Steelhead and Brown Rice Bowl Click here to view recipe.

Simple & Delish Steelhead Salon & Brown Rice Bowl

This “recipe” came to me at a time when I had all the components in my fridge, and had frozen a side of steelhead that I wanted to quickly use. It hit the spot, and I ate this for lunch three days in a row, sharing only one time. Marinating the veggies is easy and different!

Steelhead and Brown Rice Bowl

Serves 4



Main Ingredients
  • ¼ cup tamari
  • 1 ½ Tbsp unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp honey (taste and add more if you want more sweetness)
  • 4 6-ounce servings of skin-on steelhead
  • 1 cup thinly shredded carrots
  • 1 cup persian cucumbers (baby cucumbers, skin on but sliced the long way thinly
  • 1 cup red onion, peeled and sliced into half moons then separated
  • 1 cup thinly sliced colored sweet peppers (red, yellow, or a combo)
  • 1 cup thinly sliced radishes (optional)
  • 1 cup pea pods, optional
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice
  • 2 Tbsp Furikake, optional
  • Black and white sesame seeds for garnish
  • Green onions for garnish (optional)
Vegetable Marinade Ingredients
  • 2 large limes
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp granulated sugar

Combine tamari, rice vinegar and honey in a bowl and whisk. Put half this mixture in a zip lock bag that will hold the salmon and add the fish (pat with a towel first so it is dry). Squish it around to coat the fish and put the sealed bag in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes or for a few hours if you are rushed. Save the other half to pour over the steelhead once it is cooked.

To marinate the carrots, cucumbers, onions, peppers and radishes, I use the same instructions for my Lime-Infused Bermuda Onions. Shake the mixture and pour a little over the veggies (I do the onion separately so it doesn’t “bleed” onto the other veggies). Put in the fridge and let it marinate a bit, then drain before using.

Remove fish from the tamari mix and discard the marinade. Heat a fry pan or grill and cook the steelhead flesh side down for a few minutes, then flip over so the skin is at the bottom and cook to your liking. Remove the fish from the pan.

To serve: combine brown rice with a little Furikake, which is roasted sesame and seaweed. The furikake is optional but I happen to love the flavor. Cover with the fish and drain the marinated veggies and make sections of each on top of the rice, leaving room for the steelhead. Drizzle the remaining reserved marinade over the fish, sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve.

Posted in Fish & Seafood | Tagged | Leave a comment

Smoke Alarm Steak Salad

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Smoke Alarm Steak Salad (AKA Superfood Bowl)

We have been traveling to Antigua Guatemala fairly frequently over the past several years.  Six weeks in Seattle, a month in Antigua…it is a nice routine that allows me time at home with my family and friends combined with another life of speaking Spanish, sunny weather, volunteering, and living a simple life.

Before each trip I play a game with myself to see if I can use all the fruits, vegetables and perishable/non-freezable items in my refrigerator and cupboards.  There are potatoes and sweet potatoes to deal with, lemons and limes (I zest and squeeze and freeze these), etc. By the time I leave I am generally down to the bare nubbins and I give the remaining usable items to my kids.  

This is how my deconstructed salad came to be.  I had walked the Greenlake path with my friend Barri a couple days before, and we had lunch at Retreat.  I ordered a Chicken and Greens superfood bowl that was really good and contained a lot of the ingredients I ended up using to create my own version at home.  This turned out to be spectacular, if I do say so myself! 

I used sliced steak since I hadn’t had a speck of meat in months, and I had a tiny bit of meat in my freezer.  This is where the title of this recipe comes in. I pulled out my trusty cast iron pan to grill up the steak and, for the first time in recent memory, set off my smoke alarm. Which wouldn’t be such a big to do. However … my daughter in law was here when I made this salad and she told my son Jake about it. So he decided to try it out and wouldn’t you know it – he set off his smoke alarm as well. So – voila … “Smoke Alarm Steak Salad.” but I digress…

If you don’t have (or eat) steak, leftover grilled chicken would be more than fine as well.  Pickled onions and roasted sunflower seeds are always in my fridge, cherry tomatoes came from Jakey Boy’s garden, arugula had been hanging out in my vegetable drawer and I had an odd sweet potato that I peeled, cubed small and tossed with olive oil and chili powder.  

