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Success! It’s such a relief to be back home in the arms and paws of my family. When I arrived I got all kinds of love, praise for finding amazing tenants, and my husband’s special BLTA: Bacon, lettuce, tomato and avocado sandwiches on toasted wheat. I kid you not, he makes THE BEST BLTA in the world. I think the trick is he spreads out the ingredients evenly, so that every bite has a little bit of everything. Of course using the freshest organic ingredients you can find helps. After devouring the entire sandwich, we fooled around a little then I fell into a deep, deep sleep.

Yes, I know it’s bad to sleep right after you eat, but I was exhausted and back with my man and feeling quite at peace. The following day I cleaned house like crazy (what a pigsty!) and made vegetable lentil soup. I served it with freshly made rosemary focaccia bread, lightly toasted with a little butter. Heavenly. I first discovered this combination at the Beachcomber Cafe in Trinidad, CA.. How can something so easy to make be such a blessing to your very soul? Some people need a nice juicy steak and potato to feel content. I am not above this, but if I want to feed something more than my stomach, I make soup and I use a big English soupspoon when I eat it. Maybe that’s why I love the part in Amelie when she is eating soup with her father. The whole feel of that scene is both comforting and healthful.

When I was nine, I made my first homemade meal for the family. Beef stew. I’ll never forget my Mom’s boyfriend Bill’s praise. It made me want to cook all the time just so I could get a father figure’s approval. The next thing I made was banana bread. To this day I wish I had that recipe, because it was the best I’ve ever baked; light and airy with a strong banana flavor and a chewy crust. I think I got it from a children’s cookbook that got lost in one of our many moves.

I still make banana bread and stew. However, I use lamb instead of beef because lamb seems easier to digest. For years my husband thought he was eating beef (he’s NOT a fan of lamb), until I gave the recipe to a good friend and he hear the dreaded word. (One trick to killing lambs gamey taste is to use good quality San Marzano stewed tomatoes.) I’ve also added spaghetti sauce to my culinary repertoire.

I’ll never forget when I was dating my husband he actually asked me, very casually, “Do you make your own sauce? My grandmother does and it’s the best.” I was shocked. Was this a prerequisite?! After eating her spaghetti I wanted to learn how to make my own sauce. Now I can’t even stomach jar sauce. If only people knew how easy it was to make their own, better than they can find in any “Italian” restaurant or jar.

When I cook pasta for myself I make vegetarian sauces that are quick and fresh tasting – using minimal ingredients: Bariani olive oil, chopped tomato, fresh basil and De Cecco noodles. Sometimes I throw in a chopped Zucchini for fun, and then sprinkle freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top – bellissimo!

When I make spaghetti for Tony I make his favorite rich, red sauce: Bariani, one big yellow onion – chopped, a few cloves of garlic, ground white turkey meat, sea salt, lots of Italian seasoning, two big cans of San Marzano crushed tomatoes, ~1 can of water and some good red wine. If we feel like spicy I add red pepper flakes, if sweet I add some agave or maple syrup. “And that’s my trick.” It needs to simmer for at least two hours, so watch The Godfather while you wait. Mama Mia! It’s amazing and so simple. When you make spaghetti, use good quality pasta, like De Cecco – they’re pretty close to freshly made. I always freeze the leftover sauce so I can have rigatoni, manicotti, or pizza whenever I’m in the mood, which is often.

Tonight, Tony is steaming the two huge artichokes I bought from Dan’s Produce (the produce stand from or old hometown) and he’s making Parmesan couscous. I made the aioli sauce using Best Foods mayo made with olive oil (it has a green lid instead of blue), freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice and fresh ground pepper.

Did I mention how good it is to be home?