A-bay, HawaiiBeing a good blogger and traveler, I took some sweet aerial shots of our little island hopper planning departing from Honolulu. Imagine the coast line and Honolulu’s dense city skyline. Then to conserve battery,  I turned my phone off and preceded to place the phone on the seat next to me. Where it stay, until I disembarked and the phone was finally found by someone who (hopefully) needed it more than I.

The good part, it’s pretty freeing to be phone less. No one that needs to be texted, answers that can’t be easily found by just pulling up Google. (Although, Google, thank you for showing us the route to a delicious dinner in Hilo, courtesy of my parent’s phone).

The picture above is taken with the iPad, in a daring adventure I call operation read at the beach. Later that day, we wandered some of the area and found a small grocery store. Groceries purchased, we proceed to make a lovely and simple pasta dinner – local Hawaiian grown carrots and mainland kale included.

Vacation. It’s pretty blessed.

On an Island Pasta Dinner

  • 1.25 lbs ground turkey, chicken or beef
  • 2 lbs of penne pasta, or other short pasta
  • 2 large carrots
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 large bunch of curly leafed kale
  • 2 small zucchini
  • 3/4 cup of chopped, fresh parsley
  • Red wine – whatever you have on hand
  • 1 jar of Newman’s Own Tomato Basil sauce
  • 1 small can of tomatoes
  • Salt, pepper, and crushed red chili flakes

In large saute pan, brown the meat. Add salt and pepper – about 1/4 teaspoon of each. Add a sprinkling of red pepper flakes. Cook the meat until totally browned through. Move the cooked meat to a separate bowl.

Chop the kale into rough stripes. In a cleaned saute pan, cook the kale until the color intensifies just a bit. Add salt, pepper, or red pepper flakes to taste. Set aside the cooked kale.

Chop the onions, carrots, and zucchini into an equal dice. Mince the the garlic.  In a medium warm pan, cook the onions with salt, pepper, and a little sugar for about 20 minutes, until translucent and starting to brown. Add in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add in the veggies. Cook 2 minutes over medium heat before adding the jar of tomato basil sauce and the small can of tomatoes. Add the meat back to the sauce. Taste for seasoning. Add in your red wine. Cover and simmer at least 30 minutes, until the vegetables are soft. Add the chopped kale.

Cook the pasta according to directions on the package. Check the pasta a few minutes before the package says it will be done. The cooked noodles should be a little chewy, as you’ll be cooking them a little bit with the rest of the sauce. Reserve one cup of pasta water. Once the noodles are strained, add them to the pasta sauce.

Combine sauce, pasta, and a little bit of pasta water if needed. Allow to cook together for a few minutes. Sprinkle the fresh parsley and serve.

Adjust the recipe depending on what you have in the house. We made this in our vacation rental, with minimal spices and seasonings. It does really go to show you how fresh ingredients and a  little salt and pepper (and red pepper flakes!) make for delicious dinner.


This morning, I woke up in tropical paradise. I write this post from the big island on Hawaii, after having just spend a good hour walking along the beach, taking in sights of waves, coral, and lava rock. But I’m thinking of you, and how awesome this dish would be for a vegetarian week night dinner.

I packed the left overs away and ate them cold out of fridge for a tasty lunch the next day. Talk about delicious. And for those of us experiencing cold weather, it’s also tasty warm….with bright flavors to remind you of summer!


Sesame Noodles

  • 1 package of Soba Noodles (6 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons of toasted sesame oil
  • 4 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice (about 1 lime, juiced)
  • Siracha or chile sauce to taste
  • 2 packages of mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup of frozen edamame, shelled
  • Sesame seeds for garnish and crunch
  • Cilantro, roughly chopped

In a large saute pan over medium head, add olive oil. Add sliced mushrooms and saute until golden and the mushrooms have shrunk in size, about 15 to 20 minutes. Stir the mushrooms every so often as they cook. Add the edamame and cook for additional 5 minutes, or until the edamame are soft yet chewy.

While the mushrooms are cooking, combine the sesame oil, soy sauce, lime juice, and siracha in a separate bowl. Stir to combine.

Cook the soba noodles per the instructions on the package. Strain the soba noodles and add them to the mushroom and edamame mixture. Add the sesame and soy sauce, stir to combine. Serve with a sprinkle of sesame seeds and freshly chopped cilantro.

And because I can’t resist, look at this view from my patio.


