Italian Sausage with Lentils


Dear Mother Nature:


You’ve had you’re little joke!


We get it. We live in Maine. Snow is part of the equation … except for, as my friend John Dwyer says, July 18th between 1:00 and 1:15.

We’ve shoveled the walk, and


and shoveled the walk!

And although it doesn’t look that way, dug the car out! (And, no, Jeannie, that isn’t Jack Nicholson and this isn’t Shiningville)

We’ve spent many a quiet Saturday hanging around the house with no problem. A little puttering here, a little puttering there. But when you CAN’T go out. When your driveway looks like one of the faces of Everest, you’re suddenly bored to tears and pacing the house like a caged cat! Well, at least I am. The Dear one spent the last two days building new cabinets for the kitchen (yay, snow!)

Boredom sets in.

Binge eating is a possible solution, but then when it’s time to go outside, you won’t be able to fit into your clothes or get through the front door.

But cooking, cooking is always an option, and for me a cure to what ails me.

I wanted something warm and filling, simple, yet not too simple. Most importantly, it had to be made with what I had on hand. See, our snow has snow and while we may get a wee reprieve this afternoon, Sunday night we’re getting … what, you may ask? Yes, that’s right SNOW! And then Thursday? SNOW!

Wait, we were talking about what I had on hand … sausage, lentils, red wine? Nigella and Nigella Bites saved me and my frosty Dear One.

  • 3–4 T olive oil (not extra virgin)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • sprinkling of salt
  • 500g Puy lentils
  • 1 fat clove garlic, squished with the side of a knife, and skin removed
  • 8 Italian sausages
  • 100ml red wine
  • 50ml water
  • flat-leaf parsley for sprinkling

NOTE: THIS IS A RIDICULOUS AMOUNT OF LENTILS! I used slightly less than half and still have some in the freezer for soup!

To cook the lentils, put 2–3 tablespoons of the oil into a good-sized saucepan (and one which has a lid that fits) on the heat and when it’s warm add the chopped onion. Sprinkle with salt (which helps prevents it browning) and cook over a low to medium heat till soft (about 5 minutes).

Add the lentils, stir well and then cover generously with cold water. Bring to the boil, then cover and let simmer gently for half an hour or so until cooked and most, if not all, the liquid’s absorbed. I don’t add salt at this stage since the sauce provided by the sausages later (and which will be poured over the lentils) will be pretty salty itself.

NOTE: You can cook the lentils in advance.

When either the lentils are nearly ready or you’re about to reheat them, put a heavy-based frying pan on the stove, add a little olive oiland add the bruised garlic. Cook for a few minutes then add the sausages and brown. When the sausages are brown on both sides add the wine and water and let bubble up.

NOTE: You can add some extra chopped garlic here.

Cover the pan, either with a lid or tin foil, and cook for about 15 minutes. Using a fork, mash the now-soft garlic into the sauce and taste for seasoning, adding a little more water if it’s too strong.

Remove the lentils to a shallow bowl or dish then cover with the sausages and their garlicky, winey sauce. Sprinkle over some flat-leaf parsley.

NOTE: OR … takes sausages out, add the lentils, mix, sausages back on top and sprinkle with parsley!

done 2

Roasted Vegetable and Black Bean Tacos


Ya know, it’s much harder to come up with vegetarian meals than initially thought … especially with slightly picky teenagers.

When I saw this recipe I figured it would be something new, in a crunchy shell (which makes everything better) and can have chicken added for my dear carnivore.

LOTS OF CHOPPING! But after the chopping prep there’s just stirring and eating!

