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Category — Recipes

Lisa’s Pepper Pasta

My former neighbor and dear friend, Lisa James, and I meet up to walk several mornings a week. On the mornings we don’t walk, Lisa teaches spin class at the YMCA. The Y closed several weeks ago and since then, we walk every morning. For years, I’ve heard about Lisa’s Pepper Pasta. It is one of her family’s most requested recipes. One morning last week, she mentioned that she had made it the night before. Finally, I asked her if she would share the recipe. She did one better and gave me the recipe and a container of leftovers to try.

I had it that same evening for dinner and I can see why her family loves it so much. When I went to the store to buy the Italian sausage and canned tomatoes, the store was out of canned tomatoes.

So I decided to make it with what I had in my freezer, shredded chicken and roasted cherry tomatoes. Below is my “use what you have” take on Lisa’s recipe. To make Lisa’s original version, switch out the chicken for sweet or hot Italian sausage and cook the sausage in the skillet first and use a 32 to 35-ounce can of plum tomatoes in place of the roasted cherry tomatoes. Also, you may not need the reserved pasta water for the original, since you will have the juice from the canned tomatoes. But it never hurts to reserve a little pasta water for any pasta recipe, just in case you need it.

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April 7, 2020   1 Comment

virtual family time

My son, Connor, came over yesterday afternoon for a Virtual Happy Hour with my daughter and son-in-law, Marissa and Jeff, who live in Austin, Texas.

We used Zoom to connect online and then went to JackboxGames and played two different games from that site, Drawful and Fibbage. We had a blast and we are going to “gather” again next week.

Marissa and Jeff had leftover pasta for dinner. I made a Harmony Board to share with Connor. And once he arrived, we made my version of our favorite drink, a Frozen G & T, from an Austin restaurant we love, Loro.

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April 2, 2020   1 Comment

a boost

Every little thing we can do for ourselves, our family and friends during these frightening days enables us to feel a bit better. For me, making immunity boost shots helps fill that need.

I first spotted and began buying the little immunity shots at Trader Joe’s late last year. A few weeks later, I found them at Costco for a better price. Eventually, I got tired of them and stopped putting them in my cart.

But all along I’d wash out and save the little bottles with the thought of using them for some sort of homemade Christmas gift to give in 2020. I hadn’t given any thought about exactly what I’d fill the tiny bottles with, but I knew I’d think of something by December.

Well, the use of the bottles came sooner than expected. Last week, I created a homemade version, filled the bottles and gave them to family and friends to give them a boost of immunity. Here is a list of what is in the recipe and the benefits these immunity rich foods:

Ginger: anti-inflammatory, supports digestion, helps with motion sickness, reduces pain, rich in antioxidants, boosts the immune system.

Citrus: excellent source of vitamin C, a nutrient that strengthens the immune system and keeps your skin smooth and elastic.

Coconut Water: anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties that can help increase your body’s immune system and fight viral infections like flu.

Turmeric: a natural way to help bolster the immune system by increasing the immunomodulating capacity of the body. Add turmeric to your diet during periods of stress or during flu season to help give your immune system a boost.

Raw Honey: anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, rich in antioxidants, strengthens the immune system, anti-inflammatory.

I did not use honey in my batch only because I drink at least three shots a day and I didn’t want the added calories. Also, I only had 20 little bottles, so I filled those to give away and then I poured the rest into the empty coconut water box and keep that in the refrigerator. A serving is 2 ounces or 1/4 cup.

If you were to use an actual shot glass to drink from, you’d need to fill it three times for one servicing. I use a 1/4 cup liquid measuring cup made by OXO to drink my shots. WARNING: This is a strong drink, especially without the honey, so slam it back like you would a shot of tequila, the faster the better. This is by no means a sipping drink. 🙂

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April 1, 2020   6 Comments

“An apple a day” and ‘Eh, What’s up Doc?’

I am sure it has become abundantly clear to all that my top comfort food is soup. During these turbulent and uncertain times, I bring you another soup recipe. Once again it is inspired by the produce I received in the farmer’s market box from McClendon Select. I used the onion, leeks and the two bunches of yellow carrots from the photo above. When you purchase carrots from the grocery store, they rarely have the green tops attached. These carrots looked as if they were freshly plucked from the ground the very morning they were received. I just had to use those gorgeous tops for a pesto garnish. Of course, you do not need to use any garnish for this soup, but if you have the tops, please do not waste them. I also used the leeks from the box for a second garnish of frizzled leeks. Frizzled leeks are often used to garnish grilled meats but they are equally wonderful atop soups and salads.

Since carrots are once again the main ingredient of a soup recipe, I have a little carrot trivia for you:

Did you know?

Bugs Bunny’s nonchalant carrot-chewing standing position originated in a scene in the 1934 film It Happened One Night, in which Clark Gable’s character leans against a fence, rapidly eating carrots and talking with his mouth full to Claudette Colbert’s character.

