Rustic Italian Tortellini Soup

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015
It's as delicious as it looks

It’s as delicious as it looks

Those of you who know me and follow the blog know I love soup. The weather is just beginning to cool off here in Tampa, and what better way to celebrate the weather change than a quick but deceptively easy soup. Make this on a night when time is limited and you’ll be surprised—it tastes like you’ve fussed for hours!




3 Italian turkey or chicken sausage links (4 ounces each), casings removed

1 medium onion, chopped

6 garlic cloves, minced

2 cans (14-1/2 ounces each) reduced-sodium chicken broth

1-3/4 cups water

1/2 cup of dry red wine

1 can (14-1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained

1 package (9 ounces) refrigerated cheese tortellini

1 package (6 ounces) fresh baby spinach, coarsely chopped

2-1/4 teaspoons minced fresh basil or 3/4 teaspoon dried basil

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 dashes crushed red pepper flakes

Shredded Parmesan cheese, optional

Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a preheated and sprayed stock pot. Crumble sausage into the pot; add onion. Cook and stir over medium heat until meat is no longer pink. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Stir in the broth, water and tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and add red wine.
Bring a separate pot of water to a boil and add tortellini. Cook for 7-9 minutes or until just tender, stirring occasionally, remove, drain, and set aside. Add the spinach, basil, pepper and pepper flakes to the soup. Cook 2-3 minutes longer or until spinach is wilted. Place tortellini in the bottom of the soup bowl and fill bowl with soup. Serve with cheese if desired.

Attribution: A Taste of Home

No Mayo Mediterranean Chicken Salad

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

IMG_1316My husband subscribes to Runner’s World and we often find recipes we like that are light and tasty. This recipe has an added bonus – chicken salad made without the fat of mayonnaise. We used orecchiette because I think they’re cute.

Mediterranean Chicken
Chicken packs protein, B vitamins, and immune-boosting zinc. Nitrates in spinach help boost oxygen delivery to muscles.

Choose Your Pasta
5 cups cooked shells, fusilli, or penne

Add the Mix-Ins
2 cups chopped rotisserie chicken (we had made a beer can chicken the day before)
2 cups baby spinach
3/4 cup sliced, marinated artichoke hearts
1/2 cup sliced sun-dried tomatoes
1/4 cup diced feta cheese
1/4 cup chopped kalamata olives

Toss with Dressing
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Finish with Garnish
Toasted pine nuts

I had this for dinner after a tennis match and I found it to be very satisfying. Check out Runner’s World for more great recipes. Enjoy!

Vichyssoise – The Other White Soup

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

IMG_1295It is ninety-five outside and horribly muggy. I have a freezer full of homemade stock which I make for the variety of soups we love to eat. “It is too darned hot for soup,” my husband said. I don’t like to waste my culinary efforts, and the stock kept calling to me. I got on the Internet, determined to make a creative cold soup, and began to peruse the plethora of recipes for cold potato and leek soup. Finally, I found one that suited my purpose, a luscious recipe from Les Halles, the restaurant Anthony Bourdain runs in the Manhattan.

I adjusted the recipe as I usually do.


4 tablespoons butter     8 leeks, white part only, cleaned and thinly sliced     2 medium potatoes, cut into small cubes     2 1/2 cups chicken stock (if you’re a vegetarian you can substitute veggie stock)    2 cups heavy cream    4 fresh chives minced, and more left long for garnish     2 shakes of nutmeg     salt and ground white pepper to taste


Melt butter in a heavy stock pot over medium-low heat. When butter has melted, add leeks and sweat for five to eight minutes. Do not allow the leeks to brown. Add potatoes and cook for a few minutes stirring several times. Stir in the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 35 minutes until the potatoes and leeks are very soft. Cool slightly. Carefully, immersion blend the soup. I wore oven mitts on both hands. This mixture is very hot and you will get a severe burn if it hits you. Whisk in cream and nutmeg, and bring heat up to a boil. Immediately reduce to a simmer and cook for five minutes. If you want to thin the soup this is a good time to add a bit more chicken stock. Transfer the soup to a glass or other non metal bowl and chill over an ice bath. Adjust salt and pepper. When cooled to room temperature, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. This soup can be served cool or very cold. Garnish with chives and enjoy!

