Back-to-school Dinner Ideas (Plus a Fun Garden Project from NYT for Kids!)

September is here. We’ve made it through many complicated obstacles and tried to solve problems we never thought about before. Zoom calls, frozen screens and mute buttons are part of our kids’ lives as well as ours now. There is no parent guidebook for these times. Are you in need of dinner ideas for back-to-school schedules? Keep checking in here for recipe inspiration when you feel like you’re running out of culinary gas.


First up is a fast and easy pasta dish the whole family will enjoy. It uses a few ingredients and comes together quickly for a weeknight dinner.


Pasta with Pancetta and Creamy Tomato Sauce

Extra virgin olive oil

1 shallot bulb

1 clove garlic

1 package Citterio Pancetta cubes

29 oz can Hunt’s tomato sauce

De Cecco penne rigate

Kosher salt

1/2 cup heavy cream

3 or 4 scallion stalks


Start to boil a pot of water for pasta. Do not add salt until the water is boiling.

Pour 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil in a cold pan with shallot and garlic. Leave the shallot and garlic in the peel. They will flavor the oil as it heats up in the pan. Heat the shallot and garlic in oil for about 4 to 5 minutes until the oil starts to shimmer.

Remove the shallot and garlic clove from the pan and add the cubes of pancetta. Stir and cook for 7 to 8 minutes until the pieces are browned.

Add the can of tomato sauce. Stir to combine.

Do not rinse tomato can. Fill about halfway with water and add to the pan. This will thin the tomato sauce a bit. Stir and allow to simmer for 10-12 minutes.

Place pasta in boiling water with a generous pinch or two of Kosher salt.

When the pasta is nearing the end of cooking time, take a half cup of the cooking water out and save.

Drain pasta when done and place back in the pot. Add tomato sauce and the reserved cooking water. The starch in the water helps the sauce coat the pasta.

Add heavy cream and stir.

Have the kids snip bits of scallions with scissors and toss with pasta.

Serves 4-6

Find more recipe ideas from my regular posts over at the Food and Drink section at Parade.


Don’t throw the bulbs of scallions away! You can regrow them. Take a look at my piece for The New York Times for Kids about what to do with those scallions.


Good luck with whatever back-to-school looks like for you! Come back for more recipe ideas.

What’s for Dinner?


There is no vacation visiting our favorite gardens for the summer of 2020. Being at home means we are cooking more and some people feel themselves running out of ideas for what to make for dinner.


Take advantage of outdoor cooking and dining by getting outside and using the reliable grill. You can make cheeseburgers, grilled chicken and even dessert by grilling squares of pound cake and topping with the season’s berry options like blueberries or strawberries.


When making cheeseburgers, try and use a different cheese to melt on top of the charred burgers to switch things up. Muenster cheese, or a mix of sharp and mild cheddar, can be a welcome change to your dinner menu.


We also like an herb goat cheese to spread on the burgers as soon as they come off the hot grill. Top with a slightly toasted bun for a burger with the tang of goat cheese and a mild herb flavor.


Let’s continue to share ideas for future menus. Have you made pizza on the grill? Maybe that’s the next conversation.

We still have summer produce to enjoy! Be sure and follow more food and drink ideas over at



A Whole New World


These have been strange times for sure. The plan is to get herbinkitchen going again here. There is no “new normal” because there is nothing normal about these days. Kids home with remote learning and no proms, graduations in person, dance recitals, concerts, sports or theatre. What is summer looking like for them these days? How about you?

You can see my work for Parade here for the Food and Drink section. 

Let’s talk food and recipes. Cocktails and conversations. What herbs or vegetables do you like to grow? My piece for The New York Times Kids section ran in May about repurposing food scraps. Stick around. Nothing goes to waste!


You Must Believe in Spring

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It’s in the air! Spring is slowly starting to reveal some crocuses, daffodils and early tulips to tell us the season is ready to arrive.


It wasn’t a particularly bad winter, but it just feels like it is time to yield to longer days of sunshine and preparing for a riot of color to start appearing in our flowering trees. The garden is slowly waking up and sending new growth through the thawing soil.


All good.

The garden season is right around the corner and the farmers’ markets will be opening soon.


Here’s a post that went up today over at Parade about this year’s list of the Dirty Dozen. Don’t know what that is? Be sure and read for healthy eating.


We are ready!


Remembering 2018

We are getting ready to wrap up 2018! Here are some recipe ideas from some of my posts over at Parade.


This post is the last one the year and it is from an episode of Food Network’s Barefoot Contessa when the stars of Mary Poppins Returns stopped by to help make a meal in Ina Garten’s kitchen. Emily Blunt shares a family recipe for potatoes and Lin-Manuel Miranda learns his way around some green beans.

We lost a former president with the passing of George H. W. Bush in 2018. This post includes some of his favorite food choices as well as a vegetable that he famously refused to eat.


We also said goodbye to Senator John McCain who dedicated his life to serving his country. He had a rapport with people on both sides of the political aisle and loved to grill as a way of relaxing. Read about the gathering he had at his Arizona home for the traveling press corps during one of his campaigns for president.


The month of June started with the shocking death of chef, author and television host Anthony Bourdain. We lost a storyteller, who really knew how to listen, and appreciated the simple pleasures in life.


The story of one spouse passing in a short amount of time after another is not a new one. This was the case with First Lady Barbara Bush passing away in April followed by her husband at the end of the year. Chef Sara Moulton includes Bush in a roundup of foods in The White House.


Happy New Year!

A Summer Surprise!

So, how is your summer so far? We have had a surprise of a trumpet vine take hold where we put the new fence around the pool. There was a vine in the garden that didn’t really do much that seems to have taken on a new life. And it is spectacular! Maybe it just needed a different location.

We will talk herbs soon. Have a cocktail and enjoy these evenings!



My latest over at Parade about MasterChef and a cheese soufflé.

Here Comes Summer 2018!

The Memorial Day weekend has come and gone. The pool has been opened and is ready to welcome people to spend some relaxing hours and begin the summer vacation. All good!


Need some new ideas for hot dogs this summer? You can read my post about the incredibly talented chef, and James Beard award-winning television host Pati Jinich, over at the Food section at Parade.


If you haven’t discovered this PBS television host and chef, you need to take a look at her work here at her site.

Jinich shares a recipe for Mexican hot dogs that uses melted cheese on the hot dogs with a kick of flavor from a horseradish and mayonnaise spread on the inside of the buns.

You can add these hot dogs to your summer menu and make your friends and family happy with your riff on the classic hot dog off the grill.


Get the details here over at Parade.


We are ready for you summer breezes and conversation.