat oven to 350 degrees. Gently skim off the top layer of batter that may form with a slotted spoon.

4.  Spray olive oil on a large rimmed cookie sheet and pour in the batter, making about a ¼ inch layer.

5.  Carefully place in oven and bake for 30 minutes, until golden. Allow to cool slightly, then cut and serve.


Grandma Turano’s Meatballs Recipe

For the sauce:
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
Red pepper flakes
1 small can tomato paste
1 tablespoon sugar
2 15-ounce cans tomato puree (or diced tomatoes, or fresh tomatoes)
2 tablespoons oregano
Few pinches fennel seeds
Small handful thyme or basil

In a Dutch oven, saute onion and garlic and a few red pepper flakes in olive oil over medium low heat until onions are soft and just starting to turn golden. Add tomato paste and sugar and stir, mashing paste and onion mixture together, about 1-2 minutes. Fill empty tomato paste can with water and add to pot, stirring until mixed, another 1-2 minutes. Pour in tomatoes, oregano, fennel, and thyme or basil, and stir. Simmer lazily over low heat, uncovered, for as long as you want: the longer the better. If the sauce gets too thick, add a little water.

For the meatballs:
2 pounds ground beef (or, I hate to even own up to this, but we have been known, in an effort to be healthy, to use ground turkey)
1 cup Italian bread crumbs (my great grandma and my mother used Progresso; if you don’t have Italian bread crumbs, you can just add oregano and some salt to regular bread crumbs)
1 cup shredded Parm
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
Few pinches fennel seeds
2 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground pepper

In a large bowl, combine meat, bread crumbs, eggs, Parm, parsley, fennel, salt and pepper. Mash together with hands until thoroughly combined. Roll into balls (the size of golf balls) and set aside on a plate. In a large skillet, add a big glug of olive oil. Begin browning meatballs, in batches, over medium high heat, turning frequently. Remove when browned on all sides. When all the meatballs are browned, add to sauce, and continue cooking over low heat for at least 30 minutes. Serve over pasta, pile high with cheese.


Lemon Blueberry Muffins

  • streusel topping (see ingredients below)
  • 1 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
  • 2 cups + 3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 7 Tbsp. milk
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. loosely-packed lemon zest

Stresuel Topping Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp. melted butter, slightly cooled
  • 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup raw sugarTo Make The Muffins:
    Preheat oven to 350o. Line a baking pan (or two if needed) with 16 paper liners, or grease with cooking spray.
    Prepare the streusel topping according to instructions below.
    In a small mixing bowl, toss blueberries with 3 Tbsp. flour until blueberries are coated. Use a slotted spoon to remove blueberries and shake off any excess flour. Set aside.
    In a separate small mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.
    In a large mixing bowl (or an electric stand mixer), whisk together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, vanilla, milk, lemon juice, lemon zest, and continue whisking until smooth. Fold in flour mixture with a rubber spatula until just combined. Carefully stir in blueberries.
    Fill muffin cups about 3/4 full of batter. Sprinkle each cup of batter with about 1 Tbsp. streusel topping. Bake at 350o for 20 to 25 min, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.
    Let muffins cool for a few minutes in the muffin pan before removing to cool on a wire rack. Serve immediately or store in a sealed container for up to 3 days.
    To Make Streusel Topping: Whisk together all ingredients until combined and mixture is crumbly.


 Slow Cooker Shredded Beef Tacos

2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
2 pounds beef (I used a boneless chuck roast)
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1 cup beef stock
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, minced (if you want extra flavor/heat, add an extra pepper)
1 small white onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
Flour tortillas
Favorite taco toppings:
or sliced avocado
Mexican rice
grated cheese
fresh lettuce
lime wedges

Whisk together the chili powder, cumin, and smoked paprika in a small bowl. Rub the spice mix into the beef, covering each side evenly.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Carefully place the beef in the skillet and sear on each side until browned, about 2 minutes per side. Remove the beef from the skillet and place in the bottom of a slow cooker.
Add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and diced onion to the saute pan. Saute for an additional 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add the beef stock and stir the pan to deglaze it, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add tomato paste and minced chipotle, and whisk into the pan sauce until combined. Bring the sauce to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for a 3-5 minutes until the sauce has reduced and thickened slightly. Pour the pan sauce down over the beef in the slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours, or on high for 3-4 hours, until the beef shreds easily.
Shred the beef with two forks, and toss to coat with any of the remaining juices. Serve the beef in the flour tortillas, topped with your favorite taco toppings.

