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

Good Grief A Beach House

It’s been 3,079 days since I lost my son and two years to the day, I bought a beach house because of a rock. Yes, you read it. A rock, but not just any rock. Seriously, grief makes one do crazy, impulsive things that you never thought you would or could. It’s true. 

If you follow the blog, I suspect you already know the effect the rock had on me, but for the others, let me explain. I believe my son died before he was ready to go and with that keeps a presence here. There wasn’t a day that went by that he did not end a conversation with an “I love you” and thus he continues to show himself to me with an occasional heart sign. I call these moments “whoosh” and along with seeing a heart I feel a squeeze in my chest as if he is hugging me.

So, it was two years ago while on a vacation I happened upon a house just a few doors down from our rental that was for sale. Just for fun, my husband and I took a walk through the house never intending to buy it, but as we were leaving the property there was this rock nestled in the crushed shells of the driveway. I gravitated to it and my husband immediately said, “he wants us to buy this house.” The rest is history.

The beach house has been a large part of the grief journey not only for me, but for my husband. The property is a stunning, peaceful wildlife refuge on one side with gentle ocean waves on the other. Surrounded by nature it’s a birder’s paradise with nesting osprey, herons and eagles plus all the sea creatures one can imagine.

There is also an 8-point buck that hangs out. He is here.

Swayed by emotion? Trust your instincts. Find your refuge.