"The best times you are going to have in life are at the dinner table and in bed." Old Italian saying. So relax, and enjoy the simple things!


Crockpot Vegetable Barley Soup: Foodie Friday

crockpot vegetable barley soup
Crockpot Vegetable Barley Soup

My childhood food allergies have come back to haunt me. I started a rotation diet to try to calm my allergies. Rotating grains is part of the diet. This is a good thing to do, for anyone, to prevent food allergies... and it is just good for your health to eat a variety of foods.

With nights getting colder here in NY I have been making soup more often. Barley is a perfect grain for soup because like potatoes it thickens the broth. 
Barley is very high in dietary fiber and is an excellent source of iron... and it just plain tastes good too.

Crockpot Vegetable Barley Soup

by Diane Balch

Preparation time: 15 minutes           Serves: 6 - 8


1 leek chopped
2 carrots chopped
1/2 teaspoon of thyme
1 bay leaf
1 cup of pearl barley
2 32 ounce containers of broth: vegetable, chicken, or beef
1 - 2 tablespoons of olive oil
1  15.5 ounce can of kidney beans
salt and pepper to taste
*optional: any other veggies that are wilting in your fridge (spinach is great)
               leftover meat (chopped up pieces of steak are really good)


1) If you have time sauté the vegetables in the olive oil until they wilt. If you don't have time just dump them into the slow cooker.

2) Put all ingredients into the crockpot except the kidney beans. Put it on high for 4 hours or low for 6 - 8 hours.

3) Just before serving add the kidney beans (This is so they will not turn to mush.)

4) Taste before serving to check salt and pepper. Leave the bay leaf in for fun. An Argentinian food blogger told me that it is a tradition in her family, whoever gets the bay leaf does the dishes! 

Foodie Friday Features: 

From: 21st Century Housewife

apricot and onion chicken
Easy Apricot and Onion Chicken
Make sure you read the story that goes with this recipe. We have all been there and we have all evolved as cooks...a wonderfully simple and delicious recipe.

From: The Newlyweds

pumpkin coconut shrimp curry
Pumpkin Coconut Shrimp Curry
Nothing like a curry to warm you on a chilly autumn night. The addition of pumpkin in this recipe makes it extra seasonal.

From: Julie Vision in the Kitchen

apple cupcake with honey mascarpone icing
Apple Cupcakes with Honey Mascarpone Icing
The cupcake is delicately spiced topped with mascarpone icing...this is one unique seasonal treat.

From: A Spoonful of Thyme

Pumpkin Buttermilk Cake w brown sugar cognac glaze
Pumpkin Buttermilk Cake w Brown Sugar Cognac Glaze
The cognac in both the cake and the glaze gives a sophisticated flavor to this traditional Autumn cake.

Instructions for Foodie Friday linky:

This is a food party please only link up food related posts. Thank you. 



1) Copy the Foodie Friday Button's html from this website's sidebar.
2) Paste this html to the html page of the recipe you want to link to Foodie Friday. You can also make a word link or post our button on your sidebar.                                                                 Please link back.
3) Copy the link to the recipes you want to add to Foodie Friday, not your homepage. You can post up to 3 recipes that you have not shared before.
4) Click on "your next" on this page.
5) Past your link and type in the name of the recipe, not your name.
6) Choose how you want to download the photo.


Endives, Apples & Grapes: French Fridays with Dorie


endives, apples and grapes
Endives, Apples, and Grapes

Every year since my kids were fairly small we have gone apple picking with my girlfriend and her family. We met at Gymboree when her twins and my son were about a year old. My girlfriend moved to Manhattan but we always made an effort to get together for apple picking in the Fall. One of the few attractions in my town is an apple orchard. People come from all over Westchester County and New York City to pick apples and pumpkins here.

girl in apple tree

boy under apple tree

My friend works for the restauranteur Danny Meyer. Because she is exposed to such good food all the time, I thought she and her family would be perfect guinea pigs for a Dorie recipe.

Because we were going to be picking apples most of the day I made the Cook's Illustrated 40 Clove Garlic Chicken in a crockpot.

When we came back from the orchard I peeled two of the apples we picked and thickly sliced them instead of quartering them. I wanted them to be cooked through.

