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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Good bye Tasty Tuesday 2013!

 So, I guess you've been wondering where I have been.....or not.
Hopefully, you were way too busy making merry to wonder where I have been. 
Please accept my deep apology for not wishing you a very Merry Christmas.
Here in Judiland, we made the best of it all.
My dear father was brought into the hospital with some critical health issues the Monday before Christmas.  So, needless to say, the past week or so has been spent dealing with those things.
There I was--frantically trying to finish up my shopping at the mall when the call came.  All of a sudden, finishing up my shopping was the least of my concerns.  The menus, the gifts, the wrapping and everything else fell by the waist side as I high tailed it out of the mall and headed to the hospital.  Without going into any major details--let me just say that we are all hanging in there.   We are all a little tattered and torn and extremely exhausted.  But, I am thankful that amid all of that, we did manage to find ways to celebrate the love of family and the true meaning of the season.  And, yes, we even had some fun.  And, yes, gifts appeared under the tree and food appeared on the table.  This year, more than any other year, having that fun and getting those gifts under the tree and that food on the table took more than physical effort--it took some major emotional effort.  And, it also took some serious scheduling to make sure that Christmas and all the merry-making happened.   In very unJudilike fashion, I decided to back off all the holiday parties and just focus on my father and my own little family.  My house was full and I needed that comfort.
As I look back, it all seems like a blur.  And, it wasn't because of the martinis....(but they sure helped!)
Although I entered the holidays a bit saddened by some hurts, those hurts took a back seat when my father took ill.  Funny how we can find ourselves in one place one moment and then in an entirely different place when the really important things happen.   
As I close out 2013, I have a brand new appreciation for what is important to me and how truly human I am.  I can't be everything to everyone, I can't change people and I certainly can't expect others to appreciate who I am.  In many ways, it's a freeing feeling.  In other ways, I am saddened.
I don't expect you to understand what I am talking about.....just to know that I was deeply hurt and that even though I felt completely devastated by that hurt, it became much less important when the call came about my father....
In the spirit of renewal and to welcome the new year, I am going to take hold of these feelings and go forth in a way that honors these moments.  Sometimes life has a way of slapping us upside the head when we really need slapped upside the head.  I am not making any sweeping new year resolutions....I'm just saying that I heard the message that the universe was sending me and I'm hoping that I really heard it this time.....
But, that's not what I am here to talk about.....just thought I'd mention it. 
However, it does provide a good segway into the recipe I am about to share with you on this last day of 2013.  It's a recipe that smacks of make-do-in-the-midst-of-being-slapped-upside-the-head.
As you know, I am all about planning menus and figuring out recipes way before they have to hit the table.  Unfortunately, I never plan for life getting in the way.  I'm silly like that.... 
Today, I am sharing a recipe that just happened because it needed to happen and it turned out so phenomenal that I should trademark it.  But, I don't have the time.  Instead, I'm sharing it with you as my way of telling you that you don't have to plan menus or have perfectly taste tested recipes to put together a meal that is truly astounding.  Like life---sometimes recipes just happen.....

Pantry and Fridge Pasta with Artichokes, Lemon and Other Stuff
This recipe came completely from what I had in my pantry and fridge. 
1 pound of thinly sliced chicken breasts, shaken in a bag with flour, pecorino cheese, some garlic powder, salt and pepper --- lightly sautee in butter and olive oil then set aside (use a deep pan...not a pot!)...about 3-5 minutes on each side
In the same pan---after removing the chicken--put 1 jar of Williams Sonoma Artichoke and Pecorino Saute Simmer Sauce   (I bought this stuff a few months ago on a whim....what an ingenious whim that was!)
Add--a can of artichoke quarters (drained), juice of one lemon, some lemon zest, 2 nice size dollops of whole milk ricotta, a handful of pecorino, about 4 oz of white wine, about 4 oz of chicken this point, I recommend you drink rest of the wine in the bottle....
Simmer it all for about 10 minutes
In the meantime, boil water for some good pasta (about 1/2 pound) dente 
Dice up the chicken into bite size pieces
Add chicken to pan with sauce and throw in some juilienned basil
Cover and simmer for about 5-8 minutes
When pasta is done....drain it and throw it in the pan with the sauce and chicken and toss very  to coat.
Throw in some more pecorino and serve.
Then, open another bottle of wine.  

