Autumn Crunch Pasta Salad

November 9th, 2015


Here is another great idea for Thanksgiving.  Salads are not usually a big part of the holiday feast, but why not?  With the heavy stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole and green beans slathered in cream of mushroom soup and french onion rings, something a little lighter should be a welcomed addition.


The components of this salad are all about Fall; apples, oranges, pecans, baby spinach and dried cranberries.  The pasta is just a small addition that gives the salad body.  I even amped the flavor up by making my sweet Bourbon pecans. This is a refreshing salad for the holidays.  The citrus dressing is light and delightful.

I saw this recipe on Facebook.  It was posted by my DIL’s Mom, Darla.  Since we will all be together for Thanksgiving I think this would be a great dish for our shared table.  Thanksgiving will be at Michael (Our Son) and Kristen’s (Our DIL) home.  They just moved into a new and bigger home that will accommodate all of the family.  We are looking forward to it.  The original recipe, and a much better picture can be found here.


Florence skyscape

A few more pictures of Italy.  We spent four days in Tuscany with a much too short trip into Florence.  But there is so much to do in the region that we were happy with our short trip into this historic city on the Arno River.

DAY 12 - San gimignagno 071

We stopped in San Gimignano, the epitome of a Tuscan hill town.  It still has 14 medieval towers standing out of the original 72.  Family towers were important in the 13th century.  The feuding noble families ran the hill towns and expressed their power by how tall their towers were.  Not much has changed over the years has it?  Although we enjoyed visiting the town, it was a tourist trap.

DAY 12 - San gimignagno 030

Our intrepid tour guide groveled to a new low to please us with a good picture. (although the picture is a little crooked). Notice all of the people eating Gelato around us!

Laurent oh my

But Laurent got his shot of us.  It was just one of many of his professional studies.  We were lucky to have this dear friend as our guide through Italy.  Thank you Laurent and Carole for starting your touring company and allowing us to be your test guests.  You are the best.  If you are interested in traveling in France or Italy by motorcycle or scotters, they will treat you so well. Here is the link.  Ride in Tours is the real thing.



  • 5 ounces fresh spinach (half a 10 ounce bag)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups dry small pasta
  • 3/4 cup chopped celery
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 can (15 ounces) mandarin oranges
  • 1 large Granny Smith Apple
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup pecans
  • Optional: Feta cheese
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2-4 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon each: paprika, onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon poppyseeds
  1. Cook the pasta according to package directions.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, prepare the dressing. In a food processor or blender combine the oil (the vegetable oil yields a richer and in my opinion better taste, but the olive oil is healthier and still tastes great), apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar, sugar, (adjust — more or less to personal preference, we like a less sweet dressing and use about 2 tablespoons) paprika, and onion powder. Pulse or blend for about 10 seconds. Stir in the poppy seeds.
  3. Drain the pasta once it’s cooked through and immediately toss a few tablespoons of the dressing with the pasta. This helps the pasta soak in the dressing and the flavor.
  4. Chill the dressed pasta in the fridge.
  5. Meanwhile, combine the (washed and de-stemmed) spinach with the chopped celery in a large bowl. Add in the cranberries and a can of drained mandarine oranges.
  6. If desired peel the apple (We like to leave on the peel!) and then slice into thin slices. Toss with lemon juice and then add to the salad.
  7. Pour dressing over the salad and toss. Add in the completely cooled pasta and toss with the rest of the salad.
  8. If you want to toast the pecans, place them in a single layer in a dry saucepan (don’t add anything) over medium heat. Stir constantly until the nuts are barely fragrant — just a couple of minutes. Watch carefully as the nuts are VERY easily scorched/burned.
  9. Alternatively, you can candy the pecans if desired. Check the link in the last paragraph of the blog text for how to candy pecans.
  10. Top the salad with the pecans and feta cheese.
  11. Enjoy immediately.
This salad (like most) aren’t very great leftover. If you aren’t eating this immediately, keep the ingredients separate from the dressing and only toss with the dressing right before eating. Top with pecans and feta after dressing the salad.



Honey-Pumpkin Cornbread and Warming Soup

November 3rd, 2015


Taking a break from detailing our Italy trip, I wanted to share with you a tasty combination that I made on a recent cold and blustery day.  With thoughts of Thanksgiving in my mind, the idea of a cornbread with the addition of pumpkin sounded like a good combination. As it turned out, it was a good idea; moist, golden and lightly sweetened with honey.  The soup that I made with it came from one of my favorite blogs, Manger.  It is a combination of French lentils, farro and lots of vegetables.


The feeling I am trying to express in this post is that of warmth and comfort.  The food is the starting point, of course.  But I would like to give you a few more visuals to explain how I am feeling. Perhaps, because I am still dealing with the aftermath of surgery, I need to concentrate on what makes me happy and secure.

