Flavoring with lemon instead of salt: chicken pasta with a caramelized onion, roasted garlic, thyme-parsley-lemon cream sauce

Flavoring with lemon instead of salt: chicken pasta with a caramelized onion, roasted garlic, thyme-parsley-lemon cream sauce

This post is sponsored by Sunkist lemons. I have been compensated as part of an ad campaign for Sunkist. Posts by others around the Internet will be identified by the hashtags #tablethesalt.

chicken pasta with caramelized onion roasted garlic thyme parsley lemon cream sauce

I think I set a record for the longest title for a blog post ever, but it’s only because I wanted to be able to include every amazing ingredient in this dinner. Let’s list them again. Sweet caramelized onions. Perfectly roasted garlic. Parsley and thyme. Tart lemon. Rich cream. Over pasta, green beans and chicken.

When Sunkist contacted me to participate in their S’alternative — that is a campaign to encourage home food providers to use lemons instead of salt in dishes for the same type of flavor — I tried to think about ways I might overuse salt in our home.

It’s no secret that consuming excess amounts of salt is not healthy. For the vast majority of Americans, the bulk of daily sodium intake comes from heavily processed foods, not from salt added during cooking or at the table. In addition, the Dietary Guidelines for Healthy Americans note that virtually all Americans consume more sodium than needed, at an estimated average intake of 3,400 milligrams per day, when the recommended amount is between 1,500-2,300 milligrams per day, for the average person.

Sunkist lemons are grown in California and Arizona and available all year round. In addition to helping boost flavor and reducing sodium intake, lemons can be used in a number of ways – from household cleaning to healthy living.

lemons instead of salt

The good news is lemons play on your taste buds the same way as salt, so by using more lemon juice and zest, you can reduce the amount of salt added during the cooking process.

So I use a lot of salt when I’m trying to cut through something dense and heavy, such as potatoes or cream. That’s why I thought making pasta would be a great way to experiment with using more lemon and less salt. And what a grand experiment it was. It couldn’t have turned out more delicious.

chicken pasta with caramelized onion roasted garlic thyme parsley lemon cream sauce

To make this dish, I used Sunkist’s cooking recommendation ratio of salt, lemon and zest. (See the infographic below, for more on that.) [Read more...]

Podcast episode #4: adult milestones

Podcast episode #4: adult milestones



Welcome to episode #4 of the To Do Lists of the Semi-Adult podcast where Rae and I talk about adult milestones.

Subscribe to this bi-weekly podcast on iTunes, Stitcher or by using our feed link.


This week we talk about my first adult trip to Costco, where I might have saved money, maybe. FamilyCircle has a slideshow on how to save money at warehouse clubs that includes buying meat in bulk, so I feel validated, and 100 Days of Real Food just came out with a list of nine meals to make with organic ingredients from Costco that I’m excited to try.


Rae and I really like cooking with friends. Real Simple has tips for that. But, also, we don’t follow any tips, and it all works out OK.

Also, Rae and I discussed our personal milestones of adulthood which include but are not limited to:

  • painting my nails for the first time without getting nail polish everywhere. If you, too, need help with this see an instructables guide on how to do so.
  • eating ice cream for dinner because we can
  • planning vacations (yes, there’s a wikihow for that too)
  • having the forward-thinking ability to think that caffeine now will cause sleeplessness later
  • the realization that it’s ok to speak up and have your needs met, perhaps most eloquently articulated always by captain awkward

green smoothie

We also talked about Rae finishing up Mr. Mercedes (kindle here). She talks more about the book on her blog here and here. She also just started a new graphic novel series, The Preacher. Jewels just started Ruth Reichl’s Tender At the Bone. She also has been making delicious smoothies.

Check out our other episodes on the podcast page.

Green smoothie

Green smoothie

green smoothie

Let’s talk about kale for a minute. A few years ago I read a weight loss blog where a woman had lost 100 pounds or something major. In one of her posts she listed one personal benefits about losing weight for every pound that she lost, one of which was that her new body craves kale. She said she was as shocked as anyone about it. Honestly, I didn’t believe her. I mean, I liked kale at the time, but I could never see my body craving lettuce. You guys, it’s totally true.

