Let’s FINALLY Make that Minestra di Farro Today

So..help me remember……exactly where were we on making our Minestra di Farro? Last time, seems like we got all the way through soaking and cooking our borlotti beans on this post.

Today, let’s get to making that soup, shall we?

Drain the beans, and reserve the liquid for making a different soup tomorrow….but for now, let’s get back to our final product. Measure 1 cup of the reserved liquid to use today.

Beans Soaked and Cooked

Rinse the pot, back on the stove top it goes, and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 4 cloves of chopped garlic. Cook for about 20 seconds – don’t brown it. The recipe also calls for 1 thinly sliced onion, which I can’t eat…so we just sub with more garlic and skip the “cook the onion until soft, then add the garlic” part….. 8 torn mint leaves are also in the recipe, but did not have any on hand. No biggie.

Add 5 cups of stock/water combo (I don’t use all stock, due to the sodium levels – even low sodium is a bit much!) We use a 4 cup low sodium carton.

Add 1/2 cup of the reserved bean water to the stock in the pot. (Save the other 1/2 cup for thinning out the soup later if needed.) Bring to a boil.

Next, go to Italy, and buy 7 ounces of farro. It’s an ancient grain that is becoming readily available in the US, sometimes in bulk bins at supermarkets or specialty stores. I’ll help you shop for it, if you join us on our next trip to Italy!

Slowly add the farro so the stock continues to boil. Stir, reduce heat, and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Add the borlotti beans, and cook for another 15 minutes or so, until the farro is “al dente”. You can stir occasionally if needed.

Remove from the heat. Use your immersion blender and process until about 1/2 of the mixture is creamy.

Soup Blend

Add 1 cup of grated parmesan, and stir. Now you can now add as much of that 1/2 cup of reserved bean liquid as needed. Up to you, my dears. If you don’t use it all, save it with the rest of the reserved liquid for another day’s soup.

Soup Add Cheese

Ladle your luscious creamy-yet-no-cream hearty soup into a large trough bowl, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with a bit more parmesan cheese.

Soup Bowl Add Oil

Soup Bowl Sprinkle Cheese

(Oh, and see that bread on the pizza pan by the soup? I’ll tell you all about that next time.)

Next, snuggle on the couch with your blankie and dive in! Dinner is served.

Soup To Eat

Posted in Italy Memories, Soups | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Baby, It’s Cold Outside….Not Just A Line From A Song…..

Yep, we were hit with freezing rain, bent-over trees, and icky ice on the roads last week. Then yesterday morning with snow and freezing temps. Luckily, it melted quickly (high around 40 degrees) and we are off the hook until this afternoon and tonight, when again we have a chance of sleet / rain / snow stuff…..Yeah, Baby – It’s Cold Outside!

Icy Close up

Trees with ice

In order to keep warm, we are bundled up, staying indoors, and cooking up our own storm.

Icy Evergreen

For dinner, we both cried out for Minestra di Farro (borlotti bean and farro soup), an all time favorite which helps us recreate the feeling of eating a steaming bowl of soup in Lucca, Italy. The recipe comes from “The Food Of Italy: A Journey For Food Lovers” cookbook, and the book can be found here on Amazon.

Yes, Diane, I thought of you and your bean dilemma from your post here,  as I sorted and then soaked the borlotti beans. They were covered in water overnight, then happily boiled, then simmered on the stove top most of the day. Here’s hoping you’ll try this recipe and let me know your bean thoughts, ok?

Beans Sorted close up

Let’s get started – First, go to Italy and bring back 7 ounces of dried borlotti beans. OK, OK, maybe just purchase some locally….or take the easy, less tasty route and buy canned. If you can’t find borlotti beans, then you can sub cranberry or adzuki beans.

Next, pick through the beans and discard any that look out-of-place (kinda like a rock or stone that is hiding in said beans), any that are really soft feeling, or extremely shriveled.

Cover the beans with water in a large stockpot, cover with a lid, and soak overnight.

