Lemon Pepper Planked Salmon, Pesto Pasta Salad

Simple Lemon Pepper Planked Salmon, Pesto Pasta Salad with Artichoke Hearts , Summer Squash, & Cherry Tomatoes

Cedar Plank Salmon

Trying to keep this push up to make clean, healthy meals.  I went out to brunch today and was tempted by a “southern breakfast burrito” with Pork belly, pimento cheese, and the like – it was pretty yummy, but not what the doctor ordered.  After seeing the triglyceride count from my lipid panel, I need to rethink how often I indulge in such things.  With that guilt fresh in my mind, I decided to counterbalance with a simple clean dinner.  The pasta salad I made in advance, with store bought pesto. I wish I had some diced zucchini to add to this when I made it, but it was really great as it was.  The salmon really married well with the pasta salad and if there are leftovers, all can be saved and eaten cold as a healthy lunch the next day. If you don’t have a plank, you can bake this or grill it traditionally.  Happy Eating 🙂



  • Wild caught salmon fillets, cut into 6 oz portions (you can have them do this at store)
  • Fresh Lemon
  • Fresh Ground Black Pepper
  • Low Sodium Tamari Sauce
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion Powder
  • Cedar plank

Soak plank about 30 minutes in water.

Rinse salmon and pat dry with a paper towel.  Mix about 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice and 2 tablespoons tamari in a small bowl, add a pinch of onion powder and garlic powder then brush onto fillets.   Liberally grind fresh pepper onto fish until well peppered.

Place fillets on plank, then put onto medium heat on grill.  Cook for about 12-15 min or until fish is done.


  • Pasta shellspesto pasta salad
  • Fresh pesto, about 1/3 cup
  • Mayonnaise
  • 1 can artichoke hearts in water, drained and cut into thirds
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes washed and cut in half
  • 2 cups Yellow squash, diced
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • Fresh grated DOP Reggiano cheese

Boil water and cook pasta, drain

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients.  Adjust seasonings to taste, refrigerate for 2 hours



20 Minute Marinade Grilled Steaks

20-Minute Marinade Grilled Steaksgrilleed steak

During the week, it is even a challenge for me, a person who loves to cook, to motivate and get busy in the kitchen.  I adapted this recipe from how my dad used to cook steaks on the broiler or on the grill back when we were kids.  The recipe and preparation are both very simple and the result is packed with flavor.  I like to serve this with grilled vegetables (squash and zucchini), sautéed mushrooms made with the leftover marinade, and either roasted or mashed potatoes.


  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustardWorcestershire
  • 1/8 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • Seasoned Salt
  • Fresh Chopped rosemary, oregano, with a garlic clove

Chop the rosemary, oregano, and one large clove of garlic until it forms a paste.  Put in small bowl with mustard, Worcestershire, pepper, and salt.  Stir until all mixed, then pour over your steaks (NY Strip is my preference, rib-eye or sirloin are also good) Let rest for 20 min up to overnight.

Grill steaks:

On medium high heat, sear steaks on each side turning only once, until they reach desired temperature.  Medium rare will be about 5 min per side, medium about 7 min, medium well 8 min depending on your grill.

When steaks are done, remove from heat and place in a serving dish.  Put a pat of butter on each steak, and a dash of Worcestershire. Cover and let rest for 5-8 minutes.

Uncover, serve with Sautéed Mushrooms, grilled veggies, and roasted potatoes.

Drunken Jerk Grilled Chicken Legs


So now that is well into grilling season, I thought this would be a good one to share.  I am a big fan of all things that come out of the Secret Aardvark Hot Sauce Kitchen, and really appreciate the dedication that they put into the craft.  Their Drunken Jerk Sauce is no exception – bold Jamaican flavor and decent heat.  When putting this dish together, I was thinking about ways to enhance the flavors but diminish the heat a little bit and came up with diluting with coconut milk.  This turned out great and can be adapted in many ways – but I really loved the sweet hot flavor profile that came out of this simple dish.


  • A value pack of chicken legs – bone in, skin on.drunken-jerk-sauce
  • ¼ cup Secret aardvark drunken jerk sauce
  • ½ can coconut milk
  • Optional – Fresh Chopped Cilantro

The night before:

Mix marinade ingredients together.  Put chicken legs in a large freezer bag, pour on marinade and let sit overnight.  If you want more heat, increase the Aardvark!