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March 31, 2020   4 Comments

roasted for 4 recipes

Good Monday morning to you all. What I have for you today is a way to turn a batch of roasted vegetables into either a salad, hash or soup. If you would like to make all three, you’ll need to make a triple batch of the roasted sweet potato and butternut squash recipe. If you want to just give one of the dishes a try, make a single batch. And, of course, the roasted veggies are delish all on their own.

A beautiful box of McClendon’s Select produce that I bought at the Scottsdale Farmer’s Market a week ago was the inspiration for all of these recipes. McClendon’s Select is offering an “order ahead – drive-thru contact-free pick up” service at the market each Saturday in Scottsdale during this time of quarantine. Click HERE for more information on that.

If you hang in there and get to the final recipe here, you’ll get to my confession. Hey, something to look forward to!

Roasted Sweet Potatoes & Butternut Squash

  • 3 cups peeled, seeded and diced butternut squash (about 1 medium squash)
  • 3 cups peeled and diced sweet potatoes (about 1 large potato)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Trader Joe’s Everything But the Elote Seasoning Blend
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil, set aside.

Put the butternut squash and sweet potatoes in a large bowl. Toss with olive oil and the TJ’s seasoning blend and generously season with salt and pepper.

Spread the vegetables in one layer on the prepared baking sheet. Roast in preheated oven for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, toss and roast for an additional 15 minutes.

Use for either the Hash, Soup or Salad recipes below. One batch is enough for any ONE of the recipes. If you want to make all three, you’ll need to make a triple batch of the roasted vegetables.

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March 30, 2020   No Comments

Cookie Monster

Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster has nothing on my dad. The older he gets – the more cookies he wants. To me, it is out of control. I don’t endorse this at all. My sister, Sloane, does not have an issue with it and that is where the problem begins for me. My niece, Raina, is an amazing baker. Although she loves to bake, she doesn’t necessarily want to eat all she makes. That is where my dad comes in, he happily devours all her creations, especially the cookies. He fully supports her baking hobby, supplying her with butter, sugar, flour and the like to her heart’s content. Or so he claims, I know that it is actually to his heart’s content. In turn, Sloane brings Raina’s creations to Dad on a regular basis. Plus my kids give him a cookie subscription every Christmas, so he receives more cookies in the mail every other month.

Even during this current crisis of sheltering in place, my dad NEEDS his cookies. He’d run out of Raina’s cookies (because he goes through them like the general public seems to be going through toilet paper and bottled water) and he doesn’t have an order coming this month in the mail. You think the global pandemic is a crisis? No, this is the true crisis! He didn’t hesitate to ask me to run to the store to get him cookies! What? Really? Talk about an addiction. Putting your daughter’s health at risk so that you can munch away.

No, I didn’t do as he requested, instead I rummaged through my pantry, found a can of pumpkin puree and baked him up a batch of pumpkin-oatmeal cookies, even though I do not at all enjoy baking. When I delivered the cookies, along with other food I’d made for him, he informed me that he was allergic to oatmeal. Why have I never known this? I suppose because I don’t like cooked oatmeal, so the subject hadn’t come up before. He said he breaks out in hives if he has “too much” oatmeal, but that the amount in each cookie “should be okay”. Yup, he is such a cookie monster that he is willing to break out in hives to have his beloved cookies.

I’m sorry, I don’t have many photos of the process since, quite honestly, I was irritated while I was making these and hadn’t planned on blogging the recipe. It didn’t cross my mind until I had everything in the mixer. But I’m sure you’ve made cookies before, so a bunch of photos isn’t really necessary.

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March 27, 2020   6 Comments

roasting in quarantine

Of the three soups I made last week, this is my favorite. Which is somewhat of a surprise since I don’t care for carrots. You may wonder if that is the case, why did I choose to make carrot soup? I made the soup because I needed to use up the vegetables I had on hand that I planned on making Crudités Harmony Boards with. Multi-colored carrots are a big part of those boards. Since Harmony Boards is closed during this crisis, veggies are turning into soups instead. You may use all orange carrots for your soup, I used yellow, orange and white for mine. What made this soup so wonderful for me was the addition of tomatoes. I LOVE tomatoes! Plus, roasting vegetables always makes them better.

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March 25, 2020   2 Comments

Cody Howard

Many of you follow me on Facebook and Instagram, either on my personal account or on the Harmony Boards accounts. Therefore, many of you may already know what happened to Cody Howard on January 18, 2020. Today I have an update for you and the entire story for those of you who know nothing.