Next morning, drain the beans in a colander and rinse out the pot – there could be a bit of grit or dirt on the bottom. Add the beans back to the pot, and cover with about 6-8 cups of water.

Here’s the fun part: if you have fresh rosemary and sage, add it to a square of cheesecloth. If you have dried herbs, then add those instead. Either way, the herbs will impart great flavor to the water and the beans. Add about 6 cloves of garlic that you’ve cut in half (no need to peel). Add some whole black peppercorns. Tie all of this with kitchen twine into a tidy little bundle of flavor love, and add to the pot. NOTE: this little bundle makes it SO much easier to remove it all after cooking the beans. Plus, you won’t have hard black peppercorns in your soup!

Beans Sorted

Now, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for about 90 minutes. Next, remove the flavor bundle, add about a teaspoon of salt to the bean mixture, and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Beans Soaked and Cooked

DONE! Well….at least for the bean soaking-and-cooking part. Next time we meet, we’ll make the soup. Do we have a date? Hope so – see you soon!

Posted in Italy Memories, Soups | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Lamb Chops and A Dear Friend

What a treat for us! Our good friend, Eddie, was in town visiting and came by for Sunday Supper. Any reason to cook, is reason enough for me, right?!? Since our friends, Eddie and Kimberly, moved to New York with their cute kiddos, we miss them tons and look forward to in person “catch up” time whenever possible. And Sunday was one of those times.

Let’s begin with snacks to whet the appetite.

Appetizers Await


How about lamb chops in a fennel-tomato-caper sauce, with garlic rosemary roasted potatoes, and an ice creamy dessert treat for the ending?

Plated Chops

Simple enough – plus it leaves plenty of time to gossip about everyone we know catch up with Eddie on life in the Big Apple, yet still have time to enjoy a tasty meal.

Let’s get going with the  main course, ok? It’s a Cooking Light recipe, from the “Cook Smart, Eat Well” cookbook. With just a few quality ingredients, the dish comes together quickly, plus is a special enough meal for Sunday Supper visitors.

Lightly salt and pepper the lamb chops. Check!

Chops with S & P

Brown the chops in olive oil. Check!

Sear the Chops

Remove the chops from the pan. Check!

Chops Remove From Pan

Add salt, pepper, and garlic to pan; saute. Add crushed fennel seeds, chopped tomatoes, and capers to the pan. Check!

Sauce - Add tomatoes

Sauce - Add the capers

Bring to a boil, and add the chops back in, and reduce heat. Cover and cook – about 6 minutes – remove from pan and plate. Check!

Ready for Dinner

Enjoy. Check and Check!

Since it was Sunday night, we ended around 11 pm, as Eddie had an early work out planned. Too bad, cause I am sure we could have chatted for a few more hours…..Wasn’t there something we forgot to ask him about or tell him that’s news?……always another time, for sure!

Posted in Main Dish Inventions | Tagged , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Garlicky Goodness – and Good For You!

Thursday night was one of those nights…what to make for dinner? How to make said dinner, so that the fridge was cleaned out of all of those items that were leftover, partially used, and/or ready to toss in a few days (if not used tonight).

Luckily, I had saved a simple recipe from Cooking Light magazine, since we usually have most of the recipe’s ingredients on hand in the pantry and in the fridge. Of course, in using up the leftovers, one must make modifications, right?

Let’s get started….


Linguine with Garlicky Kale and White Beans was born – and morphed into a typical KI. Adding a few mushrooms, a sprig of fresh rosemary, crushed oregano, and some crushed red pepper added a ton of flavor for very little effort. Isn’t there something about rosemary and cannellini beans that is just a match made in kitchen heaven?

Ready to Eat

Since there was a partially used container of ricotta, and some blue cheese, it only seemed appropriate to add those for a creamy saucy finishing touch. Plus, the recipe seemed a bit flavorless without adding some “punch” of herbs and cheesiness.

