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Lydia (The Perfect Pantry)
A small city kitchen in Boston's South End
Since 2006, food blogging at The Perfect Pantry®, for the first 9 years from my log house kitchen, and now from my city apartment. Publishing e-cookbooks from The Perfect Pantry® kitchen.
Interests: travel, cooking, reading, photography, art (seeing and making), trying to get tomatoes to grow in my herb garden.
Recent Activity
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While I really enjoy drop-in computer lab at the International Institute of New England, my two-hour-a-week obligation doesn't fill me up. I've let the volunteer manager know that I'm interested in doing some classroom assisting in the English for Employment program, but the agency doesn't have any slots available right... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at Lydia Likes It
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Today's most insightful and aggressive political reporting isn't the exclusive domain of The New York Times, or The Washington Post, or NPR or MSNBC. You'll find topnotch political coverage in Teen Vogue, a magazine that feeds a girls-under-21 demographic with a steady diet of fashion, beauty and entertainment content, but... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at Lydia Likes It
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After a month of feeling completely over my head at the drop-in computer lab at the International Institute of New England, I finally realized something. It's okay to not know everything. I'm learning along with the students, and while I can help them with some things, like reading what's on... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at Lydia Likes It
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On a recent visit to Washington DC, everyone told me it would be impossible to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the newest gem in the Smithsonian Museum's crown, without having procured passes months earlier. Admission is free (as are all of the Smithsonian museums --... Continue reading
Posted Feb 13, 2017 at Lydia Likes It
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In the past, my volunteer activities, mostly in the area of hunger relief, centered on my professional skills as a writer and editor and, to a lesser degree, as a cooking teacher and recipe developer. I always felt on fairly firm ground, confident about what I had to offer. On... Continue reading
Posted Feb 10, 2017 at Lydia Likes It
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I am one of the hundreds of thousands of people who, on Cyber Monday, bought an Instant Pot, a multifunction electric pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, yogurt maker, and all around miracle gizmo. I'd been using an electric pressure cooker for a couple of years, and a slow cooker... Continue reading
Posted Feb 9, 2017 at Lydia Likes It
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On their web site, the International Institute of New England fit all of my requirements for the perfect volunteer gig. (I can walk to their Chinatown offices, and their primary work involves refugee resettlement, cultural orientation, and English for Employment classes for adult learners.) I filled out an online form... Continue reading
Posted Feb 6, 2017 at Lydia Likes It
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If you're a member of a faith group, a school or corporate program, volunteer opportunities often come to you. When you're putting together a volunteering life on your own, it can be more difficult to find your way, so you'll need to approach your search in the same way you... Continue reading
Posted Feb 2, 2017 at Lydia Likes It
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In 1884, long before Hillary Clinton, long before Shirley Chisholm, and long before women could vote, Belva Ann Lockwood (1830-1917) was nominated for president of the United States by the National Equal Rights Party. She received 4,000 votes, an astonishing feat considering that only white men were allowed to vote... Continue reading
Posted Jan 30, 2017 at Lydia Likes It
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At the end of last year, when I decided to end my food blogging life in order to spend more time volunteering in my community, I thought it would be easy to find my place. At my age, with my experience and available time, I thought I'd be able to... Continue reading
Posted Jan 27, 2017 at Lydia Likes It
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It proved to be no easy task selecting my favorite recipes from among the more than 2,500 posts on this blog from the past ten years, but I've done it. And I've made a real, hold-in-your-hands, scribble-on-the-pages cookbook for you. It's a quirky selection, to be sure: much more savory than sweet, recipes that my family enjoys and that are good for entertaining and for everyday. Some recipes use the slow cooker or pressure cooker. Some are vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free. All are easy to make, with your well-stocked pantry. Some of my favorite recipes appear in my e-books, so they're not in this collection. You can find those books on my Amazon.com author page. Order your copy of The Very Best Recipes From The... Continue reading
Posted Jan 13, 2017 at The Perfect Pantry®