Cody is the oldest son of my dear friend, Kim Howard. Kim and I worked together for years at Les Gourmettes Cooking School. More than just years, decades, actually. Kim and I came up with the idea of Harmony Boards while I was catering Cody’s wedding to Chanté in May 2018 in the forest outside Kingman, AZ. In fact, the first Harmony Board I made was for the cocktail hour of their wedding reception. Cody is a former US Marine turned contractor and has done many of the projects on my home, such as this complete bathroom remodel, this fireplace facelift, this made-from-scratch barn door, these beautiful shelves in my Harmony Boards office, these new countertops, etc.

Cody, Susannah, Paul, Trevor, Kim and Bret Howard

Cody is Kim and Paul Howard’s oldest child. Next is Bret, only daughter, Susannah and then Trevor. Bret married Alyssa last year, and Susannah became engaged to Chad in January 2019, their wedding was scheduled for April 2020.

On Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend, Cody, Bret, Trevor and friends travelled to the Howard Family home in Canada for a bachelor weekend to celebrate with Chad. They rented snowmobiles to ride on the frozen lake. On that Saturday a snowstorm came and there was an accident, it involved the snowmobile that Bret, Cody and Chad were riding. Bret was seriously injured. Chad was fine and at first, it seemed as though Cody was okay as well. The property is between Montreal and Ottawa. Ambulances from Ottawa were called and arrived some 90 minutes later. By then it was apparent, to at least Trevor, that Cody was not okay. Another 90-minute ride to Ottawa. There is more detail to the story than I know, but I do know that it took more than 7 hours to diagnose and get Cody into a 9-hour emergency surgery for a dissected aorta, Goggle that and you will be scared to death. Meanwhile, Bret was in surgery getting his head sewn back together with a serious concussion and another surgery to repair his seriously injured bladder.

Can you even imagine being Chanté, at home with your 10-month-old son, receiving the news that your husband has been in a life-threatening accident, a country away and is heading into surgery with a frightening low survival rate? Knowing that he should not have survived the accident, the agonizingly long wait for the ambulance, the ride to the hospital, all the testing to discover what was wrong, or being transferred to another hospital for said surgery?

Or being Kim and Paul and receiving that call telling you that two of your beloved sons have been in an accident and both are going into surgery and you are also a country away? The strength, faith and hope of this family boggles my mind.

For the rest of the story, I’m going to send you to Chanté’s Instagram page. Please click on the link at the bottom of her profile and watch the beautiful video, read the updates posted there by the family and if you can donate to the Go Fund Me page, please do. If not, especially in this current climate of uncertainty, please say an extra prayer for Cody and his continued recovery and for the entire Howard family. Their story is the sort of inspiration that we can all use right now to acknowledge that as rough as it is for each and every one of us, others are in the same struggle plus a bit more. Quite a bit more.

I love you, Cody. I love you, Kim and Paul. Chanté and River. Bret and Alyssa. Susannah and Chad. Trevor and Clair. Maggie and Marcus and the entire extended Howard and Simpson clans. xoxo

Alright then, how about a recipe? Here is Stir-Fry #2. A followup to Stir-Fry #1 posted yesterday.

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March 24, 2020   3 Comments

stir-fry #1

I love stir-fry. I love doing all the prep ahead, arranging everything right next to the stove and having it come together in a matter of a couple of minutes in a hot wok. Not that have to own a wok to make stir-fry, you can use a large frying pan, but woks are fun!

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March 23, 2020   No Comments

walking away from the stress

I had planned on sharing what has been happening with my dear friend, Kim and her family, but as I type this on Friday night, I came to the realization that I need the entire weekend to work on that so it will have to wait until next week.

What I really want to know today is, how are you all doing?

I have been limiting my exposure to the news but I watched the full NBC Nightly News broadcast just now and I am feeling more worried and anxious then I have since the virus hit our shores. The thing that really got to me was that there was not one other topic covered on the regular broadcast by Lester Holt other than the virus and its effect on our financial health, on our heroic healthcare workers, on the world. All the statistics and predictions just got to me like never before.

In the last three days, I’ve been relieving the stress and worry by getting out and walking more than I ever have before. The last time I felt this overwhelmed and stressed was when I was going through my divorce and living in a rental house with all of my belongings crammed in around me. I felt like I was drowning. I couldn’t sleep properly due to the stress and one of my friends said that I should try getting one of those mattresses (to know more, click here) which makes you feel like you’re sleeping on the clouds. Walking each and every morning and each night is what got me through that difficult time, I’m counting on it to do its magic again.

I’m curious about how you are coping. One of my friends uses what she describes as one of the best CBD gummies, to help her manage her stress, which is interesting. Please share in the comments, you never know who you might help with your own stress-management techniques and ideas.

Another way I reduce stress is to cook. As you know, soup is my favorite! I love making it and I love eating it even more. It is my numero uno comfort food! So here is another soup for you to try. You may use a regular russet potato in place of the sweet potato, it happens to be what I had available at the time

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March 21, 2020   6 Comments