Pan-Fried Gnocchi with Butternut Squash, Bacon, & Brown Butter

Things are about to get awfully quiet around here. And I’m not going to like it.

Last spring, one roommate abandoned me for San Francisco—something about it offering more amenities than Steubenville. I know: crazy talk. Now, in a little over a  week, my other roommate will abandon me for a small apartment two blocks away (and a bit deeper in the local ’hood). Apparently, she wants to actually live with her new husband after they get married. It happens.

So, here I am, facing the impending winter and a whole lot of quiet. Accordingly, the melancholic in me has been thinking back to last fall, when the house was full up with girls.

Granted, getting all of us in one place sometimes felt like a minor miracle. Between travel, boyfriends, and work, it didn’t happen very often. But when it did, there was always food involved— like the crisp November night, when I decided to investigate what happened when you fry gnocchi in brown butter, then toss it with roasted butternut squash, bacon, sage, and pumpkin oil.


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Sweet and Savory Quinoa Salad

Dating in your 40s is a little like dating in your 20s. You still plan fun trips together and talk about cool new cocktail bars. But, you also talk about blood pressure and progesterone levels and all sorts of middle age problems that you barely knew existed in your 20s. You also wonder things like, “If we get married and have kids, will I live to see them graduate from college?” And, because of that, you do things for your boyfriend like make him a week’s worth of “healthy” lunches.


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Roasted Potato, Bacon, and Kale Salad

It was supposed to be a simple dinner. It was supposed to be quick, easy, and nothing about which I had to fret my little head…which is full up with fret these days because, as usual, I’ve taken on too much work. Supposed to be, supposed to be, supposed to be.

Actually, in one way, it was simple. It was simply a disaster.

Here’s what happened.

Last week, my boyfriend Chris came over for dinner. The original plan was pizza margarita, with some kind of warm side salad. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of using a frozen pizza dough I’d never tried before. Yes, I know I could have made my own dough. Yes, I know that would have been easier and healthier and yada, yada, yada. But I’ve been trying to cook from the overflowing freezer this month, and my roommate had purchased the dough a while back. It needed to be used.

Anyhow, the dough was apparently made with superglue, as it stuck to everything it touched: the counter, the pizza paddle, my hands. I couldn’t move it off the counter in one piece, let alone get it on the pizza stone. It was your basic kitchen nightmare, with sauce and cheese flying and the oven smoking and me crying. Poor Chris.

In the end, after employing a few choice words, I just folded the stupid thing in half, threw it in the oven, and called it strombolli. It was…fine.

But the salad?

Double Long 2 Continue reading

Carrot, Apple, & Ginger Soup

Right now, everything in my world is a different shade of gray. The sky, the ground, the roads—all of it. Gray, gray, gray, gray, gray. It’s everywhere. I hear they even made a movie about it.

Don’t believe me? Think I’m exaggerating? This is the view from my kitchen, people.

Gray 2

It’s a gray, gray world.

And I know, this is Lent. I know Christians are being beheaded in the Middle East. And I know some lunatic “caliph” is trying to usher in the end times. Given all that, it’s good to have little things, like the weather, to offer up.

But I still need color.

So, on Monday, I took matters into my own hands and made carrot soup.

Three bowls wide

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Lamb Biryani

Last month marked the thirteenth anniversary of my move to Steubenville. I was only supposed to be here for two years…three tops. God, however, had other plans.

When people ask me why I haven’t left yet, I usually tell them,  “I have many sins for which I need to atone.” I’m only half joking.

That’s not to say there’s nothing to love in this rusty, corrupt, polluted old town. There are beautiful babies and beautiful families; holy, generous, souls, who give more of themselves to God in a day than I’ll likely give in a lifetime; and brilliant scholars, who see the truth of the world more deeply than I’ll ever see it. There’s real friendship and real community, here. There also are $600 mortgages for 4 bedroom homes.

I’m not entirely sure which would be the harder thing to leave: the community or the real estate market.

So, that’s what Steubenville has. What it doesn’t have is beauty…and…culture….and clean air. It’s also seriously lacking an Indian restaurant. For me, this is almost as big a problem as the chewy water. Accordingly, in order to keep my sanity about me, I’ve learned to satisfy my cravings for Indian food in my own kitchen. And if I do say so myself, the results of my effort aren’t half bad.

Serving Sun

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Sausage, Kale, & Tomato Soup

Our pasts have a way of writing themselves on our bodies. At least for me, that’s especially true of my hands.

For example, the scar on my right index finger? That’s from the Christmas party in 2005 when I nearly sliced off the tip with a bread knife. The mark on my right thumb? A lemon zester in 2011. The massive scar on my right palm comes from a 2013 run-in with a chef’s knife. And the jagged line on my left index finger owes it beginnings to an aluminum can and a batch of Sausage, Kale, and Tomato Soup in 2007.

That whole “pasts writing themselves on our bodies” thing isn’t as romantic as it first sounded, right?

Regardless, the soup was totally worth it.


That 2007 injury, in particular, stands out, because it’s the only one that ever  sent me to the Emergency Room in the middle of a dinner party. Somewhere between browning the sausage and opening the cans of tomato sauce, I sliced my finger on the jagged edge of a can’s lid. At that point, like a good (albeit deranged) hostess, I wrapped my finger in gauze, held it aloft, and finished cooking the soup, dripping blood be damned.

Not until everyone was served, did I let my friend’s husband drive me to the hospital, leaving 20-plus adults and unknown numbers of children  to enjoy their dinner in my living room.

Apparently, the soup was a rousing success. Two hours later, when I returned home with my eight stitches, my friends were still there, but the soup was gone.

I know…some friends.

Spice Jars

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Lamb and Sweet Potato Stew

In my family, the men cook. At least most of them do. My brother-in-law Andy can’t boil water (or so my sister Annmarie claims), but the rest know their way around the kitchen, including my dad.

Mind you, that wasn’t always the case. When my sisters and I were little, our mom worked the occasional evening shift in a local bookstore. On those nights, Dad’s answer to the dinner question all too often involved eggs and pancakes. Our response to that menu, just as often, involved tears. To this day, none of us want anything to do with breakfast for dinner.

With time, however, Dad’s culinary skills improved, and a few years back, when I was home visiting, Mom went out for the evening and he whipped up a lamb and mushroom stew for us. This time, there were no tears.

Since then, I’ve played around with Dad’s original recipe quite a bit, including nixing the canned mushrooms (sorry Dad) and adding spiced sweet potatoes. Now, when the windows start to frost over, I head to the store in search of inexpensive lamb.

Last week, the windows did this:

Frost FR


Hence, lamb was on the menu.

The great thing about this stew is that it seems impressive. After all…lamb. But it’s actually a ridiculously simple dish. Also, if you find lamb shoulder on sale (which I did—thank you, Kroger), it’s as cheap as it is simple, making it a natural choice for a winter dinner party…or an easy family dinner. The groceries for the stew came in at just under $10. If there weren’t tomatoes in the freezer (put up from last summer’s garden), it would have cost $12.

Shrooms FR

Meat FR





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