Easy Pesto Chicken and Broccoli Farfalle

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

My son is home from college and that requires a change in my meal planning. He can easily put away half of a pound of pasta. This recipe is fast and includes one of his favorite food groups—bacon! It refrigerates well, and is a tasty leftover.


16-ounce box of farfalle pasta   1 head of broccoli cut into florets

8 pieces of bacon fried crispy   1 pound of chicken breasts

6 tablespoons Buitoni pesto                 4-5 tablespoons veggie oil

Parmesan cheese to finish


Put a pot of salted water on to boil. Heat a sauté pan. Pound chicken, dip in egg and dredge in breadcrumbs. Add oil to pan and fry chicken until crispy. Keep warm. Cook pasta al dente, adding the broccoli to the water the last three minutes. Crumble bacon. Drain the pasta thoroughly and add the pesto. Slice the chicken, or place the meat in the center of the plate. Sprinkle with the bacon and grate a touch of Parmesan over the top. Enjoy!


Authors Eat… Meets RJ Crayton

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

Have you missed me? I have been swamped with writing projects and travel. We just got back from a lovely wedding in New England, and helped celebrate the vows of a young couple in the Battell Chapel on the old Yale Campus. I was excited to find this post and recipe from author RJ Crayton waiting for me.

Author RJ Crayton

RJ is a writer who knows how to get things done. She has a full-plate of family and community responsibilities that she balances with her career as an author. I have grown to appreciate her insightful observations, and I’ve learned quickly that if RJ asks a question the answer will be important. She is a woman you want to pay attention to. What’s more, she’s fun, she laughs a lot, and that is what life is all about. And now in the author’s own words…

This is what the dish looks like at the end. I added some grapes and red pepper strips as a garnish.

Cool and Tasty Summertime Dish

by RJ Crayton

When Lois invited me to do this, I started racking my brain to think of what recipe I could use. Then it hit me: since my novel is about a woman desperately fleeing a forced kidney transplant, I should offer up a recipe for kidney pie. Yum! Wait … no!  Kidney pie sounds disgusting. Are there real kidneys in that?  Hold on. Let me check.

Yep there are.  They use ox kidneys, according to the BBC If you try to use lamb or pig kidneys, it won’t taste as good. And they recommend you start the cooking process at least 48 hours in advance. Ummm, I don’t have time to cook a meal over a three-day period.

So, in the alternative to kidney pie, let’s actually make something I know how to cook that doesn’t involve trying to find a butcher who has an ox kidney (or what he says is an ox kidney).

It’s starting to get hot here in the Washington, DC, area, and in the summertime, I prefer not to heat up the kitchen cooking all the time. On the really hot days, it seems nuts to air condition the house and then add heat from the oven to it.  So, I like to make this great chicken salad dish, which is tasty, fresh and cold. It fits with my cooking style in that it’s not complicated to make. All you have to do is have the ingredients. I’m a minimalist in cooking so I prefer not to make anything that involves too much drama. I also like tasty dishes, so those that can conflict with minimalism at times, but that’s why we have restaurants, right? Someone else can spend hours slaving over a hot pot so I can enjoy a tasty meal; I used to get that for free  (thanks, Mom!), but now it only happens when I pay the waiter.

So, this dish involves a bit of slicing and dicing, but it’s pretty easy and requires no cooking. The best part is, if you have a kitchen helper who’s super excited to cut stuff up, the way my daughter is, then you don’t have to dice at all, if you don’t want to. If you do want to, I suggest you have an epic rock paper scissors battle to decide who gets to do it. On a more serious note, I don’t recommend letting small children cut onions; if they don’t wash their hands well and get the juice in their eyes, it’s a bad scene. I made this dish the other day with my 7-year-old daughter, and she suggested her doll Kittyanna help us out.

This is Kittyanna with the final dish. My daughter actually changed Kittyanna’s clothes, because, y’know, you have to look good posing with the food.


1 ½ cups of chicken (you can pull leftovers from a baked chicken or use a can of chicken, drained)

½ red pepper, diced

⅓ red onion, diced

10 grapes (I like to cut them in half, but my hubby says that’s overkill)

½ apple, cut into quarter-inch chunks

Balsamic vinegar (a few  splashes, to taste)

This is my daughter stirring everything, prior to adding vinegar.

