About Lisa

Mom, wife, retired physician assistant and multi award winning home cook including Food Network CHOPPED CHAMPION

Good Grief Going Old School

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Yesterday, I attended a family reunion. It was a Sicilian love fest! I felt so fortunate to grow up in a neighborhood where all my aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents lived within blocks of each other. Stuck like glue everyone gathered including those who have gone before us thanks to old home movies which were shared on a big screen. 

The more remarkable story has to do with this lady who was in attendance. She is 89 years old. Her name is Miss Robbina. She is not a blood relative, but totally part of our family. Miss Robbina was my 6th grade teacher at McKinley School in Westfield, NJ. Over the years, she taught many of my cousins, siblings and nephews, as well. She raised us up. She engaged with our parents. They were a team of high expectations and a force to be reckoned with if:

  1. We were not doing our homework
  2. Misbehaving in class
  3. Not living up to our potential
  4. Late to class
  5. the list goes on…

As much as we might try to “divide and conquer” the adults they were always in control because they supported each other.  The teachers back then were extensions of our families. Bring back the good old days in our schools. 

Inspired by those I love most here is a family friendly recipe that was recently chosen as a winner in the Explore Cuisine recipe contest. With roasted cauliflower, salty capers and sweet golden raisins it’s an old school rustic recipe updated with red lentil penne.

Skillet Roasted Sicilian Cauliflower Red Lentil Penne

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 (8 oz) box Explore Cuisine Organic Red Lentil Penne

½ large head of cauliflower, sliced into 3/4-inch planks

2 tablespoons olive oil

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

¼ cup golden raisins

2 tablespoons small capers, rinsed, drained

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

Freshly grated parmesan cheese

Cook penne according to package directions reserving ½ cup of pasta cooking liquid. Separate sliced cauliflower into small florets. Drizzle olive oil over bottom of large unheated skillet. Add cauliflower in a single layer. Sprinkle with pepper flakes. Cover skillet and cook cauliflower over medium-high heat for 5 minutes or until nicely browned. Remove cover, stir cauliflower. Add golden raisins, capers, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Add cooked pasta, reserved pasta water and parsley; toss well. Serve topped with pine nuts and parmesan.

Warm Pear Pad Thai Salad

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I am taking part in the “USA Pears Blogger Recipe Challenge”. This is my first entry into the side dish category.

USA Pears are at their peak of freshness right now, so I’m simply happy to accept this challenge using this beautiful versatile fruit. The fact that northwest pears come in 10 varieties and work well in both savory and sweet dishes get me excited about breaking away from the traditional side dishes I typically serve this time of year. I personally love Bosc and Anjou pears for baking, but any firm ripe pear variety works in this salad recipe. Pick your favorite. 

I hope you are ready to tingle your taste buds with this Pear Pad Thai Salad. It’s the “pear-fect” side dish to your roasted poultry, beef tenderloin or fish and will absolutely satisfy any take-out cravings. Here is the bonus: If you just happen to have a vegetarian guest at your table this really could be their meal, so no fretting as to what to serve them.

This Thai inspired pear noodle salad checks off the boxes for authentic Asian flavors. It’s crispy, crunchy, salty, sweet and tangy and in the time it takes to boil some noodles it’s ready to go.

Warm Pear Pad Thai Salad

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Peanut Dressing

½ cup smooth peanut butter

¼ cup warm water

¼ cup rice vinegar

2 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon Thai fish sauce

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

½ teaspoon Thai red curry paste

Pear Pad Thai Salad

2 firm ripe USA pears, julienned (do not peel)

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

8 ounces pad Thai noodles, rice noodles or soba noodles

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

1 red bell pepper, julienned

1 carrot, julienned

¼ cup thinly sliced scallions including some of the bright green

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, plus additional for garnish

¼ cup chopped roasted peanuts

2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds

In a bowl, whisk all the Peanut Dressing ingredients together until well blended; set aside. In another bowl, toss pears with lime juice; set aside. Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain noodles. In large bowl, toss noodles with sesame oil and ¼ cup of dressing.  Add pears, including the lime juice, bell peppers, carrot, scallions and cilantro; toss to combine. Pour remaining dressing over salad; toss again. Sprinkle with peanuts and sesame seeds. Garnish with cilantro. Serves 6.

For more information and delicious recipes check out the website www.usapears.org and their social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram) @usapears

Salted Chocolate Pear Pound Cake

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I am taking part in the “USA Pears Blogger Recipe Challenge”. It’s holiday time and I am delighted to share my delicious recipe entries with you! 

USA Pears are at the peak of freshness right now, so I’m simply happy to accept this challenge using this beautiful versatile fruit. The fact that northwest pears come in 10 varieties and work well in both savory and sweet dishes got my creative juices flowing. I personally love Bosc and Anjou pears for baking. 

First up in the Baking category is what I like to call my “bake two share one” recipe. This recipe allows you to indulge yourself as well as a friend. Friendsgiving is a thing. Wrapped and tied with a bow it makes the perfect hostess gift or teacher present. No better way to show your gratitude than with this stunning homemade cake.

I can’t tell you how much I love this gorgeous moist and flavorful Salted Chocolate Pear Pound Cake. Scented with the warmth of cardamom, coffee and a burst of chocolate flavor this cake is filled with chunks of juicy pears and simply dusted with flaked salt and powdered sugar.

Salted Chocolate Pear Pound Cake

4 firm ripe USA Pears, 2 Bosc pear plus 2 Anjou

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

2 cups hot water

2 teaspoons instant espresso powder

12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

2 cups sugar

2 eggs

Flaked finishing salt

Powdered sugar

Heat oven 350F. Spray two 8-9 inch x 5-inch loaf pans with baking spray. Line pans with strips of parchment paper and lightly spray paper. Slice the Bosc pears in half lengthwise just off center from the stem. Do not peel. Place the pear, cut-side down, on a mandoline and thinly slice. You will need 6 slices of pear for each pan. (I like to cut 3 slices from each half.) Remove seeds from slices, if needed. Gently press 3 slices of pear along each side of the long side of loaf pan. Peel, core and small dice the Anjou pears. Toss diced pears with 2 tablespoons of flour until coated; set aside. In a small bowl, whisk flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, cardamom and salt; set aside. Stir water and espresso powder together until espresso is dissolved; set aside. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar for 3 to 4 minutes or until well combined. Add eggs; blend well. With mixer at low speed, gradually add half of the dry ingredients. Slowly add coffee until combined. Add remaining dry mixture; blend well scraping down sides of bowl and beater as needed. Fold in diced pears and excess flour. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake 65 to 70 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan before turning out on a wire rack to cool. Remove parchment and turn cakes upright. Sprinkle top of cake with flaked salt while cake is still warm. Coll completely. Dust with powdered sugar just before slicing and serving.

And here is a tip on how to tell if a pear is ripe. Just press your finger into the neck end of the pear. If the stem moves it’s perfectly ripe, juicy and delicious. For more pear tips and delicious recipes check out the USA pear website at: https://www.usapears.org and social media pages (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram) @usapears.