Posts tagged with dinner:

Creamy Mac and Cheese


Discovering I have a surplus of various leftover cheeses in the drawer in my fridge always inspires and justifies me doing one thing…making a pan of mac and cheese!

While I already have a couple recipes for yummy mac and cheese on the blog you know I am always interested in trying or adapting new recipes.

In the November issue of Saveur magazine I found the inspiration for my Creamy Mac and Cheese you see in the photo above.

I used a combination of white cheddar, Fontina, and Monterey Jack cheeses along with a mixture of whole milk, skim milk and half and half.  I often find that mixing non fat milk with whole milk and/or cream will give you the rich taste without all the fat.

The addition of the minced onions sauteed in butter, a half onion studded with cloves, and a couple of bay leaves  in this recipe gave me pause as I have never included those ingredients in my previous mac and cheese dishes, but then I thought all the more reason why I should try it. 

And I wasn’t sorry.  It added a subtle layer of flavor to the sauce that I loved, and by straining the finished sauce, the resulting sauce remains very creamy, fully blanketing the pasta.

As soon as it came out of the oven I helped myself to a taste which somehow turned into a large section missing from the pan before it even had a chance to cool. 

I packed up some to take to my son and his girlfriend in LA whom we were visiting the next day, and quickly froze the rest until my other son and his girlfriend come to visit us next. 

You might say I don’t trust myself with an entire pan of this yummy stuff sitting around, or I’m just a good Mom???

Here’s the recipe…and do allow yourself to be creative with whatever cheeses and milk/cream you prefer and/or have on hand.  Just be sure to include a favorite creamy type cheese such as the Fontina I used here.

Creamy Mac and Cheese

(adapted from the recipe for Macaroni au Gratin, Saveur, Nov, 2014)

(serves 8-10)

1 to 1 and 1/4 pound macaroni ( I used a combination of Ziti and Cellentani (a pasta tube that has been twisted to resemble the shape of a corkscrew)

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

12 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 medium yellow onion (1/2 minced, 1/2 whole)

1 cup flour

6 whole cloves

2 bay leaves

8 cups whole milk ( or a combination of whole, skim and half and half)

1 and 1/2 pounds combination of Fontina, white cheddar, and Monterey Jack, grated

1 tablespoon finely grated fresh nutmeg

1/4 cup Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)

Cook pasta in a 6- 8 qt. saucepan or stockpot of boiling salted water until al dente, according to pkg directions.  Drain and transfer to a bowl.  Stir in 2 tablespoons of butter and set aside.


Add remaining butter to the pan; melt over medium-high.

Cook minced onions until golden, 6-8 minutes.


Stir in flour; cook 3 minutes.

Stud remaining onion half with cloves and add to the pan with the bay leaves.

Add milk/cream, and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to medium.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Strain sauce through a fine-mesh sieve over the pasta. 

Stir in 3/4 of the cheese, the nutmeg, salt and pepper; transfer to a 9”by 13” baking dish.




Top with remaining cheese and the breadcrumbs; bake until golden and bubbly, 40 to 45 minutes.




Heirloom Tomato Salad with Pickled Fennel



This past week our very best friends from Maryland visited us for the first time since we moved here just over a year ago.

Our friendship began 26 years ago when we had both moved into the same new development in a Maryland suburb, about 25 miles northwest of Washington, DC. 

We moved there from Chicago, and they from Cleveland, but we soon discovered our differences were few compared to so much that we shared.

We became fast friends., all four of us. The kind that even though we haven ‘t seen each other for over a year, and over 3000 miles now separate us, when we embraced at the San Luis Obispo Airport last Sunday it was though no time had passed at all.  We picked up where we had left off without skipping a beat.

It is a full day flying from the east coast to the west coast, especially with the time difference so after picking them up we came back to the house to eat, relax, chat, and of course, eat some more.