I started making these protein smoothies (full of kale!) as a way to sneak in some extra greens in our diet. They’re delicious. They’re so delicious. But also, after making them nearly every day for a month, my body seriously needs them. That weekend we just spent in Chicago? All I wanted was some kale. But also, I’m telling you, despite it’s suspiciously green color, you can’t even taste the kale. You’re going to have to try it. You’ll see what I’m talking about.

There are two secrets to green smoothies: 1) use frozen fruit and 2) make the green base first. This creates the best, most well blended texture. Also, here’s another secret, I make these the night before, pour it in two plastic solo cups and let them sit in the fridge overnight. Then I take one with me when I leave for work and drink it on my commute. They definitely  have a better consistency coming straight out of the blender, but making them the night before makes my mornings less hectic, and traffic is so much better when you  have a smoothie.

Let’s start. I make two at a time, so A.J. gets some sneaky greens in his diet too. Into the blender goes one container of light Greek peach yogurt, two scoops of vanilla protein powder (I buy this protein powder because it only has 6 net carbs), and one cup almond milk (I like Silk’s unsweetened, original). On top of that goes as much kale that can possibly fit. Blend. (I use the liquefy button.) [Read more...]

Slow cooker beef stroganoff

Slow cooker beef stroganoff

slow cooker beef stroganoff

A.J. asked me what we were having one night, and I told him this beef stroganoff, and he was so pleased that I got nervous that this dish might not meet his expectations. That’s me — creating stress where there is none. I am happy to announce that this dish did meet his expectations so much so that he asked me to make my beef stroganoff pizza for his upcoming birthday. I think making beef stroganoff over the stove using fresh ingredients would taste a tiny bit better than this dish, but considering I just dumped everything into a slow cooker and forgot about it, it’s pretty tasty.

It’s good for like a tasty, satisfying, comforting, easy weeknight meal, but maybe not good for that dinner you’re hosting where your boss or your in-laws are invited over. [Read more...]

Deviled eggs

Deviled eggs

deviled eggs

I recently found, like, 10 seasons of Master Chef on Hulu (thanks Anna!), and I’ve been binge-watching it. And now I wonder if there are thousands of line cooks in the kitchens of dive bars longing to leave the deep freezers stacked with pre-cooked breaded chicken and bags of machine-cut french fries to work their way up the ranks in restaurants known for their chefs and seasonal ingredients and experimental menus — because that seems to be every contestant’s story on this show.

One interesting thing is that restaurant kitchens really do still work like the American Dream, where you can come in as a dishwasher and work your tail off until you become a prepper to a line cook to sous chef to chef de cuisine. I don’t know many industries like that anymore. Most of the time you can bypass some steps through education or connections.

My other thoughts about this show include: are they getting enough sleep, because it seems like they stay up really late every night? And also are chefs allowed to not like certain food? There was an episode where they harvested their own oysters, and I think all of them just cut open an oyster and ate it raw. That’s a nope for me. Does that mean I can’t be a chef? Probably.

That doesn’t stop me however from being a home food provider, and I like that role just fine. In our ongoing series on delicious things you can/should bring to a barbecue, next in the queue is deviled eggs.



Deviled eggs are a great side to bring to a party. They’re familiar and fun and lots of people like them. Of course, you’ll have to watch out for the party attendee who stands right next to them. and eats, like, 13 of them. And by watch out, I mean look on in horror and then gossip about them later. Those people really are the worst.

I recently made these deviled eggs for a lovely fortieth birthday party. I probably could have brought double the amount, and they still would have been gone in 10 minutes. People really like deviled eggs, guys. And really, they are not that hard to make. A little mayonnaise, a little salt, a little pepper, a little mustard. Easy peasy. If your husband complains about the smell of hard-cooked egg yolks in the kitchen, ignore him. He clearly doesn’t know delicious.

I started by hard-cooking my eggs. In an earlier post, I showed you two ways to hard-cook eggs: on the stove and in the oven. For deviled eggs, I highly recommend cooking them on the stove — they’re easier to peel later and the yolks all cook consistently this way.