  • 1 medium yellow squash, chopped into small chunks (1 cup)
  • 1 medium zucchini, chopped into small chunks (1 cup)
  • 1 small onion, chopped (1 cup)
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, de-seeded, ribs removed and chopped (1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 medium sweet potato or yam, peeled and chopped (1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 T olive oil
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • One (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • One (10-ounce) can original Ro-Tel (tomatoes + chiles)
  • 1 t ground cumin
  • 1/2 t smoked paprika
  • 1/2 t garlic powder
  • 1/2 t dried oregano
  • 1/2 t sea salt
  • 1/4 t freshly ground black pepper
  • 10 to 12 taco-sized corn tortillas
  • canola or vegetable oil
  • To serve with tacos: avocado, shredded cheese, lettuce, sour cream, lime wedges

NOTE: I used crunchy taco shells, the ones that stand on their own … it’s the preferred thing here, and I have enough battles without taco shells being one of them.

NOTE NOTE: Nope, next time there will be NO Ro-Tel, but a can of diced tomatoes. This packs enough flavor without all the heat which makes some of the delicate palates here frown!

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Spray a large, rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray.


Add all of your vegetables to a large bowl and toss with the olive oil. Spread the veggies on the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast 15 minutes, stir, roast another 15 minutes, stir again, and roast one more time for 15 minutes (45 minutes total). The veggies can be roasted ahead of time, just refrigerate until ready to make the tacos.

In a medium skillet, heat the black beans and tomatoes over low heat.


In a small bowl, combine the spices (cumin through pepper). Sprinkle the spices over the beans and tomatoes and stir to combine. Add the roasted veggies, stir to combine and continue to heat until the mixture is completely warm.

All that’s left is to assemble the tacos! Around here the veggies were int he pan with bowls of avocado slices, limes, lettuce, and shredded cheese. Grilled shredded chicken on the side for those who like more protein!


Mussels in White Wine and Garlic


“It’s a beautiful day,” says he.

“I know!” I respond, “FINALLY!”

“We really should get out and about.”

“Oh, yes, please! That would be great.”

It’s one of the first truly nice days of spring. The sun is shining, there’s a light breeze, it’s warm(ish). I want to get out and feel the sun on my face. A nice walk in Acadia National Park. Oh, Sand Beach, I haven’t been there yet. My head was filled with places on Mount Desert Island I wanted to explore.

The Dear One, however, had other ideas in mind.

See, there’s a tree. A tree he cut down. A tree destined to be cut and split and stacked and dried for the wood stove for the winter.

THE WINTER? Seriously, Dude? It’s April! I’ve barely had time to recuperate from this past winter much less think about NEXT winter.

Well, you see, he explains, it has to be cut and split and stacked now, and covered in plastic so that it dries out to be ready for next winter.

Now, back to that tree … it’s down a ‘slight’ hill, on the opposite side of the house from where it needs to be stacked, and looked MUCH smaller standing upright.

“Okay, I’ll take the big part of the trunk. You take the branches. Whatever is too small to cut for the wood stove, throw on the wood pile.”

This is when I realized that the man of my dreams is completely OFF.HIS.ROCKER! Has he not seen these delicate, little hands? Has he not seen me struggle to pick up heavy grocery bags? Most importantly, has he NOT SEEN MY TIARA!? A princess, I tell you! A City princess, at that, carrying a tree? Stacking wood? Surely you jest.

Jesting he was not. But I princessed up, rolled up my sleeves and heave ho’d. I threw branches and stems on the burn pile (wait, ce qui es une BURN PILE … oh, I am so new to this planet!), carried big branches up to some God awful contraption so it could be cut into logs, and stacked up wood that Mr. Lumberjack split.

I smelled. I dropped a birch branch on my toe. I dropped a birch log on my ankle. I was covered in sawdust and dirt and YUCK. Every single inch of my body hurt … except, perhaps, a 1/4″ spot on my left ear.

AND I WAS STARVING. I needed a HOT shower and a hot, quickly made dinner.

I sent Simon Legree the Dear One off to the market to pick up dinner … mussels, garlic, parsley … while I stood in a scalding hot shower trying to wash away the memory of the day.

