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Countertop Review

This time last year I was packing up our house to prepare for our down-to-the-studs renovation in our kitchen, family room, and master bath as well as the addition of a screened porch. The family room wasn't originally part of the plan, but that's a post for another time. The kitchen was where I really had to plan and scheme, and, yes even fret, to stay in our footprint and budget and to get the function and look I wanted. I love a challenge like this, though, so despite some occasional frustration with my client (aka me! ), I enjoyed the process. A key "want" of mine was honed marble countertops. There are dozens--maybe hundreds--of blog posts, articles, and showroom sites that compare various types of countertop materials and their pros and cons. I read most of them and took notes from a lot of them in the months leading up to our start date. One of the most helpful things was visiting a sweet friend's kitchen, where I was able to ask questions about cleaning, a

Dinner for Two: Soup and Salad

Sometimes it seems as if it was easier to plan meals and prepare weeknight suppers for a family of five than it is for just the two of us. I guess I'm still adjusting to cooking for two without having loads of leftovers. Tom and I are trying to eat smarter and healthier, and for the new year, I'm trying to stick to simple meal planning based on a rotation of soup + salad, chicken, fish, and beef or pork. That gives us four nights a week, which seems about right. Usually we meet friends or go out at least one night a week, and we usually have some variation of breakfast on Thursdays or Sundays.

Lemony Kale Salad with Pine Nuts
One of my new go-to combinations is this soup, which was inspired by Ina Garten's Roasted Tomato Soup. If you look at the recipe, you'll see that I've made a couple of significant changes, but I promise it is a delicious vegetarian option!

Tomato Pumpkin Soup
1 small yellow or red onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp butter
2 large cans of crushed tomatoes with basil (preferably organic)
32 oz chicken or vegetable stock
1 can pumpkin puree
2 tsp Kosher salt
2 tsp smoked paprika
dash of Tabasco
dash or two of Worcestershire

vegetarian soup
Tomato Pumpkin Soup
Brown onion and garlic in butter until translucent, add stock and both cans of crushed tomatoes. Then add all the seasonings and simmer on low for 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in pumpkin, which will thicken the soup beautifully. Taste, and add salt and pepper, if desired. If you don't mind a little dairy, you can add a quarter cup of half and half or cream for extra richness. The leftovers are perfect for lunch!

Another new favorite is this Lemony Kale Salad, which a co-worker brought to a holiday pot luck. I'm not usually a kale lover, but I have made this at least once a week for the past month. The difference is the Tuscan or "dinosaur" kale, which is darker and more tender to the bite than the curly kale. I've only found Tuscan kale at Trader Joe's, but I bet Whole Foods and the Fresh Market stock it. I'm hoping Publix and Aldi will soon.

Tuscan kale salad
Lemony Kale Salad with Pine Nuts

I think the original recipe was published in The Boston Globe, and, once again, Ina has a version in Cooking for Jeffrey.  This version is carb-free, but you could add toasted panko or croutons, if you like. Unlike most dressed salads, this holds up very well for several days. So, so good!

Lemony Kale Salad

1 bag of Tuscan or dinosaur kale, washed and torn into bite-sized pieces (remove tough stems)
2/3 cups of olive oil
juice of 2 to 3 lemons or about 1/3 cup
1 scant Tbsp dijon mustard
1 tsp minced garlic
2 tsp kosher salt
1/3 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
1/4 grated or shaved Parmesan, optional

Toast pine nuts over low heat in a small skillet on the stovetop. Watch carefully as they will brown quickly. Remove from heat when lightly toasted and set aside. Combine the olive oil with the juice of 2 or 3 lemons, the mustard, garlic and salt. Whisk well; put in a jar and shake, or use a motorized blender to emulsify the dressing.

Pour the dressing over the kale and toss well. I have found that "massaging" the dressing onto the kale with my hands is worth the little bit of mess, but you can toss well with a couple of forks, too.

Top with pine nuts and toss lightly. You can also add Parmesan, if you like. Serve at room temperature or store in fridge until ready to eat.

What are you cooking these days? Any meal planning tips?


  1. I love making soups in the colder months. I have to make sure they are meaty for the hubby. I have had more luck finding soup recipes on blogs and scouring the Internet than my recipe books. It won't be long before soup weather turns to something else. The salad looks tasty.

    1. I hope you like the soup, Sandy. It is on a regular rotation around here now, and the salad is soooo good. Stay warm!

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  2. I will be making the soup today to serve when my inlaws are here for a busy birthday party weekend for my youngest. Looks perfect to heat up on a snowy day. Thank you!

    1. The soup is so good, and even better the second day. Hope you have a fun birthday weekend!

  3. I will try this!Sounds interesting and EASY TO BOOT!!!

  4. You are SO welcome! I hope you love it. The salad is definitely better the next day. Thank you for commenting!

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