I am not sure what 2014 holds for me.  But, one thing is for certain---I am going to make this more often!  

All the best to all of you for a delicious ending to 2013!

Thank You for sharing my journey......

Did I mention that I have another round of house guests arriving in about 6 hours?
Anyone have  a few good recipes for my pity party? 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

'Tis Christmas Eve.......

Welcome to the Christmas Eve edition of Tastey Tuesday Recipe Exchange.
Today I am going to share  MAIN COURSE and DESSERT COURSE recipes.
At this point, I'm pretty sure your  Christmas menus are all planned and your grocery shopping is done.  The very last thing you need is to fall head-over-heels in love with a new main course.  That's something that would happen to me and I'd make myself crazy over it all...
I can see it wake up on Christmas Eve morning thinking you are going to make X for dinner and then you find a brand new recipe that you decide you must have......before you know it, your life is topsy turvy and your family is pretty sure you've gone half mad.  You're pushing and shoving through the throngs of shoppers at the grocery store and  you're flinging crown roasts and brussel sprouts with the procrastinating crowd..... my Christmas gift to you.....I am not going to send you there.
I have complete faith that your menus are perfect and you don't need to even consider any other recipes this holiday season.
But, since I have to be true to my 2013 Tastey Tuesday Recipe Exchange commitment, I am still going to share a MAIN COURSE recipe and a DESSERT COURSE recipe......
 But, I am going to make you promise that you aren't going to attempt to make these today, tomorrow or any other day this week.   As a matter of fact, I am going to demand that you save these recipes for a day when you are scratching your head wondering what you will serve for a special dinner......

 Who wants to serve chicken on Christmas anyway?  Right??
 Even though this is an excellent recipe that commands amazing reviews from your family and/or guests---it's best saved for a nice family Sunday supper or a lovely evening dinner with friends.   It's very easy to make and makes a great presentation.  The last time I made this, I opted for boneless chicken breasts so that things would go quicker.   Either way, the flavoring is excellent!

Here's an lovely, taste-too-good-to-be-true side dish to serve along with this chicken recipe.......

Butternut Squash with Spinach, Raisins, and Pine Nuts

I am so serious when I tell you that this side dish is absolutely impressive.  If you do nothing else, be sure to make this one soon......but, of course......not today or tomorrow.  

Before I share a dessert course, I have to own up to something---I really don't bake.  Nope, I'm not a fan of baking.  Every once in awhile, I will try my hand at it.  But, if truth be told---I know some excellent bakeries nearby and I know some awsome bakers so if I really want baked goods---I know how to pick up a phone and I'm not afraid to do it! With that being said, however, I do have a few stand-by desserts that I offer when I want to make the dessert myself.   Sometimes I just love to cover the table in fruits and candies, offer some liquer laced concoctions and call it a day.  Other times, I really do want to try my hand at a recipe I am intrigued by and doesn't require baking skills.  That's what happened with this particular recipe that I am sharing with you today.   I don't even remember how I came upon it but it spoke to me when I found it.  So, I tried it on my taste testers and before I knew it.....I was dreaming up ways to serve it to guests.  It's always a huge hit.....sometimes I even get a standing ovation.......


Sweet Roasted Grapes

Serve these syrupy grapes for dessert---I have spooned them over a good quality vanilla bean ice cream and I also put them over marscapone---both renditions had diners squeal with delight.  My girlfriend reported that she put them over pound cake and topped them with real whipped cream and got rave reviews.  These are so easy and different, you really will be thrilled.  My only tip is to make sure you watch these very carefully and stir them often.   You can use red or green grapes.....
By the way---I bet these would just be stunning over a log of honey goat cheese....OH YUM!  
Here's the easy directions: 
Grease an ovenproof skillet with 2 tablespoons butter. Add 1 pound seedless grapes and 3/4 cup walnuts; sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar. Roast about 25 minutes in a 500 degree F oven. Transfer to a bowl using a slotted spoon. Simmer the juices with 1 tablespoon honey on the stove until syrupy, 6 to 7 minutes. Off the heat, add a squeeze of lemon juice and a pinch of pepper. Pour the syrup over the grapes.