In the time it took to boil a pot of water, shallots were sliced, garlic was minced, parsley was chopped. When the pasta was dropped into boiling water, the shallots, garlic and white wine simmer, after about 5 minutes the mussels were added, another short 5 minutes, added some parsley and butter. Everything done at the same time. 15 minutes from start to finish.

A few slices of toasted Italian bread, glasses of fabulous red wine, and I was a happy, though still sore, camper.

It doesn’t really get easier than this dish. Next time I may add some arugula in, or perhaps halved grape tomatoes, the possibilities are endless.

  • 2 C dry white wine
  • 4 large shallots, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 4 pounds live mussels
  • 1/3 C mixed fresh herbs, such as flat-leaf parsley, chervil, or basil, chopped
  • 6 T butter, cut into pieces

Rinse and scrub mussels under cold running water. Using your fingers or a paring knife, remove beards (strings that hang from the mussels’ shells), and discard.

In a large stockpot set over medium heat, combine wine, shallots, garlic, and salt. Simmer 5 minutes. Add mussels. Cover, and increase heat to high. Cook until all mussels are open, about 5 minutes. Stir in herbs and butter. Remove from heat. Divide mussels and broth among four bowls. Serve immediately.

NOTE: We were STARVING so I threw this over pasta. If you serve the mussels without pasta toast some bread, rub it with garlic for dipping.

Baked Buffalo Chicken Taquitos


All the back and forth in my life, coupled with the Dear One’s travels, make my ability to blog … well, hampered, to say the least.

This recipe was one I made with my brother, Nick, for a Super Bowl party he was attending. You may remember the other recipe we made together, Buffalo Chicken Bites. Snarky comments aside, the chicken bites were fab.

These were good, but I think if they were to be made again, I would change these slightly.

First, canned chicken? It was okay, but if you’re going to cheat, you may as well buy a rotisserie chicken. A poached chicken breast would be best.

Smaller tortillas, more blue cheese, more hot sauce, maybe some chopped celery.

But, changes aside, these were easy, taste great, and are good for a Super Bowl party when grab and go food is called for!

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/8 C buffalo sauce
  • 1 C shredded Monterey jack cheese
  • 1/8 C blue cheese crumbles
  • 1 can (12.5-ounce) Swanson® Premium Chunk Chicken Breast in Water, drained
  • 8 8-inch flour tortillas
  • coarse Kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 350°F.


In a bowl, combine the cream cheese and buffalo sauce. Mix well. Stir in the Monterey jack cheese, blue cheese crumbles and chicken; mix well.


Place 2-3 tablespoons of the mixture down the center of each tortilla and roll up. If needed, microwave the tortillas for about 30 seconds to make them soft and pliable enough to roll. Place on a baking sheet. Spray the taquitos with cooking spray, then sprinkle with coarse salt.


Bake in the preheated oven for 17-20 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve with blue cheese dressing for dipping, if desired.

Ready to Bake

NOTE: These definitely needed more of a kick. Maybe a little more buffalo sauce. Perhaps a few dashes of hot sauce. Maybe a bit more blue cheese. And while I like the 8″ tortilla, I really think the smaller ones would be better.  They would be crisper. And as my pal Sandra would say … I like crunchy!

Iron Skillet Roasted Chicken with White Beans and Tomatoes

Ready to serve

After what seemed like forever, I left New York (again) and went home to Maine (again). The next days were filled with errands, getting the house settled before the Dear One’s return, and breakfast and giggling with my girlfriends.

But in the evening, I was home alone, and then suddenly you realize just how big the house is and how empty, and you want to have people around you, so then the conversations went something like this …

Thank you so much for watching the house and picking me up and picking up the mail and packages and turning up the heat. Wanna come for dinner? Sure, but I have a house guest. Bring him. The more the merrier.

Hey, I’m back in town. Wanna come over for dinner? Sure!

Okay, dinner for 2 is now dinner for 4. I can do that. Same recipe, just no leftovers.