Orzo and Meatballs | Kitchen NotesYes, it’s October. Of course it’s still close to or exactly 100 degrees. Summer lingers a tad bit longer here. To celebrate the transition, I put together a blend of autumn and summer. The meatballs from last week were a first flush of cooler weather; combined some freshly made summer tomato sauce and a last batch of summer veggies, this dinner or lunch brings lots of flavor to the table.

As I was cooking up the recipe in my head, I thought back to summer orzo salads we often had growing up: grilled veggies, with orzo and olive oil. Salt. Pepper. A sprinkle of feta and herbs. Simplicity for the season. While this dish adds a tad more complexity, all the veggies keep it light.

Orzo and Meatballs

  • 1/2 batch of the Turkey Meatballs, already cooked
  • 1/2 cup to 2/3 cup fresh summer tomato sauce
  • 1/2 large red onion
  • 2 small zucchini, diced
  • 2 ears of corn, removed from cob
  • 1 cup of fresh or frozen peas
  • Estimated 1/2 cup of parsley, chopped
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 pound of orzo, or other small pasta.
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

In a large saute pan, warm olive oil over medium heat. Dice the 1/2 large red onion, add to the pan when complete. Sprinkle the onions with a 1/4 teaspoon salt. Allow the onion to cook until slightly caramelized, at least 5 to 10 minutes. Be sure to stir the onion a few times (3 or 4 or more) so that it doesn’t burn. Once the onion has softened and started to caramelize, add the corn, zucchini, and peas. Add freshly ground pepper, to taste (roughly 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon). Allow the vegetables to cook, until mostly soft. Add the precooked meatballs and set over low heat.

In a large stock pot filled almost to the brim, add a generous amount of salt and bring the water to a boil. Cook orzo pasta according to the directions on the package. I recommend testing the pasta at least 2 minutes before the package says it will be done. You’ll be cooking the pasta briefly with the veggies and the tomato sauce, so a little underdone is better than overdone here. The pasta should still have some chewiness to it. Drain said pasta and add to the sauce pan.

Turn the head on the sauce pan up. Stir in the tomato sauce, allowing it to coat all of the vegetables and pasta. If you prefer more sauce, add it now. The sauce should lightly cover the pasta, but not completely cover it. We’re not trying to re-create spaghetti and marina sauce, rather give this orzo dish an additional boost of flavor.

Taste test of salt, pepper, or other spices that might be missing. Add in the freshly chopped parsley. Serve in a bowl with a big spoon or fork.

Orzo and Meatballs | Kitchen Notes

Turkey Meatballs | Kitchen Notes

Happy Friday, beautiful people of the blogosphere! What are you doing this weekend? Enjoying cooler weather as summer shifts to autumn? We’re certainly not — given the still 100 degree temperatures. Perhaps we’ll get up early on Saturday and venture towards a hike or two, since we’re almost at weather conducive to continuing my new year’s resolutions.

For your weekend cooking adventure, I recommend cooking up a batch of stove top meatballs. The below recipe is versatile and tasty. Add to a healthy spaghetti, or serve with some form of pasta. I make meatballs when I’m feeling like a luxurious treat. What an oxymoron that reads like: the good, old fashioned hearty meatball as luxurious fare? Hear me out. Mixing a good meatball together, rolling them, cooking them…takes time and patience. And time is often such a luxury for us these days. Thats why I suggest the weekend.

Turkey Meatballs

  • 1 lb ground lean turkey
  • 1/2 a medium yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup of chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup of bread crumbs, more if needed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 Tablespoon shallot pepper

In a large bowl, combine the ingredients. Use clean hands to mix together the ingredients until well incorporated. Allow the meatball mixture to chill in the refrigerator at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to incorporate. In the mean time, prep a baking sheet by lining it with clear plastic wrap.

Remove the meatball mixture. With clean dry hands, create smaller meatballs. I used a tablespoon measure and then rolled the meatball mixture between my hands. Place raw meatballs on the plastic wrap lined cookie sheet. Once all the mixture is prepped, heat a large sauté pan with olive oil.

Cook the meatballs in batches, in order to not crowd the pan. Depending on the size of your meatball, cook about 2-3 minutes per side. Use tongs to rotate the meatballs and cook all the way through, about 4 to 6 minutes per batch.

Asian Noodles | Kitchen Notes

Who is in disbelief at how quickly January disappeared? Don’t be shy…raise your hand. You can bet that I’m raising mine. Despite it’s speed, January did provide some pleasantries. Especially a near constant craving for Asian inspired flavors.  Enter these Asian inspired pork noodles from Pinch of Yum.