May your Christmas Eve be delicious and blessed.......

Friday, December 20, 2013


Only 5 more shopping days!  
This gift only takes 4 days!!!  

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


What's any holiday in an Italian household without pasta?
Hey, we even do pasta on Thanksgiving.......!
In fact, I'm pretty sure Italians consider it a sin not to eat pasta on a holiday.
So, I come by my pasta affliction very honestly. 
But, don't blame my Italian blood for my pasta love.
I've got friends and family from all bloodlines that swear that pasta is their favorite dish.
Considering that pasta is such a universally loved dish, it's truly hard to come up with a new and exciting pasta dish to share.   But, since everyone loves it, it's a great choice to entertain with. 
And, let's face it---I only have 60 million in my arsenal.....!!  
So, when I was thinking about what pasta recipe I was going to share today, I decided that I should share something that is both yummy  and easy.  And, since that was EXACTLY what I was looking to serve this past Sunday when we had some guests for dinner----I pulled out this recipe.  It's a recipe I've used time and time again and it's always met with ooohs and aaahs.  And, this past Sunday was no exception.   I served it  as the main course with a  simple Italian cheese, nuts and cured meats tray,  a beautiful bottle of an Italian Barbera that we toted home from a wine tasting event earlier this year (highly recommend this wine!),  a  crisp caesear salad with achovies and garlic bread.  We followed it up with hot chocolate laced with pepermint schnapps or espresso with Franjelica and store bought cannolis. It was the perfect holiday time dinner--relaxing, festive and delicious. 
BTW--- I have also served this pasta as a course in a multi course meal as well.   It's loved either way.....

Sunday dinner table setting......

Pasta With Pistachio Cream Sauce
I make this pretty much as the recipe dictates.  To make it a bit more festive, I sometimes add one can of diced and drained San Marzano tomatoes.   I have added chicken to this in the past. It's super easy, it looks pretty and it is so scrumptious!   Do yourself a favor and buy already shelled pistachios to make it even easier on yourself!!! 

Come back next week  for the MAIN COURSE and DESSERT........

Monday, December 16, 2013


That's what this week is all about. 
This past weekend, I went through the motions of making merry---I kicked off my Christmas shopping, we had a lovely dinner at one of our favorite places, we made our traditional trek to the Strip District markets to buy seafood, cheeses and other holiday essentials, we had morning cocktails at a place we love, I found my favorite-ever-smelling candle, we went to a beautiful party where I ate clams casino (YUMMY!) for the first time ever, I finished up the majority of my Christmas decorating, I cooked up a wonderful Sunday supper and I had some endearing conversations with both of my children...
Yet, underlying all of that was a sense of disappointment and hurt that I just couldn't shake.
This week, I plan to shake it......
I deserve to enjoy my blessings instead of focusing on the one thing that is breaking my heart.  I can't let that happen......
I apologize that I am alluding to something and not actually saying exactly what the issue is.  Let me assure you---the issue that is sapping my joy is not life threatening.  In fact, sometimes when I think of why I'm sulking so much, I find myself embarrassed by how shallow I must be and I am ashamed that I don't have it in me to deal with it without becoming a blubbering baby....
I have it in me to make my MISSION MERRY possible!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Rocking around the Christmas Tree!

Yeah, that's exactly what I have been about you?  Hmmmm......
Love this tree!  It's at my favorite little wine bar in Dayton OH......