Before leaving for the airport (my husband and I are still getting used to the idea that a trip to the airport is only a 10 minute drive), I had arranged some assorted cheeses, crackers, olives, and fruit to nibble on along with the first of many glasses of local wine we shared this past week.


I included some of the wonderful items we have discovered in our short time living here… the handcrafted sopressa salami from one of our favorite restaurants, and sold at some of the farmer’s markets,

The vibrant and  delicious California apricots, along with local grapes and small gala apples I bought at the farm stands as well.

For dinner we served a favorite of theirs that I had made for them many times over the years… my husband’s Grilled Baby Back Ribs with my special BBQ Sauce. 


We also grilled some fresh sausage with fennel seed from the same source as the sopressa salami…


Fresh corn on the cob and the Heirloom Tomato Salad with Pickled Fennel rounded out the meal.

To be able to share all this with our best friends made it even more special.  Now for this delicious salad…

 Heirloom Tomato Salad with Pickled Fennel (Bon Appetit, August, 2013)

6 servings

The flavor of the spiced pickled fennel really pops with the sweet tomatoes.

Pickled Fennel

1 whole star anise pod

1  teaspoon aniseed

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/4 lemongrass stalk, tough outer layer removed, crushed

Zest of 1/4 orange, removed with a vegetable peeler

1 medium fennel bulb, cored, thinly sliced


1 and 1/2 cups unseasoned rice vinegar

1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons kosher salt


2 lb. large heirloom tomatoes (about 3), cut into wedges

1 cup cherry tomatoes, preferably heirloom, halved

2 tablespoons while balsamic or Sherry vinegar

7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

2 Cubanelle peppers or Anaheim chiles, sliced into 3/4 inch rings, seeded

Note:  unable to find any Cubanelle peppers I used a pastilla green pepper and a yellow chile pepper, both fairly mild, and perfect for this salad.

Fennel fronds (for serving)

Pickled Fennel

Toast star anise, aniseed, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, and cumin seeds in a small skillet over medium-low heat, stirring often, until fragrant, about 3 minutes.


Bundle toasted spices,lemongrass. and orange zest in a piece of cheesecloth and tie with kitchen twine to make a sachet.  Place sachet and fennel in a 1-qt. jar or bowl.



Bring vinegar, sugar, salt, and 1/2 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar and salt. 

Pour vinegar mixture over sachet and fennel and let cool; discard sachet.  Cover fennel and chill at least 12 hours.



Note:  Pickled fennel can be made 2 weeks ahead.  Keep chilled.


Combine large and cherry tomatoes, vinegar, and 6 tablespoons oil in a medium bowl; season with salt and pepper.  Let sit at room temperature 30 minutes.

Before serving heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a medium skillet over high heat.  Cook the peppers, tossing often, until charred in spots, about 4 minutes.

Serve tomato salad topped with peppers, pickled fennel, and fennel fronds.


With peaches at their peak I made this Peach Tart., the perfect ending to a summer meal.  I’ll be sharing this easy recipe with you soon.


We packed a lot into the time we had with our good friends, showing them the highlights of San Luis Obispo with all its history, charm and beauty.

We even had an impromptu lunch I threw together where we dined in the shade of the olive trees at a beautiful vineyard, toasting to our friendship, all the time pinching ourselves to make sure this wasn’t a dream. 

It wasn’t a dream.  We  really are living in California, and  our best friends were here with us .  It was perfect! 

Grilled Salmon Dinner



For the past couple weeks my brother, sister-in-law and niece who live in New York have been visiting the west coast. 

They began their vacation in LA where they were able to connect with various extended  family members including my older son and his girlfriend among others. 

After successfully accomplishing this no small feat which entailed covering a lot of ground around greater Los Angeles, they headed up the coast to spend several days in Big Sur, before heading back down the coast to visit us in San Luis Obispo for six days.

Along their way from LA they stopped by for a quick tour of our new home and a short walk to one of our favorite places for lunch here.