It was pretty simple to sauté the apples, endives, and grapes. I split the grapes in two, because just like the apples, I wanted them to cook well. I'm really not a big fruit with savory dishes kinda person, so in order to be able to eat fruit with vegetables I need to have them cooked well.

 I did sauté everything in Pulgra salted butter and I  chopped up the rosemary, instead of just adding the sprigs, because I wanted to be able to eat the rosemary. I top off the dish with Fleur de Sel.

Well, myself and my guests were truly surprised at how delicious this side dish was...the endive and rosemary offset the sweetness of the grapes and apples and the butter and salt helped to blend all of the flavors together. The combination of ingredients definitely seemed a bit odd to me... but I guess I was not thinking French.

This recipe looks a lot like Dorie's 


                        Endive, Apples, and Grapes

Note: As a member of French Friday's with Dorie I am not allowed to print the recipe. I invite you to take a look at this wonderful cookbook "Around My French Table" if you are interested in this or any other recipe I review. 


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Simple Living – 30 days to less stuff and more life: Simple Living Ideas

Simple Living 30 Days to Less Stuff
New Book by Lorilee Lippincott

I am a regular subscriber to Lorilee's website loving simple living. Lorilee is so genuine in her commitment to living a minimalist life. I marvel at how many interesting things her and her family do on very little money and without having tons of "stuff." 

In Lorilee's latest book: Simple Living 30 days to less stuff and more life Lippincott leads you through your home and your finances asking you questions, that not only allow you to clear the physical clutter in your life, but ones that also get you to think about which cultural values you have taken on that really don't support your personal priorities.

This book is a healthy challenge to our consumer driven ideas of the American Dream. I recommend Simple Living... to anyone who wants to clarify his values and lead a life focused on what personally matters most to you.

For this week only this book is being offered for just 99 cents for an e-reader copy through Amazon. Send copies to your friends....they will thank you for it. 

Orders can be made through the book's site: http://simple30.com

You are also welcome to enter the drawing below for a free e-reader copy of the book.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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New Progresso Light Soups: Healthy Eating

Progresso soup
Gift Package from Progresso Soups

I lived across the street from my elementary school and was allowed to go home for lunch. On most winter days my mom would have a warm mug of Progresso Soup waiting for me when I walked in the door. Sometimes it was the Lentil or the Clam Chowder, but most of the time it was Chickarina. It is my kids' favor soup. My son can live on it and both of them ask for it when they are sick.

I used to play an imaginary game with my Chickarina soup. It was set in medieval times: meatballs were kings, chicken pieces queens, celery knights... and so on. The pasta was always peasants and in each spoon full I would report on the wealth of this kingdom by the number of royalty and peasants I was able to pick up...

I told my kids about my game and they said, "Wow, that's what kids did before they had iTouch?" 

Yeah, it was called, "Imagination." 

So my kids didn't take up my game, but they did take up my love of Progresso soup. That is why I had no issues when MyBlogSpark asked me to review two new light Progresso soups.

First we tried Progresso Light Creamy Potato with Bacon and Cheese Soup. My whole family thought the consistency was creamy but not clumpy and heavy. We all liked the bacon bits and potato chunks... but we felt that Progresso needed to reduce the smokiness of the soup. The smell was too strong. With that little tweak we would buy this soup.

My husband and I shared the Progresso Light Chicken Pot Pie Soup for lunch this afternoon. We both expected the soup to be thicker because it was called "chicken pot pie." I didn't really taste the cream in the soup; it just tasted like a nicely seasoned chicken soup. All of the vegetables were tasty and firm and the flavor was quite good for a light soup.

  • These two new Progresso Light creamy soups are joining the lineup of more than 40 flavorful soups that are 100 calories or less per serving
  • These Weight Watchers® endorsed soups have 100 calories and a 2PointsPlus® value per serving
  • The Creamy Potato with Bacon & Cheese variety boasts pieces of potato with savory bacon and rich cheese flavor
  • The Chicken Pot Pie Style variety exudes a home-style essence with cuts of white-meat chicken, hearty potatoes and classic vegetables
*Light Chicken Pot Pie Style:  At least 33% fewer calories than regular ready-to-serve soups.  Light Creamy Potato with Bacon & Cheese:  50% fewer calories than the leading potato, cheese, and bacon ready-to serve soup.   See nutrition information for sodium content.
In addition, visit http://goo.gl/WbbPS to download a printable coupon for $1.25 off the purchase of 4 cans of Progresso® soup. Be sure to share this coupon with your family, friends and readers so they too can take advantage of the savings and try Progresso Light creamy soups today! 

