Table for Two: Greek Lemon Chicken and Rice Soup

GotMyReservations Table for Two RecipesLeftover veggies and chicken in your fridge? Try Greek Lemon Chicken and Rice Soup for a healthy and satisfying dinner. When combined with a piece of bread and some fresh fruit, you’ve got an easy meal!

This recipe is a version of avgolemono, which in Greek means a soup or sauce made with chicken stock, egg yolks, and lemon juice. There are many different versions of this recipe online, but this soup must start with the three main ingredients, and rice and chunks of chicken are usually added.

The recipe I used made sixteen servings, so I cut it down to four servings for the empty nest using the built-in calculator on the allrecipes web site. Then I doubled the amount of veggies called for in the original recipe amount. By blending the vegetables and stock into a thick base before adding the meat and rice, you get a hearty soup chock full of veggies without sacrificing the original flavor concept of the soup. Continue reading

The Morning After: Downton Abbey Brunch

Setting the table in Downton Abbey style was lots of fun. Hearing from so many of you was wonderful. Having my husband shout at the television last night, saying, “They’re measuring the silverware just like you said!” was even more fun.

GotMyReservations Downton Abbey Tablescape Intro

And so was actually eating at the table.

I will admit that I took down the big candlelabra and replaced it with a five-candle silver candlelabra so that we could actually see each other. Unlike what happened in Downton Abbey last night — remember when they “turned the table”? — my guests were allowed to talk across the brunch table. It’s just not that big.

We removed all the dishes from the staged table in order to serve the brunch plated. Since there were only five of us, it was easy to plate at my kitchen island and serve directly to the table. My husband made a wonderful footman and we had a relaxed couple of hours. We even broke every Downton Abbey rule by keeping the kitchen television on (muted, of course), so Music Man could keep track of the football games. Continue reading

Food Network Star Damaris Phillips Hits the Right Notes in Our Empty Nest

Got My Reservations 25 Days of Christmas 2013 Medium Button15 days until Christmas, and we’re making progress. How are you doing?

Over the last two weeks I have made two recipes from Damaris Phillips’s new show on the Food Network, entitled Southern At Heart. And they were both fabulous.

I’m going to be perfectly frank here; I was not convinced about Damaris when she won Food Network Star this year. Although I liked loved her unfiltered personality, I wasn’t sure that she had what it takes to join Alton, Giada, Ree, or even Guy (not my favorite) on her own show.

She has proven me wrong.


I like everything about the show. I like how she starts by visiting a local Louisville purveyor to get her special ingredient. I like the guys who have signed on to be taught to cook a special meal for their sweethearts. I like her sass and I like her recipes.

Recipes are where it’s at in the rundown to Christmas.

What is usable and what is not? If you are going to try something new that’s out of your traditional rut, where do you want to go?

Click into photo for recipe.

Beer Mac and Cheese. Click into photo for recipe.

We made the Beer Cheese and Mac and her Curry Cauliflower and Rice casserole in the last two weeks, and they were both winners in the empty nest. I highly recommend that you consider these recipes for your Christmas entertaining. Both have unexpected ingredients that take a familiar recipe to the next level, and that’s why I recommend them.

On the Christmas countdown tally sheet, we’ve ticked off some items. We set up the three new pillow top mattress sets in anticipation of the Christmas Gathering of the Clan, bought a paper towel holder (isn’t it always the mundane things that drive you crazy when people are working in your kitchen?), and talked to the visiting English chef/daughter’s boyfriend about the menu. He says he can make naan bread from scratch. Really??? I’m pretty sure I would buy it from my local Indian market — we live in Chicagoland and we are fortunate that there are actually Indian markets that are likely to be open on Christmas day, but I’m willing to let him do whatever he wants. That’s what I promised, a no-drama mama Christmas. 🙂

How are you doing on your preparations? Do you have your gifts purchased? I’m almost done with that as well; thank goodness for online shopping! Thanks for stopping by to see how Music Man and I are getting ready for Christmas in our empty nest.

Got my bags, got my reservations,
Spent each dime I could afford.
Like a child in wild anticipation,
I long to hear that, “All aboard!”