Tuscan Villa 1

This Tuscan kitchen made me happy.  There were logs in the fireplace ready for an evening fire on a cool night. ( Wide angle lens tends to make people appear wider).  The gas stove was a dream to cook on and I could have spent an entire vacation in this charming villa.  I wanted to forego the motorcycle touring and just hang out here.

Tuscan Villa 2 View

This was the view from the window.  The church bell rang on the hour all day and all night.  Who needs a watch?

Dream room

This picture is small.  I saw it on Pinterest.  Although it is not necessarily my style these days, it is just like the house that I have seen in my dreams.  I don’t know about you, but I dream about houses.  In my dreams I always have this other house that I have neglected, but that I am very proud of.  I encourage my dream guests to make themselves at home, even though it is cluttered and dusty.  And I wonder to myself in my dream why I do not live there.  It is cozy and comfortable but a little bizarre.  This room lacks that bizarre element, but it is close to my vision.

I am on the mend.  Stitches taken out today.  Life is returning to normal and I am back in the kitchen.  If you are in the mood for some comfort food you will love this cornbread and Mimi’s Soup.



  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest


  1. Preheat the oven to 400F. Lightly butter a 9-inch square-baking pan.
  2. Combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Whisk together the pumpkin puree, eggs, butter, honey, buttermilk and orange zest in a separate bowl. Stir the flour mixture into the pumpkin mixture until moistened; transfer to the prepared baking pan.
  3. Bake until the cornbread pulls away from the sides of the pans and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 20-22 minutes. Cool in the pan 5 minutes. Remove from the pan and cook on a wire rack at least 10 minutes before cutting.

Printable Recipe

Black-Eyed Pea and Arugula Salad

August 28th, 2015

Black-Eyed Pea and Arugula Salad 1

What a bowl full of goodness!  It is hard to see all of it because much of it is hiding in the arugula.  How does brandy soaked cranberries sound to you?  Or that Southern classic, black-eyed peas?  Are you a fan of Asian pears?  In there, all of them.  Succulent Jumbo shrimp are not afraid to show themselves . But the diced red bell pepper, onion and cucumber hunker down in the background.  Everything plays well with a light citrus vinaigrette and we were very happy to dig in. Not a morsel got away from us.

Black-Eyed Pea and Arugula Salad 3

We are very busy right now.  David is doing a lot of the cooking because I have been busy with another project.  He always seems to find the best recipes on the internet.  This recipe was on a feature of Extra Virgin on the Cooking Chanel.  We are watching that show often because of the Italy connection.  We leave for Italy on September 16th.

David has frozen jumbo cooked shrimp in the freezer and is always looking for an excuse to use them.  In addition, he is always looking for healthy recipes. This turned out to be not only healthy, but delicious.  He is keeping us on track this month.

Black-Eyed Pea and Arugula Salad 2

If you are looking for a delicious luncheon or dinner salad, this is a winner.


Citrus Vinaigrette:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
3/4 cup unsweetened orange juice
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper

2 cups canned black-eyed peas, drained
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
5 cups arugula
1 cup sliced seedless cucumber
1 small onion, minced
1 Asian pear, cut into large chunks
1/2 cup dried black currants or dried cranberries, soaked in brandy
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and minced
1 pound cooked, peeled and deveined shrimp

For the vinaigrette: Whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, orange juice, orange zest, parsley and some salt and pepper in a small bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

For the salad: Simmer the black-eyed peas in the chicken broth for 5 minutes. Drain and let cool to room temperature. In a large bowl, toss together the black-eyed peas, arugula, cucumbers, onions, pear, currants and red peppers. Toss with half of the citrus vinaigrette. In a separate bowl, toss the shrimp with the remaining dressing. Add the shrimp to the salad. Serve immediately.

Printable Recipe

Pearl Barley Salad with Harrisa Chicken

August 5th, 2015

Pearl Barley Salad 1

When the weather gets too steamy, dinner inside becomes a haven of cool comfort.  But I still like to putter in the kitchen and a multiple step salad is the perfect solution.  All of the ingredients in this dish need your separate attention.  The broccoli needs to be blanched and put on ice.  The zucchini is sliced in long strips, cooked on a grill pan and then diced. The pearl barley needs to simmer until done.  The chicken needs to marinate a while in the fridge before placing on the grill pan to cook.  The almonds are best browned in a pan.  The rest of the work is just chopping and mixing.  But the end product is worth the effort.  Put on a little music, gaze at the hummingbird feeder outside your window occasionally, and enjoy the time spent.

Pearl Barley Salad 2

In my effort to try grains other than white rice, I found that pearl barley is a nutritious substitute.  It is rich in fiber and essential minerals.  I’m sure this salad would have been even better if I had the called for harrisa pasta in which to marinate the chicken.  Harrisa is a Moroccan paste made from hot peppers and spices. I plan to make this again when I can make it to a Middle Eastern market or my friendly Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s.  Since it only called for 1 teaspoon, I felt safe in leaving it out this time.  I did add spices to my marinade to give the chicken some extra flavor.