We last saw them a year and a half ago when we went back east for a cousin’s wedding, and in all this time we have been talking about our new house and this new hometown of San Luis Obispo, sometimes ad nauseum, I’m sure.

So all that talk turned into a reality as they stepped over the threshold to see our beautiful new home.  It was such a good feeling to have them here!

After they pulled away to continue on to Big Sur (where they would meet up with our younger son and his girlfriend for an afternoon) we were thrilled to have my now  23 year old niece stay with us for a few days. 

For many years when she was younger she would spend a week with us in the summer in Maryland.  So having her here now was just icing on the cake.

I planned a relaxing dinner at home the evening they returned from Big Sur. 

While we enjoyed many fantastic meals out at local restaurants,  I was eager to serve a few home cooked meals as well.  Here is the menu…

For starters we  had  some appetizers on the deck… a Caprese platter with some beautiful local heirloom tomatoes…



and a platter of melon and prosciutto de Parma…


 My husband grilled fresh wild sockeye salmon fillets. 

The salmon was simply prepared with extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt, freshly cracked pepper, a bit of chopped fresh dill, and a squeeze of lemon juice. 


As long as the grill was hot we grilled an assortment of summer squash with peppers…


and a platter of assorted new potatoes, all tossed with some olive oil, salt and pepper…


And some homemade tzatziki on the side for dipping with any or all of the above.


A green salad with a Blood Orange Vinaigrette completed the meal.


Except of course for that Sour Cherry Pie I had promised my brother.


We had a fun packed week, and still found time to relax, and just hang out. 

We showed them around our neighborhood and walked  our very walkable downtown.

We impressed them with our Mediterranean micro-climate.

We went to the vineyards, the beaches, and the farmer’s market.

We went hiking (got a little lost, but found our way),  and enjoyed delicious meals at many of the marvelous farm to table restaurants that surround us.

We love our home, and we love our new hometown, but being able to share it all with our family is what really makes it feel like home. 

We will be looking forward to our other family members and friends  coming to visit us as time goes by, and repeat visits from all.

Through the entire process of our move I continued to tell myself that although change is hard at times change is good, and I do believe that.

 But with my brother’s visit this past week i am reminded that some things never change, and that is a very good thing.


Grilled Herb-Marinated Pork Loin


Here is the recipe for the Grilled Herb-Marinated Pork Loin which I mentioned in my previous post.  I had a request from a faithful fan for it, so here we go…

It is a recipe from Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, but she does it with pork tenderloin, which I have done in the past and blogged, back in 2013, if I’m not mistaken. ( Check the archives, and you should find it).

However, this time I was making a 3 pound pork loin instead of several 1 pound tenderloins.  The tenderloins will cook faster, but be careful not to overcook them.  (The photo above is a previous one of the tenderloins…didn’t get a shot of the pork loin on the grill this time)

With the pork loin you can get a better char without worrying about overcooking it and finish it off on indirect heat. 

Whether you are preparing the tenderloins or the larger pork loin the key to this dish is the marinade. 

It is loaded with fresh herbs… thyme, rosemary, marjoram, (your choice), lots of garlic, fresh lemon zest and juice, kosher salt and pepper.

Marinating it overnight is preferable if possible.

Grilled Herb-Marinated Pork Loin   (adapted from Grilled Herb-Marinated Pork Tenderloin (Ina Garten, Back to Basics)

zest of 1 grated lemon

3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (4-6 lemons)

1/2 cup olive oil (plus more to brush the grill)

2 tablespoons minced garlic (6 cloves or more)

1 and 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary leaves

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

kosher salt

fresh ground black pepper

 0ne 3 pound pork loin (tied with kitchen twine in several places to keep it compact)


Combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, rosemary, thyme, mustard and 2 teaspoons of the salt in a 1 gallon resealable plastic bag.  Add the pork and turn to coat with the marinade. 

Squeeze the air out of the bag.  Marinate in the refrigerator on a plate overnight, or at least 3 hours.

