2 potatoes chopped (I usually use 1 big sweet potato)
4 c chicken stock
1.5 teaspoon curry
Pinch salt and pepper (to taste)
(I usually add an apple too if I have one, but not on the original recipe)
Peel, seed and chop squash. Melt butter in a big soup pot. Saute squash, carrots, celery, onion until soft. Add potatoes. Add stock and bring to a boil. Reduce and simmer for 40 minutes. Add spices. Puree in a blender in batches and serve hot. (I use an immersion blender).
The added benefit to this easy and tasty soup is it lends itself to awesome topping options. Want to add fun colors, try dried cranberries, chopped pecans and blue cheese crumbles. Want to add a crunch? Try croutons or pumpkin seeds. Maybe sour cream, apples, bacon? Can be served with toppings or without!
Gina Depalma via Secrets of the Best Chefs via Smitten Kitchen via Kathryn Purcell
1/2 cup olive oil, divided
2 large links (about 8 ounces) of sweet Italian sausage [can use more or less, up to you how much meat you want]
1 medium onion, diced
2 celery ribs, sliced or diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into half-moons or diced
4 cloves garlic, sliced (reserve half for later in recipe)
A pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
1 cup brown lentils, sorted and rinsed
2 bay leaves
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
6 cups water
Freshly ground black pepper
3 to 4 cups shredded or thinly ribboned Swiss chard leaves or kale
Grated Pecorino Romano cheese to finish
On the stove: Heat 1/4 cup olive oil (enough to generously coat the bottom of the pot) in a large pot on medium to medium-high heat. When hot, add the sausage, breaking it up with a wooden spoon until it starts to brown, about five minutes. Add the onion, celery, carrots, first two garlic cloves, a pinch of salt, and if you like your soup spicy, a pinch of red pepper flakes. Cook with the sausage until the vegetables soften a bit, another 5 minutes. Add the lentils, bay leaves, tomatoes, water (6 cups is, conveniently, a little less than 2 empty 28-ounce cans, so you can get any tomato pulp you missed), more salt and black pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer and allow to cook until the lentils are tender, about 40 minutes. (It might be necessary to add more water if the soup gets too thick, though we preferred ours on the thick side.)
When the lentils are cooked, add the chard and cook until the leaves are tender, just a few minutes more. Discard the bay leaves.
In an InstantPot or electric multi cooker: Proceed as written above, using the sauté function on high (I find this to be like medium-high on a stove) to cook the sausage and then vegetables. Once you’ve added the remaining ingredients, including dried lentils, lock the lid and set to high pressure for 15 minutes. Let it naturally release for at least 10 minutes (or longer, if you have time), to help keep the vegetables intact. You can manually release the rest. Use the sauté function on high again to bring it back to a simmer (this should take no time at all) and add the greens; cook until wilted.
Both methods: To finish, divide soup among bowls, then add the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil and 2 garlic cloves to a small skillet (on the stove) and heat over medium until the garlic softens and hisses. Drizzle this over soup bowls, and top with fresh Romano, passing more at the table. Leftovers will keep for several days in the fridge.
1 lb. ground pork sausage (I use breakfast sausage)
1 cup coarsely chopped onions
4 cups peeled and cubed (1/2 inch) potatoes (I often use sweet potatoes or a mix of
regular and sweet, sometimes I throw carrots in for the hell of it)
1/2 t. dried marjoram (can skip this)
1 t. salt
1/8 t. black pepper (can skip this)
2 cups water
1 can (17 oz.) cream style corn
1 can (17 oz.) whole kernel corn, drained (I have never in my life found 17 oz. cans, I think they are 15.5 oz.–doesn’t matter, throw in some fresh corn or frozen corn if you want some more)
1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk
***I like the combination of hot breakfast sausage and sweet potatoes with this recipe….but you can use whatever you choose.***
In a stockpot over medium heat, cook sausage and onions until sausage is brown and onions are tender. Drain sausage and onions. Return sausage and onions to stockpot with potatoes, marjoram, salt, pepper and water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes (takes a little longer with sweet potatoes). Add cream style corn, whole kernel corn, and evaporated milk. Heat through (do not let soup boil) and serve immediately.