This balsamic salad dressing is one that I make often, here and away from home.  It makes a lot and is simple (requires no kitchen equipment) and the balsamic vinegar doesn’t need to be top drawer.  Keep this dressing recipe handy in your fridge because it keeps for weeks on end.  In fact, I always make a batch at the beginning of a stay in Antigua.  

Accidental Superfood Bowls

Per person for a superfood bowl

Salad Ingredients:
  • Sliced steak or sliced grilled chicken, hot or cold-a handful
  • 2 handfuls of fresh arugula
  • ¾ cup fresh cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • About 1 tablespoon pickled red onions 
  • ¼ cup roasted sunflower seeds (toasted chopped nuts would also work here)
  • ½ raw sweet potato 
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ tsp ground chili powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh herbs (this could be cilantro, dill, basil, tarragon, whatever your heart desires)
Balsamic Dressing Ingredients
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • ½ teaspoon fine salt
  • ¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp stone ground mustard
  • ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil

For the sweet potatoes – peel and cut into ⅓ inch cubes then toss with olive oil, chili pepper and salt.  Roast at 425 degrees on a foil-lined cookie sheet in your toaster oven for 15 minutes or until brown and soft in the center.  Cool. 

For the dressing, whisk all ingredients together, taste and add more honey or vinegar if needed.  Store in a jar in the fridge for up to a month.  Makes about 1 ¼ cups.

I combine the salad ingredients in sections and toss it together as I eat it.  Drizzle with the dressing.

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Baked Oatmeal

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Baked Oatmeal

I am always on the lookout for “make ahead” breakfast items.  This includes scones, breads, refrigerated Muesli, egg bites, etc. And then I happened upon a recipe for Baked Oatmeal. I looked further at many different versions of this dish and settled on a recipe in the Joy of Cooking.  It seemed intriguing and within the span of a week I have made it twice, just for the two of us.

I must admit I have eaten this not only for breakfast, but as an afternoon snack when I craved something chewy, healthful and filling.  And today I am taking half my batch to my youngest Seattle grandsons to see how they like it!

Hot Out of the Oven!

Baked Oatmeal

Makes 6 servings



  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 cups coconut milk – I have made this with regular cow’s milk too but I love coconut milk
  • 1 cup frozen berries or fresh berries if you have them in summer-no need to defrost them if frozen but be sure they aren’t sticking together
  • ½ cup of combined sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and chopped toasted walnuts or almonds.  I used a combo of sunflower, pumpkin seeds and toasted pecans but you could do all nuts or all seeds, your call. 
  • 3 Tbsp pure maple syrup – honey would work too
  • 2 Tbsp shredded unsweetened coconut – optional
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) melted butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tsp sparkly white sugar to sprinkle on top

Preheat the oven or toaster oven to 375 degrees and butter an 8-by-8-inch baking dish.

Begin by adding the coconut milk to the oats, stirring and letting them soak while you get the other ingredients ready.  Combine all the remaining ingredients (except the sparkling sugar) in a medium bowl, add to the soaked oats and be sure everything (especially the frozen berries) are evenly dispersed, then pour into the baking dish. Sprinkle top with sparkling sugar if desired.  

Bake until the top is golden and the oats are set, about 25- 30 minutes.

Leftovers can be kept refrigerated for up to five days.  To serve, reheat slightly in the toaster oven or microwave.  I do not add syrup or milk but some might prefer this..

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Pad Kee Mao

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Comforting Pad Kee Mao

You might have ordered Pad Kee Mao, aka “drunken noodles,” at a Thai restaurant, but I’m here to tell you that it is simple to make at home.  In fact, my daughter’s kids did all the chopping and herb stem removal the last time I made this…lucky me. AND they sent me home with a bottle of dressing and all the ingredients prepped and ready to cook.  Let me tell you, that was one of the nicest things anyone has done for me, and I will pay it forward to someone who has no time to shop or prep.