I had a couple casualties during the peeling part. Some of the egg whites were two destroyed to consider taking them to a party, and ask people to eat them. It happens to the best of us. If this happens, make sure you still add the yolks to the bowl, so the proportions stay equal. Just know you’ll have more yolk mixture at the end than egg whites. Normal. Take this as an opportunity to have a pre-party snack. [Read more...]

Best of June

Best of June

Hi! It’s summer! It’s steamy and humid and disgusting outside, but we are powering through to soak up as much sunshine as possible. Living closer to the city has been wonderful — A.J. and I both feel that we have done more this summer than in previous summers because all the action is so easy to access. BUT, doing more things also means less time to blog and, you guys, I’m in such a blogging funk right now. I want to be outside and drink a lot of wine and not put any effort into cooking pretty food. So I’m trying to power through. That’s what is happening. So in our lackluster month of June we introduced the barbecue series which will include a dozen dishes to bring to your summer barbecues. The most popular so far has been these grilled onion potatoes. I also provided a one-week meal plan that included seven days worth of meals, one dessert, a grocery list and preparation instructions. Was this helpful? Should I do more of these? So I also made some honey-spiced chicken thighs and some slow cooker cowboy beef. And finally I gave a recap on planning the Panian family brunch, which was fun and wonderful and maybe, maybe, maybe will become an annual event. ALSO, one of the most exciting things that happened this month is that Rae and I started our podcast, which has been a super fun way to share with you guys. (That is something I’m not feeling funky about. It’s really fun.)

We are going on a little Fourth of July vacation to the wonderful city of Chicago, so I’m giving myself permission to take a blog vacation too. See you guys next week, where I’ll be out of my funk, feeling refreshed from a weekend of fun and friends and ready to get back to the grind. Right? Right!

June’s by the numbers:

  • 23,803 page views
  • 19,883 visits
  • 18,172 unique visitors
  • 21 posts
  • 00:39 average visit length
Killer garden salad with bright lemon dressing

Killer garden salad with bright lemon dressing


In our continuing series on things to bring to a summer barbecue, I wanted to discuss the merits of a really good garden salad. I used to think having a salad with dinner was opening a bag of lettuce, throwing some of it in individual serving bowls, throwing some croutons (from another bag) on top and taking every kind of salad dressing out of the fridge and putting it on the table. While that’s not a bad way to get some leafy greens in your diet, salads can be so much more than that. If you take five minutes to chop up some veggies and make your own croutons and dressing, it really turns a bowl of lettuce into a work of art. And I feel like sometimes parties are lacking in vegetables, so offering to bring something a little bit healthy is a good solution.


Croutons are easy! I’ve made them before. You just slice some bread into smallish cubes (I like to use ciabatta), toss them in some melted butter and add spices such as garlic powder or oregano and broil them for a few minutes. Assembling the salad is even easier. I like to use flavorful lettuce, such as arugula and watercress, which can be a little bitter, with romaine and baby spinach. Then I take a look at my fridge  and add any/all of the following fresh veggies: [Read more...]

Slow cooker pork ‘n beans

Slow cooker pork ‘n beans


We have another dish for the barbecue (as in barbecue party, not grill), and this one, I think, is pretty essential. You can’t have a summer party without pork ‘n beans. Right? Right. This version is made in the slow cooker which serves two purposes: 1) it’s largely hands off and 2) you can keep it in the slow cooker and it will stay warm.


Also what I like about this recipe is that you make your own sauce. I think a lot of times people make baked beans by just heating up the canned stuff, but if you add a couple of ingredients, it really enhances the flavor.

To make this, I dumped three cans of the baked beans in the slow cooker. Then I added some cut up hot dogs (you can use cocktail wieners or little smokies, but they are more expensive and basically taste the same), ketchup, chopped onion, mustard and molasses. (See! It’s a simple sauce, but it makes all the difference.) [Read more...]

What’s in season: summer

Buying fruits and vegetables that are in season and grown locally is the economical way to save in the produce department. Plus that means they spend less time in transit, so they’re picked when they’re riper and best tasting.

The above map is a look at what’s in season in the U.S. from June 21 to September 21, sorted by region.

Gastronomy: Log Cabin Inn

Gastronomy: Log Cabin Inn



Peanut butter pie at the Log Cabin Inn in Harmony, Pa.