Music and lyrics by Bud Green, Les Brown and Ben Homer (1944)

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Market Fresh: Creamed Swiss Chard


A bunch of fresh rainbow swiss chard, straight from the Farmers’ Market, is a rare thing of beauty (even if the photo is a little out of focus — sorry).

My new trainer told me that I had to eat even more veggies and much less fruit than I have been, so off to the Farmers’ Market I went, ready to try new greens.

I grabbed this bunch of beautiful rainbow swiss chard and a huge bunch of kale and stuffed them into my oh-s0-green-unbleached canvas market bags. When I got them home, they practically engulfed my kitchen island.

So what’s to do with rainbow swiss chard? After searching my extensive recipe files 🙂 the internet I found a nice recipe from Martha Stewart. I rarely cook from Martha’s recipes anymore after I read the tell-all book, Martha Stewart: Just Desserts, and learned that her recipes often have missing or incorrect ingredients. But maybe that was before she became an internet maven…

The first thing that I did was clean the chard; I trimmed the bad ends from the stalks and washed the leaves thoroughly. Then, following directions from the recipe, I cut all the stalks into small pieces and started sauteeing them with the onions and garlic.

Then I cut the leaves into strips, which was really fun. When you roll up a chard leaf, it’s easy to make clean strips of beautiful green. My huge bunch of chard filled a colander to overflowing, but when you cook it down, it becomes just enough for four servings of creamy deliciousness.

I made the white sauce — VERY EASY, ladies — and grated in lots of fresh nutmeg. Since I was only using one bunch of chard, I altered the white sauce recipe to serve four rather than twelve, and I used skim milk. No problem with the sauce thickening up, and it tastes just fine.

I am cooking for the empty nest, so I poured the finished product into four ramekins and topped them with a few pinenuts for crunch. I never met a pinenut I didn’t like, by the way.

Served with a sliced tomato and a white cheddar cheese log, also fresh from the market, we had an easy and delicious light lunch on a busy Saturday.

I have no reservations about recommending Martha Stewart’s recipe for Creamed Swiss Chard!

I’m linking up today to On the Menu Monday at Stonegable — be sure to stop by to see what other bloggers have to share today.



Bookin’ and Cookin’ — Mr. Darcy’s Secret and Spinach Herb Quiche

Jane Odiwe’s Jane Austen sequels have been sitting on my Goodreads list for a while. I haven’t had much success with Austen sequels; most writers have tried to match Austen’s witty prose and failed and then replaced the wittiness with sex. They were boring and an insult to my beloved Jane’s memory. Some even added zombies and sea monsters to the mix. This one was different and deserves the 4 out of 5 star ratings it receives on both and Goodreads.

Click the book cover to read Chapter One of Mr. Darcy’s Secret from Jane Odiwe’s website.

Elizabeth and Darcy arrive at Pemberley after their marriage, ready to begin a new chapter in their lives. Lizzy is learning to be the mistress of a great estate and in order to encourage Georgiana to be more outgoing, a great ball for her society debut is held at Pemberley. Of course, there is the usual Austen drama involving class struggles, and Elizabeth also tries to reconcile Lady Catherine with Darcy after their falling out over the marriage.

While its suggestive title may lead one to believe otherwise, Mr. Darcy’s Secret is primarily about Georgiana’s love story. She struggles with accepting a marriage proposal from an eligible but indifferent  suitor but wants to be dutiful and obey her strong-minded and well-meaning brother. All the while,  she is indulging in innocent flirtation with an entirely unsuitable prospect, the landscape architect hired to do some design work on Pemberley’s gardens. As in Jane Austen’s stories, how Georgiana resolves her dilemma is the main story line — and of course, it resolves in a fully Janeite way.

The title refers to a skeleton from Pemberley’s past that the Darcys have in their closet. Trust Caroline Bingley and the local gossip Mrs. Eaton to try to destroy Elizabeth and Darcy’s happy new marriage with hints of secret affairs and illegitimate children, requiring a stiff upper lip and a lot of standing by her man by Elizabeth.