When ready to cook, preheat the grill to high.  Be sure to brush the grill with some oil to prevent the pork from sticking. 

Remove the pork loin from the marinade and discard the marinade but leave herbs clinging to the meat.

Sprinkle the pork generously with salt and pepper before placing on the hot grill.

Sear the pork turning to brown all sides with a nice char.  This could take about 20 minutes.

Then reduce the heat to about 350 degrees, and cook on indirect heat until the thickest part of the loin reaches about 140 degrees, another 20 minutes or so.

Transfer the pork to a platter and cover tightly with aluminum foil.  Let rest for at  10-15 minutes so juices can reabsorb.

Carve in 1/2 inch thick diagonal slices. The thickest part will be pink; this is just fine!  The thinnest parts will be more well done. 

Season with salt and pepper if needed.  Serve warm or at room temperature with the juices that collect on the platter.

Note:  I like to serve the pork with sauteed apples. 

I simply peel and thickly slice some good tasting apples such as Braeburn or Gala, in a little butter on medium high heat.  Sprinkle some sugar on them, and turn occasionally until they begin to caramelize.  Squeeze a little lemon juice on them and serve with the pork.

For the carrots…peel them leaving them whole, and cut the stems.  Toss with extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt, and freshly ground pepper.

Roast in a preheated oven at 425 degrees, turning after about 15 minutes to prevent sticking.  Roast another 10 -15 minutes til tender, but not over cooked. 

Serve warm or at room temperature.image

Ruth Reichl’s Spaghetti Carbonara ( or in this case Linguini Carbonara


This is a quick dinner for those nights when you don’t know what to make, you are hungry, and you don’t want to fuss.

 My husband had a meeting to attend a couple of evenings ago so I was dining solo.

Since he has been watching his carbs lately, and I have been hungry for pasta, but not wanting to sabotage his efforts, this was my moment.

So I decided Ruth Reichl’s recipe for Spaghetti Carbonara met all my requirements for my dinner.

It is super quick to make.  I had all the ingredients on hand except for the spaghetti, but linguini filled in nicely,  and cleanup time is minimal.   

And Ruth Reichl would never steer you wrong.  Here is her recipe in her own words…

Spaghetti Carbonara

Serves 3

Contrary to the recipe so often used in restaurants, real carbonara contains no cream. The real thing also uses guanciale, cured pork jowl, but to be honest, I like bacon better. I think of this as bacon and eggs with pasta instead of toast. It’s the perfect last minute dinner, and I’ve yet to meet a child who doesn’t like it.

  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1/4 to 1/2 pound thickly sliced good quality bacon (I prefer Nueske’s)
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 large eggs
  • Black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano cheese, plus extra for the table

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. When it is boiling, throw the spaghetti in. Most dried spaghetti takes 9 to 10 minutes to cook,and you can make the sauce in that time.

Cut the bacon crosswise into pieces about 1/2 inch wide. Put them in a skillet and cook for 2 minutes, until fat begins to render. Add the whole cloves of garlic and cook another 5 minutes, until the edges of the bacon just begin to get crisp. Do not overcook; if they get too crisp they won’t meld with the pasta. Meanwhile, break the eggs into the bowl you will serve the pasta in, and beat them with a fork. Add some grindings of pepper.

Remove the garlic from the bacon pan. If it looks like too much to you, discard some, but you’re going to toss the bacon with most of its fat into the pasta. When it is cooked, drain the pasta and immediately throw it into the beaten eggs. Mix thoroughly. The heat of the spaghetti will cook the eggs and turn them into a sauce. Add the bacon with its fat, toss again, add cheese and serve.

A few notes:  I used thickly sliced applewood smoked bacon, and my favorite Pecorino Romano cheese.




Memorial Day Weekend with Friends Grillin’ and Chillin’ (New York Strip Steaks and Salad)



Friends of ours from LA spent Memorial Day Weekend with us.  I have known her since we were kids living in St. Louis.  She and I have mutual cousins in common…their dad was her mom’s brother while their mom was my dad’s sister…got that?????