Courtney, Claire, Corey and I spent a long weekend in Las Vegas visiting Grace and having a real vacation. We took off from our house bright and early as our flight was at 0700. Flight was no problem – kind of a pain to wear a mask for the entire time – the flight was 99% full also – but we made it with no troubles. We rented a really nice car at the airport and immediately took off for the Grand Canyon. We’ve never been to the Grand Canyon and its always been on our bucket list so we were excited to finally be going. We stopped at a Target to stock up on some road trip supplies and after a few stops for pregnancy related emergencies we were on our way. It was about a 4 hour drive from the airport and after taking in two different time changes it was about 4:00PM when we got there. We went to the south rim of the canyon and stayed at one of the lodges there – Bright Angel Lodge which was a 1940’s era lodge smack on the edge of the canyon. Courtney and I had a little cottage that you literally walked out the front door and you were at the edge of the canyon. It was really nice. After quickly unpacking we went on a short hike around the rim trail. It truly is an amazing sight. Picture don’t do it justice. We had a dinner reservation at El Tovar which was a fancier hotel just a short walk way. It was a very nice place with great canyon views. It was nice to sit, relax, have a cocktail and have a really nice dinner. We were very tired after dinner after a long day of travel so were happy to go right to bed.
Thursday March 11, 2021
We woke up early as we were still on eastern time but we planned on going to one of the lookouts to watch the sun rise so we were happy to be up early. We were surprised to see snow on the ground when we woke up. We met Claire and Corey and then took the shuttle bus that was right around the corner farther down the trail and got there in perfect time to see the sun come up over the canyon. Although it was cold out – it was beautiful out and a blessing as there was pretty much no one around – we had the whole place to ourselves. We walked for an hour or two down the trail taking in all the beautiful views. We shuttled back to the lodge, grabbed some coffee and pastries from the diner there and had breakfast in our cottage. We walked around some of the buildings and studios in the village, packed up, checked out and then drove to the main visitor area where we walked around a bit and then took the shuttle to another area a few miles down the road. We hiked again for about an hour back to where we were parked and then it was time to start the trek back to Vegas. I wish we had a bit more time to explore – but it was worth it to make the trip. We hit the road back to Vegas about noon and stopped on Rt 66 again for lunch at a mom and pop place that turned out to be really good – taking home some banana cream pie and carrot cake that looked too good to resist. We stopped at the Hoover Dam on the way back – driving over the Dam to the Arizona side, parking the car and then walking across the dam. I was there a few years ago so I have seen it before but it is quite an amazing thing to see. We then drove the last 45 minutes back to Vegas. Courtney and I stayed at the Mandalay Bay which was nice and we had a really nice room. After settling in we drove to Grace’s place which was just a 15 minute drive. It was good to see Grace and her new apartment. We went to dinner at Pinches Tacos which was right around the corner and had a good dinner of tacos and margaritas. Claire and Corey were staying at Grace’s and we took off back to our hotel room and stayed up and gambled all night…. ha ha… went back to our hotel room and promptly fell dead asleep.
Friday, March 12th, 2021
We slept well and didn’t get up too too early on Pacific time. I went downstairs to the casino in search of coffee and found the Starbucks with about 30 people in line. I found another bakery kind of place with a shorter line and grabbed coffee, fruit and pastries and we had breakfast in our room. The weather looked like it was finally starting to clear a bit so we took off mid-morning to hike down the strip. Mandalay Bay is at the very southern end of the strip so we walked north going through all the casinos – always interesting people watching and seeing how the casinos are trying to reel you in. There were not a lot of people out and about which was nice – but it was still early. All the casinos were open but it looked like about 50% of the food places were closed and all the shows due due the pandemic. We stopped at the Eataly in Park MGM for some more coffee and pastries. Note to self: stay at Park MGM next time as there is no smoking there. We continued down the strip as the sun came out and it thankfully got warmer and warmer. We met up with the kids at Fashion Show and did a bit of shopping and then looked for a place to lunch. We ended up at Virgil’s, a BBQ place in the LINQ promenade. We got a table outside and had beers and BBQ and watched the increasing larger crowds walk by. We took off walking back towards Mandalay Bay and the kids went to explore some more. We took a nice rest and then got ready for a night on the town. We drove down to Old Las Vegas around 5:00, got a beer on Fremont street, walked around a bit and then met everyone at Circa – the new casino on Fremont street that just opened this year. We had a reservation at The Legacy Club, their bougie bar way up on the 60th floor. We met Grace’s boyfriend Thomas and had a nice cocktail hour checking out the view and enjoying our pricy cocktails. We had dinner at 8 East, a pan-asian place that was also in the Circa. We had a great meal in our own little room sharing dumplings, pork belly bao, brisket fried rice and other things. Everything was great. We joined the growing crowds on Fremont street and made our way to El Cortez where we played black jack for awhile. No more $5 tables… just $10. I came ahead $40 playing just for 1/2 hour which is all I gambled the whole trip. We left the kids there – still going at it – and we made our way back to Mandalay Bay where we hung out in one of their bars for one more beer and then hit the hay after a long, fun day.