With Christmas Eve and Christmas Day on our doorstep, I am starting to get a wee bit jingled....
Yes, the Christmas season is upon us and with it comes a very unique brand of  stress....
With all of the fun aspects of the merry making and the wrapping and the shopping and the preparing and the fa-la-la-la-laing, there's also the notsofun aspects of  the merry making and the wrapping and the shopping and the preparing and the fa-la-la-la-laing.
It's mostly a result of the unreasonable expectations we place on ourselves.
Who do I think I am?  Super Woman?   
The truth of the matter is--I get as tired as the next guy.
And, sometimes I can get just a wee bit....well.....crazed.
And, when I am so exhausted I am close to tears and when I get crazed about holiday things.....I get angry with myself.  
I really want to live my inner merry this time of the year. 
I don't want anything to be a chore or to bring me down.
But, because I don't want any of that to happen....when it does....I find myself totally crippled by feelings of stress and angst. 
Thus, the circle of even more craziness begins. 
It's not a nice place to be.....
You see---I haven't touched my shopping, I still have one huge tree and the bathrooms to finish decorating, I haven't made my grocery lists and the major cleaning is not even on the schedule. top it off.....I'm finding myself hurt and disappointed that my dearly-held and carefully thought-out plans have been casually tossed aside and that the alternate arrangements that have been thrust upon me feel notsonice.  And, so, I sulk and cry and tear-up at the drop of the hat.
  And, that's all I am going to say about that....  
EXCEPT........perhaps that's why I haven't touched my shopping, I still have one huge tree and the bathrooms to finish decorating, I haven't made my grocery lists and the major cleaning is not even on the schedule.
Yes, I am excellent at self-analysis.  

Like most things....I shall overcome my hurt and disappointment and I shall make the best of it and I shall go forward.
Christmas Eve and Christmas will it always does.  

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Bring on the next course!!!!

Today, it's all about the soup and salad course......
Or, maybe a meal made up of soup and salad!   

Do you make traditional foods on holidays?
Yeah, me too.
In Judiland, there's a steady stream of holiday foods that begin with Thanksgiving and go straight to New Year's Day.  
Come January 2, I am pretty sick and tired of it all and ready to put it all away for another year.
That's not to say I don't like the foods......I have just had enough of them. 
And, so has my family.  
Last year, my daughter accused me of having  a mussels problem.
It all started with my decision to make mussels for the first time for our traditional Feast of Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve.   
Before I knew it, I had loaded up on pounds and pounds of mussels....testing different recipes and force feeding my family several meals of mussels.
When I finally hit that one  magical mussel recipe, I was smitten with mussels. 
My family.....notsomuch.  Well, they liked them but were not crazy about a steady diet of them.
But, I didn't care.  
I was madly in love with mussels.  Come over for drinks....and mussels.  Stop over for some holiday cheer....and mussels.  Girls night in....and mussels.  We're going to have a light lunch....mussels.    You get the picture.... 
Finally, by January 3....with arms raised in family declared Judiland a mussels-free zone until December 2013.
Well, here we are, dear's December 2013!!  
With my mussels cravings raging and my menu planning on full tilt..... I've been hot on the mussels trail again this year.  
Although I'm keeping that beloved mussels recipe (from Ina Garten...linked above) on the menu this Christmas Eve, I've been busily trying to unearth what other things I can do with mussels.   So, as you can imagine, I've been going hog wild on the internet seeking out recipes, talking to friends about their mussels recipes and combing cook books in search of more things to do with mussels.   After all this research, it's pretty clear to me that mussels are best steamed....regardless of which recipe you use.  So, I think I'm just going to stick with the recipe I fell in love with last year.  Maybe I'll tweak it, maybe I won't.  Stay tuned on that.  In any case....if you were expecting a soup or salad mussels recipe ain't going to happen.   But, my mussels story has a silver lining....
And, that silver lining is that during my forays into mussel research, I came upon a plethora of other wonderful sounding recipes that I just knew I had to try out.  One of those recipes was this amazing soup that I just knew I had to it is.....

Creamy Artichoke Soup  (click there for the recipe)

Let me be clear about this is damn good.  So far, I have made this soup twice.  The second time I added some red pepper flakes and I think I like it better.  My taste testers also preferred the addition of a little spice.  So, if you like spice....shake away!   I think this is the perfect soup course for a bigger meal because it's  light and creamy and it looks lovely in a pretty little bowl.  But, it can also be a great accompaniment to a soup and salad meal....pour it into a big bowl and treat yourself!  I'm planning to serve this soup for an evening when we have some neighbors in for a soup night during the holidays.  A soup night is perfect for winter entertaining....especially when you are having your neighbors in....because they walked to your house.  Soup can take the chill off deliciously! I will more than likely serve 3 soups but I have to be honest, I'm most excited about this one!!  Although I haven't quite nailed down the third soup I will be making,  I know for absolute sure that I will be making Mushroom-Leek soup with Brie Croutons as my second offering.   This soup has been on my rotation for holiday and winter entertaining meals for well over a decade......ever since I found it in a Bon Apettit magazine.  It is always a huge fact, I always have the recipe printed out because I know people will ask for it.....

