Monthly Archives: February 2020

MandaRosa Mandarins—Hurry, They are only Available for a Short Time!

A new brand of seedless red mandarins from California, the MandaRosa is a natural cultivar of a Tarocco (blood) orange and clementine, actually originating in Italy. They are only available from February through early March, so your window-of-opportunity is almost over to indulge in these sweet succulent citrus gems. Simply AMAZING!!

They are not only amazing to eat, but their flavor and internal colors of the fruit change as the fruit matures, with some having red/purple pigment and others red/orange. And the eco-forward packaging with the 2-pound bags uses kraft paper for labels, instead of the more commonly used plastic.


Here are a few previous bogs that highlighted blood oranges and where the MadaRosa would make a great substitute. They could also provide an essential ingredient to a fruit salsa, garnish vanilla ice cream, and give a distinct color to citrus tarts.

Brussels Sprouts with Oranges and Bacon
blood ranges and sprouts

The Blood Sucker

A very appropriate adult libation that is wickedly good!

Roasted Carrots with Blood Orange and Rosemary
carrots with blood orange

Sesame Stir-Fried Pork With Shiitakes

For those who crave bold flavors, may I introduce Sesame Stir-Fried Pork with Shiitakes—a menu that came from our subscription. It uses kimchi, which we’ve enjoyed on numerous occasions but that you may not be familiar with. This recipe uses it as a one-stroke solution to add complex flavors to a simple dish—with fantastic results I might add.

But what is it exactly? Kimchi is made from a mix of salted vegetables, often napa cabbage and daikon radish, that’s seasoned with Korean chili powder, garlic, scallions and fish sauce or dried shrimp before being left to ferment. As an ingredient, it’s potent yet versatile, adding savory-sour flavor and spice. Raw, it also contributes nice crunch to a dish.

Pork is another main item and we were able to purchase a beautiful tenderloin at our favorite supermarket, already trimmed of any silver skin. Once cooked it was fork-tender. The recipe claims to feed six dinner guests. We beg to differ. Without increasing any of the ingredients (except the garlic 🙂 ), we ended up with three decent-sized portions. Perhaps if you served rice as a base and included a few sides, then you might get six…


For a final shot of flavor, the recipe incorporates toasted sesame oil—a staple ingredient in Korean and Japanese cooking. Stirred into the dish at the end, it adds a nuttiness that is rounded out with toasted sesame seeds for a bit more texture. An entire bunch of chopped scallions, half stirred into the warm pan, the other half sprinkled as a garnish, adds freshness and a pop of color.

Tip: Don’t finely chop the kimchi. Larger pieces better retain their texture and flavor.


Sesame Stir-Fried Pork with Shiitakes

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1-lb. pork tenderloin, trimmed of silver skin
  • 2½ cups well-drained napa cabbage kimchi, roughly chopped, plus 2 tablespoons kimchi juice, divided
  • 2½ Tbsp. soy sauce, divided
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 3 Tbsp. grapeseed or other neutral oil, divided
  • 8 oz. fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded, caps sliced ¼ inch thick
  • 3 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 3 Tbsp. mirin
  • 1 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
  • 2 Tbsp. sesame seeds, toasted
  • 1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced


  1. Cut the tenderloin in half lengthwise, then slice each half crosswise about ¼ inch thick. In a medium bowl, stir together the pork, 1 tablespoon of the kimchi juice, 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce and ½ teaspoon pepper.
  2. In a 12-inch skillet (or wok) over high, heat 1 tablespoon of the grapeseed oil until beginning to smoke. Swirl to coat the pan, then add the pork and cook, stirring, until no longer pink, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a clean bowl.
  3. In the same pan over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon of the remaining oil until beginning to smoke. Add the mushrooms and ½ teaspoon of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid released by the mushrooms has mostly evaporated, about 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Return the pork to the pan with any accumulated juices and cook until the juices evaporate, 30 to 60 seconds.
  5. Add the kimchi, mirin, the remaining 1 tablespoon kimchi juice and the remaining 1½ tablespoons soy sauce. Reduce to medium and cook, stirring and scraping up any browned bits, until the kimchi is heated through, about 3 minutes.
  6. Stir in the sesame oil, half of the sesame seeds and half of the scallions. Transfer to platter and sprinkle with the remaining scallions and sesame seeds.

