about that chicken…


{Last Wednesday’s chicken dinner got a ton of comments when I posted its photo online, and I had several people ask for a recipe. This was one of those dishes that I turned out on the fly, so I don’t have a “recipe” as such, but I can try to tell you how I put it all together.}

My parents came to town last week, both to visit with us and to help me with the kiddos while Mike was in San Antonio for a cocktail conference. I didn’t have a lot of time to do meal planning in advance of their arrival, so I when I did my shopping for the week, I got in a few simple proteins that were versatile and would cook quickly – among them, some skinless boneless chicken breasts.

I got home from work Wednesday night and assessed our fridge and pantry stocks. With an abundance of lemons, and some broth that needed to be used up, my meal plan began to take shape.

Now, skinless boneless chicken breasts aren’t terribly exciting on their own, but they do love a pan sauce. My thoughts turned to piccata, but I wasn’t sure my folks would go for the traditional capers. So I riffed on it, keeping the butter and lemon components of that dish, and adding peas at the end for a pop of color.

I seasoned the chicken breasts and dredged them lightly in flour, then browned them in a wide skillet in a mix of butter and olive oil. When all the chicken was deeply browned on both sides, I removed the pieces and set them aside, poured out most of the excess fat from the pan, then squeezed the juice of one lemon into it, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom.

I added a cup of chicken broth next, letting it reduce and thicken for a bit before adding the chicken breasts back to the pan to finish cooking through. I tasted the sauce for seasoning, adding a little more salt and pepper and a bit more fresh lemon juice for brightness, then I tipped in one 10 oz. bag of frozen peas. Once the peas were bright green and fully warmed through, I slipped in a few pats of cold butter to finish the sauce.

I served the chicken, peas, and buttery lemon sauce over a brown and wild rice blend, but it would have been just as good over wide egg noodles, mashed potatoes, or even with hunks of crusty baguette. Some chopped soft herbs (chives, dill, tarragon, parsley) stirred into the sauce wouldn’t be out of place, either.

not-quite-seven fishes


And somehow, we are days away from another new year. 2014 has been a bit of a blur, with book stuff and work stuff and kid stuff all taking my attention away from cataloging meals, but this one, our Christmas Eve feast, was a meal I wanted to make note of.


Though neither of us can claim Italian heritage, we love the tradition of “la vigila,” and we have had seafood dinner on 12/24 for many years now. This year, anticipating a full day at the office, I had to come up with something simple and relatively fast to ensure we’d have plenty of time to play Santa after dinner and getting the little ones to bed. So I made a healthy amount of herbed butter (chervil, though dill or tarragon or parsley would all work well), slathered it on the cut sides of two split lobster tails, and laid them on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Those went into the oven for a few minutes on their own, then I pulled the pan out and scattered some shaved fennel, thinly sliced Meyer lemon, blue shrimp and Nantucket bay scallops all around. A drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt, and back into the oven briefly. I finished them under the broiler to get a little more color, then served our simple roasted seafood with garlicky toasts and a nice bottle of rosé. Proof that sometimes, the less you do to delicious ingredients, the better they taste.

Dinner: November 3, 2014


There were two fat roast chickens, roasted rainbow carrots, and buttery brussels sprouts.


There was a big bowl of fluffy mashed potatoes, a lemony pan sauce, and plenty of chilled rose’, to toast to our last first year.


There was a cake with sprinkles and one red candle, and a little girl to blow it out (with the assistance of her big brother).



I hope she takes on everything in life with such gusto.

SHRUBS on Tour!


We’ve had a fairly lackluster week of eating, so I won’t share a photo of last night’s delicious but majorly fugly chicken-corn-cheddar chowder. I did want to mention, however, that two weeks from today (That’s November 7th), Mike and I will be at Tait Farm in Centre Hall, PA, for a Shrub Party & Book Signing! We’re bringing the kids. And my parents. And we’d love to see you, if you’re in the area! Here’s the info from Tait Farm’s website:

Friday Evening, November 7, 5 to 8pm – Special Guest and Author, Michael Dietsch will be signing copies of his newly released book, “Shrubs: An Old Fashioned Drink for Modern Times” which features Tait Farm Foods! Its a great gift idea alongside your favorite flavors of The Original Shrub.

I *think* we’ll be there early Saturday, as well, so if you can’t make it Friday night, maybe you can swing by the following day. Thanks again for your support!

Dinner: October 19, 2014


I didn’t leave the apartment once this weekend. While Mike was visiting old friends and new in Boston and Providence, signing copies of his book and doing demos at The Boston Shaker and Stock Culinary Goods, I was home, desperately trying to rid myself of the last dregs of a nasty upper respiratory bug, and playing solo parent to our two sick little ones.