Blue Cheese

So dive in, clean out your own fridge, and enjoy!

In the bowl for dinner

Posted in Pasta Creations | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Red Gold Simple Gourmet Lasagna Party

Party and Lasagna in the same sentence? That’s my kind of night!

The nice folks at Red Gold Tomatoes recently sent me a goodie package, filled with all the right stuff to make lasagna as part of their new ad campaign – “Food Brings People Together”.

Goodie Bag

Goodie Bag

And I could not agree more, fellow Bloggers, that food is more than mere nourishment… food means friendship, caring, happiness, celebration, and love in our house! Food is the reason we all gather around to laugh, talk about our day, and (of course!) drink a bottle or two glass of wine.

So when they asked if I would participate in their Lasagna Party, the answer was “when and where?”  Well, my dear friends, the answer is NOW – at your house. Grab your garlic, chop some mushrooms, and jump over to that saute pan.

Mushroom Close Up

Mushrooms and Garlic

Once the mushrooms are ready, remove from the pan, add a bit of oil, and lightly saute your spinach.

Mushroom Saute

Spinach Saute

Mix together ricotta, egg, pepper, oregano, salt, and some grated parmesan in a bowl. Get out the mozzarella cheese, and let’s layer.

Layer Lasagna

Top it all off with cheese cheese and more cheese…and cover with foil.

Top Layers

Here’s a nifty tip: when you get ready to cover the lasagna with foil, spray the foil with cooking spray, and your top layer of cheese won’t stick to the foil. Then 45 minutes into the cooking time of about an hour, remove the foil and let that baby get brown and bubbly.

Let your lasagna “rest” for about 10 minutes before you cut it. I know I know…hard to resist, but that makes it hold together in layers better.


The Red Gold Lasagna party runs from January 13 through February 3 on Facebook, where they have some pretty fancy giveaways, including 750 aprons, plus gourmet party prize packs which include a Le Creuset lasagna pan. Be sure you get more details at the Red Gold Facebook page, as well as checking out Laura’s Lean Beef at their website. Seeing how this was a veggie lasagna, we picked up some of Laura’s Beef for those beef eaters to enjoy “on the side”.

Laura's Beef

But for now, here’s a peak at the Veggie Lasagna that we partied with on Saturday night with our friends, Them Howards, at our house.

Ready to Devour!

Ready to Devour!

Hubby did a great job of showing restraint by NOT eating the subject matter! Proper pics were taken, and THEN he was able to dive in and enjoy.

Lasagna Ready to Eat

Posted in Main Dish Inventions, Pasta Creations | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Oat-Crusted Pecan Pie – What a Twist!

As a lover of traditional ooey gooey pecan pie (especially since Hubby is the maker of said pies), this recipe  offered a pleasant and healthy oat crust option that just begged to be baked.

Baked Crust

Baked Crust

Since it’s the holiday season, and is indeed the toughest time of year to remain true to a healthy eating style, we were excited to give this crust a whirl.

Dry Ingredients Ready to Mix

Dry Ingredients Ready to Mix

Dry & Wet Ingredients - All Blended

Dry & Wet Ingredients – All Blended

Might I mention – we are SO glad we tried this crust recipe! Doubtful we’ll go back to packaged crusts in the future.

Press Into The Pie Plate

Press Into The Pie Plate

(***Since the traditional recipe is one from my childhood days, we actually did not use the one listed with the crust recipe).

Hubby adds dark chocolate chips and a lot of  small splash of Woodford Reserve bourbon for good measure.

Pecan Pie - Bourbon

Pecan Pie - Stirred with Chocolate

Hey, I’m not complaining! Tis the season, right?

Add the Syrup

Add the Syrup

Instead of corn syrup, we use the red labeled Alaga Syrup, which bakes up really dark and rich. We find it at the local Publix supermarket, but it looks like you can order it online as well.