Mark Bittman published the starting point of my recipe in the New York Times and I expanded it and made it to my taste.  In southeast Asia, Pad Kee Mao refers to a mixture of  stir-fried rice noodles, vegetables, and meat, seafood, or tofu, served with a spicy sauce. I have made this with ground lamb, ground beef and ground chicken.  IMHO, Chicken wins…I like the light flavor and we are trying to eat little if any beef in our family.  Because…climate change.  

I also cheat and make extra dressing since I also add more vegetables than the original recipe calls for which soak up more of the sauce  

Huge bonus – this reheats really well if you have leftovers.  In fact, I now keep extra rice stick noodles and prepared dressing on hand so I can whip this up easily when I am in the mood for something salty, sweet and delicious.

Pad Kee Mao, Reconfigured

Serves Four



Sauce Ingredients
  • ¼ cup fish sauce (Red Boat is my go-to)
  • 1 tsp unseasoned rice vinegar (regular rice vinegar that is seasoned is OK too)
  •  2 tablespoons dark sweet soy sauce (kecap manis) – Uwajamaya has this in Seattle, but my sister made it and here is a recipe I found.
Main Ingredients
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped by hand
  • 5 bird’s eye chiles (I used a jalapeno in place of this or just 1-2 chilis since we are spice wusses) Cut the little peppers in half, remove the seeds and mince.  Wear gloves because these are spicy chilis
  • 3 tablespoons avocado oil 
  • ½ cup sliced brown or red onion 
  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1 cup very thinly sliced red or orange bell peppers (we use the mini peppers that come in a bag)
  • 2 cups broccoli flowerettes or pea pods (slightly cooked)
  • 12 ounces dried rice noodles (I buy the ones that look like linguini, flat and about ⅓ inch wide.  I cook them in a pot of water until they are al dente, then I rinse and drain.) 
  • 2 handfuls holy basil leaves (or Thai basil, in a pinch)

To make the sauce, place all 3 sauce ingredients in a jar with a lid, and shake, shake, shake. Shake. Note you can make 1 ½ times this if you are worried about it being a little dry.

Roughly chop the garlic and the chiles together. Avoid touching your eyes and wash your hands immediately after chopping chilis or wear disposable rubber gloves to chop them. 

Heat a large straight sided saute pan over medium-high. When it’s hot, add the avocado oil, the slivered sweet peppers, and the onion. Cook, stirring constantly, for a few minutes until everything cooks down.  

Add the ground meat/chicken and a splash of the fish sauce mixture. Cook, stirring to break up the meat, until it is cooked through, about five minutes. 

Add the hot peppers and garlic and stir for about 30 seconds.

Ready to Serve!

Add the noodles, turn the heat to high and add almost all of the sauce (save a spoonful or two to add later). Cook, tossing everything together and separating the noodles if necessary, until the noodles are coated in sauce. Taste, and add more sauce if needed. Toss in the basil and serve.  

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The Basic Brownie, Redux

If you know me at all – you know of my love of chocolate. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I make these brownies all the time. ALL THE TIME, people. Which caused me to want to share this recipe again after so many years. The smell of the house filling with the smell of chocolate alone is ample reason to whip up a batch. Plus – yet another reason to use my home-made Pam! So easy. Enjoy!

Trondheim *~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~~*~*~

Click here to view recipe.

The Basic Brownie – Beautiful!

I was recently in Portland, Oregon visiting old friends and having dinner, and, in order to prepare dessert, my hostess pulled out a box of brownie mix. “STOP!!!” I screamed. I started rooting around in her cupboard and refrigerator and quickly collected all the ingredients needed to make brownies from scratch. Hallelujah!

For the life of me I don’t understand why anyone would use a brownie mix. By the time you go to the store, buy the packaged stuff with all kinds of additives, then add eggs and oil…you might as well bake with real ingredients and have a fresh, wonderful pan of decadent, chocolaty brownies.

This is a perfect beginner’s baking project – it requires just a few ingredients and a bit of elbow grease – no mixer, just a large bowl and spatula. Brownies can be simple or provide a base for more elaborate desserts – think a scoop of ice cream on top, hot fudge or caramel or peanuts sprinkled about – even some coarse fancy salt on top of the caramel. Now we’re talking!!! Even a little crème fresh and sliced berries alongside is nice…endless possibilities!