Uh, oh, the phone is ringing … we’re going out for dinner, do you want to come. Sorry, can’t, company coming. Oh, well, I’d much rather come to your house. Sure, come on over. GREAT! But I have a house guest. Bring her along.

Dinner for 2 turned into dinner for 4 and then into dinner for 6. Yipes! Now what!? I trolled through the recipes I have been dying to try and found this recipe that I had first seen in Relish Magazine and then in  Y’all Come Over by Patsy Caldwell and Amy Lyles Wilson. One skillet. Perfect. Lots of great ingredients. Fab! Seriously simple and quick to make. Even better! Turned out to be really easy to double, just switching from a 10″ cast iron skillet to a 15″ cast iron skillet.

(Heard around the dinner table … hmmm, yum, this is so good. So glad you’re back home. We missed you. Does M know you’re having 4 men over for dinner while he’s away? Answers: thank you, I am too, and me you, and OF COURSE he knows. HEAVY SIGH!)

As it turns out it was a good thing I fed them all BEFORE the insanity started! See, it seems I live my life like Lucy Riccardo. No, really. Stop giggling, please, I have so little dignity left.

This group of fellows and my dear friend Lisa were my saviors for the week and a half I was home alone. There were locked doors and dog doors (and snow) and pterodactyls (and snow) and more locked doors and broken windows that needed to be removed and replaced (and snow) and lost spare tires and snow and cancelled flights because of snow and more cancelled flights (can you believe more snow in Maine) and yet more cancelled flights (you know the word that fits here) and a wee bit of emotional upheaval.

While I realize I have kept them all VERY entertained (when one of them now hears my voice on the phone, he laughs, asks if I’m okay, and then ‘so what did you do’), they kept me very entertained and feeling loved and cared for during my first time home alone trial by fire.

Give this dish a whirl … you will be making it for company again and again!

  • 1/4 pound bacon, cooked and crumbled (reserve drippings)
  • 1 (3-pound) chicken, cut into serving pieces
  • 1 1/2 t salt, divided
  • 1/2 t black pepper
  • 1/2 C thinly sliced onion
  • 1 can (14-oz) stewed tomatoes
  • 1 t crushed red pepper
  • 2 cans (15-oz) Great Northern beans, drained

NOTE: I sort of increased this to 1 1/2 of the original above recipe, but using 3 cans of beans and two cans of the tomatoes and 4 1/2 pounds of chicken thighs.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.


Place the bacon drippings in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat.

NOTE: I made the bacon in the skillet I used to make the whole dish and just left the drippings in the skillet.

Dry the chicken pieces with a paper towel, and season with 1 teaspoon salt and black pepper. Brown the chicken in the bacon drippings, turning once, until the skin is golden brown. Remove the chicken to a plate and keep warm.

Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat and stir in the onions. Cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes, scraping up any brown bits.

Adding tomatoes

Add the tomatoes, crushed red pepper, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook uncovered for about 4 minutes or until the juices are thickened. Add the reserved bacon and the beans. Top with the browned chicken pieces, skin side up. Place skillet in the oven and bake uncovered for 40 to 45 minutes.

Some bread to sop up the sauce, a salad, and you are done!

Steak and Guinness Pie


I’m cold. It’s cold. There is no end in sight to this frigid weather. There really isn’t anything to do to keep warm. Once you come in from the cold you don’t want to go out again … EVER! Yeah, yeah, I know, it’s winter, but this is a particularly brutal one!

I don’t know about you, but this is the time of year I hibernate. Well, cook and hibernate. And all I want to eat are comforting, warming meals. I was searching through the recipes I’ve collected that I have had every intention of making, looking for something not too complicated, pure comfort food, and packed with flavor. That’s when I came across my foodie friend Amber’s recipe, she’s the wonderful gal behind Bluebonnets & Brownies, for Steak & Guinness Pie.

I must have been mumbling slightly as I scrolled through the recipes. As the words ‘steak and guinness pie’ came out of my mouth there were shouts of joy and a wee bit of begging … please, please make this! And so I did. And she helped. And we ate HALF of it for dinner! And the other half was gone by the morning!

