How To Cut and Prep Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti squash is definitely in the top 10 of my app time favorite ingredients. It’s super healthy, very versatile, and has a tasty texture to boot. However, S.S. can be quite pesky to deal with, especially considering some of the time consuming methods for just getting the squash itself cooked and tender enough to loosen and access those ‘spaghetti’ tendrils.

Here’s a quick video How-To with some time saving tips for Spaghetti Squash prep perfection in under 15 minutes!




Sweet & Spicy Tomato Jam

Wondering what to do with all those beautiful extra garden tomatoes? Skip the typical marinara sauce or plain ole’ canning, and whip up some deliciously Sweet & Spicy Tomato Jam.

This jam goes great as a sauce for grilled chicken or white fish, and is especially nice with scallops. Serve with a soft cheese, like brie, for a scrumptious party appetizer. Need a quick pick me up? Swirl a spoonful into some plain Greek yogurt or cottage cheese.

This is not your mama’s jam recipe. First of all, its got quite a hot kick to it. If you aren’t a fan of too much spice, then you’ll definitely want to tone down the crushed red pepper flakes. For a more mild jam, go for ¼ — ½ tsp. of flakes. Those who can’t resist the heat will want to stick with the suggested 1 Tbs. Secondly, I decided to skip the Pectin (used for thickening and stabilizing many jams and jellies). Pectin occurs naturally in some fruits like apples, berries, and citrus peels, but is most commonly seen in powdered form for jam making. When combined with sugar, and quickly brought to high heat it creates that desirable jelly-like thickened texture, and helps with stabilization. While it does shorten cooking time substantially, it requires almost double the sugar. In this recipe, I used an apple for it’s pectin properties as well as to round out the tomato flavor. Just make sure to check on your jam and stir it every few minutes to prevent scorching on the bottom of the pan, and this au natural method works wonderfully.

Sweet & Spicy Tomato Jam

Yields 4-5 cups

  • 4 lbs. ripe tomatoes
  • 4 cloves garlic, mashed & pasted w/ salt
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored & diced
  • 2 c. sugar
  • ¼ c. confectioner’s sugar
  • ¼ – 1 Tbs. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 c. water or leftover strained tomato juice

1. Peel and core the tomatoes & remove the seeds. Dip in a bowl of cool water to remove any remaining seeds. Strain the liquid and set aside to use in place of water for the jam.

2. Combine all ingredients in a medium sauce pan over moderate heat. Allow to simmer for 1.5 – 2 hours, until reduced by half  and texture is thick and syrupy. Be sure to stir the mixture every few minutes, especially when reduced, to avoid burning the bottom of the pan.

3. Carefully pour the jam to sterilized jars for canning if desired, or transfer to another container and allow to cool fully before serving.




New England Clam Dig and Beach Grill

Summertime in New England revolves around trips to the beach, and nothing beats a good old fashion clam-bake… EXCEPT digging your own clams… and fresh grilling them 50 feet from the water. Recently, a great family friend reminded me of this classic surfside activity, and show me some of his secrets to what he promised would be the most delicious clams I’ve ever had. No seasoning required. None, whatsoever except for what nature bestowed upon these succulent little creatures. Yep, he was right.

Before heading out for your own clam digging adventure, be sure to check the local fishing regulations, and acquire the necessary permit or LOA (letter of authorization). Additionally, check the reports for a healthy bacteria count. Then, grab a bucket and you’re good to go! Here are some excellent tips for digging for the most flavorful regional catch.

Once you’ve got your daily catch (rinse them in a little fresh water first), just throw them straight on a hot grill. When the shells open wide enough for you to see the entire clam, and you can see the juice inside sizzling, they are done! Easy as that, and it only takes a few minutes. The salty ocean water and natural clam juice serve as a yummy broth. Open the shell, detach clam, the remove the beard and slurp the clam and broth all in one bite. New England beach cuisine at its finest!

These little guys are just opening up.. another couple of minutes to deliciousness!

Done! Eat.

How to Throw a Summer Outdoor Dinner Party, Part 2: The Tablescape (& Video)

Studio 5 Video Segment

Now that the recipes are prepped, and ready to go, it’s time to build your beautiful outdoor dinner tablescape. The first step, and your best bet for super simple (and cheap!) decor, is to check around your home for your favorite serving items, vases, accessories, fabric / fabric remnants etc. Together, with some simple DIY projects (below) you can have a creative shabby chic tablescape in no time.

Get inspired by what you find, and pick a color palate. My theme came from the various pretty pink rose bushes in the yard, and from the fresh berries in the cobbler! Bonus: I had these vibrant teal blue linen napkins in my stash, and they were the perfect tie in for a pop of color.

Have a look outside around your neighborhood for some flowers and greenery that you can clip and use to adorn the table. A little bit of something fresh & lovely is key for any table. Once you’ve got a nice collection of some of your favorite accessory items, its time to put it all together.

A tip for assembling a beautiful table is to remember that layers create hierarchy. Table cloth (or not..), table runner and placemats create a nice base, and then you build up from there. Don’t be afraid to use a little height!

Watch the video here!

Learn the tricks of the table!


On to the projects….

Twine Vases: Save some jars from your favorite spaghetti sauce, olives, jam… you get the idea. Remove the labels and glue, and wash. Using a thick ball of twine, and a glue gun, press the end of twine into a dollop of hot glue somewhere around the center of the jar. Bring the twine up to the jar’s neck, and start to tightly wrap the twine around the jar. Add a spot of glue every so often, and work your way down. When you reach the bottom of the jar, finish with about an inch long line of glue. Cut the twine, and seal down any fray with a final touch of the glue.