IMG_9479 IMG_9478

Apricot-Pistachio Muffins (Baked on the Grill)

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream or full-fat yogurt
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
  • 7 ounces apricots (about 2 to 4 apricots), pitted and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup shelled pistachios, roughly chopped
  • Yogurt, for serving

Set up a grill for indirect grilling, with only half or two-thirds of the burners lit on a gas grill or with the coals on one side. Bring the grill temperature to about 450°. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper or foil liners.
In a large bowl, whisk the flour with the cornmeal, salt, baking powder and baking soda.
In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar with the eggs, sour cream and butter; mix into the dry ingredients, then fold in the apricots and pistachios. The batter will be quite thick.
Spoon the batter into the muffin cups, filling each cup almost to the top. Set the muffin tin on the unlit side of the grill, close the lid and bake the muffins for 20 to 25 minutes, keeping the grill temperature between 400° and 450° and turning the pan once halfway through. The muffins are done when they are lightly browned on top and when a toothpick inserted in them comes out with a few moist crumbs attached.
Carefully transfer the muffins to a rack and let cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature with yogurt.

Note: Alternatively, you can bake these muffins in a 375° oven for 16 to 18 minutes

IMG_9477 IMG_9476

Brat Gyros

  • 1.5 cups Greek yogurt
  • Juice of 1/2 of a lemon
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1/2 T salt
  • 1/2 T chopped dill
  • 1 pack flat bread or pitas (at least 6)
  • 1-2 Tomatoes
  • 1-2 Sweet Onions
  • Feta Cheese
  • 1 pack of bratwurst (Nitrate-Free)

1. For the Tzatziki Sauce: Peel the cucumber and scoop out the seeds. Dice the cucumber into small 1/2 inch sized pieces. Place diced cucumber into a strainer placed in the sink or in another bowl and add 1/2 T salt. Mix well. Let salted cucumber mix sit for about 30 min to remove excess water. Take a paper towel and additionally dry off the cucumber a bit more. Add cucumber, peeled garlic, lemon juice, dill and a bit of pepper to a food processor and process until smooth. If excess water is present try to dab it up with another paper towel. Mix in the Greek yogurt and let sit in the fridge for about 1 hour.
2. For the Brat Gyro: Preheat grill to medium or medium low heat. Grill bratwurst and let them cool. Prepare onions and tomatoes by slicing them into desired sizes. When the brats are cool slice them as thin as you can using a very sharp knife. Assemble the gyro by placing the onions, tomato and sliced brats on the flat bread. Top with homemade tzatziki sauce and feta cheese if desired.

slicing brats for use in a homemade gyro recipe


Pure Michigan…ahhh!


But most of all, I’m part of you people out there who have listened to me, because especially you people in Michigan, you Tiger Fans, you’ve given me so much warmth, so much affection and so much love.

-Ernie Harwell

Chicagoan Michigander




Planning Pays Off

July 28, 2014 § Leave a comment

Still inspired by Dinner A Love Story, and I wanted to share how the week played out based on Sunday’s planning/shopping.  I create a new meal plan list in Evernote each week, and this is also where I make my grocery list.  It’s great because I can pull it up on my iPhone or Pebble Smartwatch.

Here’s my plan:

Meatless Monday- Build Your Own Risotto
Prepare Taco Meat for Tuesday Dinner

Taco Tuesday- Beef and Cheese Tacos for the family (Mommy is having dinner with friends at Cafe Touche)
Defrost Chicken
Prepare Tzatziki Sauce

Wacky Wednesday- Chicken Kabobs, Pita Bread, Rice, and Tzatziki Sauce
Dentist appointments, skewer Chicken Kabobs in the morning, ready to throw on the grill, put rice in rice cooker for Vince to turn on
Order Irv and Shelly’s

Slow Cooker Thursday- Pulled Pork Sandwiches
Defrost Ground Lamb
Chop Vegetables 
Make Quinoa
Pack Picnic Basket for Concert In The Park

Friday Concert In the Park- Lamb Sliders, Chickpea and Veggie Tagine, Cheese and Crackers, Bonfire Pouch of Wine



Started with sauteed garlic scapes to flavor the risotto.

IMG_9406 IMG_9408

Roasted multi-colored carrots and red peppers.  Sauteed mushrooms and parsley.