Basically, you just toss all the ingredients, except the last, in a bowl, and mix them up. Then, add enough balsamic vinegar to lightly coat your dish. It usually only takes three or four splashes. However, if you like a more vinegary tasting dish, add some more.  It tastes great in a pita pocket, or on any bread that can stand up to a moist filling.  Sometimes if I’m making this, I’ll also make a bean salad. As I’m simple, I make a bean salad using a can of pinto beans, drained (though you can use any kind of beans you like–perhaps kidney beans), and a quarter jar of Trader Joe’s Corn and Chile tomato-less Salsa. That’s a great side because it’s super quick.


RJ Crayton is a former journalist turned novelist. By day, she writes page-turning fiction and regularly blogs for Indies Unlimited and the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. By night, she practices the art of ninja mom.

To learn more about RJ or her books, visit her Amazon Author page:


Rj also has a blog, 


* * *

I think Kittyana thinks the vinegar is cooking sherry. No no, naughty Kittyana.






Vietnamese-American Thanksgiving Red Cabbage Salad

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

Red cabbage, carrot, and fennel slaw.

This past Saturday the C & C Club got together for a delicious Vietnamese dinner. The hostess sent me this recipe and I was delighted to make it.

  •  2 Thai, Fresno or serrano chiles, chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 to 2 1/2  or more tablespoons fish sauce
  • 5 plus tablespoons unseasoned Japanese rice vinegar
  • 3 carrots, cut into julienne or matchsticks
  • 1 fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced (1 cup / 115 g total)
  • 4 cups packed / 200 g shredded red cabbage
  • 3 plus tablespoons chopped fresh mint and/or basil (Thai or Italian) leaves
  • 3/4 cup toasted cashew halves and pieces


  1. Use a mortar and pestle to mash the chile, garlic, ½ teaspoon sugar, and salt into an smooth paste. Scrape it into a bowl and add the remaining teaspoon of sugar, fish sauce and rice vinegar. Stir to dissolve the sugar and salt. Taste and tweak to create a spicy, tart, savory, lightly garlicky dressing.I added more fish sauce and more rice wine vinegar.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the carrot, fennel, cabbage, herb, and cashew. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss well, either with tongs or better yet, with your hand in a gentle massaging motion. The vegetables will soften slightly but remain a little crunchy. Taste and adjust the flavors to your liking, balancing the sour, sweet, salty, and spicy. Transfer to a serving plate, leaving any unabsorbed dressing behind, and serve.
Origin: Viet World Kitchen

Quick Pumpkin Chocolate Bread

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

Don't waste me!

I was reorganizing the pantry the other day and I came across a can of pureed pumpkin. In our home pumpkin is usually reserved for holiday dishes, however, I was raised in a frugal household and never waste food. What should I make? I looked over to the Brian Urlacher  chair where my husband sat with his feet propped up watching the Master’s. He had completed his honey-do list, so I threw together the following recipe as a treat. The pumpkin bread was moist and flavorful with lots of spice. I froze a loaf to share with my tennis friends after our next match. Enjoy!


3/4 15 ounce can Libby 100% pumpkin puree   1 cup Ghiardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips     3 eggs     3/4 cup veggie oil     1/2 cup water       1 3/4 cups sugar, more to your taste     3 cups flour    1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda     1 teaspoon salt     1 teaspoon ground cinnamon                 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg     1/2 teaspoon ground cloves     1/4 teaspoon ground ginger


Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a loaf pan with your favorite spray oil.

Mix the pumpkin, eggs, oil, water and sugar until smooth in a large baking bowl. In a separate bowl combine dry ingredients. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet. If needed, sift in a little more flour until the batter is the proper cake consistency. Fill half the loaf pan with the batter, sprinkle generously with the chocolate, fill to one inch from the top and generously sprinkle in more chocolate chips. I had some batter left over, so I took another pan and made a loaf for us to enjoy while warm. Bake for about 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

If you don’t like as much spice you should use a little less of the spices at first and then adjust to taste by sampling the batter prior to baking. You can also use the entire can of pumpkin and adjust the other ingredients. It is a simple, delicious quick bread.