Ready To Bake

Ready To Bake

Next time, we’ll have to try the Cranberry Sauce part of the recipe…but we just couldn’t wait to dive in to this pie, so the Sauce had to wait…..happy eating!

Pecan Pie - To eat


Posted in Desserts | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Holiday Gift Idea – Pumpkin Chocolate Cranberry Muffins

Who on your holiday gift list would turn down a warm-from-the-oven batch of Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins, (I added chopped chocolate pieces) complete with gift wrap (aka: a pretty kitchen towel), paired with a jar of something good to top off a dozen delectable little creations?

Muffins - ready to eat

Well, if anyone on YOUR list turns them down, please just go ahead and send them to me!

Muffins - Stirred

Healthy, fast, with most ingredients stocked in the pantry make these a “go to” in our home for breakfast on the run, afternoon snack with cream cheese smear, or dessert topped with vanilla ice cream.

Muffins - Cooked

Now, let’s see if these little treasures actually make it to our friends as a gift…or if more than one makes it to my plate for a snack….! Oh, too late, already ate one…

Posted in Breakfast Fun, Desserts, Muffins and Quick Breads - Our Way... | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Ladies and Gentleman: Start Your Ovens!

Yes, it’s that time of year – time to load up your kitchen with home-made holiday goodies for friends and family, and try your darndest NOT to load up your own tummy! In case you just can’t resist, these treats Oat Chocolate Chip Raisin Drops  (from Hungry and Fit blog) are practically guilt free – and just 5 ingredients!

5 ingredients baked

2 large bananas (mashed), add 1 c. oats and stir, add 1 tsp. cinnamon and stir, add a handful of raisins, and a handful of chocolate chips – stir – bake at 350 degrees for 12-16 minutes.

5 ingredients

BTW – Prince was on the radio singing “Gonna Party Like It’s 1999…” and I finished mixing these and they were in the oven before Prince could even finish singing a song…now, THAT’s fast!

5 ingredients mixed

Next up: Chocolate, Fruit, and Nut Clusters - from Health magazine – just 4 ingredients, a bowl, and a cookie sheet….crazy!

Chocolate & Fruit drops

If you can melt chocolate in the microwave, and not eat this straight outa the bowl, you get my vote for holiday self-control beyond my dreams…I’m just saying…there could have been some bowl licking involved in this after the fact…don’t waste quality ingredients, you know.

Chocolate & Fruit drops chopped chocolateChocolate & Fruit drops on tray With any luck, these ideas will get you in and out of the kitchen in record time, yet still leave time to indulge in what matters most – quality time with loved ones to count your blessings and celebrate another holiday season.

Happy cooking!

Posted in Candy and Snacks, Desserts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Scarecrows In The Garden

The Atlanta Botanical Garden was the scene for Scarecrows in the Garden, enjoyment for both young and not-so-young alike. Here are a few of the scary works of art. Enjoy! Next up at the Garden will be Holiday Lights – also a “don’t miss” event.

Not Too Scary, Right?

Not Too Scary, Right?

Beauty of The Garden

Beauty of The Garden

Poor Frank....

Poor Frank….

These two were definitely my personal favorites…..

I Found out Where the Wild Things Are!

I Found out Where the Wild Things Are!

Scarecrow Where the Wild Things Are 2

Posted in Community Activities | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Summer In A Bowl – Better Known As “Salad”

A true to life summer Kitchen Invention – take it away, watermelon and arugula Salad…..After all, you are the stars of this post!

Sorry that the picture is not the usual one of perfection, as I took this one with my camera phone instead of Hubby’s photography talents being available. No fear – the salad was so delish I just had to share it with you.

 Salmon Salad - 8-2014

Simple ingredients:

Arugula, watermelon chunks, feta cheese, shredded carrots, fresh figs,  a few raspberries, and a light drizzle of my favorite (store-bought) dressing “Simply Dressed Balsamic Vinaigrette” topped with fresh wild caught salmon.

Bottoms up!

Posted in Main Dish Inventions | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments