For readers who would like to keep up with my second act as I build my volunteering life, I'll be posting updates about my progress on my blog Lydia Likes It (http://www.lydialikesit.com). You can subscribe by email or add it to your feed reader, by clicking through to the blog. I also share other brief tidbits I like, from anywhere and everywhere. It's quirky and fun, and occasional, and I hope you'll come along for the ride.

The calendar tells me that soup season has arrived, but even without the calendar, I feel it in my bones. Cooler temperatures, dry air, a few leaves changing color here and there: it all spells soup. After the humid heat of summer, I'm finally willing to turn the stove on again. To get my soup-making juices flowing, I raided my pantry a couple of weeks ago to create a pot of tomato soup with a spicy kick. The tomato base combines canned chopped tomatoes, red sofrito, and mild red enchilada sauce. Rice gives the soup body, and you can omit the added jalapeño pepper if you want a milder soup. As is, this soup is vegan and gluten-free, but I'd never discourage you from topping... Read more →


If you've been reading The Perfect Pantry for the past couple of years, you know about The Downsizing. When my husband Ted and I moved from the log house in Rhode Island to a small apartment in Boston's South End, we consolidated everything, from furniture, to cookware, to art and shoes and camping gear. And, yes, cookbooks. What began as a collection of close to 1,000 found new homes in local libraries (including our Little Free Library), nonprofit agencies, and friends' kitchens. In the end, I kept fewer than 100 cookbooks. What made the cut, and why? Some are classics, some encyclopedic, some oldish (and others newish), some locally-produced paperbacks acquired on my travels, and some... well, I just couldn't let them go. Stick around... Read more →


Why do the words pasta salad strike fear in the hearts of eaters everywhere? I know why. Pasta salad is hard to get right. It can be too watery, or too dry, or too chewy, or too bland. I'll bet everyone has experienced at least one of these less-than-wonderful pasta salads, especially the versions that sit for far too long on buffet tables. Don't worry: you can make much better pasta salad at home. There are a couple of secrets to good pasta salad. One, make sure the pasta is fully cooked; there's nothing trendy about biting into an al dente piece of cold pasta. Two, make sure the pasta is minimally dressed. If you end up with too much dressing at the bottom of... Read more →


From my living room window, I have an unimpeded view of one of the best pizzerias in Boston. In the early mornings, before the neighborhood is fully awake, I watch the lights go on when the bakers arrive to start the dough. Over the past ten years, I've eaten countless wood-oven pizzas with every imaginable topping on their crispy, sometimes puffy, always ethereal crust. These days, pizza is an occasional indulgence, mostly because of that amazing crust. So, to keep the carbs down, I've been making flatbread pizzas at home using this low-carb flatbread from the supermarket. Whatever shape of flatbread you use, make sure it will fit into an oven-safe frying pan (if your pan has a removeable rubber handle, be sure to slide... Read more →


Every parent fantasizes about the perfect vegetable dish, the one children will adore and eat without protest (and ask for seconds). Maybe, just maybe, this cheesy broccoli brown rice will be that dish for your family. Maybe not, but I guarantee you will lick the bowl clean, even if your kids don't. This is a great base dish. For vegetarians, it's hearty enough to be a main course. Stir in some leftover rotisserie chicken, or grilled shrimp, to stretch it into an easy weeknight dinner for the whole family. The cashews on top are completely optional, but add a nice crunch. I make the whole recipe in my rice cooker, which is a small three-cup model, because it's just so much easier to make brown... Read more →


My husband Ted, who doesn't eat pickles, supports my habit by biking to the farmers market every week to buy a big bag of cucumbers and a bunch of fresh dill. I whack off the top four or five inches of the dill fronds and layer them in a container with the cucumbers. Then, I wrap the rest of the dill in a plastic bag, and often forget about it until it withers and turns googly. Last week Ted rescued the forgotten dill, and combined it with lemon zest, yogurt and Greek seasoning to flavor a batch of turkey meatballs. A mix of regular dry breadcrumbs and flaky panko yielded a lighter texture that allowed the dill flavor to come through. In place of plain... Read more →


Comfort food, plain and simple. Even though this skillet supper of turkey sausage, potatoes, mushrooms and peppers might look like cold weather food, when you need it, you need it. And I needed it a couple of weeks ago, on one of the hottest days of the summer. I can't explain why, but as I stood, sweltering, over the stove, the aroma coming up from the pan made me happy, and that's what comfort food is supposed to do. My supermarket carries several brands of smoked lean turkey sausage, which is fully cooked, and I'm sure yours does, too. Choose your favorite for this dish. Add more potatoes, or more sausage, or more mushrooms, whatever you like. Proportions are not terribly important, as Julia Child... Read more →