No matter…the important thing is that through the years of my sister and I  visiting our cousins while she and her sister were visiting their cousins we became close friends.

She and I were the same age and our sisters were  the same age setting the stage for a friendly foursome.

When my family moved from St. Louis to Pennsylvania my sister and I continued to visit them each summer by train for several weeks throughout much of our teenage years.

Fast forward many years of not seeing each other, and miraculously we find ourselves now living in the central coast of California while she and her husband have been living for years in Los Angeles…we reconnected when my older son moved to LA to begin his career 17 years ago, getting together whenever we visited.

What we didn’t know then is that we would actually be living here one day with just a 3 hour drive between us! 

Well, maybe not 3 hours on a holiday weekend, but we won’t get into that! Hopefully, the grilled Tuscan  brick chicken and glazed fudge cake awaiting them made up for that!!!

We crammed a lot into 3 days, not the least of which evolved around what else, but eating!

We were so busy that I kept forgetting to snap photos so the best I could rustle up is the photo above of  these luscious New York Strip steaks my husband grilled one evening for dinner, and the salad that accompanied  them.

The 1 and 1/2 inch steaks were perfectly seared on the outside, yet rosy pink in the middle.

He tried  a new technique  which had to do with getting the gas grill super hot, and initially turning them very often, about 1 and 1/2 minutes per side with the grill closed until they formed that nice crust you can see in the photo above.

Then with the grill lid open he continued cooking and  and turning them until the internal temp reached about 120 degrees.  Covered lightly with foil and let to rest for about 15 minutes they reached an internal temp of about 135 to 140 degrees.  Perfection!

On Saturday  morning we stopped by the Central Coast Succulent and Cactus Society’s annual show which was being held in a large community center in downtown San Luis Obispo.

There we saw an amazing display of countless award winning plants…




From there we headed north to the Paso Robles Artsfest. 


Here’s some info on the event…

The Paso Robles Festival of the Arts has changed its name and is effectively “upping its game” for 2014 with a list of new features designed with art lovers and county visitors in mind. Now dubbed “Paso Artsfest,” the largest free art event in San Luis Obispo County has a week’s worth of activities planned for artists, visitors and county residents in addition to the much-beloved main event that takes place the Saturday of every Memorial Day weekend in the Paso Robles downtown City Park. “With all of the fantastic press Paso Robles has been getting lately, this is the perfect time for our art festival to reach out to potential visitors who appreciate wine, food, art and beautiful scenery,” states Barbara Partridge, Paso Artsfest chairwoman. “We know that people are coming here on vacation for Memorial Day weekend, we are offering them the opportunity to make the arts part of their experience in a much bigger way than ever before.

 The day features an Outdoor Fine Art Show & Sale, a Wet Painting Sale & Auction, hands-on interactive art experiences all over the park, exciting musical guests, dance performances and a full day’s worth of entertaining and artistic surprises. This event is free to the public.

When it was time for lunch we ate at a lovely Parisian bistro that had been recommended to me that was across the street called Bistro Laurent.

where we dined on “Croque Monsieur and Frites” on the charming patio.


That evening we dined again at what is quickly becoming one of our favorite Italian restarurants in downtown SLO,  Buona Tavola, specializing in Northern Italian cuisine.





Each meal begins with their complementary olive tapenade and delicious homemade bread!  You can even buy it there or at the local farmer’s markets.


or their house-made salami and sausages are also available…


On Sunday my girlfriend and I walked off some of that wonderful bread and gelato from the night before and went walking on some of the spectacular trails that surround San Luis Obispo, while my husband took her husband in search of a running trail,  and later a couple of slices of pizza, and a ballgame on tv.