I hope you’ll take the challenge and even do a little side-by-side taste test. You’ll never go back to the box!

Basic Brownies

  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
  • 1 cup less 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ c regular flour
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (optional)

Grease an 8 x 8 x 2 brownie pan (remember the homemade PAM? Use it!). and preheat oven to 325 degrees with the rack in the middle of the oven.

Cut one stick of butter into 6-8 pieces and put in a 2 quart glass bowl with the two squares of chocolate. Melt in microwave 45-60 seconds, stopping every 20 seconds to stir well. At the end you’ll have to stir vigorously for a few minutes to dissolve the chocolate. If you don’t have or want to use a microwave, melt slowly in a double boiler or pan on very, very low heat so you don’t burn the chocolate.

Crack eggs and beat with vanilla in a separate bowl. Then stir into the melted chocolate/butter mix. Stir in sugar and combine well.

Mix salt with flour to disburse, and then dump into the liquid mix. Use spatula to blend. Stir in nuts.

Place brownie batter into the greased pan, even the top with a table knife and bake for 35 minutes or until done. Cool on rack, and once they are totally cooled sift powdered sugar over the top before serving.

My mom used to cut and wrap these brownies individually in waxed paper, and then put them into a sealed container — perhaps it was a coffee can with a lid? That way, we could take a brownie without a lot of fuss and bother and didn’t get our fingers all over the rest of the batch!

You can easily double this recipe and bake them in a 9 x 12 pan too.

It doesn’t get much easier than this, folks.

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One Pot Chicken & Rice Bowls with Peanut Sauce

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Comforting Chicken & Rice with Peanut Sauce

Anytime I see a “one pot” or “one sheet pan” main dish recipe, I am enticed and intrigued.  The original recipe from Bon Appetit piqued my interest – it is hearty, filling, easy and filled with ingredients I love in the fall/winter.

This recipe makes a very large amount of rice, so I saved the leftover rice to use for a stir fry dish.  You will also have lots of extra peanut sauce, but that will keep for a month or so and it is so good as a dip, for chicken kebabs, to drizzle on grains or veggies, etc. I did the garlic and ginger chopping by hand just because I didn’t want to do extra cleanup!

I doctored up my original peanut sauce recipe to make this less sweet and a little more spicy, which I like.  

One Pot Chicken & Rice Bowls with Peanut Sauce

4 servings



Chicken & Rice Ingredients
  • 6 small skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs (about 3 lb.)
  • ¾ tsp. Sea salt, plus more
  • 2 large shallots, finely chopped or ½ cup of diced red onion
  • 8 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2″ piece ginger, peeled, finely chopped
  • 2 cups high-quality basmati rice, rinsed
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
Peanut Sauce Ingredients
  • ½  cup creamy peanut butter like Jif or Skippy
  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp Sriracha (You can add more at the end if you wish)
  • 1½ tsp. honey
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 Tbsp chili ½sauce (Heinz is fine)
  • Juice of ½ lime
  • About ¼ cup warm water
Salad/Topping Ingredients 
  • 1 English hothouse cucumber, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced on a diagonal
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into 3 inch x ½ inch batons
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves with tender stems
  • 2 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 lime, cut into 6 wedges for serving
Chicken & Rice Instructions

Pat the chicken thighs dry on both sides. Trim off any extra fat that hangs down from the edges of the thighs.  Season the skin side with salt and pat it into the skin.  Arrange, skin side down, in a cold, dry medium Dutch oven and set over medium heat. Cook, undisturbed, until the skin is golden brown and crisp and easily releases from the pot, 8–10 minutes. Slide thighs around to different spots (this will ensure even browning) and continue to cook until deeply browned, 3–5 minutes longer. Transfer chicken to a plate. Let the pot cool for about two minutes. Save the drippings to add to the pot when you put the chicken back in.  

Set pot over medium-low heat; add shallots, garlic, and ginger and cook, stirring constantly, until very fragrant but not browned, about two minutes. Stir in rice and star anise and cook, stirring constantly, for about one minute. Stir in soy sauce, ¾ tsp. salt, and three cups of water. Nestle chicken back into rice mixture in pot, arranging skin side up. Increase heat to medium and bring liquid to a simmer. Immediately cover the pot, reduce heat to low, and cook for 25 minutes. Remove from heat and let chicken and rice sit for ten minutes.