Fabric Placemats: Cut sheets of cardboard into rectangles approximately 15″ x 9″. If you can’t get exact size pieces, that is OK. Using sturdy packing tape, you can affix 2 pieces together to create the size. Just make sure the tape is tight, and the cardboard pieces are both firm. Next, lay the cardboard onto a piece of fabric about about 2″ larger all around (17″ x 11″). Wrap the cardboard like a present, and hot glue the fabric down (make sure you make smooth, tight seams so that there are no loose gaps and bumps on the front of your placemat!).


Jar Lanterns: More jars! Save them up ahead of time… Wrap a piece of wire around the mouth of the jar, twist tightly and fashion a little wire handle. Pop in little LED candles, and hang from any place in the yard. WARNING: do not use real flame candles for hanging lanterns.


‘Chalkboard’ Placecards: For these you will need, cardstock, matte black spray paint, scissors and tape. Cut place cards into whatever size you like. I made these 3″x 5″ folded. Next, create a stencil for the outside border. The easiest option is to just cut a rectangle to the size of your place card and cut out an inside rectangle 0.5″- 1″ shorter, (ie: 2″x4″). This way, you will have a nice white boarder around the side of the card. Tape the stencil to the front of the card, and spray paint away. Allow to dry, and remove the stencil.

Travel Treasures: Salt Lake City Eats & Treats!

Tucked into the Rocky Mountains lies Salt Lake City, ripe with culinary talent, and cuisine that reflects the urban-meets-agriculture culture combo native to this Western locale. This gridded city is set up in a series of cozy neighborhoods, each with a unique community feel. Here are my picks for the best bites in SLC.
Tulie’s treats!
Tulie Bakery / 863 East 700 South, Salt Lake City /
Nestled just a block north of the 9th and 9th neighborhood, this busy little bakery serves up some of the best treats in town. My favorites: their huge, flakey house croissants, chocolate sandwich cookies (or ‘Blackmoons’ as the term I grew up with), and fresh fruit tarts. Visit Tulie for a breakfast pastry, or warm artisanal panini for lunch.

Cafe Salad and Carbonara at Fresco
Fresco Italian Cafe / 1513 South 1500 East, Salt Lake City /
As part of the Trio restaurant family, Fresco stands out for creative, gourmet Italian fare. Fresco is the perfect summer date night spot. Located in the cozy 15th and 15th area, reserve the patio ahead of time, and take a leisurely neighborhood stroll before and / or after dinner to enjoy the local shops, galleries, and twinkling street lights. My favorite dishes include the Cafe Salad, wrapped in Fresco’s version of a crouton, Fettucini Carbornara- fresh pasta, house made pancetta and local eggs (salivating now…), any of their specialty risottos, and of course dessert: Zeppole, italian donuts with lemon curd and fresh berries.
Chef’s Special Spring Salad with Farm Egg and Triple Veggie Sides at The Copper Onion
The Copper Onion / 111 East Broadway, Ste 170, Salt Lake City /
A downtown hotspot known for it’s spectacular brunch and open kitchen counter service, The Copper Onion prides itself on ‘Regional American Fare’ and offers a comfy dining room with a rural vintage vibe. Their spin on Poutine (traditionally, a French fry and gravy dish from our neighbors to the North) is a luscious treat that is so melt-in-your-mouth delectable you will forget about its not so healthy aspects. To balance the rich poutine, try a triple veggie side platter. The broccoli raab is a local fav.

Pago’s Perfect Lunch:  Beef Wagyu Salad
Pago / 878 South 900 East, Salt Lake City  /
Pago is, by far, my favorite restaurant in Salt Lake. As the city’s leader in the ‘Farm to Table’ movement, Pago’s menu is comprised of ingredients from local famers, purveyors, producers and artisans. Truly unique, rustic, belly-warming dishes complimented by an excellent wine selection and friendly, knowledgable waitstaff make this restaurant a must-try on any visit to Utah. Tip: try the Artisanal Cheese plate for a true sampling local flavors. Lunch on the patio is also a can’t miss with delicious specialty items such as their signature tuna melt or local Wagyu Beef Salad.

Menu Special: Pago’s Tuna Melt with House Chips
And last but not least…

Beatiful Simplicty: CG’s Iced Cofee
Coffee Garden / 2 Locations, 9th & 9th neighborhood and 225 South Main Street,  Salt Lake City
Start your morning, or wind down your evening with the best coffee in town. Friendly, and eclectic baristas serve up creamy, rich lattes, and refreshing iced coffee. Bonus: they have a massive tea selection, and in-house baked goodies to go along side.

How to Chiffonade: The Secret to Unbruised Basil

Chiffonade means ‘made of rags’ in French, referring to the process of cutting fabric into strips.  It is a culinary technique for slicing herbs into little ribbons, and makes for elegant garnish. This technique can be used on any leafy herb, or fine leafy lettuces, and is an especially great trick for tender basil as it helps to prevent the herb from turning black. Basil is extra sensitive, and when you slice through the front, bright green side of the leaf, it bruises. An easy trick to avoid this is to slice basil from the back of the leaf–but why not aim to really impress, and try the chiffonade technique?

Step 1: Take 5-6 fresh basil leaves, and layer them on top of one another from largest to smallest, bright green (front) side up.

Step 2: Roll the basil leaves from the bottom up towards the tip of the leaf.

Step 3: Slice the rolled basil into shreds.Step 4: Tousle lightly with your fingers and you’ve got beautiful basil ribbons.