Mushroom and Leek Lentil-Chickpea Soup

The beauty of a vegetable soup is manifold. It’s mouthwatering, colorful, done in a snap, affordable, versatile, full of vitamins and fiber, accessible, easily vegan/gluten-free, and pantry-friendly. Wow! The beauty of a vegetable soup with legumes, or in this case both lentils and chickpeas, is even greater as there’s the addition of plant-based protein (and lots more fiber) which makes the soup increasingly healthful — to say nothing of filling. Now all those things are true, real, and make me feel happy about putting a pot of this goodness on the table anytime. But I mostly want to make vegetable soup because I like to eat it (especially right after Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day!) and before that, I like to smell it cooking in my house. Is there anything better?

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Pork Chop Parmesan with Lemon-Mushroom Risotto for Valentine’s Day

If someone asked me, “What is a romantic meal?” I’m sure I would be expected to have an answer. After all, I’m a food blogger; I’m a cooking teacher. I’m married to the man of my dreams. I don’t think I do, though. (Today’s Pork Chop Parmesan with Lemon Mushroom Risotto might qualify!) Do I even know how to define “romantic”? To begin with, the word “romantic” is both an adjective and a noun. Leave it to the English major to think of that. If you just drop the word “romantic” into a conversation, I’m likely to think of Brahms, Chopin, Verdi, or Beethoven because I’m also a musician. While several definitions pop up when you search, here is one likely to make sense to most folks:

...conducive to or characterized by the expression of love.
 "A romantic candlelit dinner."
                                                                                                                       ~Oxford Languages
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Slow Cooker Elk Stew for Valentine’s Day Dinner

Date night meals have been unique and even innovative for a lot of folks during the pandemic, mostly because instead of jumping in the car and heading for the nearest $$$$ restaurant, we’ve been forced to plan, create, and cook (clean up/boohoo) at home. Ordering food online or even shopping only once a week to limit time in stores means we must think ahead, deciding on a menu and making sure all of the ingredients are available, ready to use, and even thawed. (I hate thawing.) Not only that, there’s setting the table. Locating a bottle of wine. Turning on some decent music. Maybe finding a movie you haven’t seen. Getting out of your pajamas for dinner. Or not.

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Red Curry Chicken with Green Beans and Mushrooms

In my next life, I’m going to take photos for laminated menus.

In 2009, husband Dave, daughter Emily –for a couple of weeks anyway– and I spent the summer in St. Paul, Minnesota so I could take a few graduate music courses at University of St. Thomas. While there, we lived in a 3rd-floor walkup apartment on Grand Avenue above a Thai restaurant named — you guessed it — Pad Thai. (See below)

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Pork Tenderloin and Vegetables on Arugula with Lemon Vinaigrette plus Pork and Blue Cheese Tacos for the Next Night

for Father’s Day or tomorrow night

Some years we have no bunnies at all in our yard. Other times, such as now, we are overrun by the the dreaded chomper-hoppers. (Have you ever seen one hop straight up 4 feet or more? They can. ) I blame it on the lack of outdoor cats and our local bob cat family temporarily taking up residence in the next subdivision over. While cute, especially when oh so very small, they eat everything we don’t want them to eat but perversely leave the weeds for us to pull.

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almost (better than) scratch beef-barley soup

“In the Deep Mid-Winter,” is one of my favorite Christmas carols. The verses…

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan;
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain,
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty —
Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom Cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk
And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom Angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

Angels and Archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air;
But only His Mother
In her maiden bliss
Worshiped the Beloved
With a kiss.

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am? —
If I were a Shepherd
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man
I would do my part, —
Yet what I can I give Him, —
Give my heart.

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Date Night Chop on Butternut Squash with Sage Mushrooms

Now faster and even a bit lighter than my older versions. Try this!

Looking ahead to Thanksgiving



I often cook thick bone-in pork chops for guests. In cold weather, they’re served with a creamy and decadent mushroom sauce on a bed of softly mashed root vegetables with a green vegetable or two on the side. Longtime blog readers and friends who’ve eaten at my table will easily recognize the dish that often looks something like this:

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