Peanut Sauce Instructions

This can be made three days ahead of time – just cover and chill.

While the chicken and rice are cooking, make the sauce. Whisk all the sauce ingredients together until smooth and pourable. You can add more lime juice if the sauce still looks too thick (it should be the consistency of something you can drizzle over the rice and chicken).  

To Serve

When the rice and chicken have been cooked for 25 minutes and rested for 10 minutes, remove the lid from the pot and fluff rice with a fork. Find and discard the star anise. 

Serve the chicken and on top of the rice along with the cucumber and cilantro. Have a wedge of lime for each serving bowl. Drizzle with a good amount of peanut sauce and sprinkle each bowl with about one teaspoon of sesame seeds.  Have extra peanut sauce for guests to add if needed.  

neurontin overnight delivery Cook’s note:  I made this to take to my daughter’s family of five – they are huge eaters, and so I bought five pounds of chicken thighs.  I made the recipe as written using five thighs, and I seasoned and roasted the other five thighs in the oven at 425 degrees for 40 minutes.   There is enough extra rice in the recipe as written for the additional thighs.  Easy peasy lime squeezy!

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Cauliflower Onion Kugel

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Comforting Cauliflower Onion Kugel

Kugel is a common Ashkenazi Jewish side dish and usually refers to a baked pudding or casserole, most commonly made with egg noodles or potatoes.  The noodle kugel I make most often is sweet and cheesy, but when I was young my mom used to make a noodle kugel with schmaltz (chicken fat) and eggs.  Truth be told, I always choose savory dishes over sweet, unless you are talking about chocolate!

This cauliflower “kugel” is more of a frittata type dish.  It caught my eye because it doesn’t contain any milk, butter or eggs.  I love cauliflower in every form and I love lots of oniony flavor as well, so I decided to try to create a baked cauliflower dish.  

I tweaked the number of eggs, and I had to reduce the amount of olive oil since the first run through seemed a bit too greasy.  

What I ended up with here suits me just fine.  It is good hot, cold out of the fridge and it reheats well for a few days after making it.  

Cauliflower Onion Kugel

Serves 8



  • 2 cups peeled and diced white onion, finely chopped
  • 1 medium cauliflower (approximately 1.5-2 lbs)
  • 5 large eggs 
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 ½ tsp sea salt 
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil  to drizzle on top

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees with the oven rack in the center.

Remove the outer leaves from the cauliflower and discard. Cut off the tough, round stem at the bottom of the cauliflower and discard.  Wash the cauliflower well so no dirt remains, and dry it well.

Slice the entire cauliflower very thinly (approx. ¼ inch). Most of it will crumble into small pieces, but there should be a few slices for the top of the kugel. Save the more intact pieces of cauliflower, then run a knife through the rest to make the pieces a little smaller.

Combine the onion and crumbled cauliflower in a large mixing bowl. Mix the eggs and ½ cup olive oil along with the black pepper, sea salt, and paprika in another small mixing bowl. Pour the egg mixture over the cauliflower mixture and combine well, so the cauliflower mixture is thoroughly coated in the egg/oil/spice mix.

Transfer to an 8 x 10″ oven safe casserole dish. Place the reserved thin slices of cauliflower on top. Drizzle with the remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil.

Bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees or until golden. Then cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and lower the temperature to 325 degrees.  

Posted in Side Dish, Vegetables | Tagged | 9 Comments

Italian Wedding Soup

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Warm & Soothing Italian Wedding Soup

I have been making Italian Wedding Soup for a long, long time and yet, until today, I’ve forgotten to post it here.  Over the years I have changed it a lot; I usually use ground chicken instead of ground beef.  And I add a lot more vegetables than the original recipe to make it more healthful.

This is a very simple, very filling, very beloved soup in our family.  It takes just a few minutes to make, a short time to cook, and it is a “Happy Meal”.  I put enough vegetables in the soup along with orzo and protein which makes it a home run.  

