This week is for celebrations – whatever your celebration may be!

Perhaps it’s Easter or Passover you’re commemorating this week, or maybe it’s the grass turning from a brittle straw beige to green.  After this winter, the upward inch of the thermometer is a good enough excuse for a celebration, and with that celebration comes food.

Roast Lemon Yogurt Lamb

Roast Lemon Yogurt Lamb and Couscous Salad

My family celebrates Easter, and I’m happily stuck in the same recipe rut I’ve been stuck in for years.  Not the expected ham, but the expected Roast Lemon Yogurt Lamb. Not the expected sweet potatoes and marshmallows, but the expected Couscous with Eggplant and Feta. 

(If you’re serving ham or poultry, this recipe for an Asparagus, Gruyere and Wild Mushroom Bread Pudding is sensational; all the more so because it may be made a day in advance.)

Beet & Yogurt Dip with Goat Cheese & Hazlenuts

Beet & Yogurt Dip with Goat Cheese & Hazlenuts

Always a Mediterranean Appetizer Platter (pictured top) works well for us; if my daughter’s visiting from Chicago it substitutes for supper the night of her arrival. If I’m feeding a large group, it’s a natural prelude to my Mediterranean-inspired menu. Another easy Spring-ish appetizer, that could also fill-in for salad, would be Proscuitto-Wrapped Asparagus with Blue Cheese.

I’ll buy my scratch-made hummus, grape leaves and Baba Ganouch, as always, from the Mediterranean Market, which saves me several hours in the kitchen. But I’ll make my Beet and Yogurt dip – there’s nothing I could buy that comes close and I’m crazy about the color.

Pistachio Ice Cream with Baklava

Pistachio Ice Cream with Baklava

Unless someone offers dessert, I’m going to serve store-bought Lemon Sorbet.  Last year I made homemade Pistachio Ice Cream (photographed left), and if you’ve the energy and tools – the recipe is the essence of buttery pistachio.

And then there’s the day after Easter – what to do with leftover eggs. My chicks have flown the nest, but I still crave egg dishes the day after Easter. Missing my kids, and the hoop-la surrounding the holiday, egg dishes are comforting.

Polish-Stuffed Easter Eggs

Polish-Stuffed Easter Eggs

Here’s a clever recipe my neighbor, Krystyna, shared for Polish-Stuffed Easter Eggs. My mother always made Curried Creamed Eggs with Asparagus after Easter. Stuffed Eggs Florentine are another possibility.  I’ll see what I’m craving on Monday.

Whatever your plans, or absence of, I sincerely hope your week is lovely, and that you can share that love with family, friends, or in your own meditations during this advent of Spring.

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Tricked-Out Ramen for Beat-Back Souls

A bleak, rainy day in April finds me hungry, deliriously jet-lagged, and loathe to venture far to replenish our larder. We’ve been roaming the bottom of the earth for several weeks, and have returned to the remnants of Michigan’s most ruthless of winters – snarly friends and pitted piles of sooted, melting ice lie in the wake. Yawning, sharp-toothed potholes threaten to bust a tire if I’m not on top of my game – heck – I’m not even at the bottom of my game, but somewhere deep beneath: I’m in a half-baked ramen state of mind.


Tonight’s version of ramen; a compromise between instant and homemade.

And I have to have it now. I know there’s an ocean of difference between traditional ramen and the cello-pack noodles accompanied by that ubiquitous foil square hosting any number of magical, mystery ingredients. I also know better than to diss this staple that kept my kids from starving as they worked their way through college.

In Japan, however, ramen is the antithesis of fast-food; an art form at the finest ramen shops in Tokyo. You’ll also find excellent ramen in every major city across the globe, and a myriad of delicious concoctions at Ann Arbor’s Tomuken Noodle Bar on Liberty.

Tonight I’m compromising, accessorizing the packaged noodles with vegetables, and substituting miso paste, et al., for that aforementioned packet of questionable origin.

A side note: Below you’ll find a slide show of Sydney pics; check out the previous blogs for posts from New Zealand & Port Douglas, Australia. Final lesson learned: For all the delicious meals we had in Australia, just say NO to Vegemite! (And I gave it every opportunity to love.)


The Australian National Flag; New Zealand will likely redesign their flag, but it's unlikely that the Aussies will follow suit.


The Sydney Opera House - a multi-venue performance art and architectural masterpiece – resembles billowing sails.