And, now.....for the salads.....

Interestingly, I am known here in Judiland for my salads. My queen of salad reign has been going on for years and years. With all the salads I have made in my lifetime, you would think I would have never had  a weight problem.  Haha.  Therein lies the irony.  The salads I am known for are not exactly super healthy. We may all fool ourselves that just because they are salads, they are healthy diet foods! Notsotrue.  Sure, I use as many leafy greens and fresh veggies as the next guy but that's where the healthiness stops.  But, I have to admit, I come by my salad notoriety honestly.  I spend a lot of time looking for salad recipes and salad ideas and all-things-salad. I snoop on restaurant menus, I consult with my friend the caterer, I scour Pinterest, I pour over old and new cookbooks and of course, I google the hell out of the internet.  I'm forever trying to one-up my previous salad! These days, my Lap band prevents me from eating gobs and gobs of my salad creations (more for my guests!!) but I take great pleasure in tasting them!   The one I am going to share with you today is definitely a keeper.  It actually sent my guests into gastric orgasms when I made it for our Annual Turkey Fry over Thanksgiving weekend.  Even though I made a huge vat of it....there was not a morsel to be had at the end of the night.  The secret to my salads are pretty basic---use store bought ingredients, doll them up, mix them up and put them all together.   At my house....the dressing is never on the table.  It's always mixed into the salads.  It's something I am very particular about...... you will eat my dressed salad and you will like it.  No, you will love it.....

  I call this salad...... 


(btw, this will serve about 12-14 people)

Dressing:  Mix 1 bottle each into a lidded mason jar...shake well and chill for 2-4 hours: 

Marzetti Simply Dressed Cherry Balsamic Vinegarette 

Marzetti Simply Dressed Caesar Dressing

Salad:  1 large bag of Butter Lettuces, 1 large bag of Spring Mix, 1 small bag of Romaine

Toppings:  1 small bag of dried cherries, 1 small bag of candied pecans (chopped coarsely), 2 containers of crumbled goat cheese, 2 diced apples (sprinkle with lemon juice to retain color)  

Mix everything in a huge bowl or large disposable roaster.  Salt and pepper to your liking.  Make sure to get everything covered in the dressing.  


Come back next week for the PASTA COURSE....

Friday, December 6, 2013

Expect nothing......


Christmas time in Pittsburgh's PPG Place. 

Just another lesson learned over these 50+ years of life.......

Thursday, December 5, 2013



'Tis the season of temptation.
My Lap band helps me not to be led too far into temptation. 

Although I am thankful every minute of every day for the gifts my Lap band has given me, the days that stretch between Thanksgiving and the end of  the year are when my thankfulness is heightened.  Just like everything else this time of the year that's on gratitude is on steroids.....

Holiday time is so much about parties and parties are so much about food that it's tough to avoid all of the temptations at this time of the year....unless you just want to stay home and sit on the couch all by your lonesome (but, as we all know.....there's even temptation in boredom....).   

Why should we have to avoid temptation?  
Why should we have to avoid the things that make the holidays the holidays in our lives?  

Trying to avoid the food temptations and then feeling guilty when I couldn't  avoid the temptations that I wanted to avoid or feeling so miserable because I overindulged were the things I hated the most about my dieting life.   I hated the guilt and all the misery. 
That's not to say that my Lap band completely stops me from overindulging but what I can say is that it helps.  But, more importantly, the success that I have had and the way that I feel about myself these days are the REAL tools that motivate me not to punish myself with overindulgence!  In other words---I never want to go back to that world of dieting and guilt and feelings of failure. 
So, between my Lap band and my own determination, I am able to deal with the temptations that the holidays bring.....
JOY TO THE WORLD.....let the parties begin!!! 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Did I mention that I am trying out taking mass transit to work?
Well, if I didn't, I am telling you now.
I now have bus friends.  
My new bus friends on the first bus (that I ride from my suburban home into downtown in the morning and from downtown to the suburbs at night) do Happy Hours one night a month. 
They actually take a vote on the bus and to see which date works for the majority of the riders and they choose that date. 
Can you imagine?  The entire bus empties out at Cain's Saloon.....have I found a new heaven or what?
I am going to my first Bus Friends Happy Hour next week.
I'll report back to you afterwards....I promise...