Despite our collective crud, I had high hopes for my weekend at home with the kids, envisioning living room dance parties, the construction of blanket forts, and a few special kid-friendly meals we could prep and eat together, but sadly, those plans fell through as well. Julian and Mira were completely off-schedule in terms of sleep and meals, and they missed their daddy fiercely. I eventually sat down with a mish-mash of leftovers for myself Friday night sometime after 10 pm, and hoped for better luck on Saturday. The kids did well with their breakfast on Saturday morning (their favorite pork sausages and some multigrain toaster waffles – a new item for both of them), but by lunchtime, I had two cranky, needy, desperately-tired-but-refusing-their-naps screamers on my hands.

In the ten minutes or so while they were both quiet, I made myself a plate. I sat down to eat, then Julian started yelling so loudly he woke Mira up – and that was all the naptime that was going to happen that day. I proceeded to graze on this for the next three and a half hours.


I was very grateful that I had had the foresight to order a rotisserie chicken with our Instacart order, so I could quickly and easily feed the kids roast chicken and applesauce for their dinner. But I didn’t have the heart to feed myself. Sunday just had to be a better day, right?


It was.

All three of us had a full and restful night of sleep, and were in much better spirits in the morning. I made a big pot of steel cut oats for breakfast (savory for me, with a sunny egg, tamari, and chives), the kids played and napped well, and I was able to get Sunday’s dinner prepped in advance of Mike’s return home.


My favorite lasagna recipe is still Marcella’s, and I love to turn it out for special occasions, but it’s not the most practical dish for our current lifestyle. I’m also usually disappointed in the simpler, ricotta-based lasagna dishes I’ve tried. I wanted to come up with a weeknight-friendly lasagna that would give me the texture I love in a bechamel-based version, with a minimum of fuss and cleanup. I also decided to go for a tomato-free version, just to change things up a bit.

What I ended up with hit all the notes I was aiming for, and was actually even better than I had hoped. You could certainly substitute ground beef or pork or turkey for the sausage, increase the amount of mushrooms and omit the meat entirely, add your favorite fresh (or dried) herbs or some chopped spinach, or switch up the cheeses. I used what we had on hand, and I think I came up with a pretty great template that will certainly lend itself well to adaptation.


Experimental One-Pan Lasagna

olive oil
1 lb. bulk Italian sausage (hot or sweet – we use a locally-made sweet fennel sausage)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/3 cup unbleached all-purpose (“AP”) flour
3 cups whole milk plus 1 cup heavy cream (what we had and used), or 4 cups whole milk
Kosher salt
½ lb. crimini mushrooms, trimmed and sliced thin
4 oz. low-moisture whole milk mozzarella, torn or shredded (do not use fresh mozzarella)
2 oz. finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
2 oz. finely grated Pecorino Romano
2 oz. finely grated Fontina
9-12 no-boil lasagna noodles
½ to 1 cup tap water

Add a drizzle of olive oil to the bottom of a 12-inch oven-proof skillet. Crumble the sausage into the pan, and cook over medium heat, breaking up unto chunks, until the sausage is nicely browned. Remove the sausage to a small plate or bowl with a slotted spoon, leaving the fat in the pan. Swirl the butter into the olive oil/pork fat mixture until melted. Sprinkle the flour over and whisk until combined. Cook for just a minute, then slowly whisk in the milk (and cream, if using). Add a big pinch of salt and cook over medium-low heat, until the sauce is thickened and coats the back of a spoon.

Remove about 2 cups of the sauce and set aside (I ended up with about 2.5-3 cups of sauce total), leaving a shallow depth of sauce behind in the pan. Arrange one layer of noodles in the bottom of the pan, nestling them into the sauce so they are coated (I used 3 noodles per layer – two in the center of the pan, and a third noodle broken into 4 pieces and arranged around the edges). Scatter ½ of the sausage over, then ½ of the mushrooms. Scatter 1/3 of the mozzarella over the top, then repeat with each of the other cheeses. Add another layer of noodles, then spoon a cup of the sauce over them, spreading it gently. Add the remaining sausage and mushrooms, then another 1/3 of the cheeses. Add your final layer of noodles, the remaining sauce, and the remaining cheeses. Carefully drizzle about ½ cup of water around the edges of the pan.

(NOTE: At this point, the lasagna can sit for a while. I left ours on the countertop for about an hour before putting it into the preheated oven to bake, but I did add a little more water before baking since it looked dry around the edges.)

Bake the lasagna uncovered in a preheated 400 degree oven for 45 minutes to an hour, until the top is browned and the lasagna is bubbling at the edges. Allow to rest before serving.