In 2007, this iconic multiple performance venue was designated a UNESCO world heritage site.


We enjoyed Mozart's "The Magic Flute", one of the 3,000 events hosted each year.


Who knew we could have saved big bucks if we'd chosen a tour option, which would have reduced the price of the tickets AND included a tour! Now YOU know.


Tasmanian oysters were the creamiest, most full-flavored mollusks I've ever tasted, located at water's edge, The Sydney Cove, Circular Quay.


We stayed in The Rocks, Sydney's city center, established after the colony's formation in 1788. The free daily tour is a terrific orientation to this historic area.


Susannah Place; a historic house in The Rocks, is now a museum documenting the working class of Sydney in the mid-eighteen-hundreds.


The original buildings were made from local sandstone, giving the area its name. Now mostly gentrified, it was once a slum frequented by sailors and prostitutes.


Countries such as Russia and the United States, have banned the import of kangaroo by-products, citing health and environmental concerns.


Sydney menus, however, are replete with 'Roo, the lean meat adorning plates is certified, sustainably managed and free-range. I enjoyed it as part of a tasting menu at The Wine Odyssey in The Rocks.


Australia and New Zealand both claim to have invented the Pavlova, a light meringue concoction of whipped cream and fruit named after the great Russian prima ballerina, Anna Pavlova.


Hiking the string of beach towns along coastal cliffs from Coogee to Bondi Beach is a must. Three hours were well-spent experiencing Pacific panorama's in Sydney's uber-charged surfer/beach culture.


A rock resembling a morel mushroom near Bondi Beach.


Reward yourself with Fish & Chips at "Bondi Icebergs" at the hike's conclusion – the pic usurps all superlatives about the view.


Chinatown, a couple of blocks from Darling Harbor, is a marvelous way of experiencing the diversity of Sydney.


The Dixon House Food Court, located in subterranean Chinatown, was crammed with stalls hawking everything from Sichuan hot pots to Cantonese dumplings. A sensorial explosion of China, Japan, Vietnam, and Korea; sweating bodies, crying babies, vendors shouting numbers…low rent, dingy, gotta' experience!


The Chinese Garden of Friendship provided a stunning, tranquil antidote to the chaos of lunch.


All roads lead back to ramen; pots of the stuff dot sternos across the landscape.

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Recipe: Tricked-out Ramen for Beat-Back Souls


  • 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 bell peppers*, stems and membranes removed, sliced
  • 2 bok choy*, stems separated from leaves, and chopped
  • 2 cups mushrooms, shiitake* preferred, cleaned and sliced
  • 1 knob of fresh grated ginger root
  • 3 cups hot water
  • 1/3 cup, or more, your favorite miso paste**
  • 2 (3-5 ounce) packages dry ramen noodles (seasoning packs omitted)
  • Sriracha, wasabi, chili paste or other spicy Asian condiment
  • Chopped cilantro, optional


  1. Heat oil over medium-low heat in a Dutch oven or other wide-lipped pan. Stir in garlic and cook until just fragrant, taking care not to burn. Stir in sliced peppers and bok choy stems, reserving leaves. Cook until just tender, stirring occasionally.
  2. Stir in ginger and mushrooms. Combine hot water and miso and stir into vegetables; bring to a low boil. Stir in noodles and reduce heat to medium. Cook until noodles are just tender. Stir in bok choy leaves and cook until vibrant green. Serve with choice of spicy condiment and chopped cilantro, if using.

*Onion, chicken, seafood, tofu, pork belly, fried egg, scallions, kimchi, watercress, kale, nori are other ways of “tricking out” your ramen. **Miso is a salty, savory fermented paste.Your selection of miso – whatever the color – in part defines the umami flavor. (Ann Arbor’s Hiller’s has a great selection of fresh, additive & MSG free options.)

Number of servings (yield): 2

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.


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Tropical Queensland Fruit Salad (that can be adapted to any fruit available to you)

Our plane decending into Cairns.

Our plane decending into Cairns.

On our flight from Christchurch to  Queensland, Australia, the passengers on Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 weighed heavy on our minds, particularly when traversing such a large expanse of sea.

Skimming above the Great Barrier Reef making our decent into Cairns (the gateway to reef exploration) –   a collective sigh was audible.  Awe, certainly, of the aquatic opals beneath, but in one passenger’s pinched mouth and raised brow, I imagined her prayer that perhaps – just maybe – there could be a miracle for the lost passengers aboard that ill-fated flight.