When Jimmy Carter, whose presidency was challenging but whose moral compass always guided him, retired from politics, he became a champion for Habitat for Humanity, continuing to build housing for low-income families well into his 90s. His wife, Rosalynn, worked alongside him, wielding a hammer and leading with grace. When Audrey Hepburn stopped making movies, she shined her light on UNICEF, drawing attention to the world's neediest children as a goodwill ambassador. Sometimes, a person's second act has more impact than the first. The time has come for my own second act. After years of writing and editing for nonprofit organizations, and then food writing, and now food blogging, I'm moving on. Let me explain why, and why now. 1: A few months ago, I... Continue reading
Posted Dec 31, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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Are you ready for New Year's Eve? Whether you're hosting a celebration for many, or an intimate affair for two, all you really need is an assortment of some favorite appetizers, the more variety the merrier, and plenty of bubbly. When I'm planning an evening to see in the new year, I look for a mix of vegetarian and other appetizers -- often shrimp, because I love it, and because it's always a special treat, and I love variety. My entertaining mantra: some sweet, some salty, and all finger food. Here are 12 of my most popular party appetizers. Asparagus wonton wraps with hoisin wasabi or mustard filling are fun to make with a crowd. Set up an assembly line on the kitchen counter, and... Continue reading
Posted Dec 27, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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[Even old dogs can learn new tricks, and I've learned to love sweet potato latkes, even though I never ate them when I was growing up. If your family is open-minded, too, please enjoy this recipe (originally shared in 2007) from the archives.] For the most part, I don't believe in "one size fits all," because I am a size and shape that one size never seems to fit. And while in my pantry I have half a dozen types of flour -- surprising, given that I'm a notorious bake-o-phobe -- the one I reach for more often than not is "one size fits all," also known as all-purpose flour. All-purpose flour is a blend of hard (high-protein) and soft (higher carbohydrate, lower protein) wheats,... Continue reading
Posted Dec 20, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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[First published in December 2009, this is our family's go-to latke recipe. Even though we associate latkes with Chanukah, they're a crowd pleaser at any time of year. Make small ones for your Sunday football parties, or large ones for a vegetarian dinner main dish. Kids love latkes smothered with sour cream or apple sauce. Please enjoy this post adapted from the archives.] Rudolf Diesel had a dream. When the German inventor and Utopian idealist demonstrated his new engine at the 1900 Paris World Exposition, it ran not on petroleum, but on peanut oil. In the perfect world, Diesel believed, renewable biofuels like peanut oil could power farm machinery and automobiles. In our imperfect world, my car still drinks gasoline, but peanut oil powers my... Continue reading
Posted Dec 17, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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Asian Noodles: Deliciously Simple Dishes to Twirl, Slurp, and Savor, by Nina Simonds (1997) Why I've kept it: How often have you picked up a cookbook, and wanted to make Every. Single. Recipe. in it? That's what happened to me when I first purchased Nina Simonds' Asian Noodles. I've confessed many times to being a noodle-holic. This book introduced me to new types of noodles, and new condiments and sauces for flavoring them. The gorgeous color photos of each recipe made my mouth water, and convinced me that I could make the recipes with confidence. There's a great introductory chapter about noodle basics, listing dozens of types of Asian noodles and the correct cooking methods, uses, and substitutes for each. There are photos of each... Continue reading
Posted Dec 16, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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[You can never have too many cookie recipes on hand at this time of year, and I've collected some of my all-time favorites. Please enjoy this post from the archives.] 'Tis the season to make merry, and to make cookies. And to swap cookies, and decorate cookies, and pack cookies in tins and send them to friends and family far away. For me, there are only two types of holiday cookies: ones with chocolate, and ones without. Of the hundreds and hundreds of cookie recipes I've seen on food blogs, here are 40 of my favorites. Cookies with chocolate Chocolate spice cookies, from The Perfect Pantry (pictured above) Chocolate ice cream cookies, from The Perfect Pantry Oreo white chocolate pudding peppermint cookies, from Two Peas... Continue reading
Posted Dec 13, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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Just when it seems I've fed my husband Ted every imaginable variation of beef stew, I hit on another flavor combination that becomes a new favorite. So it is with this sweet and sour beef stew, made easily in the slow cooker. The seasonings for this stew draw on Moroccan tradition, cinnamon and allspice paired with dried fruit (raisins, though you could substitute dried apricots). Brown sugar boosts the sweetness, and apple cider vinegar provides the sour. Overall, the combination is lighter than my traditional wine-based stew. Carrots and butternut squash are the perfect addition, because they, too, become sweeter with long cooking. Serve the stew over pasta, as we do, or couscous or rice. Like most stews, this one freezes well, and is even... Continue reading