Jane Odiwe uses Austen’s voice effectively, especially when she mimics Mrs. Bennett and Lady Catherine de Bourge, and she continues the characterization created by Austen in her books. All of your favorite characters from Pride and Prejudice show up for their cameos, including the Bingleys, the Bennetts, the Wickhams, the Collinses, the Gardiners and of course Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy.

While thinking about what I would match up with Mr. Darcy’s Secret for my Bookin’ and Cookin’ series, I stumbled across a wonderful resource. Created by the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, the website has many interesting bits and bobs about Jane. Here also, Janeites can find Regency recipes that Austen’s characters might have been eating, with modern remixes for modern cooks. Spinach Herb Quiche has an interesting history; it is originally a torta recipe from the Renaissance cookbook written by Platina in 1465 and then collected and republished as Cariodoc’s Miscellany by David Friedman and Elizabeth Cook.

Spinach Herb Quiche

Rating: 41

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 50 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Yield: 4 Servings

Serving Size: 1/4 of pie

A modern remix of an ancient recipe from Renaissance cookbook author, Platina, a Regency version of Spinach Herb Quiche might easily have appeared on the table at Pemberley.


  • 9" frozen unbaked pie crust
  • 3/4 lb cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 t marjoram (dry or fresh)
  • 1/2 t sage (dry or fresh)
  • 1 t fresh mint
  • 1/2 c fresh parsley, stems off
  • 1/4 c spinach
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup skim milk


Chop all herbs and spinach in food processor. Place in the pie shell.

Grate cheese or chop in food processor. Layer on top of herbs and spinach mixture in pie shell.

Beat egg whites lightly.

Mix milk and eggs together. Pour over greens and cheese mixture in pie shell.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Bake in 400 degree oven for 10 minutes; then lower heat to 350 degrees and bake for about another 40 minutes.

Let rest before cutting into wedges for serving.


While this recipe was fun to make and we enjoyed the unique taste of the herbs, you might prefer my all-time favorite from Julia Child -- Quiche au Fromage de Gruyère, Hambon et Brocoli

Source of original recipe:

Delicious Leftovers a la Pastitsio

You may have noticed that I’ve been mostly AWOL from my blogs in the past few weeks. I took on the challenge of producing the musical Godspell at my church and it has turned into a massive time-sucker. I agreed to do this mostly because without participating, I would have ended up being a Godspell widow.  Translation? Music Man is the band leader and musical arranger for the show and I would be left at home by myself if I didn’t do something for the show. Perhaps taking on the role of producer was a larger step than was necessary, but as my friend Charlotte says, “Shut up and stop complaining; you’re doing it for God!”

Anyway, we didn’t have rehearsal tonight, but we did have a lot of leftovers in the refrigerator. A takeout container full of yummy curry from our favorite Thai restaurant. Mushrooms that needed the Julia Child sautee method. Right now. A plastic container full of frozen beef stew — mostly broth, onions, and carrots. Some beans and ground beef remaining from last week’s taco salad night.

What’s a girl to do with this disparate collection of bits and pieces?

Make a casserole! My favorite food in the whole world. We can’t go wrong by adding some noodles and cheese. Yum.

I used Ina Garten’s recipe for Pastitsio, and created something out of essentially nothing. I don’t think I’ve ever made a flat-out bechamel sauce, and it was so good that it was all I could do to keep from just inhaling it straight out of the pan.

Turns out my leftovers were delicious and husband-approved on a busy night. I will make this again, and I might even follow the original recipe. Or probably not, since we don’t often have leftover lambie in the house…

Slow Cooker Lasagna

The first time I saw this recipe, I was intrigued. It didn’t seem possible to make lasagna in a slow-cooker. It couldn’t be that easy. Well, it is. But I needed to Jennie-ize the recipe to get it to work for the Empty Nest. And then we had friends over to help us eat it so there wouldn’t be much left over. A win-win on all counts. 

Slow Cooker Lasagna

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 6 hours

Total Time: 6 hours, 30 minutes

Yield: 6-8 Servings

Slow Cooker Lasagna

I originally found this recipe at The Charm of Home and revised it by adding eggs and more veggies.