Grill over medium heat turning frequently until internal temp is 160.

Let cool 5 min, then dig in.

Serve with peas & rice, fried plantains, and other assorted yummies.  This works great with wings too, I like legs because they cook evenly and have more meat on them.


Vegetarian Lasagna with Homemade Spinach Noodles & Béchamel

Sunday Dinner Series – Traditional Lasagna with Homemade Spinach Noodles


I apologize again for neglecting this blog, but want to try to kick off a new Series of “Sunday Dinners” with the goal of posting at least once a week.  So I made this today and have a confession – this was the first time I have ever made pasta from scratch.  It was a tad messy, but I did it with a rolling pin – no need for a fancy pasta maker, stand-up mixer, or food processor.  I also made the vegetarian, but you can substitute ground meat and sausage for the “Beyond meat” that I used – which turned out fantastic BTW.   This recipe is adapted from Cook’s Country Best Lost Suppers by Chris Kimball.  I make the pasta first, then the sauce, then the béchamel, then roll out the noodles and compose the dish


  • 3 Cups Semolina flour
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Fresh cracked black pepper
  • 4 oz baby spinach (about 3 cups), chopped
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh minced oregano
  • Water

Pulse the flour, garlic power, and1/2 tsp salt together in food processor (or mix in bowl) to aerate.  Add Spinach, eggs, oil, and oregano and process until dough forms a rough ball (@ 30 – 40 seconds).  If dough resembles small pebbles, add water, a teaspoon at a time, until process until dough forms a ball.  Turn dough out on a clean, floured surface and knead until smooth, about 2 minutes.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 min – 2 hours.  This step can be done in advance and dough kept in fridge for a couple of days until ready to use.

When ready, cut the dough into 4 equal parts, pat into a rough 4-inch square, and run through the rollers of a pasta machine or roll out.  Fold back on itself like folding a towel and roll out again.  Repeat several times.  Dough should be about nickel thick and 5 inches wide.  Store on waxed paper on a baking sheet until ready to assemble.


  • 2 tablespoons butter, 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped fine
  • 1 large carrot, chopped fine
  • 4 mushrooms, diced
  • One 16 oz bag “beyond meat” meat substitute – or can use 1.25 pounds ground beef + 1 sweet Italian sausage
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • Four roma tomatoes, minced
  • 6 oz tomato paste
  • ½ cup red wine
  • 2 cups tomato juice
  • Salt, pepper, red chile flake to taste

Heat the butter and oil over medium heat.  Add the onion, celery, carrot and cook until they begin to caramelize.  Add the mushrooms and beyond meat (or meats) and cook until browned.  Add tomato paste, cook well then deglaze with wine.  Add tomatoes, garlic, and tomato juice.  Bring to boil, then reduce heat to simmer and season to taste.


  • 3 tablespoons unsalted Butter
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 3 cups half + half
  • Nutmeg
  • Salt & pepper

Melt butter in medium saucepan on medium high heat.  Add flour and make roux, when this starts to get dark gold in color, add half and half while whisking vigorously.  Whisk until mixture comes to a boil, then reduce heat & season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.


Add 1 cup sauce to bottom of pan

Add noodles

Add sauce on top of noodles

Top with parmesan / mozzarella cheese blend

Top with béchamel

Repeat layers until casserole is 2/3 full

Top layer is sauce + béchamel + cheese

Bake, covered, at 350 for 40 min.  Remove cover, bake for another 20min, serve with salad and crusty bread.







Review – Whole Foods Cheddar-Jalapeño Salmon Burger with Lemon Garlic Aioli


Some quick and easy meals have been featured this week – mostly due to the fact that I have been working late and trying to get ahead of the curve before business traveling starts in another few weeks.  With the new year, comes new responsibilities, and I will need to stay out in front of those, so I don’t get bogged down.  That being said, I was wandering around whole foods without a plan and these looked pretty good.  Reasonably priced, and apparently made in store.  I served with sliced avocado and a quick garlic – lemon aioli, on a brioche roll.  Would have added lettuce and tomato if I had them available.  Would pair well with couscous or quinoa.  I think the biggest thing is to make sure you have oil in your pan, and use a good seasoned cast iron to prevent sticking.  Finish in oven, and then serve.  It was pretty good – 4/5 stars.  Very Healthy, easy to make, and a great go to weekday dinner.