Posted Dec 10, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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Inspiralized, by Ali Maffucci (2015) Why I've kept it: Did you buy a Spiralizer when it was all the rage a couple of years ago? Do you make zoodles (zucchini noodles) instead of spaghetti? Did you know you can turn other vegetables into noodles, like celeriac and rutabaga and beets and chayote? Until I picked up this book, I never made noodles out of anything except zucchini. Inspiralized opened my eyes. The recipes are imaginative, healthy, and visually beautiful, combining colors, textures and the interesting shapes that spiralized vegetables add to the plate. And the notes in the front section provide invaluable tips and techniques for processing different types of vegetables. If you're finally tackling your holiday gift list in earnest, consider this cookbook paired... Continue reading
Posted Dec 9, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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Here in Boston, we're deep into soup season, and there's no soup more comforting than fish chowder. Big chunks of flaky white fish, golden potatoes, onions and herbs: there's nothing better on a chilly afternoon. It's easy to make chowder. Start with any mild white fish that looks good in the market -- cod, halibut, haddock -- or with flash-frozen fish fillets from Trader Joe's, if that's what you have. Jazz it up a bit by broiling it with a sprinkling of Old Bay Seasoning. I like to use Yukon Gold potatoes, but any potatoes cut into smaller pieces will be fine. Fresh herbs are great, but dried herbs will be great, too. Substitute milk for cream, to save a couple of calories. You can... Continue reading
Posted Dec 6, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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After a week's vacation in South Florida, I have tacos on the brain. Fish tacos tempted us everywhere (have you ever tried corvina?), and every menu offered chicken, beef, and carnitas tacos, too. I love the idea of carnitas -- long-cooked shredded pork, crisped up at the end of the cooking -- but I don't eat pork. And then it occurred to me that I could make my own slow cooker carnitas out of beef or chicken, and I could enjoy those burnt edges, too. Use your favorite cut of beef, or meaty chicken thighs, for this recipe; I love brisket, so of course that's what I used here. Give the meat a dry rub, then cook it on low heat in the slow cooker.... Continue reading
Posted Dec 3, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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The Indian Slow Cooker: 50 Healthy, Easy, Authentic Recipes, by Anupy Singla (2010) Why I've kept it: Recipes for Indian food, which I love to eat, scare me. There, I've said it. Mixing, toasting, grinding, and layering all of the spices makes me feel completely fumble-fingered, and I've always preferred to enjoy Indian dishes in a restaurant rather than tackle them in my own kitchen. Until I discovered this little book. The Indian Slow Cooker opened my eyes to how much simpler Indian cooking can be. All of those complicated spices? Just toss them into the slow cooker with beans or lentils, or chicken or beef, and out comes a delicious curry, or dal, or even butter chicken. The author, a working mom, translates some... Continue reading
Posted Dec 2, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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All along the East Coast from Maine to Florida, you'll find fried fish sandwiches -- made with local white fish like cod or flounder, halibut or haddock -- on every diner menu. You can always order a grilled cheese sandwich at a diner, too. So why not combine the two classic sandwiches into something even better? For this sandwich, you start by cooking the fish, and that means you can do it earlier in the day, or even use leftover fish that you've broiled, pan-fried, or cooked on the grill a day or two before. Add some lightly-dressed shredded cabbage or cole slaw, and a couple of slices of Swiss cheese on each sandwich. These fish sandwiches make a perfect lunch or light supper. Fish,... Continue reading
Posted Nov 29, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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When my husband Ted and I first began dating, oh-so-many years ago, we spent almost every Friday night at Chan's Garden in Dunellen, New Jersey, a small suburban Chinese restaurant, where we splurged on a shared order of house special fried rice. As befit New Jersey Chinese food of the time, it was a bit gloppy, not at all spicy, and always contained shrimp and chicken and white rice, and some sort of cabbagey green vegetable like bok choy along with canned sliced mushrooms and water chestnuts (which I always picked out). It was a treat for two young people on a budget, and we seldom ordered anything else on the menu. Our own house special fried rice also begins with shrimp and chicken, though... Continue reading
Posted Nov 26, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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Many years ago, my husband Ted and I participated in a potluck Thanksgiving dinner. Being from out of town, we were asked to bring something easy, carrots and celery for a dip. However, when we arrived, we realized that our celery was the only bit of green on the entire holiday table. Turkey, potatoes, stuffing, gravy, onions: all brown. No green vegetables, and no salad. Our own holiday menus feature plenty of green along with the traditional bird and sides. We always serve salad, and at least one green vegetable. Here are some of our favorites, to consider as you're putting the finishing touches on your own menu. Two of our favorite green vegetables together, Brussels and broccoli with maple mustard vinaigrette (top photo) brings... Continue reading
Posted Nov 19, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®