Pearl Barley Salad 3 Close

This is a colorful salad with lots of flavor.  It is perfect for a quiet summer evening at home when you have time to chill out in the kitchen.

PEARL BARLEY SALAD WITH HARISSA-SPICED CHICKEN (Adapted from What Katie Ate by Katie Quinn Davies )

1 skinless, boneless chicken breast fillet, cut into thirds lengthways
1/4 cup sliced blanched almonds
1 cup pearl barley
juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for brushing
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 head broccoli, broken into florets
1 zucchini, trimmed and cut lengthways into then strips
3 scallions, trimmed and finely sliced
1/2 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
large handful arugula or other greens to scatter over top

Juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon store-bought harissa paste
1 tablespoon olive oil
Pinch sea salt

To make the marinade, place all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk together.  Put the chicken into a shallow container and pour the marinade over, making sure the chicken is well coated.  Place in the fridge for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Meanwhile, place almonds in a small saute pan and cook over medium heat shaking occasionally until almonds are browned.  Set aside.

Place the pearl barley in a saucepan and cover with 3 cups cold water.  Bring to a boil, then simmer over low heat for 35 minutes.  Drain and rinse with cold water, then set aside in a bowl to cool slightly.  Place the lemon juice, 1 tablespoon olive oil and some black pepper in a small bowl and whisk together, the pour this mixture over the pearl barley, stir to coat and set aside.

Cook the broccoli in a saucepan of simmering water for 2-3 minutes, then drain and plunge immediately into a bowl of iced water.  Drain again and set aside.

Brush each side of the zucchini strips with a little olive oil.  Heat a skillet or grill pan and cook the zucchini strips on both sides until light golden-brown.  Leave to cool slightly before dicing finely.

In the same grill pan over medium high heat cook the chicken with its excess marinade for 10 to 12 minutes or until the chicken is caramelized on the outside and cooked through and the marinade is bubbling.  Remove the chicken and juces an set aside, covered, to rest for 5 minutes before slicing each chicken strip very thinly.

Place the chicken, almonds, pearl barley, broccoli, zucchini, scallions, and tomatoes into a large bowl and mix thoroughly to combine.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Scatter with arugula leaves and serve.

Printable Recipe

Watermelon Blueberry Salsa

July 7th, 2015


Watermelon Blueberry Salsa 3

Our 4th of July celebration was another event to file away in the memory archives, especially for the children.  It is my hope that the Grandchildren and their cousins will always remember the fun, food and the joys of life on the lake.

The food front was well covered.  Everyone contributed something wonderful.  My DIL Kristen made this watermelon blueberry salsa that was out of this world delicious.  She found the watermelon recipe on a blog called Love and Olive Oil.    It is refreshing because of the fruit, a little hot from the jalepeno peppers, complex from the tomato and onion rough puree and brightened by the cilantro.  I couldn’t stop eating it with “scoop” shaped tortillas chips.  Kristen has many creative recipes.  And the good news is that she has recently launched her own blog called MENUbility where she offers practical tips, recipes and family-friendly ideas for dinner.  I have been downloading her free and practical blank grocery shopping list every week.

4th of July 2015 dinner on the porch

Our meals included the typical holiday selections of pulled pork, grilled ribs, hamburgers, chicken and lots of interesting sides.  Our evening gatherings on the porch were a special part of our days.

Wine tasting 2015 We also held our annual wine tasting.  This year’s wines were Viognier white wines. Viognier is a white wine grape variety originating in the Rhone Valley in France.  It is now produced in many parts of the U.S.  The winner was a 2012 K Vintners from Columbia Valley in Walla Walla, Washington.  On the right of the table are 4 juices for the kids’ tasting.  Thanks Dave A. for choosing and bringing the wine like you do every year.  Great job.

Grandkids juice tasting 2015 I guess you can tell that Cameron was not too fond of the carrot juice.  The winner turned out to be a tie between the strawberry and pomegranate juice.

Kristen and Keenan 2015

Kristen enjoyed teaching her niece Keenan how to make great Macaroni and Cheese.  Keenan has a great interest in cooking since we seem to be a family almost obsessed with it.  Kristen’s recipe is on her blog.

Watermelon Blueberry Salsa 2

I know you will love this Watermelon Blueberry Salsa recipe also.  Thank you to Love and Olive Oil.  Thank you also to Darla for taking many of the pictures.



  • 4 small Roma tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped (discard seeds for a milder salsa)
  • 1 cup diced watermelon
  • 1/2 cup fresh blueberries
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice (from 1 lime)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  1. Combine tomatoes, onion, and jalapeno in the bowl of a food processor; pulse briefly or until finely chopped (do not fully liquefy). If you don’t have a food processor, you can finely chop the ingredients by hand.
  2. Transfer tomato mixture to a medium bowl; stir in watermelon, blueberries, cilantro, lime juice, and salt.
  3. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to develop.

Printable Recipe

© Penny Klett, Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen. All rights reserved.