Here are some great photos and info I found online for the trails we walked..Moonstone Beach Boardwalk

The city of Cambria is located on Highway One at the north end of San Luis Obispo County, and has earned the nickname “Gateway to the Big Sur Coast.” Like that stunning area to the north, Cambria has its own beautiful waterfront. Explore sandy beaches and rocky tide pools on a 2.85-mile round trip hike down Moonstone Beach Boardwalk, crossing a pristine beach that is preserved by Hearst San Simeon State Park. There is only 40 feet of elevation change over the level and easy trail, so you are free to set out in flip-flops or tennis shoes. Explore tide pools or walk across the sand on Moonstone Beach to add variety to this beautiful oceanfront stroll.

You can start the boardwalk from free parking areas at either end (or in the middle). To discover the ocean views, start from the south end of the trail, just off Highway One near the beginning of Moonstone Beach Drive. Hike northwest beneath pines along Santa Rosa Creek. After 0.2 miles, you will spot a pool of water at the mouth of the creek, separated from the ocean by a line of sand. The wooden boardwalk progresses alongside the estuary where you can spot ducks and snowy egrets.

Moonstone Beach Boardwalk

Moonstone Beach Boardwalk

Moonstone Beach Boardwalk

Moonstone Beach Boardwalk
Seals at the tide pools

Moonstone Beach Boardwalk

Moonstone Beach Boardwalk

While hiking Moonstone Beach Boardwalk, you will pass several side access trail, but the main route is obvious. There are benches along the way where you can linger to admire the scenery. The boardwalk runs parallel to Moonstone Beach Drive, which is lined on the inland side by restaurants and hotels.


Harmony Headlands State Park is located 2.6 miles south of Harmony, along the west side of Highway One in the beautiful coastal area of Central California.  This area has a Mediterranean climate consisting of warm dry summers and cool wet winters.  Its proximity to the ocean also results in thick coastal fogs which help to moderate the temperatures.  The constant winds and salt spray result in vegetation tolerant of these conditions. The flat coastal terraces, valleys and steep coastal bluffs are predominately home to grasslands and coastal scrub containing plants such as a San Luis Obispo morning glory, California buttercup, yarrow and lupine.  In the spring, flowering grasses can be seen in profusion.
This area contains diverse and unique habitats supporting rare, endangered and sensitive plant and animal species.  Along the rocky outcrops, lichen, ferns and Indian paintbrush are scattered throughout the grasslands.  In the fresh water habitats of wetlands, riparian corridors and ponds, willows, rushes and cattails can be seen.  Along the intertidal areas, sea mammals can be seen and heard.  Overhead seabirds and shorebirds soar.  Making their way through their grassland homes, California ground squirrels, brush rabbits, skunks, coyote, mule deer and raccoons are among the residents.

This area also provides a home for the endangered California red-legged frog and the southwestern pond turtle.  Many sensitive species also reside here including brown pelicans, double-crested cormorants and white-tailed kites.


Harmony Headlands State Park features a two-mile long Headlands Trail that departs from the parking lot and provides breathtaking ocean views west to the marine terrace grasslands.  Nature lovers, hikers, photographers, artists and bird watchers will all find this walk a rewarding and memorable experience.

Note:  We actually didn’t make it to the ocean this time. We were close when we met up with a couple of hikers who were on their way back, and told us to be careful of the snake that had crossed their path.  With that news, we looked at each other, and  both agreed it was getting late and we will finish the trail next time!  Yikes!!!

After breakfast the next morning at Louisa’s, a great diner type place walking distance from our home, our friends packed up and headed back to LA, but not before picking up a tri-tip sandwch to go for the trip back!

After all, one can’t visit San Luis Obispo, and not have tri-tip!   

Roasted Carrots with Fennel and Onions


Is it a side dish to go with the brisket or is it a work of art?

The answer is it could be both.  These roasted carrots began as beautiful bunches of orange, purple, and pale yellow organic carrots with their stems intact that I bought at the local farmer’s market.

Along with a couple of fennel bulbs and a white and purple onion they became the lovely side dish served alongside my brisket at our recent Seder.

