Ciao'd with a can of Yerba Mate.


Do you remember the children's rhyme about weather? It goes something like this: "January snowy, February flowy, March blowy, April showr'y, May flowr'y," etc.  How prescient, even for a poem written in the 19th century when "global warming" wasn't part of the conversation.  

Easter and Passover are snowy, flowy and blowy this year, yet they bring a message of hope and celebration for the fresh start that is spring. Proof positive that there is a tender shoot even in the coldest ground, March shepherds in daffodils, robins, and spring lamb.

Across the globe, lamb is the most popular Easter symbol. Back in the day, the lamb was considered a lucky omen, especially at Easter time. I won't go into the religious symbolism other than to say the lamb is a symbol of peace. For centuries, the pope's Easter dinner has featured a whole roast lamb. And so, here we are with a recipe for lamb. 

Roasting a whole lamb is a bit cumbersome, even if you can find one. My recipe showcases tender, juicy loin lamb chops. They're quick to grill (or broil) and present beautifully on the plate. A flurry of herbs and a healthy spritz of lemon complement the earthy richness of the lamb. Serve the chops with other spring yums such as tender asparagus followed by sweet strawberries.

Some say January is the month for resolving to do something new. I say it's spring. Why else would a season be synonymous with leaping, launching, and jumping off? Happy landing! 

bird feet copy.png



Tender lamb chops are quick to cook yet elegant enough for a dinner party. Feel free to substitute other herbs such as thyme or mint for the rosemary and oregano.

Serves 4

¼ cup fresh lemon juice
½ cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary or 2 teaspoons dried
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano or 2 teaspoons dried
8 bone-in lamb loin chops, each about 6 oz. and 1-inch thick
Kosher salt and black pepper

In a shallow bowl or baking dish, combine the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and herbs. Season the lamb chops with salt and pepper and add to the dish, turning to coat with the marinade. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes or cover and refrigerate up to 24 hours.

Remove the lamb chops from the marinade (discard the marinade). Grill over high heat or broil for 5 minutes. Turn the chops and grill another 5 minutes for medium-rare, or until done to your liking.

bird feet copy.png


Ciao'd with a slice of birthday cake.


When January sets in, shrouding the world in gray, sunny Meyer lemons arrive, too - just in time for my birthday. In December, tiny white blossoms, tinged with lavender in the center, appear on the trees almost overnight as if the moon fed them. When I brush up against the blossoms on my way to feed the birds, their heady perfume startles me. 

If you've never tasted a Meyer lemon, you're missing out on a citrus celebration. The Meyer lemon is the fruit that makes the party. Like the guest who glows with charisma yet seems to harbor a delicious secret, Meyer lemons are blessed with alluring attributes, too. The egg-yolk yellow rind outside, the translucent marigold flesh inside. A thin edible rind without the pinch of bitter pith. A sweetness that trumps the acidity of common lemons, though that doesn't mean the Meyer's flavor doesn't resonate.  It brilliantly straddles the richness-brightness line. 

When the earth is soaked with rain and the skies are bearing down, the Meyer lemon "spills a universe of gold" (Pablo Neruda). 




Serves 4 to 6

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium leek, white and pale green parts only, halved lengthwise, sliced into
1/2-inch-thick slices
1 celery stalk, sliced into 1/2-inch-thick slices
1 garlic clove, minced
Zest of one lemon and juice of two
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts
8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup small pasta, such as orzo or tubetti
1/4 cup chopped mixed fresh herbs, such as thyme, parsley, and dill

In a large heavy pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the leek, celery, and garlic and cook until translucent, 5 to 8 minutes. 

Add the chicken and the broth to the pan along with the lemon zest, lemon juice, and bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce the heat, and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate. Let cool and then shred the chicken into bite-size pieces.

Return the broth to a boil. Add the orzo and cook until al dente, according to package directions. Stir in the chicken and herbs.  

bird feet.png


Ciao'd after making a donation for Houston relief.

Reyn First Day of School.JPG

My son opted for grilled lamb chops for dinner the night before he started his senior year of high school. I set the table with anticipation for him and anxiety for me. My mind and heart are hopping, skipping and jumping through the next year and the finals; not the exams per se but the senior year milestones: the applications and acceptances or rejections from colleges, the final lacrosse season and the last lacrosse game, the bawdy weekends when his posse of friends descends upon my kitchen and refrigerator and, ultimately, graduation.

