Grilled Lamb Chops

In my more recent forays into cooking “real meat” as I call it, meaning I’ve started cooking outside of the chicken comfort zone, I’ve had fun discovering fancy looking dishes that are really quite easy and don’t take too much time.  In wondering out loud what to make for dinner, a friend suggested this recipe that she has made for company for years.


While the recipe calls for a grill, we both used a cast iron skillet and had amazing results anyways.  Some people have said that cast iron skillets are extremely difficult to clean, but this recipe resulted with very minimal clean-up.  The marinade adds wonderful depth of flavor, and you can use the leftover herbs sprinkled into dishes for the rest of the week, including omelettes and chicken for salads.


2 large garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Pinch cayenne pepper
Coarse sea salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 lamb chops, about 3/4-inch thick


In a food processor fitted with a metal blade add the garlic, rosemary, thyme, cayenne, and salt. Pulse until combined. Pour in olive oil and pulse into a paste. Rub the paste on both sides of the lamb chops and let them marinate for at least 1 hour in the refrigerator. Remove from refrigerator and allow the chops to come to room temperature; it will take about 20 minutes.

Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat until almost smoking, add the chops and sear for about 2 minutes. Flip the chops over and cook for another 2 minutes for medium-rare and 3 minutes for medium.

Adapted from Food Network Grilled Lamb Chops.

Lisa’s Fudge

I’m not even going to pretend that there are any health-related redeeming qualities to this out of this world fudge – and you shouldn’t either. But whereas most fudge simply makes my teeth ache with its overwhelming, cloying sweetness my fudge is rich and decadent with a wonderful pure dark chocolate taste. It took me several years of trial an error to get just the right balance. Unlike plain dark chocolate, which I love, this is undoubtedly fudge, with that special fudge mouth-feel. When my son was younger he didn’t like nuts so I left them out, but my preference is to include them. I leave it to you to decide if you want to include them or not.

Because my fudge is so rich, I either need to think ahead and make it a couple of weeks before I wish to serve it so it will “cure” a bit and harden up which makes cutting it easier OR it will need to be refrigerated. The only problem with the latter is you will lose the sheen of the chocolate. The taste will not be affected. If you can store it in a dark, cool place and manage not to eat it, I definitely recommend that method. I did actually take a “test” piece last night and it was dreamy, but still a bit soft for best serving. Either way, it is a slightly more sophisticated take on fudge.


Lisa’s Fudge

Yield: It will entirely depend on how you cut your pieces, but it is quite rich, so I would keep them small. I wouldn’t think getting 36 pieces is out of the realm of possibility, but there is no judgment here, so if you only get 12 I promise not to tell.


1.5 cups of granulated white sugar

2 Tablespoons Devonshire cream or Mascarpone

6 oz. bittersweet chocolate (about 64% cacao)

6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate

1 jar Marshmallow crème/fluff (about 7 ounces – a little more or less won’t matter)

4 oz. unsalted butter

1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 teaspoons strong coffee

1 cup walnuts, broken into good sized pieces


  1. Generously grease an 8-inch square pan with either butter or cooking spray
  2. In a heavy-bottomed medium pot, bring the first 6 ingredients to a boil on medium heat, stirring occasionally
  3. As soon as it begins to boil, stir constantly and boil for 5 minutes.
  4. After 5 minutes of boiling, turn off the heat and stir through the last 4 ingredients. When everything is well combined, pour the mixture into the prepared pan and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Once it has completely cooled, cover the pan and put in a cool dark place. Try to forget about it until you are ready to cut your pieces. Then cut and place your pieces in paper or foil candy cups and store in a tin.

Mine isn’t totally ready to cut yet so my photo is only of the fudge in the pan. When I have it cut, I’ll add a photo later. But I know that some of you might want to have this for the holidays, so I want to get this recipe out there now.

Easy Mushroom and Leek Soup

Whenever winter rolls around, I start dreaming about all the soups that I can eat (and make) and inevitably end up using my immersion blender all the time to make tasty and hearty liquid warmth.


Making soup is extra fun with this pumpkin cast iron pot that is so beautiful that it makes cooking the soup feel extra seasonally appropriate.  It just so happens that Sur La Table also seems to think so, and provided a delicious mushroom and leek soup recipe to go with this pot.


I modified it by using less stock (to make it much more dense) and left out all the extra butter and whipping cream.  To be honest, I don’t think we’re missing much for not including it and it ends up being healthier this way, too!