After peeling them, and leaving the stems on as many as possible, I tossed them with some extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper. 


The sliced fennel and onion wedges were also tossed with some olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper before I spread them all out on a couple rimmed baking sheets and placed them in a 425 degree oven.

After about 15 to 20 minutes toss them around a bit on the sheets to prevent sticking, switch trays from top to bottom and bottom to top, and continue roasting for another 10 to 15 minutes until they begin to caramelize.

Serve on a platter hot, warm or even room temperature.  Delicious!


My First Dinner Party In Our New Home



Moving to a new home especially when it is far from your old home brings with it many firsts.  And we recently had some new friends over for our first dinner party here. 

For me, setting the table for a special dinner is fun.  I love to mix and match and see how I can reinvent items by using them in a different way, sometimes with something new added to the mix.

My Provencal tablecloth designed with olive branches which I have had for years was perfect for my Greek themed dinner.

I had picked up the napkins on sale at Anthropology  recently, knowing one day they would come in handy.  I can’t resist a really good buy!

The salad plates were part of a very old set of dishes which belonged to my husband’s grandmother, and I love the contrast between those and my contemporary white everyday dishes.

I kept it simple with three small glass bud vases each filled with a couple of olive branches plucked from my newly planted olive shrub on the deck. 


I lined them down the center of the table, and five clear glass votives holding white candles illuminated the table.

There is nothing that makes a table look prettier than candlelight, and I regret not taking a photo once they were lit.

The menu included some of my favorite Greek dishes.

We enjoyed appetizers on the deck.


Homemade tabbouleh , a red pepper, eggplant and garlic spread from Trader Joe’s, assorted olives, and Marcona almonds kept us happy til dinner was ready.  Tabbouleh recipe to follow on an upcoming blog.

A delicious Greek salad was brought by one of our guests. 

After which we dined on my Greek Chicken and Potatoes, grilled lamb chops, Greek Style Green Beans with Tomatoes.  Homemade Tzatziki with grilled pita rounded out our meal. 

You can find most of these recipes on my Greek Dinner post, with the exception of the Tzatziki recipe so here it is…

Tzatziki- Cucumber Yogurt Dip (adapted from Lynn Livanos Athan, Guide)


Cool and creamy, this tangy cucumber dip flavored with garlic is the perfect complement to grilled meats and vegetables.  It can be served on the side with warm pita bread triangles for dipping, and is also used as a condiment for souvlaki.


3 -4 garlic cloves, minced finely

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup Greek yogurt, strained

1 cup sour cream

2-3 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and diced (I prefer Persian cucumbers)

1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar


Combine olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper in a bowl.  Mix well until combined.  Using a whisk, blend the yogurt with the sour cream.  Add the olive oil mixture to the yogurt mixture and mix well.  Finally, add the cucumber and chopped fresh dill. 



Chill for at least 2 hours before serving.  Garnish with a sprig of fresh dill just before serving.

Recipe can be doubled or tripled if you wish.

For dessert, knowing that carrot cake was a favorite of some of our guests, I parted from the Greek theme, and baked a good old-fashioned Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting which was a real hit!

You can find the recipe here.



When the evening was over everyone went home with a full belly,  a goody bag of Tzatziki , and an extra slice of cake.

I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Glazed Corned Beef Dinner


Another Saint Patrick’s Day, and another corned beef dinner.  This is my favorite way to make corned beef.  It is simple, but it does take time so plan accordingly.  I didn’t, so we ate late this evening, but every bite was worth it.

Glazed Corned Beef

one 4 to 5 pound corned beef brisket  (with juices)

Fill a large pot or Dutch oven with cold water.  Place the corned beef with all its’ juices and pickling spices in the pot.

Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer, about 180 degrees.  The key to a great corned beef is that it needs to cook low and slow.  Cover with a lid partially, and continue to cook at a simmer til fork tender, approximately 90 minutes per pound.  So a 4 pound brisket will take about 6 hours.