  • 1-28 ounce jar spaghetti sauce
  • 9 whole wheat lasagna noodles -- uncooked.
  • 1 pound of cooked and crumbled lean ground beef -- optional (for a veggie version, try soy crumbles)
  • 1-15 ounce low-fat cottage cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp Italian herbs of your choosing -- basil, oregano, bay leaf -- or be creative
  • 2 cups fresh baby spinach and baby kale leaves
  • 1 cup fresh mushrooms, sauteed and drained (optional)
  • 3 cups mozzarella cheese (shredded)


In cooking and assembling the ingredients, you are making five layers -- sauce, noodles, meat (optional), soft cheese mixture, veggies, and mozzarella.

On the bottom of the slow cooker, put a thin layer of sauce to start building the lasagna. I buy jarred organic spaghetti sauce with onions, garlic, and peppers already in it. Create your own if you want to make your own sauce.

Layer three uncooked lasagna noodles on top of the sauce. My rectangular slow cooker fits three almost exactly, and you have to break them in half in my round cooker.

Add a layer of meat if you are using it.

Add a layer of the cottage cheese/egg/herbs mixture. Mix the eggs and herbs in with the cottage cheese to help hold together the custard.

Add a layer of leafy veggies and a layer of mushrooms.

Add a layer of mozzarella cheese.

Continue layering -- how many layers you have depends on the size of your slow cooker. Mine only takes two layers. Sauce, noodles, meat, cottage cheese, veggies, mozzarella cheese. I finish with one more layer of mozzarella on top of the final noodle layer.

Cover and cook on high setting for one hour; reduce heat and cook on low setting for five hours. I put the cover sideways for the last couple of hours to reduce condensation. Turn off the heat and take the container out of the slow cooker to let it sit for about half an hour before serving.

Serves 6-8

You may have noticed that there’s a little cross-pollination going on among my blogs. At The Seasoned Dish, I focus on tablescapes and how I set my table for meals. I much prefer the Zip-List format for recipes, so I’m doing some of my cooking posts here — at least for a while. Here’s the rest of the meal I served for friends last week, and here’s the link to the tablescape post at The Seasoned Dish if you’d like to see the dishes.

We started with champagne.

I made a simple salad with baby kale and baby spinach, and dressed it with a ginger balsamic vinaigrette.


There’s that yummy lasagna again!

Fruit and sweets for dessert — a light balance to the heavy lasagna.

The best friends are those that come bearing chocolate.

Feel free to repost — but be sure to give me appropriate credit as well as the original poster of this recipe. It’s all about being polite and ethical, friends.

My Week with Julia: Roasted Chicken

Julia Child has been my summer obsession.

I’ve read several books related to Julia, and I started to actually cook from my mother-in-law’s copy of her cookbook. My most successful dish was also probably the easiest for the “servantless cook” to master — Poulet Rôti. Julia included multiple versions of roasted chicken in her various cookbooks and I will link up some recipes at the end of the post for you to try!

Although Julia appeared to be very laid back, I’m pretty sure she would not have approved of the one adaptation I made to her recipe.

I decided to use an upright roaster to drain off some of the fat from the chicken. I put the roaster in a larger pan to give it more stability and make it easier to handle and to catch any drippings that didn’t go into the little drip pan.

It came out of the oven with a glorious crispy skin and it was moist and delicious on the inside despite the upright roaster. Success!

I served the roasted chicken with corn on the cob and our favorite go-to summer dessert, fruit salad.

The web is full of recipes claiming to be Julia Child’s — this video is one of many. The guy drives me crazy when he calls the divine Mrs. C Julia Childs, but otherwise, it’s a good tutorial if you’ve never stuffed and roasted a chicken before.

While not exactly like Julia’s recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, this recipe is a simplified version and has the steps that Julia liked to use when she wrote cookbooks.

This recipe is from a 2000 edition of Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom and apparently Emeril used it on the Food Network when he cooked roast chicken.

The fun thing about getting to know my way around Mastering the Art of French Cooking is that it turns out Julia Child was right.

The servantless American cook CAN master French techniques if you just follow Julia’s instructions. She worked for ten years to create a foolproof book, and at least in the roasted chicken department, she succeeded.

Bon appétit!

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Provence Week: Two Food Network French Menus

Anchovies. I love them but many people want to “list them.”