So it’s with a touch of envy that I watch the little ones as they hop, skip and jump on their way to the elementary school in our neighborhood. Those days of snapping photos to commemorate the first day of school – new shoes and backpacks – have long been sequestered in my memory.

It is with more than a little sadness that I see the moms and dads texting and talking on their phones as they accompany their charges to school. I want to scream at them at my highest pitch because they are so self-involved that they ought to be reported to child protective services. “Look up!" I want to say, "Look at your baby bird. Your chick will be in middle school and then high school and then fly from the nest faster than you can text a reply to a friend or schedule a tennis date.”

Hey elementary and middle school parents, I may not have done everything right, God knows, but I did cull a few tidbits of wisdom that may serve you well. Here are few standouts:

Don’t get caught eating a cookie on campus. You will risk someone from the nut club descending upon you and demanding what exactly is in that cookie. The one you purchased from the coffee shop. The one someone else baked. The one labeled Oatmeal Raisin. When you explain this to the nut monitor, she will look at you like you’re nutty in the crazy way and say, “Oatmeal, raisin and what else?” You will reply because you know this for sure because you have baked oatmeal raisin cookies (which, p.s., are better than the one from the coffee shop) hundreds of times, “Butter, sugar, and flour?” You will answer this question in the up-talk of those who are not so sure because, by now, you are blindsided by the inquisitor’s zeal and her disregard for personal space. She will look at you, quite likely with hands on hips, and direct you to “Throw the cookie away or exit campus.”  You will most likely do both, the former with disgust, the latter with fear. 

If your child is not reading at an 8th grade level in first grade, he shouldn’t be. Unless, of course, he is a prodigy and there aren’t many of those. We all want our kids to succeed but our children bloom most beautifully not from a singular focus but from exposure to diverse experiences academically and socially. Deep breath. Your kid will read. He’ll understand fractions. Hopefully, he’ll coat his hands with clay in a pottery class and perhaps even play the triangle in band. The point is, the three Rs (reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic) are a given. It’s the other stuff that expands minds and enriches hearts.

Don’t try and rig the system. Every summer, the list of classroom and teacher assignments was posted at our school (yes, physically posted on the door to the principal’s office) and every summer, parents called the school demanding changes. One mother didn’t like a teacher because she didn’t award her son A’s, another because her daughter wasn’t in the top reading group, and I love this one, “She doesn’t understand boys. She favors girls.” All this lore heard and then passed on while hands clasped lattes or through downward dogs on adjoining yoga mats. It's the 21st century version of the telephone game.

My good friend threw a fit on my behalf when my son was assigned a teacher in first grade. My friend maligned the teacher about this, that and the other thing, all hearsay by the way. I stopped. I contemplated. I figured it would be an interesting year. And it was, and Ms. Einen turned out to be one off my son’s best teachers. This all to say, trust your gut. Let your kid gut it out.

Lice happen. They’re the great equalizer. There’s nothing better than when a Patty Perfect is informed that her child has lice and even more deliciously diabolical, that the lice have hatched.

A trophy for every child is just plain nonsense. “Trying our best” to win the trophy is not the same as earning it.  It’s harsh to face defeat but it’s a reality, and it’s a lesson our children should learn early. James Harrison, a linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers, reacted with these words when his sons came home with participation trophies: “I’m not sorry for believing that everything in life should be earned and I’m not about to raise two boys to be men because they tried their best, because sometimes your best isn’t good enough. That should drive you to want to do better.” Word.

And while we’re on the trophy subject, I will release the bee in my sports mom bonnet. Shut up on the sidelines! Your child is not D1 material at seven-years-old and it’s likely he never will be. So you played lacrosse (or any sport for that matter) at a D3? Good for you. It doesn’t give you permission to live vicariously through your kid and, more critically, put the pressure on him to 1. Play lacrosse and 2. Suffer for D1. Put away the camera. He doesn’t need a reel unless, of course, he is standout in high school and even that is a long shot. Maybe he just wants to have fun. Accept it and move on. You’ll have a happier kid. And isn’t that the point of sports parenting?

Now for a view from the trenches. My mother was a teacher. During dinner, we listened to stories from the front. I decided that teaching was not for me. A sister of mine embraced it. She teaches in a community much like the one in which I live. It’s wealthy and populated by parents who are educated and professionally successful, including the moms who no longer work (they are the majority) but somehow manage to sport a CEO mantle in car line even though they left the professional universe when they were low level account coordinators or legal assistants. Here’s what my sister has to say and you, parents, may want to heed her advice.