  • Wild Salmon Jalapeno Cheddar Burgers from Whole Foods
  • about 1/8 cup Mayonnaise
  • juice of 1/2 Lemon
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • olive oil
  • green leaf lettuce
  • fresh tomato
  • avocado slices
  • Buns


Preheat oven to 400.  Heat oil in a cast iron pan over medium -low heat

Place patties in pan, and cook on one side for about 5-8  min, or until brown

Flip patty, cook for a few minutes, then place in oven and cook for about 8 minutes or until cooked through.

Meanwhile, toast your buns, and prepare the aioli by combining lemon juice,mayonnaise, and garlic.

Dress the buns, place the patty on the bun, add sliced avocado, lettuce, and tomato, and enjoy.  Serve with a pasta salad, quinoa, or sweet potato fries.

Nutrition Facts

Whole Foods – Wild Salmon Burger Jalapeño Cheddar

  1. Servings:  
    1 Patty
    1 container (2 patties ea.)
    1 container (2 Patty)
Calories 235 Sodium 330 mg
Total Fat 12 g Potassium 0 mg
Saturated 1 g Total Carbs 8 g
Polyunsaturated 3 g Dietary Fiber 0 g
Monounsaturated 5 g Sugars 0 g
Trans 0 g Protein 21 g
Cholesterol 60 mg
Vitamin A 2% Calcium 2%
Vitamin C 2% Iron 4%


Livia’s Ramen Noodle Hack – Monday Night Special

ramen HackJust when I was considering writing a review for Whole Food’s Cheddar—Jalapeño Salmon burgers, my daughter surprised me with this versatile Ramen Noodle Hack.  She took it upon herself to make her own turmeric-based broth, as, In her words, “broth packets in top ramen are filled with excess sugars, sodium and sneaky beef and stuff.”  Sneaky beef indeed.  She may have coined a great moniker for a new band or Steubenville (Ohio)  HS Football boosters. Time will tell. She has confided n me that she is on hiatus from red meat – a choice she made independently from my no meat January – and is making an effort to go pescetarian moving forward.  That will last until I smoke up some pork ribs, or make homemade buffalo wings.  Look for those yummies in future editions!


  • Firm Tofu (cut into steaks about as think as a deck of cards)
  • Turmeric
  • Black Pepper
  • Soy Sauce
  • Honey
  • Siracha Sauce

Optional Toppings:

  • Green Onions or Chives
  • Thinly sliced mushrooms
  • Spinach
  • Boiled egg
  • Sesame seeds
  • Bean Sprouts
  • Radishes
  • Various veggies


Prepare tofu by cutting into steaks, steam in pan 5 min one side, 3-4 min other side on medium / low heat.  Make a sauce by combining the other ingredients, and adjust seasoning to taste.  Once tofu is done steaming, coat in sauce and let sauce reduce down and caramelize onto the tofu steaks.

Cook Ramen noodles as per package instructions but do not use the packet (lots of MSG in there!) instead when noodles are done, add turmeric, pepper, sirachia, and soy sauce to taste.

Get creative. Use what you have in the house.  Mix it up, and let us know about your combinations. Budget Dining!

Recipe Testing – Smoked Salmon Pasta: Spinach Fettuccine with Mushrooms, Chives, and Lemon Zest, Black Pepper and Asiago- Chèvre Cream Sauce

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Today has been an unmitigated success in the kitchen.  I was craving something a little heartier than a veggie stir fry tonight, so I went around the corner and grabbed some smoked salmon and a lemon and put this together.   I had a dinner party last year with a goat cheese and chive crostini with lemon zest, so I wanted to explore those flavors a bit more.  In my research, a lot of recipes called for cream cheese, but I felt that would be too heavy and the goat cheese would be a nice, lighter substitute.  This turned out delicious – hearty, but tangy and zesty as well.  The mushrooms give a nice subtly earthy  note and add more substance to the dish, really rounding it out on the back end.  Upgrading to a spinach based noodle takes some of the guilt and lowers the glycemic index too! Woo Hoo!