  • 1 ounce dried wild mushrooms
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups roughly chopped celery
  • 2 medium leeks, white parts only
  • 1 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 4 cups sliced stemmed fresh shitake mushrooms
  • 4 cups sliced Crimini mushrooms
  • 2 cups sliced button mushrooms
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups chicken broth, low-sodium
  • 2 tablespoons truffle oil
  • diced chives (optional, for garnish)
  • ¼ cup straw mushrooms, for garnish (optional)


  1. Place the dried mushrooms into a small bowl and cover with hot tap water, set aside and allow to soak for 20 minutes. Cut leeks into ¼” rounds. Transfer to a large bowl of cold water and wash well, lift from water into a colander and drain.
  2. In a large pot, add 4 tablespoons of olive oil and place on the stove over a medium-high heat to melt. Add the celery, leeks and onion and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add all the mushrooms and cook until just starting to soften, about 4 minutes. Add wine, bring to a boil and cook until reduced to a glaze, about 5 minutes.
  3. In a small bowl, use a silicone spatula to combine the flour and butter until a smooth paste forms. Add the flour paste mixture to the pot and stir until the mixture melts and coats the vegetables. Gradually mix in the stock and bring to the boil, stirring frequently.
  4. Remove the soaking mushrooms from their liquid and roughly chop. Add the mushrooms and their liquid, being careful not to add any sediment to the soup. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the mushrooms are tender, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
  5. Using an immersion blender, puree the mixture in the pot (alternatively, use a blender and work in batches.) Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
  6. Drizzle with truffle oil, garnish with straw mushrooms and sprinkle with chives. Serve immediately.


Adapted from Sur La Table Easy Mushroom and Leek Soup.

Red Quinoa and Butternut Squash Salad

While I love making sandwiches for lunch, every once in a while I find myself looking for something a little more interesting.  I’m also always looking for dishes that are multipurpose – where it works as a side, a full meal or a simple lunch.  I definitely had lunch envy the other day when a colleague was taking out her amazing looking quinoa salad, and it occurred to me that it’s been forever since I made any quinoa salads (minus the most recent disaster when an entire quinoa salad went flying out of my refrigerator and crashing.)


Anyways, I came across this delicious recipe from someone who apparently also seeks to defeat the “sad desk lunch” — who knew that there’s apparently an entire website devoted to sad desk lunches?  There’s a whole universe of delicious, easily packable lunches – so why are so many people suffering?

But I digress, the point is that I made this salad once, and then had it as a side with salmon, for lunch with some sliced chicken, and again for dinner with sliced chicken (I could have even just thrown an egg on it.)  The pomegranate seeds add a bit of colorful flair (take that sad desk lunches!) and the arugula tossed in adds even more color and crunch to an already colorful dish that just begs to be photographed.


  • 2 ½ cups butternut squash, cut into ½ inch cubes
  • 4 teaspoons, extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¾ cup uncooked red quinoa
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon good quality maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • Salt
  • 1/3 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted
  • 1/3 cup pomegranate arils
  • 2 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped
  • 3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • Handful of arugula (optional)


  1. Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Place the cubed butternut squash on a baking sheet or in a baking pan. Drizzle with two teaspoons olive oil and sprinkle with ground cinnamon. Toss to coat. Roast your butternut squash for 30 minutes, stirring after 15 minutes, until it is very tender.
  3. While your squash is roasting, cook red quinoa according to package directions (I find this is generally a 1 cup of quinoa to 1.5 cups of water or broth if you choose to use that instead). When cooked, transfer it to a large bowl to cool slightly.
  4. In a small bowl, combine the minced shallots, remaining two teaspoons olive oil, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, lemon juice and cayenne pepper. Season with salt to taste and set your dressing aside until ready to use.
  5. Toast walnuts in a small pan over medium-high heat.  Just make sure to watch that it doesn’t get too toasty crisp! Remove from the pan and set aside.
  6. Add your roasted butternut squash, toasted walnuts, pomegranate arils, arugula, parsley and crumbled feta cheese to the bowl with your cooked red quinoa. Pour the dressing over your salad and gently toss to coat. Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled.

Adapted from Domesticate-me Red Quinoa and Butternut Squash Salad.

Italian Wedding Soup

Italian wedding soup

All of us need a little comfort from time to time – a lost game, a blown test, a broken heart or simply just not feeling well. To my mind and that of millions of mothers everywhere, nothing soothes better than a bowl of good chicken soup. And so many cuisines have their version – Chinese wonton, Jewish chicken soup with kneidlach, Greek avogolemono and many more. Frances was under the weather with a case of bronchitis when she came for Thanksgiving and fortunately I had just made a big pot of Italian wedding soup – the Italian version of a great chicken soup. While, of course, it is best if you make your own chicken stock, there are several good commercial brands available now and I am not above using them. This soup is at its prettiest when you first serve it and the spinach is still a bright green, but the taste is just as wonderful several days later. If you are using a commercial chicken stock, this soup can be made in under and hour. Nothing knocks out the blues or sore throats better than this – unless of course it is Wonton soup or Jewish chicken soup or …. you get the point.