If you would like to be in the drawing for the Progresso Travel Gift Package pictured above, it is great for bringing soup to school or work,  
please submit your name into the raffler below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Weekly Meal Plan:

Sunday: Poor Man's Lasagna and salad

Meatless Monday: Frittata Red Peppers & Onions Rustic Bread

Tuesday: Leftovers: Lasagna, ribs, corn, green beans

Wednesday: Giambotta with Sausage and Rolls

Thursday: Spaghetti with Clam Sauce and Cucumber Salad

Friday: Trader Joe's Beef Taquitos, Sour Cream, Guacamole

Saturday: Eggplant Rollatini with garlicky pasta

This post is shared on:

menu plan monday

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Simple Meatballs & Pasta: Foodie Friday

spaghetti and meatballs

I wouldn't live up to my Italian heritage if I didn't share my meatball recipe with you. I fry mine because I like to use the browned bits as part of my sauce, but my mom makes a very similar recipe and broils them in the oven. If I am doubling the recipe I make them in the oven too. (Rack in middle, broiler on high, 10 minutes or until browned.)

Simple Meatballs & Pasta

by Diane Balch

preparation time: 1 hour                  serves: 6 - 8


4 eggs
1/4 cup of chopped parsley
1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese
4 garlic cloves minced
dash of nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
3 pounds of meatloaf mix (a third each of ground: pork, veal, and beef)
1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
1 cup of Italian style bread crumbs (I use gluten-free by Aleia's)
olive oil for frying
1/2 cup of dry red wine
1 jar of marinara sauce (I use Rao's)
1 pound of pasta (Schar's if you are gluten-free)


1) In a large mixing bowl beat eggs with nutmeg, salt and pepper, garlic, parsley, and parmesan.

2) Put meat into the mixing bowl pour Worcestershire sauce over it and top the meat with the bread crumbs. With your hands mix everything together.

3) Roll out 2-3 inch meatballs.

4) In a large skillet on medium heat in olive oil sauté all sides of the meatballs until they are brown.

5) Put finished meatballs on paper towels to drain.

6) Deglaze the skillet with the wine, scrapping the meat bits with a spatula until the wine gets syrupy. 

7) Return the meatballs to the pan and pour marinara sauce over them. Heat the sauce and mix it with the reduction and the meatballs until it is warmed through. When the pasta is ready mix it into the skillet and let it sit for 5 minutes before you serve this classic Italian meal with thick chucks of rustic bread and salad.

meatballs frying
meatballs frying
meatballs draining
meatballs draining

deglazing pan
deglazing pan

Foodie Friday Features: 

From: Sumptuous Spoonful

curried eggplant soup
Curried Red Pepper Aubergine Soup
Curry is so warming and eggplants and peppers are still fresh and abundant a great autumn recipe.

From: My Carolina Kitchen

fried tilapia
Fried Tilapia with Tomato Basil Saute
Light but warming... a great way to use the last of the summer's tomatoes.

From: A Flock in the City

Rustic Fresh Pear and Almond Cake
Bake up the last of your peaches in this heavenly almond cake.

Instructions for Foodie Friday linky:

This is a food party please only link up food related posts. Thank you. 



1) Copy the Foodie Friday Button's html from this website's sidebar.
2) Paste this html to the html page of the recipe you want to link to Foodie Friday. You can also make a word link or post our button on your sidebar. Please link back.
3) Copy the link to the recipes you want to add to Foodie Friday, not your homepage. You can post up to 3 recipes that you have not shared before.
4) Click on "your next" on this page.
5) Past your link and type in the name of the recipe, not your name.
6) Choose how you want to download the photo.

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Chicken Basquaise: French Fridays with Dorie

Chicken peppers Basquaise
Chicken Basquaise

When I first read through this recipe I thought, "Oh, it is a recipe for fancy sausage and peppers with chicken instead of sausage." Of course because this is a French recipe the flavors are more complex than a simple sausage and peppers meal. 