IMG_9412  IMG_9414 IMG_9413


Grilled chicken, cannelli beans, asparagus, marinated artichoke hearts, fresh spinach, peas, sundried tomatoes, assorted olives, pecorino cheese, and pesto completed the spread.



Prepared the taco meat Monday night, so all they had to do was warm it up.

IMG_9420 IMG_9426


Usually “Wacky Wednesday” is breakfast for dinner, but that was a bit too labor intensive for the week since Owynn and I had dentist appointments.  So, I made the tzatziki sauce Tuesday night after Cafe Touche, and I skewered/seasoned the kabobs in the morning for Vince to throw on the grill.  And the Emma turned the rice cooker on to make the rice.  Worked out great.



Remember the Pork Ragu I made on Sunday?  Well, I froze the leftovers to make pork sandwiches…no slow cooker needed today.  Bought some yummy rolls.  And made a big salad to accompany our sandwiches.



  • 1/2 cup yogurt, drained for an hour if possible
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 x clove garlic, minced and cooked slightly
  • 1/4 cup mint leaves, minced
  • 1 lb ground lamb (not lean)
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 2 tbsp cup minced onion
  • salt and pepper
  • pinch ground allspice
  • 4-6 x whole wheat dinner or slider rolls
  • cucumber slices
  1. Prepare the Yogurt Sauce by combining yogurt with next 4 ingredients (through mint leaves)
  2. Mix ground lamb with fresh parsley, minced onion and spices.  Form into slider patties
  3. Toast rolls.
  4. To serve top roll with one lamb burger, yogurt sauce and slices of cucumber.


Dreamy night for a concert in the park.


Here are some of my favorite items to stock in the pantry:

IMG_9424 IMG_9423 IMG_9422

Beanitos…just because they’re delicious (non-GMO, gluten free, soy free).  Learn more about the benefits of Raw Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar With The ‘Mother’.  My mother has always been ahead of her time.  I think I’ve shared before that as a kid we had apple cider vinegar in our water.  No, we never had soda or juice or anything fun to drink.  I’m super grateful for that today…Thanks Mom!  I use Coconut Oil for many things, but one is oil pulling.  My nephew shared this little secret with me over a year ago and I’ve seen more and more information supporting his claim.

Enjoy another week of food and love.

I get too hungry for dinner at eight. I like the theater, but never come late. I never bother with people I hate. That’s why the lady is a tramp. Lorenz Hart   ‘The Lady Is a Tramp’ (music by Richard Rodgers)



Hellos and Goodbyes

July 20, 2014 § 1 Comment

I don’t know why you say goodbye, I say hello.  Had a great visit with the Concierge Mom herself, Suzanne Bolling, and said farewell to some of the best people from our little community.  The funny thing about friends who move away (or you might be the one to move) is that you can pick up right where you left off.  What comfort there is in these kinds of friendships.

I received the sweetest package on Saturday afternoon from Amazon…Dinner:  A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach.  This cookbook is also a story, or a survival guide.  It’s a story about family dinners.  Suzanne had recommended this book to me a while ago, also has had me following Jenny Rosenstrach’s blog.  Vince and I were sitting on our deck and he asked, “Are you reading a cookbook?”, and the answer was “Yes”.  Not only did I read it, but I created my dinners for the week list after being inspired by it.


So I went to the grocery store with a plan, came home to brown the pork shoulder, and threw it in the oven to braise while I was at the pool with the kids.   Vince kept a careful eye, of course.  It turned out great!

IMG_9360 IMG_9359

Pork Shoulder Ragu

2 to 2 1/2-pound boneless pork shoulder roast
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small pat butter
1 large can whole tomatoes, with juice
1 cup red wine
5 sprigs fresh thyme
5 sprigs fresh oregano
Small handful of fennel seeds
1 tablespoon hot sauce, for smokiness (I used Trader Joe’s Hot Chili Sauce)
Pappardelle (I used Linguine for the kids and Vince, and quinoa pasta for me)
Freshly grated Parmesean


Preheat oven to 325°F. Liberally salt and pepper the pork roast. Add olive oil and butter to large Dutch oven and heat over medium-high until butter melts, but does not burn. Add pork roast to pan and brown on all sides, about 8-10 minutes in all.

Add the onion and garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add tomatoes, wine, thyme, oregano, fennel, and hot sauce and bring to a boil. Cover, and put in oven. Braise for 3-4 hours, turning every hour or so. Add more liquid (water, wine, or tomato sauce) if needed. (The liquid should come to about 1/3 of the way up the pork.) Meat is done when it’s practically falling apart. Put on a cutting board and pull it apart with two forks, then add back to pot and stir.

IMG_9379 IMG_9381

Cook 1 to 2 pounds pasta according to package directions. When it’s is ready, put into individual bowls and top with ragu and lots of Parm.

IMG_9384  IMG_9385IMG_9386

Since I’m doing JJ Virgin’s detox- no gluten, no sugar, no dairy, no eggs, no corn, no soy, no peanuts…I got creative and piled fresh spinach in the bottom of my bowl, topped with the quinoa pasta, and then the ragu…with no parm on top.

While at the grocery store this morning I ran across the cheese that my Dad loves to use in his Classic Cheese Fondue.  It’s a little out of season for this heavy comfort food, but I snapped a photo and sent to him in a “text”.  I can still visualize his handwriting on the recipe Finlandia because it melts so smooth in the fondue.  Tomorrow is his birthday, so hope it’s a fun b-day surprise.


Saturday evening with friends.  Tried a new place (new to us)- Mom’s Old Recipe Mexican Restaurant on Milwaukee Ave.  It was fun, the food was great and I had to take lots of photos of what everyone ordered.

IMG_9349 IMG_9356 IMG_9355 IMG_9354 IMG_9353 IMG_9351

Perfect night for a cocktail reception with our amazing clients on Thursday night.

IMG_9334 IMG_9335 IMG_9336 IMG_9337 IMG_9338 IMG_9340 IMG_9341

A lovely antipasto display with veggies, meats, cheeses, and olives at the center of the table, and the best passed hors d’oeuvres- chicken salad cones, ceviche and my all- time favorite “lamb chop lollie pops”- all of which made it easy to mingle, and left my tummy very satisfied.  There were  sliders, shrimp skewers, seared beef tenderloin cups, and mini quinoa crab cakes (kinda loved those too).  You must check out my dear friend, Lynda Ross, and her amazing Chicago catering company The Caterist.

Don’t be dismayed at goodbyes. A farewell is necessary before you can meet again. And meeting again, after moments or lifetime, is certain for those who are friends. ~Richard Bach




Parties and Pools

July 13, 2014 § Leave a comment

Crazy, unexpected, delightful, summer weekend.  The rain had us changing plans, but funny how the changed plans always turn out to be the best.

Saturday snack time with Prestyn consisted of kids-temp Vanilla Steamers with Banana Bread and Blueberry Bread.


Vince and I tried Bow and Truss‘ Cold Brew over ice on Sunday afternoon.  Yum!


Sunday dinner was right out of our Weber Big Book of Grilling.  This chicken was amazing!  You could skip the goat cheese if you’re eliminating dairy from your diet.  The flavors are jammed packed in this stuffing.

Artichoke Stuffed Chicken Breast

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 ounce dried Thyme
1/4 teaspoon , crushed Red Pepper Flakes
7 ounces Artichoke Hearts
2 teaspoons minced Fresh Garlic
Kosher Salt
1 ounce freshly ground black
3 dozens fresh Goat Cheese, crumbled
1 2/3 ounces minced Sun-Dried Tomatoes (oil-packed)
3 2/3 ounces finely chopped fresh Basil Leaves 4 large boneless Organic Free-Range Chicken Breast
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher Salt
1 freshly ground Black Pepper

TO MAKE THE STUFFING: In a medium sauté pan combine the olive oil, thyme, and red pepper flakes. Set the pan over medium-high heat to warm the mixture for 1 to 2 minutes. Drain, rinse, and coarsely chop the artichokes and add along with the garlic, salt, and pepper. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat. Add the goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, and basil. Mix to evenly distribute the ingredients and allow to cool.

Rinse the chicken breasts under cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Place each breast between two sheets of plastic wrap and, with a meat mallet or the back of small pan, pound to flatten to a thickness of about 1/4 inch. Place the breasts, skin side down, and spread each one with a quarter of the stuffing. Fold the breasts in half over the stuffing and use toothpicks to skewer the sides closed. Brush or spray both sides with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Grill the breasts over Direct Medium heat until the meat juices run clear and the cheese is melted, 8 to 12 minutes, turning once halfway through grilling time. Remove from the grill and carefully remove the toothpicks. Serve warm.

From Weber’s Big Book of Grilling.


Came across this recipe on the front cover of the new Food and Wine magazine.  I asked Owynn how it looked to him and well, he wasn’t so excited…but I was.  He tried it anyway.

I used Red Mill Hull-Less Barley for this recipe and it turned out great.


Lemony Barley Salad with Kale Pesto

  • 1 cup pearled barley (about 8 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup currants (I didn’t have currants, so used cranberries instead)
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 6 ounces kale, stems discarded and leaves torn into small pieces (4 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped preserved lemon (optional)
  1. In a medium saucepan, cook the barley in salted boiling water until al dente, 30 minutes. Drain well and transfer to a large bowl. Let cool slightly.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small skillet, toast the pine nuts over low heat, stirring, until lightly golden, 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. In a small skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the currants and shallot and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the shallot is golden, about 3 minutes. Scrape into the barley and add the pine nuts.
  4. In a food processor, pulse two-thirds of the kale with the lemon juice until chopped. With the machine on, slowly drizzle in the remaining 1/2 cup of olive oil until smooth. Season with salt. Scrape the pesto into the barley. Add the preserved lemon, if using, and the remaining kale leaves, season with salt and toss well. Serve.


It was time to cut some basil from my herb garden, so Pesto Time!


Basil Pesto

2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup pine nuts
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino cheese

Combine the basil, garlic, and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add 1/2 cup of the oil and process until fully incorporated and smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
If using immediately, add all the remaining oil and pulse until smooth. Transfer the pesto to a large serving bowl and mix in the cheese.
If freezing, transfer to an air-tight container and drizzle remaining oil over the top. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw and stir in cheese.


The muffins for lunches this week-

Vanilla Glazed Apple Cinnamon Muffins

(I tripled the recipe to make 6 jumbo and 9 mini muffins)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutemg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup grated apple
1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the glaze:

1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a standard muffin tin with nonstick spray; set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk together milk, butter, sugar, apple, egg and vanilla.
Pour mixture over dry ingredients and stir using a rubber spatula just until moist.
Scoop the batter evenly into the muffin tray. Place into oven and bake for 13-15 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
To make the glaze, combine confectioners’ sugar and milk. Whisk until smooth. If the glaze is too thin, add more confectioners’ sugar as needed.


When the muffins are done, cool for 10 minutes and drizzle the glaze on each muffin. Allow glaze to set before serving. Let cool on a wire rack.


Snapped a photo at Whole Foods on Saturday after having a conversation about grocery shopping in the city with no car.  Well, you either have your groceries delivered, shop multiple times during the week and/or put your groceries on wheels.


Happy Birthday Prestyn (and Grace…and Jacob)!!


 Summer afternoon, summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.

-Henry James



Happy July 4th Weekend!

July 7, 2014 § Leave a comment

Fun weekend with family and friends.  We started our long weekend at The Hemmings’ pre-fireworks gathering and do they know how to throw a party!  I don’t know many people have a cotton candy maker on hand.


Along with the Cotton Candy (and snow cones- yes they also have a Snow Cone Maker!), we had a variety of yummy foods- Jen’s Italian Beef Sandwiches, Salads, Crudite of Veggies and Dip, Lorie’s Blueberry Cheese with Gorgonzola Crackers, and Matty’s homemade cupcakes!

I made two salads.  Found the Quinoa Salad on Pinterest and the Slaw on Goop.  The Quinoa Salad called for Tofu to mimic Feta Cheese- I skipped it and didn’t miss it.  In the Slaw, I used only Napa Cabbage because I had a HUGE bunch from the Farmer’s Market Organic Farmer.

Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad

  • 3 cups cooked quinoa (1 cup uncooked quinoa (rinsed) + 1 and 3/4 cup water)
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 1 medium cucumber, seeded and diced (makes about 1 1/4 cup diced)
  • 1/2 bell pepper, chopped (makes 3/4 cup chopped)
  • 1 cup quarted cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion (White or red onions work great.)
  • 3/4 cups cooked chickpeas (rinsed and drained)
  • 1 pinch garlic powder
  • 1 cup fresh parsley (finely chopped, loosely packed)

Rinse and cook your quinoa, if you haven’t already. If it isn’t already room temperature, set it aside to cool while you chop/prepare your remaining ingredients. Otherwise, toss it in a large bowl.

Pour olive oil, lemon juice, and salt over the quinoa and tofu. Now, set it aside to marinade for about 10 minutes while you chop your remaining veggie.

Prepare all veggie/bean ingredients as listed above, and fold them into your quinoa and tofu mixture.

Check for salt. Serve cool.


Lee’s Asian Slaw

  • 1 small clove of garlic, peeled and finely grated
  • one 1″-piece of ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon light agave nectar
  • 1/2 teaspoon spicy toasted sesame oil (or more or less to taste)
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • coarse salt
  • 2 cups finely shredded Napa cabbage
  • 2 cups finely shredded green cabbage
  • 1 carrot, peeled and cut into thin matchsticks
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, cut into thin matchsticks
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds

Whisk the garlic, ginger and rice wine vinegar together in a bowl and let the mixture sit for 5-10 minutes. This is a good time to cut up your vegetables if you haven’t already. Whisk the soy sauce, agave and sesame oil into the vinegar mixture and season to taste with salt and pepper. Combine the cabbages, carrot, pepper and scallions together in a large bowl and toss with the dressing at the last minute, sprinkling the seeds on top.


And Matty’s Cupcakes were even better the next day with my homemade Strawberry Ice Cream


Bacon Cheddar Burgers

We had a traditional dinner from the grill on July 4th- Bacon Cheddar Burgers.  I found a really nice creamy white cheddar cheese and Niman Ranch Uncured Applewood Bacon along with our 100% Grass-Fed Beef.



And on Sunday… Local, pasture-raised, all pork, Nitrate-Free Brats with this amazing Kraut purchased through Irv and Shelly’s


I did end up whipping up a couple of things with my fresh Rhubarb and Blueberries.

Lemon-Blueberry Yoghurt Loaf

1 1/2 cups + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt (I bought mine at Garden On The Run– Zoi Brand…delicious!!)
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (approximately 2 lemons)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen, thawed and rinsed

For the Lemon Syrup:

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup sugar

For the Lemon Glaze:

1 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease bottom and sides of one 9 x 5-inch loaf pans; dust with flour, tapping out excess.
2. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, sugar, eggs, lemon zest, vanilla and oil. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. In a separate bowl, mix the blueberries with the remaining tablespoon of flour, and fold them very gently into the batter.
4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake 50 to 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing loaf to a wire rack on top of a baking sheet.
5. While the loaf is cooling, make the lemon syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir together the lemon juice and sugar until the sugar is completely dissolved. Once dissolved, continue to cook for 3 more minutes. Remove from the heat; set aside.
6. Use a toothpick to poke holes in the tops and sides of the warm loaf. Brush the top and sides of the loaf with the lemon syrup. Let the syrup soak into the cake and brush again. Let the cake cool completely.
7. To make the lemon glaze, in a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and 2-3 tablespoons of the lemon juice. The mixture should be thick but pourable. Add up to another tablespoon of lemon juice if the mixture is too stiff. Pour the lemon glaze over the top of each loaf and let it drip down the sides. Let the lemon glaze harden, about 15 minutes, before serving.
Yields: 1-9×5 loaf Note:
This recipe will also yield about 12 standard muffins or 36 miniature muffins, baking time adjusted. It could be doubled and baked in a well-greased and floured bundt pan, baking time adjusted. This recipe could also be baked in an 8-inch square or 9-inch round, to create a thin cake (approx. 1 1/2 inches tall), baking time adjusted.


Rhubarb-Strawberry Frozen Yoghurt

250g rhubarb, cut into pieces (fresh or frozen)
150g strawberries, hulled and halved (fresh or frozen)
1/2 juice of lemon
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
small knob fresh ginger, grated
2 tsp manuca honey blend
1 tsp natural vanilla extract
1 cup organic plain yoghurt (Again I used Garden On The Run’s– Zoi Brand)

Place all ingredients except for the yoghurt in a small saucepan and bring to boil. Let simmer for 10 minutes or until rhubarb has softened. Remove from heat and puree using a stab mixer or a food processor. Leave to cool.
Once cool,  turn on the ice cream maker, stir in the yoghurt,  and rhubarb mixture. I kept it in for 15 minutes.  Place in a container and freeze for a few hours.


And the kids insisted on S’mores to end the weekend.

IMG_9280 IMG_9277

Happy Birthday America!!