Amber, I am eternally in your debt for this one! I didn’t feel the need to change this much at all. I added a carrot in lieu of a parsnip and used crimini mushrooms instead of porcini.

  • 1 1/2 lb. chuck (stew meat), cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1/2 vidalia or yellow onion, diced finely
  • 8-10 crimini mushrooms, diced finely
  • 3 carrots, diced finely
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 T of oil
  • 1 12 oz bottle of Guinness
  • 1/2 C of beef stock
  • Double pie crust

NOTE: Now you know what I’m going to say here … you can make your own, which I couldn’t do today (even if I wanted to) because I don’t have any kitchen tools, gadgets or machinery at my disposal at the moment … or you can use ready made pie crust (which I did).  Also, as you can see from my photos, I didn’t chop everything REALLY finely – especially the carrots – but there’s no harm there, except it’s a little chunkier and they take a little longer to soften and begin to brown.

Preheat oven to 400

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet.


When the oil is hot, add the chopped onions and mushrooms. Once they’ve started to brown add salt and pepper to taste.  Next add the diced carrots and cook until soft and beginning to lightly brown. Once done, put this vegetable mixture in a bowl on the side.

Heat remaining tablespoon of oil in the same skillet. Add diced stew meat, allowing to brown while stirring often. You may need to do this in two batches. while the meat is browning, add the minced garlic, and again, salt, and pepper to taste.


When the meat is browned, add vegetable mixture back to the skillet, add the stock and Guinness. Bring to a bubble and lower the heat a little and let the liquid cook down, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes until you have just a small amount of gravy with meat.

Putting pie together

Place one pie crust in the bottom of a pie dish, add filling, and cover with second pie crust. Cut a few slits in the top of the crust for steam.

NOTE: I used a deep dish pie dish.

Pie Slice

Bake  for roughly 45-60 minutes until the pie crust is golden brown.


Acorn Squash Stuffed with Mushrooms and Rice

Squash Baked Done

This recipe sounded great … in theory. What could be bad about it? Acorn Squash (if you like that sort of thing) stuffed with mushrooms and rice. At least the stuffing would have to be good – wouldn’t ya think?

Well, no.

I’m not a huge acorn squash fan. I had to search for a recipe for acorn squash due to the Dear One’s not being able to  resist these (for some reason) when he bought pumpkins for the girls.

Sadly, the stuffing, though having yummy ingredients, had the consistency and taste of wallpaper paste. Maybe some wild rice would have added a different texture.

It was received … well, kindly, with tiny bites, and a small smile when I said that I would NEVER make this again. Actually, if you added some sausage to the stuffing, it wouldn’t be too bad, but then it defeats the purpose of trying to feed it to a young lady who won’t eat things with faces.

Okay, so they can’t all be winners!

How would you change this to make it better, but still keep it vegetarian?

  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 T olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 pound cremini or button mushrooms, trimmed and diced small
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced small
  • 3/4 t dried thyme
  • 1 C long-grain white rice
  • 2 C vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1/2 C grated Parmesan (2 ounces)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Squash Cut

On a rimmed baking sheet, season cut sides of squash with salt and pepper, drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil, and turn cut sides down. Cover sheet tightly with foil and roast until tender, about 35 minutes.

Suqash Stuffing Cooking

Meanwhile, in a medium straight-sided skillet, heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high. Add mushrooms, onion, and thyme; season with salt and pepper. Saute until mushrooms are golden, 8 minutes. Add rice and broth and bring to a boil; cover and reduce heat to low. Cook until liquid is absorbed, 20 minutes.

Squash Baked

Remove squash from oven and heat broiler. Carefully scoop out 2 to 3 tablespoons flesh from each squash half and stir into rice; season with salt and pepper. Divide rice mixture among squash halves, sprinkle with Parmesan, and broil until melted, 2 minutes.


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