Recipe by Dawn Yanagihara from 177 Milk Street

Two Small Sheet-Pans, One Fantastic Meal

At first glance, the list of ingredients seemed a bit unusual, but it intrigued me enough to give it a whirl. This Sheet-Pan Meatballs with Red Onions and Artichokes recipe, courtesy of Anna Kovel from Better Homes & Gardens Magazine, was indeed a culinary success!


Since we have two ovens, and because they didn’t seem anywhere near done, I left the meatballs in the 400° heated oven when it was time to put the sheet pan full of red onions and artichokes under the broiler. Then when the veggies completed their turn under the intense heat, I turned off the oven with the meatballs, put the veggies in it to keep warm, and moved the tray of meatballs under the broiler.

Our sheet pans were slightly smaller than 10″ x 15″, but worked out just fine. In Step 8, directions indicate to squeeze a half lemon into each vacated sheet pan to scrape up the brown bits. In our case, there was no residue whatsoever on our veggie pan, so the entire lemon went to the meatball pan. Don’t omit this step, it adds a lot of finishing flavor to the overall dish.

The original recipe says the baby spinach is optional, and/or you can make a bed of pasta. We opted for the greens where they made a perfect companion to the rest of the ingredients. Sans any mint, I used a combination of fresh parsley and chives in the meat mixture. Finally, we had a can of quartered, instead of whole, artichokes, so there was no need to cut them further. Just make sure to extract as much water as you can after rinsing them.


Sheet-Pan Meatballs with Red Onions and Artichokes

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • ¼ cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 2 Tbsp. water
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 ¼ lbs. ground pork
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • ½ cup chopped parsley, mint, and/or chives
  • ¼ cup shallot, finely chopped
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 2 medium red onions, leaving the root end intact, cut into 1/2-inch thick wedges
  • 1 14-oz. can whole artichoke hearts, drained, rinsed, halved, and patted dry
  • 5 oz. baby spinach, washed and rinsed
  • Shaved parmesan curls, and a bit more parsley for garnish


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Brush two approximately 15×10-inch baking pans with 1 tablespoon olive oil.
  2. In a large bowl combine bread crumbs and 2 tablespoons water; let stand 5 minutes, then stir in beaten egg.
  3. Stir in pork, lemon zest, herbs, shallot, and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and black pepper until well-combined, but don’t over mix. In your palm, gently shape mixture into 2-inch balls (makes about 15-16 balls). Place in one prepared pan.
  4. Place onions and artichoke hearts in second prepared pan; drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Toss to coat.
  5. Bake on separate oven racks 15 minutes. Remove from oven.
  6. Turn oven to broil. Broil vegetables 4 to 5 inches from heat 5 to 7 minutes or until tender and browned, stirring halfway through.
  7. Repeat for meatballs, broiling until done (165°F) and browned, turning halfway through.
  8. Transfer meatballs and vegetables to a platter with a bed of baby spinach (or pasta). Pour half the lemon juice into each hot pan; scrape up browned bits. Drizzle lemon juice mixture over meatballs and vegetables.


  9. Serve over a bed of baby spinach for more color and nutrition. (Or substitute a bed of cooked pasta.) Garnish with parmesan shavings and a smattering of chopped parsley.
    With tongs, allow dinner guests to serve themselves.

Carcamusa Baby

Carcamusa, a traditional Spanish tapas dish, calls for three different types of pork—fresh pork, cured ham and chorizo—all simmered with seasonal vegetables in tomato sauce. Just seeing this recipe immediately reminded us of our Spanish vacation in Toledo, where Carcamusa is a specialty, and was a culinary highlight of our trip.

