It's the tweaking time of year here on the blog -- a kind of blog form of Spring cleaning -- so please bear with us as we move some elements around a bit, and test a couple of new things. Everything will settle down in a week or so. Really.

Lentil soup spans all seasons, but it will forever remind me of this time of year. When we lived in the log house, warm winters like this were rare (or maybe nonexistent); in March, along with late-season pruning of the pear trees, we spent plenty of time shoveling snow and breaking up the ice on our driveway and porch roof. After we all got warmed up by hard winter work, we collapsed into the Adirondack chairs on the front porch with a cup of something warm and steamy, like this lentil and caramelized onion soup packed with dark leafy greens. Lentils don't need a presoak, as so many legumes do, and you can't overcook them. If they cook until they fall apart into the stock,... Read more →

I hate going to the dentist, so while I'm there, I distract myself by dreaming up recipes. Is there really anything new under the sun when it comes to corned beef and cabbage, I mused, while Christa, my wonderful dental hygienist, cleaned my teeth a few weeks ago. I got the idea for this lighter, less salty corned beef recipe as we talked (well, she talked, and I made those noises you make when your mouth is full of dental stuff). My husband Ted and I both feel this is the most interesting, tender, seductive corned beef and cabbage we've ever eaten. Pickling spice -- not the little bag that comes in the corned beef package; use fresh, robust pickling spice mix -- gives the... Read more →

From Kathie, in Rhode Island: I used to always make my own, but I now use this 7 spice mix to season my Syrian cooking. [Lydia's notes] Do you have Syrian spice blend in your pantry? I do -- a no-name brand, mixed in-house by my local Middle Eastern market, so the proportions of each spice might be slightly different. Although I don't use it often, I should, because it's a more interesting substitute for plain ground allspice in many recipes with chicken, lamb, or beef. Here are some recipes, including one of my go-to recipes for the grill. If you cook with this ingredient, what's your favorite way to use it? Chicken shish kabob, from The Perfect Pantry Arabic eggplant and walnuts with cauliflower... Read more →

Cabbage is on sale in this week before St. Patrick's Day, and if, like me, you're trying to get more cabbage into your life, now's the time to stock up and try a few new recipes. The inspiration for this dish came from one of those throwaway supermarket publications that are so easy to ignore, but occasionally have some great ideas. A fairly routine stir-fry with spicy peanut sauce, this recipe replaces noodles with shredded cabbage. So clever! I promise you'll never miss the extra carbs. If nuts are not your thing, substitute your favorite teriyaki or stir-fry sauce for the peanut sauce. Ground turkey offers an option in place of ground beef, and if you don't eat meat, try tofu instead. Stir-fried beef and... Read more →

This winter I've been having lots of fun playing around with salads. Seems incongruous, doesn't it, as we associate salads with summer foods. However, there are plenty of ingredients -- not tomatoes or asparagus, but so many other things -- to mix and match for mid-winter dishes that taste just like August. Nothing about this fennel and avocado salad is seasonal, at least not here in New England, and that's what makes it a great mid-winter treat. I'm partial to dried fruits mixed with crunchy greens, and white balsamic vinegar keeps the colors and flavors bright. Fennel and avocado salad with dried wild blueberries, almonds, and white balsamic vinaigrette {vegan, gluten-free} From the pantry, you'll need: almonds, extra virgin olive oil, Dijon mustard, agave nectar... Read more →

From Donna, Rhode Island and Florida: Since Florida is a part-time home, the pantry is skinny and has only essentials. RoTel has become an essential in my pantry here and in Rhode Island. Ten years ago I couldn't find it in my local RI grocery stores. I would hear it referenced on tv cooking segments, but had no idea what all the fuss was about. Like you, more spice has entered my cooking and RoTel helps with flavor. Do you have RoTel in your pantry? I do, and here are some of my RoTel recipes: Tex-Mex turkey lasagne Mexicali meatloaf Slow cooker Cuban-style ropa vieja Ready to join in the fun on Saturdays? Here's how to play WHAT'S NEW IN YOUR PANTRY? Find something in... Read more →

For an entire semester during college, my BFF Joyce and I subsisted on tuna salad sandwiches (canned tuna mashed with Miracle Whip), washed down with diet soda (Fresca for me, Tab for her). You would think after months of this, that I'd never want to see another tuna sandwich. You would be wrong. These days, I love to kick up my tuna in lots of ways. This variation calls for fresh, not canned, tuna; lemon zest and dill, for summery flavor; a few hot red pepper flakes, for zing; and celery for crunch. I don't love capers, but if you do, toss a few into the mix. You can broil a piece of tuna days ahead of time, and let it sit in the fridge... Read more →