Italian Wedding Soup adapted from Ina Garten

Yield: 8-10 servings


For the meatballs

1 pound ground chicken (all white or a mix of white and dark)

1 pound raw chicken sweet Italian sausage, casings removed (I would not use a very spicy sausage here)

2 slices of whole grain bread, crumbled

1 large egg

3 Tablespoons milk (any kind will do)

1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, minced

2 rounded teaspoons minced fresh garlic

1/4 cup Asiago, Pecorino Romano OR Parmesan cheese, grated

Kosher salt and cracked black pepper, to taste

For the soup

2 Tablespoons EVOO

2 bunches of spinach, washed and trimmed or about 16 ounces fresh baby spinach (it cooks down)

1 large yellow onion, chopped

3 large carrots, peeled and chopped to small dice

2 to 3 stalks of celery or fennel, sliced into 1/4-inch thick pieces

1/4 cup chopped fresh dill

8-10 cups of good quality chicken stock, preferably unsalted

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 generous cup tubetini pasta


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Place all of the meatball ingredients in a large bowl and mix thoroughly. I use my hands as the best way to distribute everything evenly. Dampen your hands slightly to prevent too much sticking and form into small balls. There is no magic size here – make them the size you like, just not giant balls. Place on a baking pan lined with foil or parchment or a Silpat and bake for about 30-35 minutes or until lightly browned. Set aside. cooked chicken meatballs
  3. In the meantime, heat a couple of tablespoons of EVOO in a large heavy pot (about 6-7 quarts) over medium heat. Add the chopped onion, diced carrots and celery and sauté until translucent, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the chicken stock and wine and bring to a boil.
  5. Add the pasta and simmer it for about 6-8 minutes.
  6. Add the meatballs. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust your seasonings. The soup can be made ahead up to this point and refrigerated until ready to eat it. The pasta will continue to expand some so you may need to add some more chicken stock later.
  7. When ready to serve, gently reheat the soup and bring it to a simmer. Add the fresh dill and spinach and simmer for one minute. Any leftover soup will be delicious but the spinach will not retain the bright green color. If you like you can add a sprinkling of extra cheese on top when serving.

Egg in the Bread

Egg in the bread done

One of my all-time favorite movies is Moonstruck. Whenever I need a lift, I re-watch it and it never fails to delight me. There is a scene where the Olympia Dukakis character is making breakfast for the Cher character and it always looks so delicious to me. It’s what I call “egg in the bread” and it looks as if she serves it with roasted red peppers. For Matthew and Frances’ final breakfast before they had to leave, I made this old favorite. It’s very versatile and you could easily make a vegetarian version (which I often do) with either roasted red peppers or plum tomatoes or spinach lightly sautéed in garlic and olive oil. You could serve it with warmed ratatouille or sautéed zucchini or mushrooms. Let your imagination (and what’s in your fridge) guide you. What follows is more of a method than a strict recipe, but give it a try. I think you’ll like it.

Egg in the Bread


1-2  thickly-cut slice(s) of Italian, whole grain or sourdough bread for each serving

1 large egg per slice of bread

Unsalted butter and EVOO for the pan

Kosher salt and cracked black pepper

Herbs of choice (optional)

1 thin slice of Black Forest ham or smoked turkey (optional)

About 1 generous teaspoon freshly grated cheese of choice (Asiago, Pecorino with truffles, a good sharp cheddar etc.)


  1. Heat enough unsalted butter and EVOO in a heavy-duty skillet with a lid (cast iron is best) to cover the bottom of the pan. I would say about 1 Tablespoon of each for 2 slices of bread.
  2. While the butter and EVOO are melting, use a cookie cutter or sharp knife to cut a circle out of the center of the bread that will hold the egg. Save the cut-out piece. You will use it.
  3. When the butter/EVOO is sizzling, add the bread slices, including the circle that you cut out. Cook on medium high heat until desired brown. When the first side is the color brown you like, turn over the slices. Make sure you have enough butter/EVOO in the pan so the bread and egg won’t stick. Add more if needed. As soon as you turn over the bread, crack the egg into the hole that you created. It will sit directly on the pan. Don’t worry if some seeps under the bread. egg in the bread 4
  4. Add a sprinkling of Kosher salt, any herbs if used, the cracked black pepper and the grated cheese. Cover with the lid. Check in about 3 minutes to see if the white of the egg is almost entirely cooked, but the yolk is still soft. If using the ham or smoked turkey or vegetables, add them to the pan now. If using vegetables, I generally am starting with vegetables that have already been cooked and I am simply reheating them. Cover with the lid and cook for about 2 more minutes.
  5. Using a thin spatula, arrange on a plate and enjoy.