That day in Toledo, hungry for our mid-afternoon Menu del Dia (the most economical way to eat in Spain), we inquired from our hotel staff where we could dine on traditional fare. Without hesitation they eagerly suggested Bar Ludeña on Plaza Magdalena. Opened for nearly 60 years, this local hub was where we savored our first taste of the Spanish stew, or “chili” if you will. Their version showcased larger pieces of meat and included peas (shown below, right), and transported us to another dimension.

hanging meatInside the Bar Ludeña “bar area” where we waited for an outside table, hung varying legs of aged Jamón, a kind of dry-cured ham that is typically included in Carcamusa.

Otherwise known as Pork and Chorizo with Piquillo Peppers, it’s all about concentrating a few flavors to make a very bold taste, and isn’t that difficult to cook but the takes quite a bit of prep. However to simplify, 177 Milk Street skipped the ham and opted for jarred roasted red peppers (although we did use piquillos). I highly suggest locating jarred piquillo peppers from Spain (try online) because their flavor is slightly deeper, sweeter and more intense.

It is common to serve the dish with slices of grilled rustic bread. Often like chilis and stews, this Carcamusa was even more flavorful the next day after ingredients got a chance to marry and get happy with each other

NOTE: Don’t use Mexican chorizo, which is a fresh sausage, in place of the Spanish chorizo called for here. Spanish chorizo is dry-cured and therefore has a firm, sliceable texture similar to salami.

Carcamusa: Pork & Chorizo with Piquillo Peppers

  • Servings: 4 as a meal; 8 as a tapas
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 6 oz. Spanish chorizo, casing removed, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • 8 medium garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2½ tsp. dried oregano
  • 2½ tsp. ground cumin
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, drained, juices reserved
  • 1¼ lb. pork tenderloin, trimmed of silver skin and cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 3 Tbsp. grapeseed or other neutral oil, divided
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • ½ cup dry sherry, such as Fino
  • 1½ cups jarred piquillo (or roasted red peppers), patted dry and cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 1 cup packed flat-leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped


  1. In a food processor, combine half of the chorizo, the garlic, oregano, cumin, 1 teaspoon pepper and 3 tablespoons of the tomato juices. Process until smooth, about 2 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.
  2. Transfer 3 tablespoons of the chorizo paste to a medium bowl and stir in 1 teaspoon salt and another 1 tablespoon of the tomato juices. Add the tenderloin and toss, then let marinate at room temperature for 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, add the drained tomatoes to the chorizo paste in the processor and process until smooth, about 1 minute; set aside. (I used our mini processor which was filed to the top!)
  4. In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil until beginning to smoke. Add the pork in a single layer and cook without stirring until well-browned, 4 to 6 minutes. Return the pork to the bowl.
  5. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the skillet and heat over medium until shimmering. Add the onion, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8 minutes.
  6. Pour in the sherry and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until most of the liquid evaporates, 2 to 4 minutes.
  7. Stir in the tomato-chorizo mixture and remaining tomato juice. Bring to a simmer, then reduce to medium-low. Cover and cook until the flavors meld, about 10 minutes.
  8. Uncover and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, another 5 minutes. (Ours took 10 minutes before it showed signs of enough thickening.)
  9. Return the pork and any accumulated juices to the skillet and add the remaining chorizo and piquillo peppers. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pork is heated through, about 5 minutes.
  10. Stir in the parsley, then taste and season with salt and pepper. Ladle into shallow bowls and serve hot with crusty bread.

Recipe from 177 Milk Street

WOW-roccan Chicken

JUST WOW! Moroccan chicken with Green Olives and Preserved Lemons, a fantabulous dish from favorite chef/author Molly Stevens’ cookbook All About Braising. (Our hard cover copy is starting to fall apart, we’ve used it so often.) Yes, the dish does take some time to do the prep*, while the braise itself is only about 45 minutes. Definitely company-worthy, it’s probably best made on a weekend, or when you have some leisure time. A perfect dish for Baby Blue, our 4-quart, shallow Le Creuset braising Dutch oven.