Skillet Scallops with Orzo and Sauteed Tomato Vinaigrette

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

Skillet Scallops with Orzo and Tomato Vinaigrette

During Lent it is a challenge to prepare a variety of fish dishes that everyone in the family can agree upon. I love scallops, my husband… not so much. This particular recipe is one that I have wanted to prepare for a while. It is from the Bobby Flay cookbook Grill it! It is based on a classic scallop dish called Scallops Provençale.

I used my iron skillet for this recipe because it was rainy outside. As a result, I did not get the nice char lines on the scallops.


6 plum or ripe tomatoes, I used about 12 sliced grape tomatoes      1/3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive    Kosher salt   Freshly ground black pepper     2 cloves garlic, finely chopped     1/4 Niçoice or Kalamata olives     1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves     4 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves  1 pound sea scallops, muscle removed


Heat your skillet to high. Toss tomatoes with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place skin down in hot skillet and allow to become charred, about ten minutes. Remove the tomatoes from the pan and put to the side in a small bowl.

Immediately add the rest of the above ingredients, reserving 1/4 of the oil for the scallops and 1 tablespoon of the basil for garnish. Let this mixture rest at room temperature for at least half an hour. Do not refrigerate.

Mop out the cooled skillet with a paper towel, heat to high, brush the scallops with the remaining olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook scallops for 3-4 minutes, until golden, and then flip and cook on the other side for an additional 2-3 minutes. Place a scoop of the tomato vinaigrette in the center of the plate, arrange the scallops, drizzle the scallops with some of the liquid from the vinaigrette, and sprinkle the remaining basil across the scallops. I prepared orzo and placed the scallops on them with the vinaigrette to the side. The next time I will put the tomatoe vinaigrette in the center and arrange the orzo and the scallops around them. This way the olive oil will be absorbed by the orzo and won’t be wasted. Enjoy!

Authors Eat…

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

This month Authors Eat… features Tasmanian writer  T.D. McKinnon, a colleague and contributing author at Indies Unlimited. T.D. is the definition of a survivor who has achieved impressive success in many areas of his life. He is an intriguing guy who I fondly refer to as The Asset. He is actively involved with causes near and dear to his heart, and many victims of child abuse have benefitted from reading the memoir of his childhood. I have found him to be kind, witty, and always a class act. Enjoy this glimpse into why he loves to cook, and check out his books on the links provided.

From the author…

I’ve always enjoyed and had an affinity with cooking. I do most of the cooking at home, but that’s probably because I’m the first to get hungry.

When I was ten my mother returned to the workforce and my seven year old sister and I inherited the job of preparing the evening meals; among other things. At thirteen and in my second year of high school we had to take metalwork shop, which I hated.  From the very first lesson I always ended the period with a massive migraine from all the banging of hammers, screeching drills, files and hacksaws that scraped my nerves bare, not to mention the various smelting and welding fumes that permeated everything.  After suffering this regular torture for two years I petitioned our headmaster to be allowed to swap my metalwork periods for the cooking classes.

At that time, no schoolboys were taking cooking in the UK.  Luckily, our headmaster considered himself a bit of a ground breaker; something I’d been counting on.  After the summer break of 1963, I was one of eight boys at the Keresley Newlands High School to pilot the new domestic science programme for boys; effectively, we were the first boys in the United Kingdom to take domestic science as a subject.

I did very well at cooking, as did most of the boys.  Approaching Christmas time every year, the fourth year cooking students made Christmas cakes, which were displayed before the entire school and then judged in a competition.  When it was our turn, I took third place, with two other boys placing in the first ten.  I thought seriously about becoming a chef, in fact I was enrolled to attend the prestigious Henley Catering College.  I joined the army instead, not the catering corps: the British Parachute Regiment (The Red Devils).  You will find details of all the aforementioned, and much more, in my childhood memoir: ‘Surviving the Battleground of Childhood’.