  • Stock Pot
  • Strainer
  • Saucepan


  • ½ lb. hardwood smoked salmon (not lox) , bones & skin removed and rough chopped
  • About ¼ cup chopped chives
  • Zest of ½ lemon
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 2 oz. fresh goat cheese
  • 4 oz. fresh grated asiago (parmesan or Romano will also work)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ pint heavy cream
  • About ¼ lb. chopped mushrooms
  • Spinach Fettuccini
  • Olive oil
  • Butter


Boil Water in stock pot and cook noodles, drain.

Meanwhile, heat butter mixed with a little oil over medium heat in saucepan.  Add mushrooms and lightly salt and pepper.  Add chives and garlic, and once these get going, add lemon juice and salmon. Break up salmon, add cream, goat cheese, lemon zest and reduce heat to low.  Simmer until goat cheese is incorporated, then add asiago.  Simmer and taste, adjust seasoning.

I like to serve this with a simple green salad with a French style-vinaigrette to cut through the cream, a chilled chardonnay like Matanzas Creek or a good Pouilly-Fuissé and crusty Bread.  Bon Appétit!


Recipe Testing – Beer Cheese and Smoked Cheddar Pimento Cheese Spread

pimento cheese spread

Today, I was after a relaxing afternoon at home so I could do some writing for the week (think more blog posts!), do some housecleaning, and just unwind.  I was going through the goody bag left from Christmas and had some beer cheese and a smoked cheddar block from Hickory farms and thought something good could come from making a cheese dip.  Suffice to say, I feel like I nailed it.  The result was quite good –  creamy, smoky, piquant, and tangy.  Sometimes the best things just fall right in your lap.  The recipe also serves as a great cheese dip template.  These are so easy to make, and much better than the prepared ones from the store and better for you as well.  My rule of thumb is to use a sharp cheese mixed with a soft creamy cheese.  Experiment!  Use what you have in the fridge, you may invent the next yummy on the grocery aisle!


  • Cheese grater
  • Bowl
  • Rubber spatula


  • ½ lb. beer cheese, shredded
  • ¼ lb. sharp smoked cheddar, shredded
  • 1 small jar (2 oz.) diced pimentos
  • About ½ cup mayonnaise
  • Fresh black pepper
  • Sweet Hungarian paprika
  • Dash Worcestershire sauce


Place shredded cheese in bowl, drain jar of pimentos, add to cheese.  Add mayo and season to taste with black pepper, paprika, and Worcestershire

Serve with crackers, celery, carrots, or chips.  Tends to go fast!  This will save for about a week, so is a really good one to make ahead if you are hosting, or planning a camping trip, or want to put in your lunch with a bunch of veggies … so very YUM.  For a spicier version, try adding diced jalepeno pepper.  Smoked paprika can also be good in this.  You can try with Extra Sharp Cheddar and white american for a more classic version.




How To Order A Pizza (Friday Night Recipe:))

best pizza ever

How to Order a Pizza

Guess What – It’s FRIDAY and I don’t feel like cooking.  I managed to go to a hot and sweaty 5:30 PM Yoga Class, and at 7:15 had absolutely 0 desire to go to the store, or heat up some frozen thing from my freezer. Thankfully, I have access to all the benefits modern society has to offer, like great Pizza.  Bonus – Vegetarian pizza can be really great!  Vegan Pizza, well lets say I’ve never had one that tasted nearly as good as one with real cheese, but it does exist and is better with lots of hot sauce.  Sorry vegans, but taste does matter.  As does texture.  The important thing about ordering pizza is to make sure your topping / crust ratio does not exceed the capacity of the crust to properly bend and fold.  With that said, here are some other guidelines for amazing pizza experiences:

  • Artichoke hearts are always a good idea
  • Extra Garlic Please
  • Spinach is good, arugula is better. Hold the Kale
  • Olives add to much damn salt, but taste good with pepperoni and sausage
  • Mushrooms are also always a good idea
  • Mozzarella and Fontina Cheese Blend Please
  • Deep Dish – Only in Chicago.  Gut bomb but very tasty.
  • Red Sauce or Olive oil base. Ranch base or alfredo base is just wrong.
  • Chicken alfredo should never be a pizza
  • BBQ chicken can be good but those onions can overpower everything
  • Thinnish Crust baked in a wood fired oven is delightful and better than anything else (See Chicago Exception above)
  • Did I mention that cheese is quite important ?
  • Pepperoni is tasty but causes heartburn.
  • Mushrooms, Sausage, and olives is a carnivore’s delight
  • Hawaiian pizza is tasty and I don’t get why people are weird about it
  • I love ranch dressing but dipping your pizza in the stuff adds like a million extra calories and it drowns out the yummy flavors of the pizza. If you need ranch, maybe you are not getting the right kind of pie!
  • Confession, I love ranch and get it all the time even though it is bad for me. BUT NOT TONIGHT DAMMIT.
  • Mushrooms, Artichoke Hearts, diced tomato, Arugula, garlic, and roasted red peppers with a red sauce base, mozzarella, and Asiago was the winner!

Have a great weekend! Let me know what your favorite pizza toppings are

Cast Iron Hash Skillets – Classic Corned Beef Hash & Sweet Potato, Kale, and Mushroom Hash

I am a big fan of hash – always have been.  I grew up eating the stuff out of the can, and  loved it, and had no idea until I was much older how much better the homemade  version could be, and how easy it is to prepare.  Just before new year’s, I made the corned beef; and on new year’s day I made the veggie hash- incidentally I am doing a “no red meat January” mostly to force  myself to make more of the vegetarian recipes I know, and to develop healthier cooking habits.  The big unifier in both of these dishes are the baked eggs and the paprika-infused horseradish crema.  They are perfectly fine without it, but the crema really takes it up a notch.  Both these dishes are designed to serve 2-3, but you can easily double.  I hope you enjoy and please leave me feedback!corned beef hash skillet




Classic Corned Beef Hash with Baked Eggs and Horseradish Crema


  • 2 cups cubed, cooked corned beef ( I boil one the night before and use the leftovers for this and Reuben sandwiches – that recipe to come later)
  • 1 cup baby carrots,  halved
  • 2 cups diced Yukon gold potatoes
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • ½ cup chopped red bell pepper
  • Chives
  • 4 eggs
  • Prepared horseradish
  • Sour Cream
  • Paprika
  • Black pepper
  • Seasoned Salt
  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Fresh Thyme, chopped, about 1 tablespoon
  • Fresh oregano, chopped, about 1 tablespoon
  • Olive oil


Mix about 1 tablespoon with 1/2 cup sour cream, and a ½ teaspoon approx. of good Hungarian paprika, and a dash or Worcestershire sauce.  Set aside

Preheat oven to 4000.  Put the carrots, onion, peppers, and potatoes in cast iron, mix with about a tablespoon of olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.  And roast until potatoes just start to change color, about 20 min

Remove from oven, stir, add corned beef and chives, put back in oven for about 10 more min until potatoes are cooked through and golden, and corned beef has rendered

Stir again, make four holes in the mixture, and crack an egg in the hole.  Bake for about 5 more min or until eggs have reached desired doneness

Serve with horseradish crema, English muffin or toast.


Vegetarian Sweet Potato, Kale, and Mushroom Hash


  • 2 cups cubed sweet potato or yam
  • 1 cup cubed Yukon gold potato
  • Two big handfuls kale, cleaned, massaged, and tough stems removed
  • 1 cup mushrooms, rough chopped
  • 1 cup onion, rough chopped
  • Fresh Thyme, chopped, about 1 tablespoon
  • Chives
  • 4 eggs
  • Salt, pepper, olive oil
  • Horseradish crema, recipe above

Preheat oven to 400.  Put the potatoes and onions on a baking sheet, toss with olive oil and thyme, season with salt & pepper, and roast until done – about 20 min

Meanwhile, in cast iron, heat oil over medium—heat.  Add kale, mushrooms, chives, and season to taste.  Sautee until done

When potatoes are cooked, add to the kale and mushroom mixture in the cast iron.  Make 4 holes, and crack an egg into each hole.  Put back in oven for about 5 min or until egg is done

Serve with horseradish crema, English muffin, toast and jelly

Let me know your hacks and tips!  There are lots of variations of root vegetables that work with this dish, and mushrooms are a great meat substitute.  I also want to try with field roast veggie sausage to see how that would be.  Enjoy!