As Molly states, it’s both familiar and exotic. The exotic is the combination of ginger, cumin, red pepper, saffron, and the salty piquancy of preserved lemons. The technique of including the chicken liver in the braise and then mashing it up to add to the finished sauce might make you take pause. If you are not a fan of chicken liver (I’m not), Molly urges you to try it here anyway—it won’t make the sauce taste at all livery, and she was right, it just helps thicken the sauce and the mashed liver contributes an earthiness and depth that you won’t be able to identify, but will savor. (Savor we did).

IMG_3731Couscous is traditional with this dish. We also included steamed asparagus.

As My Man Russ and I started to indulge in our first few mouthfuls, the sighs of contentment were audible. When he finally could speak, Russ commented “You can detect each spice—the smokiness of the pimentón, the heat of the red pepper flakes, and the warm, toasty flavor of the cumin. Together, the preserved lemon and fresh lemon juice lend the dish both high and low notes of citrus, underlined by the salty depth of the Cerignola olives.”

We highly recommend using pimentón (smoked paprika) as opposed to the unsmoked variety. And by all means, even though it is a very small amount, don’t neglect including the saffron. This spice is derived from the flower of the “saffron crocus” and has a subtle earthy and grassy flavor and aroma; yet sweet, similar to floral and honey ( Plus, it bestows a striking golden hue on every dish it graces!

*Word to the wise, if you haven’t made preserved lemons in advance and don’t have access to a good Middle Eastern market that sells them (check online), the dish will still be wonderful, although not as aromatic. Don’t substitute regular lemon peels for the preserved, they’re not the same thing at all. You can make your own, as we did. It’s quite easy to do, though takes at least three weeks before the lemons are ready to use. So plan ahead, it’s worth it.


Moroccan Chicken with Green Olives and Preserved Lemon

  • Servings: 4-5
  • Difficulty: moderately easy
  • Print


Spice Mix

  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground (or ¼ teaspoon ground cumin)
  • ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon sweet pimentón (smoked Spanish paprika)
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/8 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled


  • ½ cup green olives in brine, not pitted (we almost doubled the amount of olives)
  • One cut-up chicken, about 4 pounds (keep the back, neck, liver and wingtips)
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • ¾ cup dry white wine (or substitute water)
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • ¼ cup mixed chopped Italian parsley and cilantro, divided
  • 1 whole (4 quarters) preserved lemon
  • Fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • Hot, cooked couscous