My food tastes have changed dramatically over the years; as a young man I did the usual red meat thing, the spicy and hot thing (Indian curries, Mexican food et cetera) and later I was heavily into Thai, Chinese and then Japanese food.  However, my food tastes changed most dramatically when (as a bodyguard) I was looking after a lady, the president of an animal rights group, who had a death threat hanging over her head.  To cut a long story short, I became a vegan (consuming no animal products of any description) for about eight years.  I haven’t been a vegan for some fourteen years now but my eating habits were changed for all time; suffice to say the only meat I eat is fish.  So, without further ado, here is one of my favourite recipes:

‘Lemon & Garlic, Tasmanian Salmon’


  • Brown rice
  • Tasmanian Salmon
  • Lemon
  • Garlic
  • Black pepper
  • Broccoli
  • Baby carrots


One handful of brown rice per person, bring to boil and simmer for twenty-five minutes. One portion of salmon per person (for obvious reasons I use Tasmanian salmon, but feel free to utilise your most local fresh salmon). Roll the salmon portion(s) in freshly squeezed lemon juice. Crush one clove of fresh garlic (the fresher the better) onto each salmon portion. Grind a liberal amount of black pepper (or to taste) onto each salmon portion. Squeeze a liberal amount of fresh lemon juice into a non-stick pan, apply the salmon to the pan, cover with lid and poach slowly on a low heat (12-14 minutes depending on the thickness of the portions). Steam the vegetables until they are cooked but still crisp (8-10 minutes). Serve the salmon on a bed of brown rice, pouring the pan juices over the salmon (Optional: garnish with a twist of fresh lemon), and add the steamed vegetables to your plate. Sit down and enjoy with a glass of your favourite Sauvignon Blanc.

Writers Eat… Corn Bread With Caramelized Apples and Onions

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

Sunday brunch.

I am always interested in the food blogs of other writers and I was excited to discover Ileana Morales is a Times correspondent and approaches food the way I do. Food for her is a joy, an experiment, and an opportunity to play with her camera.I used to take a lot of artsy black and white photos until I began to raise a family. She has inspired me to wipe the dust off some of the lovely cameras gathering dust in the closet.

I prepared this recipe for the most recent Culture and Cuisine Club dinner. Our host wanted to make a Texas style barbeque and it was a huge success. The following recipe was in the paper and I saved it for the occasion. You can’t cook a southern barbeque without some sort of corn bread.

I had to travel with this dish so I broke it up into two parts. I sautéed the onions and apples at my home and let them cool in the cast iron skillet. In my case, the time to cook the onions and apples was longer than specified. I would allot about ten minutes for the onions first. By the way, I sliced everything on a mandoline slicer. If you don’t have one you should add it to your gadgets. You may not use it frequently, but it is the best way to get even slices. It is also extremely fast. You can check out a good one here

In another bowl I combined all the dry ingredients. I brought the buttermilk, eggs, and the unmelted butter with me. (I only melted the butter in the skillet that I would need to sauté the onions and apples.) I put the recipe together at my friend’s house.

The result was one of the best corn bread recipes I have ever eaten. The combination of the flour and two different types of ground cornmeal gave the bread a lighter texture without depriving it of that wonderful corn flavor. I decided to take Ileana’s advice and have a piece with breakfast the next morning. As you can see, it added just the right touch to a decadent Sunday morning breakfast.

The hostess, after going back for another piece, decided that it would be completely decadent to drizzle the bread with some sort of light caramel sauce. I think she may have hit on something…


¾ cup plus 3 tablespoons (14 tablespoons) unsalted butter

1 medium white onion, thinly sliced

Black pepper

2 large apples (Gala, Pink Lady or any red-skinned apple should work), thinly sliced

5 tablespoons sugar, divided use

3 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, divided use

½ cups cornmeal (half finely ground, half coarsely ground)

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning

2 large eggs

½ cups buttermilk

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Melt butter over medium heat in a large cast iron skillet. Pour all but 2 tablespoons melted butter into a small bowl.

Place the skillet back on the burner and add onions. Cook and stir occasionally until onions are softened, about 4 minutes. Add apples, 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 teaspoons thyme. Cook, stirring frequently, until apples are softened, about 4 minutes. Transfer onion mixture to a medium bowl.

Whisk cornmeal, flour, baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, and remaining 3 tablespoons sugar in a large bowl. Gradually whisk in eggs, buttermilk, and reserved melted butter until smooth and no lumps remain. Fold in half the onion mixture and pour batter into the skillet. Top with the rest of the onion mixture and the remaining 1 teaspoon thyme.

Bake until golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving.

Serves 8.

Original Source: Bon Appétit