Now, the other buses that I take from downtown to the Oakland Starbucks and then to my office (and from my office to downtown after work) aren't  quite as friendly. 
As a matter of fact, there are times when they are downright scarey.
However, it's recently occurred to me that any time I wear leopard print---whether it be my leopard print pants, my leopard print coat, my leopard print scarf, my leopard print hat, my leopard print boots....yes I wear a lot of leopard..... I make friends.
People are friendlier to people who wear leopard.
I just thought I'd let you know in case you find yourself wondering what to wear to a place where things might not be so friendly......

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


Yes, I know "tastey" is spelled wrong on Santa's but.  Hell, it's been spelled wrong for 6 years...why fix it now? 
Welcome back Tasty Tuesday Recipe Exchange Fans!
I am so happy you are back for more recipe sharing!
And, a big HELLO THERE  to new Tasty Tuesday Recipe Exchange readers!
I am excited you are joining us.
I promise all of you 5 Tuesdays of  taste tested recipes that will surely make you the star of the holidays......!

December 2013 sure did get here quick.  Don't ya think? 
Thankfully, it's been another year of good eating here in Judiland. 
So, I'm armed with an arsenal of taste tested and fabulous recipes!
This year, I decided to present recipes in courses.   That means that today I will be sharing a few "starter" recipes. 
I'd love to hear about your favorite "starter" recipes!!!

Let's kick off  this year's TASTY TUESDAY with a yummily perfect cocktail to greet your guests this holiday season......

 St. Germaine Winter Wine Cocktail
FUN FACT: Even though St. Germain is fabulous and rich is only 80 calories per ounce and has just 18 percent sugar by volume (compared to the 30 to 35 percent found in many liqueurs). It's also all-natural, and gluten-free.  Woo hoo!

Monday, December 2, 2013

I know what you are thinking........

But, no, I have not been absent from Stories from the Road due to a food coma......
I was sequestered in my kitchen for hours on's the and Turkey #1 on Thanksgiving Day!
My house guests have come and gone, Thanksgiving dinner and all of the 
weekend's activities are just lovely memories..... 

 Hopefully, all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday and had the opportunity to pause to enjoy and witness the wonderfulness in your lives.  Recalling all of the beauty and joy that surrounds us each day and giving thanks for it all helps to withstand our trials and tribulations.....

Speaking of trials and tribulations.......did I mention that I found myself incapacitated by tooth abcesses that went rouge? 
Yes, ROUGE.....
And, when I say incapacitated......I literally mean.....INCAPACITATED....
All of this happening on the Monday before Thanksgiving.
Trust me, those were not happy moments.
Thankfully, I am on the mend.  
The only things I am currently suffering with is a refrigerator filled with leftovers, a house that needs a good cleaning, a kitchen that needs my undivided attention, Fall decor everywhere and a body that has aches and pains where I never knew one could have aches and pains......  
Thank God I scheduled an after work massage for was heavenly.  

Now, we are on to the business of December.
And, you know what that means here on Stories from the Road...... 
We will be talking holidays and all that jazz.
......drum roll please......
It's the return of Tasty Tuesdays......
For those of you who are Tasty Tuesday know the drill.
For those of you new to the drill---here's how it goes:
Every Tuesday in December I share a recipe from my ginormus pile of tasted and tested holiday-worthy recipes.   And, I ask you to do the same.....share a recipe in the comments section of the posting.
It's a great way to help each other get ready for all the kitchen olympics that go on this time of the year and the perfect way to make you the FOODIE STAR of your holidays!
So, dig out your best recipes to share!  We especially like simple and scrumptious recipes.....

December, here we come......