After my 9-11 fiasco I wasn't up to driving around in search of pimento d' Espelette. It does sound like an extraordinary pepper that if I come across it in a gourmet shop I will buy it, but Dorie gave me an out, and I naturally take the easiest course when it comes to cooking,... I went with chili powder.

My kids told me that if I really had my act together I should have ordered pimento d' Espelette on the internet, of course they were not taking into account that I didn't have much time to think about French Fridays because  they were off from school, because of the Jewish New Year, and I needed to entertain them over the last week.

Before I went grocery shopping I read through the recipe three times and figured out how I would simplify it. I immediately nixed peeling tomatoes in favor of buying a can of diced tomatoes. I used a 28 oz size can (the equivalent of 10 to 12 tomatoes) which made the dish more stew like than I think it was supposed to be, being Italian, I like having some sauce to dip my bread into. I also decided not to peel the peppers.

 I find the French obsession with skinning vegetables very odd and time consuming. Culturally they seem to have some strange texture issues? 

The peppers were fine au natural. Even with these short cuts it still took an hour to sauté all of the vegetables, fry the chicken, and make the wine reduction.

The result was a wonderfully warming stew of peppers, mild chilies, onions and melt in your mouth chicken. Everyone in my family loved it except my daughter who found it too spicy, but she's 10... it was a little hot for a 10 year old.

I served it over brown rice which everyone reminded me harbors arsenic... I hadn't read the paper before I made dinner...oh well, a little bit of arsenic never killed anyone?

Needless to say the Ciabatta rolls I bought were much more popular than the rice, and actually worked better for sopping up the rich wine tomato sauce, a great meal for a chilly autumn night.

This is a similar recipe: 

Chicken Basquaise

Note: As a member of French Friday's with Dorie I am not allowed to print the recipe. I invite you to take a look at this wonderful cookbook "Around My French Table" if you are interested in this or any other recipe I review. 


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Small Talk...it's Big.: Simple Living Ideas

girls posing for photos
Mostly Maria, two pics upper right are me.

My sister who is closest to me in age is profoundly retarded. Maria has a rare chromosome disorder called Seckel syndrome. Maria is very short and hyperactive. She constantly walks around pill rolling her fingers and making shrieking sounds. 

You see Maria can’t speak. The syndrome is characterized by birdlike features. She bellows her throat like a bird in order to make sounds, but she can’t talk. Maria doesn’t have enough motor control or intellect to use sign language, so her ability to communicate is limited. 

Maria and I spent a lot of time together as kids, and I got to understand what many of her sounds mean. It wasn’t all bad having a retarded sister. When I was mad at my older sister Linda I would sometimes break her 45’s, and when she asked what happened. I would casually say, “Maria, did it.” 

Maria wasn’t going to get in trouble, and by default neither was I. My cover was eventually blown when I was about 8 and I drew a life size drawing of a little girl on my bedroom wall. 

Enraged my mother looked at me and said, “Who did this?” 

I confidently replied, “Maria did it.” 

My mother’s eyes widened and got teary as she said, “I wish she could have.”

There are a lot of things I wish Maria could do. The one thing that I always wished for, even when I was a little kid, was for her to be able to have a conversation with me. 

All I’ve ever wanted to do with Maria is just have one chat. You know the kind of silly chats sisters have? This secret wish of mine has always made me very appreciative of small conversation. I really see how important it is to spend a few minutes talking to the cashier... you know, about how sweet the peaches are right now.

When someone elderly happens to strike up a conversation with me in the post office or the library. I try not to hurry away, because I know that when you are old you may not get out very much, and the trivial conversation with me... about how much junk mail she gets... or how wonderful the last book she read was... may be her only conversation of the day.

Trust me the ability to have a conversation is not to be taken for granted. My sister’s disorder is rare, but Alzheimer's and strokes are not. Your's or a loved one’s ability to converse can be taken away in a moment.

So the next time someone asks you... how are you doing?... enjoy the opportunity for a brief easy moment of intimacy with another human being...  and appreciate the simple connection that is so easily made by a little small talk.