Box jellyfish & crocodile alert!

Box jellyfish & crocodile alert!

Escaping the hustle of Cairns (pronounced “Cans”), Richard and I took a shuttle to our final destination – Port Douglas; a beach town whose small-town feel and hip sensibilities reminded me of Ann Arbor, minus winter’s frigid temps. It’s a town where the Great Barrier Reef meets the Daintree Rain Forest, our planet’s most ancient forest – what’s not to like?

You stay there, I'll stay here!

You stay there, I’ll stay here!

Maybe the monstrous spiders, icky creepy-crawlies, box jellyfish and saltwater crocs…or perhaps it’s the thousands of bats screeching through the skies each evening (it’s mating season in March). So you take precautions, such as wearing a stinger suit to thwart jellyfish when snorkeling, and get used to sharing space with the critters. After a few days, you wonder why you were concerned in the first place.

In off-season, $140 per night buys us a huge, 3-bedroom apartment with a gardened terrace leading to a pool and "barbie".

In off-season, $135 per night buys us a huge, 3-bedroom apartment close to town, with a gardened terrace leading to a pool and “barbie”.

Because it’s rainy season in the wet tropics, the tourists have diminished, which makes for ideal, stress-free exploration. A free upgrade in our accommodation, reduced tariffs across the board, no waits to explore the reef or get the best table when dining; paradise, enow! We carry our umbrella, rumor has it a cyclone is brewing off the coast, but only once has it rained.

Rambutan means "hairy".

Rambutan means “hairy”.

We’re at that stage in the journey where simplicity is appreciated, and that applies to the menu. What we enjoy most are the fruits; fruits we’ve never tasted. We could live off of the fruits found at the market in Port Douglas! An “apple”, for instance, so sweet, luscious, and creamy it’s aptly called a custard apple. A spiked, red-headed fruit –rambutan – chewy, sweet and slightly sour, somewhat like a grape – but way more fun to eat.                      .

Tropical Fruit Salad

Tropical Fruit Salad

Most of you don’t have access to these fruits – I don’t in Michigan – so the following recipe has been modified to suit whatever fruits are available to you. As with my last two New Zealand blogs, I’ve included a sprinkle of images from Queensland below. Some were taken at a wildlife refuge, others in the Daintree vacinity.




One of thousands of bats that enjoy fruits from particular trees in Port Douglas. They congregate at this time of year during mating season.


The endangered Cassowary; a huge flightless bird who makes the Daintree their home.


Koalas are not really bears but marsupials that feast on eucalyptus. A particular strain of chlamydia is now causing a devastating epidemic, wiping out their numbers.


The "Joey" peeked out Mama Roo's pouch, retreating swiftly when my camera was raised.


Freshwater crocs, saltwater crocs, crocodile farms; there was a solid barrier separating me from this dude.


Wallabies are smaller than kangaroo's - there was a field filled with the hopping critters a couple of miles away from the Cairns airport.


Every tree tells a story.


I almost ran head-into this web on my stroll at Cape Tribulation.


The low-pitched drone of the didjeridu, played by a native Aboriginal man, attired in native paint & garb for the tourists.

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Recipe: Tropical Queensland Fruit Salad


  • 28 ounces plain yogurt, strained Greek yogurt preferred
  • 4-6 tablespoons honey or agave syrup
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 cup grated coconut, sweetened or unsweetened
  • 1/3 cup pineapple or orange juice
  • 1 cup your preferred granola
  • 6-7 cups fresh cut fruit*
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped mint, plus extra sprigs for garnish (optional)


  1. In a large bowl, combine yogurt, 4 tablespoons honey, lime juice, ginger, 1/2 cup coconut, juice and walnuts. Add additional honey to taste.
  2. Spoon and layer fruit into dish or parfait glass, sprinkle with granola or nuts, top with yogurt and additional fruit, garnish with mint sprigs if desired, and serve.

* Raspberries, grapefruit, apple, pear, pineapple, pomegranates, grapes and bananas are available to many of us across the globe, year round, and fine in this salad. If available, lychee, guava, bread fruit, papaya, mango, passionfruit, rambutan and/or custard apples would be ideal.

Number of servings (yield): 4-6 large servings

Time: 25 minutes

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.




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