  1. To prepare spice mix: In a small bowl, stir together the ginger, cumin, black pepper, pimenton, or paprika, red pepper, and saffron. In another bowl, cover the olives with cool water, and set aside to soak.
  2. Browning the chicken: rinse the chicken pieces with cool water, and dry them thoroughly with paper towels (otherwise they won’t brown well – moist meats steam and tend to stick to the pan). Heat the oil and butter in a large deep-sided skillet or shallow braising pan (4-quart capacity) over medium-high heat. While the oil and butter heat, season half the chicken pieces lightly with salt (keep in mind that the olives and preserved lemons will add saltiness).
  3. When the butter is sizzling, add the salted chicken pieces skin side down and sear, without disturbing, until the skin is crisp and evenly browned, about 4 minutes. Peel by lifting one edge with tongs to see that the skin side is browned, then turn with tongs and brown the second side, another 4 minutes or so. Transfer the browned chicken to a platter or tray to collect any drips.
  4. Pat the remaining chicken pieces again with paper towels just to be sure they are as dry as possible, and lightly salt both sides. Add these pieces to the pan skin side down and sear them as you did the first batch, transferring them to the platter with the other chicken when they are browned.
  5. The aromatics: Pour off all but about 1 tablespoon of fat from the pan and return the pan to medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, stir with a wooden spoon, and sauté until you can smell their fragrance and they begin to soften, about 3 minutes. (The bottom of the pan will develop a “fond” walnut-colored crust.) add the spice mix, stir, and sauté for a minute longer.
  6. The braising liquid: pour in the water to deglaze the pan, and stir and scrape the bottom with a wooden spoon to dislodge and dissolve the flavorful cooked-on crust.
    Russ first put the water in the mortar to eke out any of the residual spice mix.
  7. The braise: When the water boils, return the chicken legs and thighs, and the wing tips, back, neck, heart and gizzard, if using, to the pan. Tuck the liver (circled below), if using, between the pieces. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and braise the chicken for 10 minutes.
  8. Uncover the pan, and if the liquid is simmering too forcefully, lower the heat to a quiet simmer, or set a heat diffuser under the pan. Turn the legs and wings over with tongs, and place the chicken breast pieces skin side up on top of the legs and wings. (Adding the chicken breasts after 10 minutes prevents them from overcooking and drying out If you’re using all legs and thighs, add them all at the start.)
  9. Squeeze the juice from one lemon half over the chicken, and sprinkle over half the chopped herbs. Continue to braise gently for 20 minutes more.
  10. While the chicken braises, prepare the olives and preserved lemons: Drain and rinse the olives. Remove the pits by crushing them one by one with the side of a large knife and pulling out the pit. Most olives will remain in one piece, like an open book, but it’s fine if some olives break in two.
  11. Rinse the preserved lemon quarters under cool water, and remove and discard the pulp. Chop the peel into ½ inch pieces.
  12. Adding the olives and preserved lemons: after the chicken has braised for a total of 30 minutes (20 minutes after you added the breasts), lift the lid, add the olives and preserved lemons, and turn the chicken pieces again.
  13. Optional step, if using the liver: remove the liver from the pan, place it in a small bowl, and mash it to a paste with a fork. Set aside.
  14. Continuing the braise: replace the lid and continue to braise until the juices from the legs run clear when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, another 10 to 15 minutes (for a total of 40 to 45 minutes). Transfer the chicken pieces to a serving dish or tray to catch the juices, and discard the wing tips, back, neck, heart and gizzard, if you used them. Cover the chicken loosely with foil to keep warm.
  15. The finish: Increase the heat under the braising liquid to medium-high and bring to a boil. Return the liver, if using, to the skillet and stir it into the sauce. Squeeze in the juice from the other half of the lemon. Simmer the sauce until it reduces just a bit, about 5 minutes.
  16. Add the remaining herbs. Taste for salt and pepper. Spoon the sauce over the chicken.
  17. Serve over hot couscous preferably made with homemade chicken stock instead of water.

I’m still salivating! According to Molly, if you have any leftovers, it’s even better when reheated…


Once a favorite haunt when the kids were growing up to celebrate various milestones, we hadn’t patronized OOKA, the Best of Philly Award-Winning restaurant, in ages. Opened in this location since 2000, and conveniently close to major transport routes on Easton Road in Willow Grove, PA, it offers both Hibachi and regular dining options—plus, it’s a B.Y.O.B!

OOKA offers only the freshest and most pristine dishes, including fish which is flown in daily from around the world. The ambiance is moody-Asian-modern and the able staff are all very polite and pleasant.

Shared Appetizers:

They offer Rolls, both raw and non-raw fish style; Sushi or Sashimi a la carte; Soups; Salads; and Hot and Cold appetizers. Three of us each decided on something different, but then we shared them all.

IMG_3481Out of Control Roll—6 freshly made tuna, salmon, avocado and tobiko rolls with pickled ginger and wasabi paste

IMG_3484Gyoza—6 crispy, pan-fried pork dumplings (they are also available with vegetables)

IMG_3486Shumai—6 delicate, melt-in-your mouth, steamed shrimp dumplings


Russ and I both decided on Dinner Entrées that came served with miso soup and a garden salad. We were impressed with the soup, both for flavor and how hot it was because it has been our experience that many restaurants tend to serve it luke warm. Julia, on the other hand, was tempted by the mouth-watering list of Signature Rolls.


IMG_3489Roasted Long Island Duck Breast—Tender slices of duck breast, caramelized asian pear, Japanese eggplant, scallion, bathing in a sweet sake-soy reduction and served with a side of coconut flake crusted taro potato tempura sticks and a choice of white or brown rice. No surprise that this was Russ’s option!