While the corned beef is cooking prepare this sweet mustard glaze

In a small bowl, blend together:

1 tablespoon coarse ground mustard (Country Dijon)

1 tablespoon regular Dijon mustard

1-2 tablespoons dark brown sugar (depending how sweet you like it)

1-2 tablespoons honey (I used a wild sage honey, my favorite local honey I have been getting at the Farmer’s Market)

When the corned beef is tender carefully lift it from the pot, draining the excess liquid, and place it fatty side up on a rack in a roasting pan.

Spread the mustard glaze evenly over the fat.

Place in a preheated 325 degree oven for about a half an hour or until the glaze is bubbling a bit.


Remove from oven and carve into thick slices cutting against the grain.


Serve with roasted cabbage, carrots and new potatoes.

Toss carrots, cabbage wedges, and small new potatoes in extra virgin olive oil.  Sprinkle generously with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Spread out on a baking sheet with rimmed edges.


  Bake in a preheated 450 degree oven for 15 -20 minutes.   Turn, and cook another 15 minutes or til browned on edges, and tender.


Insteadof the traditional way of  cooking the vegetables in that fatty broth that you cooked the corned beef in, roasting them is a delicious alternative which will allow you to have that extra slice of corned beef!

Turkey Pot Pie


  For the past couple of weeks I have been more or less housebound.   An awful cold/bronchitis not only has kept me in the house, but has kept me out of the kitchen as well.  

The return of my taste buds, and my desire to get in the kitchen and make up for lost time are the best indicators that I am on the road to recovery.

Losing the ability to taste is one of those things we take for granted until  we are reminded by a bad cold or flu what it is like to be without them.

So I was excited today to spend some time rambling around my still new to me kitchen cooking and tasting as I went along.

I made a turkey pot pie with some leftover turkey breast, and was able to use up that extra piece of puff pastry that was in the freezer as the topping. 

 There always seems to be carrots, celery, and onions in the fridge so that along with some frozen corn and peas all went into the filling for the pot pie.

  A roux of butter and flour thickened some store bought chicken stock. I added a bit of  home made turkey gravy from the freezer for some turkey flavor, and ended up with a delicious sauce to envelop the pieces of turkey and veggies.

Although I was hoping to serve the potpie for dinner the smell was so intoxicating my husband and I decided to have  it for lunch. 

That turned out to be a really good decision!


Turkey Pot Pie (makes one 9x13 pan)

1 egg

1 tablespoon water

5-6 cups cooked turkey, cut into large dice

2 tablespoons salted butter

1 cup  chopped onions

1 cup sliced carrots

1 cup diced celery

2 cups chicken broth or stock

3 tablespoons of turkey gravy, optional

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup unbleached flour

Kosher salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/2 of a 17.3 oz package (1 sheet) of Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry, thawed according to pkg directions

2 -3 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley and thyme

Heat oven to 400 degrees. 

Beat  the egg and water in a small bowl to make the egg wash.

Saute the diced carrots, celery and onions in the 2 tablespoons of salted butter in a large skillet on medium heat til somewhat translucent.

Add the turkey to the veggies in the skillet.  Turn the heat off.


In a 2 quart saucepan heat the 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat.

Add the 1/2 cup flour and cook for 3 minutes, stirring with a whisk.

Gradually stir in the chicken broth /stock.

Continue cooking until the mixture boils and thickens, about 5 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper.

Add the optional gravy to the mixture if using.

Pour over the turkey and vegetables.

Pour the mixture into a 13x9 inch baking pan.

Unfold the pastry sheet onto a lightly floured surface.

Roll the pastry into a 13x9 inch rectangle, and gently place over the filling, sealing the edges around the rim of the pan.

Brush the pastry with the egg wash and sprinkle the chopped fresh herbs on top.

Cut several silts in the top of the pastry to allow the steam to escape.

Bake in the preheated 400 degree oven for 25 minutes or until golden brown and bubbling hot.

Cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes before cutting.