My Italian Wedding Soup

Serves 6



  • 1 lb ground chicken (or extra lean ground beef)
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ cup bread crumbs (I often add more if the mixture seems too loose)
  • 2 Tbsp. grated fresh Parmesan cheese (optional) 
  • 1 tsp. dry basil
  • 2 Tbsp finely diced shallot or 4 cloves peeled minced garlic
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 8 cups chicken stock (homemade, boxed broth  or Better Than Bouillon is fine, but do not oversalt)
  • 1 cup uncooked orzo pasta
  • 5 large thinly sliced carrots
  • 1 peeled sliced parsnip
  • 1 cup fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces-frozen peas would be good too
  • 1 cup peeled and cubed butternut squash, about a cup (optional)
  • 3 cups thinly sliced fresh baby spinach (stems removed before slicing)

In a medium bowl, combine ground chicken, egg, breadcrumbs, basil, Parmesan and shallot or garlic.   Form into ¾ inch meatballs and place on a tray.

Boil chicken broth, add all the vegetables except spinach, then put in meatballs and gently stir.  Return to the heat until it boils, reduce to medium heat, cover and cook on medium low for 10 minutes or until orzo is done.  Stir to keep from sticking.  When the time is up, turn off the heat and add the spinach which will wilt nicely.

One Pot Wonder!

Serve with rustic crusty bread!

Note: the orzo will continue to expand and thicken the soup a lot, so if you reheat it you might need to add additional broth or even water.  Taste for seasoning.

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Greek Style Pasta with Lamb and Bechamel

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Savory Greek Style Pasta with Lamb and Bechamel

Years and years and years ago (my memory fails me here, but probably 40 years ago?) I took a cooking class here in Seattle at Mr. J’s Kitchen Gourmet (may she rest in peace) and learned to make Greek Pastitsio.  I have searched high and low, and probably in one of my moves I tossed the recipe.  

All the cooking gurus I like or follow have their own version.  There was a simple recipe in my tiny Greek cookbook, and Ina, Martha, all the gang have their renditions.  Nothing looked exactly right to me, so I got the urge to make this in the cold, dark winter and just went with it.  I know, that might make some of you uncomfortable but I am in my “happy place” when I can improvise.

Greek Pasticcio traditionally has a substantial layer of tubular pasta, a deep simmered delicious beef ragu and is topped off with a thick and velvety béchamel sauce.  So mine is not traditional and I wouldn’t label it Pasticcio because mine is far from the mark, but the flavors in my dish are amazing in my opinion.  I combined the cooked penne with the meat sauce (I used ground lamb because I do not eat beef) and topped the whole thing with béchamel sauce that wasn’t as thick a layer as most.  Nonetheless, I am very happy with my results.

I ended up making a double recipe of this and browned the meat and onions outside in my electric skillet to keep the fumes out of the house and the spattering and mess happens outside, not in my kitchen.  This recipe is not hard to make but it does involve lots of pots and pans and bowls. And it takes time to prepare each part (boil the pasta, make the meat sauce and make the béchamel) and then assemble the final dish. But people … SO worth it.

I gave a hefty portion to each of my in town families and kept a smaller amount for their parents (me and my husband).  We served ours with a greek salad and some cut up fruit and ate leftovers for a couple of days. I had rave reviews from the adults, teenagers and babies alike!

Greek Style Pasta with Lamb and Bechamel

Serves 8-10



Main Dish Ingredients
  • 1 lb dried penne pasta
  • 2 pounds of ground lamb
  • 2 cups diced brown onions
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • ½ cup red wine (I just used leftover wine)
  • 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 2 cups water (option to add 1 tsp beef Better Than Bouillon optional – I like the additional salty flavor hit) 
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ⅛ tsp fresh ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
Béchamel Sauce Ingredients
  • 6 Tbsp salted butter
  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • 3 cups whole milk (warmed so it is like baby formula)
  • 2 pinches cayenne pepper
  • ¾ cup grated high quality parmesan/reggiano cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees with the rack in the center. 


Boil a large pot of salted water and cook the penne about a minute less than the package directions.  Drain in a large colander and dump into a large bowl. 