Saturday, March 13th, 2021
We drove to Grace’s in the morning and had bagels and donuts for breakfast and then drove to Red Rock Canyon park which was just a short drive away. Red Rock is a beautiful place – we did the loop around stopping at several spots but didn’t go on any lengthy walks as it was still pretty chilly and we weren’t dressed very appropriately. I don’t remember what we did for lunch…. mmmhhhmm? The ladies went out in the afternoon to get their nails done and Corey and I went to the grocery store and to search for bean bags. We spent cocktail hour playing bean bags and soaking in the sun. We grilled steaks and vegetables for dinner at Grace’s nice set up and enjoyed a quiet evening relaxing.
Sunday March 14th, 2021
We were taking the red eye home tonight at 11:00 so we relaxed in our room in the morning, packed things up, checked out of the hotel and met the kids for brunch at ARIA. We went to a french bistro called Bardot Brasserie and it was fabulous – best meal of the week. We all had bloody marys, mimosas and Corey had a morning manhattan. Everyones food was first rate but the french toast I had was truly a work of art. After brunch we walked around the strip enjoying, finally, some warm sunny weather. We stopped at Momofuku milk bar in the Cosmopolitan for some treats, walked through the spring exhibits at the Bellagio and people watched at the growing crowds of Vegas humanity. We made our way back to Grace’s where we chilled, sat by the pool, and played some more bean bags. Thomas came over later and we got burgers and fries from In & Out. We packed up around 8ish, not looking forward to the flight home. We made it the airport, turned in the car with no problems and all survived the red eye back to CLE.
This is my Mom’s brownie recipe that she has used for years and years. Kirsten is the official brownie maker these days.
1 cup margarine
2 cups sugar
7 Tablespoons cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped nuts (we usually skip)
2 teaspoon vanilla
Cream margarine and sugar. Add eggs, cocoa powder, flour and salt. With electric mixer at medium speed beet for three minutes.. Stir in vanilla and nuts. Bake in greased 9 x 13 pan at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Sprinkle with confectioners sugar.
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for the topping
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus more for the topping
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Pre heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch-square baking pan with cooking oil spray, then line the bottom with parchment paper.
Combine the butter, the cup of granulated sugar and the brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer or handheld electric mixer; beat on medium speed for a few minutes, until lightened and a little fluffy. Stop to scrape down the bowl.
Add the eggs and vanilla extract; beat on medium speed until well incorporated.
Whisk together the flour, teaspoon of cinnamon, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl, then add to the mixer bowl; beat on medium-low speed until well incorporated. The dough will be quite soft.
Transfer to the baking pan, then spread the dough evenly all the way into the corners. Whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar with the amount of cinnamon you prefer; we recommend 1/2 to 1 teaspoon. Sprinkle that mixture evenly over the surface. Bake (middle rack) for about 25 minutes, until golden and still slightly soft at the center.
Cool completely (in the pan) before serving or storing. It’s best to lift out the slab and slice on a cutting board; discard the parchment before cutting.
My goal for 2020 was to read 48 books. I crushed it and read 54 – by far the most I have read in a year. I love end of the year “best of” lists – that’s where I get most of the books to add to my reading queue. So here is my Top Five of 2020.
Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry; PJH rating: ***** I was listening in to Courtney’s work book club a week or so ago and they were talking about the next book they wanted to read – something different than the “chick lit” they usually read – something more “manly”. I googled “manly novels” and Lonesome Dove popped up so they agreed to it for their next book. (Before everyone realized it was 800+ pages I should add). Anyways… I poured through and it is so good. Really a masterpiece. So many good characters, action, well written and it of course made me cry several times. Pulitzer Prize winner: 1986
In Cold Blood; Truman Capote; PJH rating: ****1/2 I’m not sure what made me pick up this 1966 classic (perhaps because 1966 was such a good year) but I couldn’t put it down once I started. I thought it was so direct, so well written and to the point. I really enjoyed it.
The Testaments; Margaret Atwood; PJH rating: ****1/2 The follow up to Atwood’s classic The Handmaids Tale did not disappoint – even after having to wait 20+ years for it to come out. We have greatly enjoyed Hulu’s version of Handmaid’s Tale which was so well done and this novel followed along with those new plot lines nicely. The completely unexpected plot twist is just amazing and satisfying. I have always loved Aunt Lydia and Margaret Atwood is a genius.
American Dirt; Jeanine Cummins; PJH rating: ****1/2 The harrowing tale of a Mexican family crossing the Mexican border was a favorite of many this year. I thought it was an intense novel and a good read. It was interesting reading about the protests about the book in regards to culture appropriation which I think was unfair. Fiction is fiction?
Inheritance; Dani Shapiro; PJH rating: ****1/2 After a routine genetic test a woman discovers that she has a different biological father. A surprisingly readable memoir that was suspenseful as well.
Other 4 1/2 ratings from 2020 that I consider “highly recommend”:
Beheld; TaraShea Nesbit
Bossypants; Tina Fey
Dear Edward; Ann Napolitano
The Bookshop of the Broken-hearted; Robert Hillman
I’m not sure why these are called Esther Thorpe – it’s what the woman I used to work with who gave me the recipe called them and what we have always called them. I’ve heard people call them “Christmas Crack” also. It is such an odd recipe but they are so good.
Esther Thorpe Saltines
1 cup packed brown sugar -light or dark works fine
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 bag of chocolate chips – milk or semi-sweet work fine
1 bag of toffee bits – or crushed up heath bars
preheat oven to 375 degrees
Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly grease it. Lay out the saltines so they cover the sheet in a single layer.
In a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat, melt the butter and brown sugar. Let cook until bubbling and then cook at the bubbling stage for a few more minutes. Make sure you are constantly stirring this for the entire time.
Pour the bubbling brown sugar mixture onto the crackers and spread it evenly as best as you can.
Bake for 5-10 minutes. Time may vary – keep a close eye on it. You want the mixture to be bubbling over the entire sheet and once at this point let it cook for another 2-3 minutes. If you smell the sugar mixture burning take it out of the oven for goodness sake.
Once out of the oven immediately cover the saltines with chocolate chips evenly. Let this sit for about 5 minutes.
Spread the melted/melting chocolate evenly over the saltines until you have coated the crackers in a layer of chocolate.
Sprinkle the toffee bits on top. (I put some crushed up candy canes on the ones I just made too for holiday spirit.)
Thanksgiving turned out to be very nice all things considered. Grace and Sophia flew in at 6:00AM Thanksgiving morning taking the red eye from Las Vegas after Sophia spent a week and a half with Grace. Claire and Corey came over for drinks around 5:00 and we converted our recently re-done garage into a a nice open air lounge. Claire and Corey stayed for socially distanced drinks and apps and then we loaded them up with food and they ate at home.
Thanksgiving 2020 menu
Turkey on the grill. Used this brine recipe with about two cups of apple cider and the rest water. Brined the turkey starting Wednesday evening. Turkey was PERFECT. Grilled on M-O-M to L-O-L for about 3 1/2 hours for the 13 1/2 lb turkey. We got the turkey from Fresh Fork CSA along with their Thanksgiving bag full of good vegetables and other good stuff.
Gravy. Used this recipeand this one to make it ahead of time and it turned out great. Beautiful dark brown color with nice flavor. I started it on WED and finished it THU morning. I used extra turkey wings and backs as well as the neck and heart from our turkey.
Cranberry sauce. Perfect recipe from Bon Appetit that we have used for years.