Apparently I’ve been watching too much HGTV while I clean my house. I can’t decide if I love or hate Love It or List It. I’ve also been watching lots of Food Network since I can’t abide the thematic approach HGTV is taking with daytime programming. I miss Joan Steffend. Remember her?

Anchovies figure large in the recipes of the Provencal region because they are fished from the Mediterranean and are commonly used in bouillabaisse, pasta dishes, salad dressings, and toppings for breads.

The Food Network loves French cooking (or what purports to be French cooking).

Just this week there were two segments showing Ina Garten and Melissa Darabian making French meals. Although I haven’t yet made the full meals, they look relatively easy and something that I might attempt.

On the Ten Dollar Dinners show, Melissa Darabian presented a Provencal meal with a pizza, salad, and grilled pineapple. With the exception of the poached egg  (I don’t do runny eggs), this menu seems doable. And the pizza has anchovies on it, but I saw several different versions of Pissaladiere online, including this one which may also be vegan. I’m hoping that some of my friends actually want to eat this with me when I make it — will they love it or list it?

I couldn’t find a photo of Darabian’s pissaladiere, but this photo (Image Credit) is part of a blog story about a young man going to culinary school. Gorgeous photos of the food!

Our favorite Barefoot Contessa also created a French Bistro lunch in a segment airing this week. Her menu seemed within my ability to recreate and includes Roasted Butternut Squash, a French apple tart, and Sole Meuniere. No anchovies in these recipes, though. What initially caught my eye was how she set the outside table in anticipation of her French-inspired party.

So this gets us back to anchovies.

One of my summer goals is to learn how to make my favorite salad dressings at home with ingredients I can control. I watched Ina make Caesar Salad with Pancetta in another episode, but it got me thinking about cooking with raw eggs. It seems like there has been an awful lot of food scares recently so I researched alternates for the raw egg in the Caesar Salad Dressing. There are a lot of opinions on this issue, including that only raw eggs are appropriate, but this one by Alton Brown looks promising. It uses tofu instead of egg for the thickening agent. And this one just flat-out subs the egg with egg substitute. Will I “love” any of these recipes or want to “list them” down the garbage disposal?

Still no anchovies.

I’ve always bought my anchovies in the tin, but Costco had anchovies in the seafood case that actually looked like fish instead of sun-dried tomatoes with fur. Has anyone tried them? Do they actually have the “anchovy flavor” or is the flavor we expect from anchovies actually coming from the salt-curing process? I’m feeling as though I’m probably going to stick with the basic tin of salty goodness — and I can get them in a six-pack from Costco practically for free. 🙂

Adventures in Home Cooking continues next week — catch up with me then to see if any of these recipes actually worked — or try them yourselves and let me know what happened!

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The Irony of the Muffins

Over the weekend, I decided to make a batch of mini muffins, using a recipe featured by my niece on Vanderbilt Wife. I already had frozen zucchini and some leftover chocolate chips, as well as amaretto cocoa that came in a Christmas gift basket. Woot!

Unfortunately, the first batch I baked got too crispy on the edges because I baked them a tad too long. You should have seen Music Man’s face when I dumped them into the trash bin. I decided I HAD to make another batch, since we were entertaining a Cordon Bleu trained chef for dinner. I mean, really! How embarrassing to serve crispy muffins.

The next batch got the addition of wild dried blueberries, so we ended up with zucchini-blueberry-chocolate muffins and they were delish! I was careful about the time in the oven, and I had enough batter left over from the mini muffin trays to create three full size muffins. From thence comes the irony.

Tonight, as I opened the oven door after turning on the broiler for the chicken breasts, I discovered the pan of three muffins that had been forgotten in the frenzy to make a second batch of mini-muffins and then get on with our dinner. I had turned off the oven when I took out the minis, and the big muffins were only a little bit the worse for wear for a couple of days in the oven and a blast from the broiler. They were only a little crispy on the outside and still moist on the inside — a welcome treat with our dinner tonight.

In the words of the immortal Alanis Morrissette —

Life has a funny way of sneaking up on you
Life has a funny, funny way of helping you out
Helping you out

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