IMG_3490Chicken Yakitori—Plump pieces of both white and dark meat chicken, skewered with bell pepper and onion slices served in a with teriyaki sauce and paired with a little bucket of tempura vegetables and that choice of rice. Lynn’s selection.

IMG_3491Lobster Dynamite Roll—An artfully plated signature roll with Maine lobster, avocado and mango inside, topped with spicy tuna and sweet chili sauce on the outside. Julia kept going back to this on the menu, and finally ordered it—she was not disappointed.

IMG_3494Ice Cream Tempura—A trio of fried ice cream flavors (chocolate, vanilla and strawberry), paired with orange puree and a coconut scented white chocolate sauce. Shared by father and daughter.

OOKA also has two other locations in Doylestown and Montgomeryville, PA.

Pasta, Chicken and Broccoli Throwdown

The ingredients for this Spicy Penne with Chicken, Broccoli and Chopped Olives recipe are pretty basic and not at all unusual. To us, kalamata olives enhance any dish with their salty, rich flavor, while here, they add a welcome twist to a basic chicken and broccoli pasta.

Admittedly, I made numerous changes which are noted in the recipe below. I doubled the amount of chicken, garlic and red pepper flakes; increased broccoli florets, olives and grated cheese; and added a couple of minced shallots and grape tomatoes. I mean, serving up to six dinner guests (as the original recipe indicated) with only a 1/2 pound chicken breast and the other meager amounts, well the servings would be rather paltry indeed, me thinks.


Oh, and Good Lord, why would you throw away the garlic? In this family, that’s sacrilegious! I smashed the cloves into large chunks and left them in the finished dish. The Hubster and step-daughter ranted and raved about how good it was, and asked that I keep this in our regular rotation. I concur.

One issue with increasing a lot of the ingredients, I had to switch from a large nonstick skillet to a huge sauté pan when it was time to combine the pasta and broccoli with the chicken mixture. If you do not own a ginormous pan, one option to address this problem would be use two separate pans when combining, or cut the recipe below in half.

For a vegetarian option, omit the chicken and add red and green peppers, garbanzo beans, or any other legume or vegetable of your choice when the pasta and pasta water is added to the skillet.

Spice Penne with Chicken, Broccoli and Chopped Olives

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 8 cloves garlic, smashed into large pieces
  • 2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breast, sliced in half horizontally then cut into thin strips
  • 1 cup (or more) pitted Kalamata olives, quartered
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 lb. penne
  • 12 oz. broccoli florets, cut into 1-1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino-Romano


  1. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, heat the oil, shallot and garlic in a very large skillet over medium heat, stirring gently so the cloves don’t break up, until they become light brown in places and very fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. Add the rosemary and red pepper flakes and cook until they start to sizzle, about 15 seconds.
  3. Add the chicken, sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. salt, and cook, stirring often, until the chicken loses its raw color, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the olives and tomatoes.
  4. Add the penne to the boiling water and cook, stirring occasionally, until just barely al dente, 2 minutes less than the package instructions.
  5. Add the broccoli and cook until it turns bright green and the pasta is tender, about 2 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water, and then drain the pasta and broccoli.
  6. Add the pasta and the pasta water to the skillet and cook uncovered over medium-high heat, stirring, until the pasta absorbs most of the liquid, about 2 minutes.
  7. Stir in the lemon juice and 1 cup of the Pecorino. Pour into a large pasta serving bowl and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup Pecorino.

Adapted from a recipe by Tony Rosenfeld from Fine Cooking

Sausage, Broccoli Rabe and Mozzarella Open-Face Quesadillas

How about putting a new spin on pizza night? The Sausage, Broccoli Rabe and Mozzarella Open-Face Quesadillas are more akin to thin crust pizza, which we favor. Just a quibble about the name. We all felt they looked more like a tostada than a quesadilla, but who really cares?

The crisp flour-tortilla base is what sets these hearty open-face quesadillas apart. With lots of melted cheese, vegetables, and meat, they are best eaten with a fork and knife. However, The Hubster and step-daughter both nixed the flatware and chowed down hands only.