In a large straight sided fry pan, cook the ground lamb, breaking it up with a wooden spoon until it is no longer pink, about six minutes.  Add the onions and garlic and cook for another five minutes, stirring once or twice.  Drain this mixture into the same colander in which you cooked the pasta.

Return the drained lamb/onion mixture to the saute pan.  Add the wine and cook until most of the liquid is gone.  Add hot water mixed with Better Than Bouillon if using that, and tomato paste, cinnamon, nutmeg and oregano.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, until it is thick, about 15-20 minutes.  Season with salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste.


In a medium sized saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.  Whisk in flour and let it cook for a couple of minutes whisking constantly.  Slowly pour in the milk a little at a time, whisking so it mixes well with the flour/butter.  Cook until mixture thickens and bubbles, about six minutes.  Stir in cayenne and grated cheese.  Set aside.


Combine cooked penne and meat sauce and mix well.  Place in the bottom of an oiled 9 x 13 inch ceramic dish  Pour the béchamel sauce on top and even it out with a knife.  Bake until lightly browned in spots, about 35 minutes.  

Remove from the oven and let it cool for 15 minutes before serving.

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Winter Cranberry Bread

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Wonderful Winter Cranberry Bread

I know, I know…  I posted a previous Cranberry Bread recipe that I used to think was the bee’s knees and I was content. Then the other weekend, my daughter was at my home and showed me the Smitten Kitchen recipe for cranberry bread.  We were both intrigued and that same night, I made this recipe.  

It blew my sox off people.  It is loaded with cranberries and is a bit of a pain to make because one has to slice those little fresh round berries in half.  Let me tell you, it is worth it.  Totally.  I pretty much stuck to the original Smitten recipe other than using less salt, subbing in regular salted butter (it’s all I had) and topping it with sparkling sugar.  

I am making this over and over and if anyone moves in next door (they will) or has a baby or retires, this is what I am bringing.

Quick tip: I slice the cranberries in half the night before and toast/chop my pecans too.  That way it isn’t so daunting to actually make this.  

Winter Cranberry Bread

Makes One Loaf




¾ cup (85 grams) raw pecans (put in a preheated to 350 degree toaster oven or regular oven for five minutes.  Cool and coarsely chop)

2 cups (8 ounces or 225 grams) fresh or frozen cranberries, halved

6 tablespoons (85 grams) salted butter, melted and cooled to body temperature 

1 cup minus 2 Tbsp (180 grams) granulated sugar

2 medium-to-large oranges, any variety

½ to ⅔ cup (120 to 160 grams) plain unflavored yogurt (mine is always whole milk

1 large egg

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour

Sparkling sugar (about 2 tablespoons), to finish.  I found this with the colorful sugars and such in the baking aisle

*I always weigh my baking ingredients when possible


Heat oven to 350°F. 

Coat a loaf pan (8½ by 4½ or 6-cup volume) with my homemade Pam or nonstick spray. For easier removal, you can line the bottom and two long sides with a sling of parchment paper. Note – I shmeared the entire inside of the bottom and sides and corners liberally with my nonstick mixture and it came out of the pan like a dream. No parchment needed.

Toss the halved cranberries and the chopped roasted pecans together.

Place sugar in a large bowl and zest oranges into it. Use your fingertips to massage the zest into the sugar, breaking it up a bit and releasing more fragrance.

Cut these same oranges in half and juice them into a 1-cup measure; you should end up with between 1/3 and 1/2 cup. Spoon in the plain yogurt until the juice reaches the 1-cup line; whisk to combine.

Whisk cooled, melted butter and egg into zest-sugar mixture. Whisk in the orange juice-yogurt mixture. Sprinkle salt, baking powder, and baking soda on top of this batter and and whisk thoroughly into the batter. Scrape the bowl down. Stir in cranberries and pecans. Stir in flour until it is barely mixed in. 

With a rubber spatula, place batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth out the top with a knife.   Sprinkle the top with sparkly sugar.

Ready for the oven!

Bake mid oven for  60 minutes or longer until a toothpick inserted into the loaf comes out batter-free. Leave it in the pan on a cooling rack until lukewarm, or at room temperature. Gently shake the pan to release the sides and remove the bread to the rack.  Slice into ½ inch pieces to serve.

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