Don’t drop off lunch and special drinks every day, especially when they’re from Starbucks, Panera or Teavana. Send your kids in with a damn PBJ and juice box. They will be happier.

Lurking by the principal’s office to say “hi” to your children on their way to the cafeteria is just weird.

Please don’t email articles about education. Teachers live education every day. Most of them have been in the trenches for what seems like a million years. When June comes around, it feels like a trillion.

Don’t ask for the assignments that Suzy will miss on the two-week Disney cruise in the middle of January. Suzy opted out and, in deference to the other students who must slog it out, the teacher is opting out, too. 

Why would parents take verbatim what a second grader tells them and then contact the teacher to “help” fix the social injustice? “Ashley made fun of me in front of Bella and Isabel, and now they hate me” or  “The PE teacher put Tommy at the back of the line because dodge ball is not his strength.” As my mother told us, “Fight your own battles.”

One more suggestion from me to the parents whose children attend the elementary school in Kentfield: please don’t park in my driveway and linger on your phone after your kid has been dropped off for school. And to that guy who ignored me until I knocked on his window and then told me we needed a gate, F--- you.

When I grilled the lamb chops for my son on the evening before his first day of senior year, I made this rub to gussy them up a bit. Redolent with oregano and garlic with a lemon kick, it’s a flavor spark that works not only for lamb but for pork, chicken, and vegetables, too. 

bird feet.png



Oregano & Garlic Rub.jpg

This rub is a flavor enhancer that works for a range of foods, including lamb, pork, chicken and beef. Don't be afraid to add a bit more olive oil and toss with vegetables. Oh, and how about scrambled eggs? Make a double recipe for the rub and store the extra in your pantry so it's at the ready when you are. 

Makes about 1/2 cup, enough for 4 to 6 lamb chops

2 tablespoons dried oregano, crushed between your fingers
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil

In a small bowl, stir together all ingredients. Rub and press evenly on meat or toss with vegetables.

bird feet.png


Ciao'd while watching Chopped, the bacon edition. Yeah, I know. 

In East Cork, by the sea,

The hens, the hens, they call to me.

Leg Horn, Sussex, Barred, and Black,

As red beaks peck, orange feet tack.

Early dawn, in their Palais du Poulet,

Do they wonder what brings the day?

The sustenance of Ballymaloe,

They take and give as they go.

Eggs for breakfast, chicken for dinner,

Is the cook winner or sinner?



Come sit on the culinary therapy couch and let me talk you down from the anxiety ledge. Roasting is one of the easiest ways to cook poultry. Bring the chicken to room temperature, slather it with herbs and olive oil, and stuff it with herbs and lemon. Stick the bird in the oven, walk away, have a glass of wine, and then check its temp with an instant-read thermometer. Seriously simple! I'm serious. 

Serves 4 to 6

3- to 4-pound whole chicken
2 tablespoons chopped mixed herbs, such as rosemary, sage, and oregano
Zest of one medium lemon, finely chopped
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (I like the Lucero Green Collection)
1 medium lemon (use the one you zested)
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 sprigs fresh sage
3 sprigs fresh parsley
1/2 cup white wine

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Rinse the chicken inside and out and pat dry. Place the chicken on a slightly tilted dish to let the water drain from the cavity as you prepare the rub (and then pat dry again). In a small bowl, mix the herbs, lemon zest, salt, and pepper. Add the olive oil and stir to combine.

Season the cavity of the chicken with salt and pepper. Place the chicken on a rack
(v-shaped or flat) in a roasting pan. Using a skewer or toothpick, pierce the zested lemon all over (10 to 15 places). Slip the lemon into the cavity with the rosemary, sage, and parsley sprigs. Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wing tips under the back. Slather the chicken with the herb mixture, rubbing it into the skin and cavities. Pour the wine into the pan. 

Roast the chicken until the thickest part of thigh registers 170 degrees and the juice runs clear, about 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board, tent loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest 15 minutes before carving.


Ciao'd while trying not to eat my son's Valentine's Day chocolate.



I like to serve this sprightly pasta dish with its bright, sunny flavor when the day is rainy or snowy or grey. It’s a pick-me-up in the most delicious way. Tortellini can be had in many flavors. Choose your favorite.

Serves 4

1 pound (16 ounces) fresh or frozen tortellini
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large lemon, zested and juiced
¼ cup minced fresh basil
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for passing at the table

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the tortellini according to package directions.

As the tortellini cooks, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the lemon zest and basil and stir to mix. Drain the tortellini and add to the butter mixture along with the lemon juice. Toss to coat.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with the Parmesan.