One was more than plenty per person, maybe because I doubled the sausage and we served a simple side salad along with them. We all agreed they were a touch bland since we tend to gravitate toward bold flavors, so next time we’d probably substitute hot, spicy Italian sausage in place of the sweet. But all-in-all, we liked them.


Sausage, Broccoli Rabe, and Open-Faced Quesadillas

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 4 tsp. olive oil
  • 4 8-inch flour tortillas
  • 1 lb. sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 bunch broccoli rabe, thinly sliced 1/4 inch thick (about 4 cups)
  • 1 small yellow onion, peeled, cut in half, and thinly sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Zest of 1 lemon (about 2 tsp.)
  • 8 oz. smoked mozzarella, coarsely shredded


  1. Heat 1 tsp. of the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add one tortilla and cook, pressing lightly with a spatula, until lightly browned, about 30 seconds. Flip over and cook another 30 seconds the same way. Transfer to a large rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining oil and tortillas. All four will fit on a standard baking sheet if you fold up the edges a little bit. Set aside.
  2. Return the skillet to the heat. Add the sausage and cook, stirring often, until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside, leaving the drippings in the pan.
  3. Return the pan to the heat, and add the broccoli rabe, onion, 1/2 tsp. salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Stir well, then cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the parsley, zest, and sausage, and mix well.
  4. Divide the sausage-onion mixture evenly among the tortillas. Divide the cheese evenly among the tortillas, piling it on the sausage-onion mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Position an oven rack about 6 inches from the broiler, and heat the broiler on high. Put the baking sheet under the broiler, and broil for until the cheese is nicely melted and starting to bubble and brown, about 4 minutes. Cut each quesadilla into quarters, and serve immediately.


Adapted from a recipe by Jessica Bard from Fine Cooking

From the Heart (with a Few Senior Moments)

As soon as I laid eyes on this article in Better Homes & Garden Magazine (BHG), I knew I had to make these Tri-Colored Heart Cookies. They appealed to both my sense of creativity and curiosity in trying new techniques. Plus, Valentine’s Day was right around the corner.


However, I decided to go with my tried-and-true Staying In Shape dough recipe because the cookies don’t spread, and with the addition of a bit of lemon zest, they have a welcome brightness to the taste. The difference here is coloring the dough itself while still in the mix master. You will also need three or more small heart-shaped cookie cutters in various sizes, which are easily ordered online.

Now for my “senior moment” act. I had made the dough early in the morning and refrigerated them until my cookie cutters arrived. During that wait, I started scribing this blog, and it occurred to me that I added four eggs instead of two! I’m thinking OMG, the cookies will be misshapen and puffy. But instead of tossing it all, I decided to run a test.

Senior moment #2 was forgetting to freeze the baking sheet full of test cookies before I popped them in the oven. Surprisingly, they came out fine! Luckily I could proceed with the dough that I had, but from then on, I did freeze each baking sheet before popping them in the oven.



  • Brush colored dough with stripes of egg white and sprinkle on colored sugar, lightly pressing to adhere before cutting out cookies.
  • For striped cookies, place strips of varying dough colors next to each other. Brush egg white between each color so dough will fuse together while baking. Roll into one large sheet and cut out cookies at varying angles. (Don’t worry if the lines aren’t perfectly straight, it makes the cookies more interesting.)
  • A mixture of food coloring, egg white and water makes an edible watercolor you can brush on the dough before cutting out.
  • For touches of gold leaf, use an already prepared edible product or mix 1/2 tsp. edible luster dust with 1 tsp. vodka. Brush onto cooled cookies.
  • For a marbled effect, lightly knead two or three colors of leftover dough so that the variations of color are still visible. Roll out the dough and cut out the shapes.

The recipe below is doubled in order to get enough of each color.