I followed the recipe almost to a “t”. My additions: I doubled the sauce and cooked veggies in the it. Overall, the sauce paired well over both boiled rice and and rice noodles. I loved the array of vegetables that worked well in this dish. The variety certainly made it easy for my to meet one of my resolutions of doubling the veggies.

Asian Noodles | Kitchen Notes

And yes, I’m completely aware that I’ve failed my blogging resolution for January. The good news: I’ve spent every weekend available hiking the McDowell Mountains. In February, maybe I’ll find my blogging/hiking/living/working balance?

Jeweled Couscous

We are a little behind the power curve here at Chez Parker (because, let’s just be honest, it’s his house. Don’t try to tell him otherwise). That’s why, I’m sharing with you what Casey ate for Valentines day dinner. In March. Because, it’s not that day that matters, it’s the sentiment…er, right?

We’re not the most celebratory of couples, and I love to focus our celebrations around special meals, such as personalized cakes for birthdays and cooking a meal we wouldn’t normally make for events like Valentine’s Day and anniversaries.  I don’t remember when I learned about Casey’s affection for lamb, but whenever I’ve wanted to make a special dinner, I always start with a lamb dish.

For Valentine’s Day, I found six lovely lamb loin chops at Trader Joe’s, which I purchased without looking at the price tag, because it was for Valentine’s day and I was at Trader Joe’s on an empty stomach (oops). They were delicious, and while I don’t recall the marinade I used, it went something like this: four garlic cloves, big handfuls of parsley and mint, pine nuts (maybe a 1/4 cup), salt, dash of red pepper flake, juice from one lemon, and olive oil all blitzed together in the food processor. I covered the lamb in the herb marinade, let it sit in the fridge for at least 2 hours. Casey then took over the process on the grill.

I think the real jewel of dinner was the jeweled couscous. Inspired by a sweet saffron rice I ate in Philadelphia with N., I cooked Isreali Couscous in saffron broth and sweetened it with sugar, pomegranate seeds, dried cranberries, pistachios, and green onions. The finished dish was a warmly hued, mildly sweet side dish that complemented the lamb. Plus, it looked pretty to boot. See the recipe below the picture.

Jeweled Couscous and Lamb

Jeweled Couscous

  • 1 3/4 cup water with a pinch of saffron threads
  • 1 cup pearl couscous
  • 1/4 cup shelled pistachios
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 3 Tbs sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Bring the water to a boil, then add the couscous. Cover with a lid and remove from heat for ten minutes. Fluff with a fork and stir in sugar, salt, and remaining ingredients. Taste and adjust salt or sweetness level to your desired flavor. Served with grilled lamb or chicken.

couscous 2.0


I’m a little behind on the posting schedule, and since no one seems to mind with Grumpy Cat posts are a day late, I’ll blissfully assume the same about these here blog. Granted, we’re not quite cute as Grumpy Cat. Not only am I late posting, but I’m sharing with a recipe I’ve deemed as average, because I don’t always cook just down right delicious pasta nor do I always take the best pictures. I do, however, enjoy a good risotto: this version from cooking light using orzo was worth the shot, though I’ll be deviating from recipe the next time I make it.

And I’m okay with that. Because I want you to try this recipe and put your mark on it. If you try it verbatim and enjoy it, that’s fine too. But this recipe confirmed one thing (as if my weekend finds post didn’t): I like salt. This recipe’s first failing is it that it needs some salt and spice.

Orzotto, from Cooking Light March 2013

  • 3 1/2 cups unsalted vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/4 cups diced onions
  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked orzo
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 3/8 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1-2 cups of fresh baby spinach
  • 1/2 pound of asparagus, roasted and cut into 1-inch peices
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1 tablespoon minced parsley

Bring the stock to a simmer on the stove and keep warm. In a large saute or sauce pan, add the butter and oil and turn the heat to medium-low. Add the onions and cook for 7-10 minutes until translucent. Add the pasta and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly as to not burn the pasta. Add rind, juice, salt, and pepper.

Add 1/2 cup of stock to the pasta mixture. Cook on medium low for about 2-3 minutes until the liquid is nearly absorbed. Stir frequently (just as you would with risotto). Continue to add the stock in 1/2 cup increments, stirring frequently. Once the pasta is cooked and creamy, add the spinach and stir until the spinach starts to wilt. Add the roasted asparagus.

Remove from heat and stir in parsley and cheese. Garnish with toasted pine nuts.

Some additions

  • Include crushed red pepper flakes to add a bit of kick
  • Shallot pepper or even lemon pepper will accent the base flavors
  • Swap low sodium broth for the unsalted broth

Orzotto 2.0

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