Tri-Colored Heart Sugar Cookies

  • Servings: 3 dozen
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 4 sticks (2 cups), room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • Zest from 1 lemon
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 6 cups unsifted flour (plus more for rolling cookies out)
  • 1 tsp salt


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Add the butter sticks and the sugar and cream together in a stand mixer, about 3 minutes.
  3. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the eggs, lemon zest, baking powder and vanilla extract, then beat again for 2 minutes until a creamy.
  4. Add 6 cups flour (2 cups at a time) and ½ teaspoon salt and mix on low speed to combine about 2 minutes.
  5. Remove approximately 1/3 of the dough and wrap in wax paper until ready to use.
  6. Add pink food coloring to the reminder 2/3 dough and mix until evenly colored. Remove 1/2 of the pink dough and wrap in wax paper.
  7. Finally add red food coloring to the remainder of the pink dough and mix thoroughly and wrap. Refrigerate all three dough balls until ready to use.
  8. On a floured surface or pastry cloth, roll out the cookie dough balls to desired thickness level, about an 1/8″ or a little thicker.
  9. Begin cutting out the smaller heart shapes then move the cut out pieces to fill in the holes in another color of dough. Use the largest cutters to make shapes around the filled in pieces.
  10. Place shapes on an unrimmed baking sheet.
  11. Reform any leftover dough into another ball and repeat the process.
  12. Put baking sheet(s) in the freezer for 10 minutes.
  13. After 10 minutes take the baking sheet out of the freezer and bake for 10 minutes, just before edges start to turn a light brown.
  14. Remove cookies from oven, allow to cool for a few minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. (See variations above for finishing touches.)



Lasagna Stuffed Turkey Meatloaf

Some time back I came across a lasagna meatloaf recipe thinking what a novel idea, but then completely forgot about it, until now. I recall the instructions were not very clear and a little wonky, so I improvised one of my own, using ground turkey in place of beef—which of course you could use if so inclined.

I thought it might be an issue locating fresh lasagna sheets, but our local supermarket had them in the dairy aisle with other fresh pastas. You’ll just need to cut them down to the size of your loaf pan for easy layering.

A few things to keep in mind. First, don’t forget to prep the loaf pan with cooking spray, otherwise you might have an issue getting it to easily come out of the pan when inverting it onto a baking sheet. Second, try to completely cover the sides with the meat mixture so that when it’s done and resting, the interior cheese mixture doesn’t start oozing out (like mine did). Finally, it is critical to let it rest after broiling so that you don’t end up with a soupy mess when you begin to slice the loaf.

Although it is not indicated in the recipe below, next time I may add an egg to the ricotta mixture which should help firm up the interior. Other than that, the Hubster loved the Lasagna Stuffed Turkey Meatloaf (I think even more than I did!). Served with a simple salad, it was more than enough for a satisfying meal.


Lasagna Stuffed Turkey Meatloaf

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 2/3 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 eggs, whisked
  • 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 2 tsp. salt, divided
  • 1 1/2 tsp. pepper, divided
  • 2 cups ricotta
  • 4 fresh lasagna noodles cut to loaf pan length and width
  • 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce, or your preferred marinara; more for serving
  • 8 oz. Mozzarella, cut into thin slices
  • Grated parmesan, optional


  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
  2. Spray the interior of a large loaf pan with cooking spray.
  3. In a large bowl mix together turkey, bread crumbs, eggs, parsley, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, garlic slices and tomato paste until combined.
  4. Press 3/4 of mix into prepared loaf tin along the bottom and press up the edges keeping a well in the middle.
  5. Mix together ricotta with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
  6. In the well, layer lasagna followed by ricotta, slices of mozzarella. Repeat with 3 more layers, ending with a lasagna noodle.
  7. Cover with remaining meat mixture to seal.
  8. Bake for 40 minutes covered with foil, remove foil and cook for another 10-15 minutes until the top meat is no longer pink.
  9. Adjust oven to broiler setting.
  10. Take out and flip over onto a small rimmed baking sheet lined with heavy-duty foil.
  11. Top with tomato sauce or marinara, and slices of mozzarella. Broil in the oven until golden brown and bubbly, about 5-6 minutes.
  12. Remove from oven and let sit for 10-15 minutes to solidify. If desired, lift foil from pan and slide entire meatloaf onto a serving platter.
  13. Cut into thick slices and serve with additional sauce and grated parmesan.