Mary’s Farfalla with Grilled Chicken


My 14-year old son Josh loves anything cooked by his best friend Sammy’s mom, Mary.

“Mom, can you make me sandwiches like the ones Sammy’s mom makes?” I oblige by going to the supermarket and calling Mary on the cell phone in the aisles, asking her the exact brand of the bread, mayo, cold cuts, and cheese. I want to make sure that I reproduce her amazing sandwiches perfectly.

Last month, Josh came home from an overnighter at Sammy’s.

“How was your time there?” I ask.

“Oh, the toast at breakfast…” he replies dreamily, which forces me to get on the phone once again.

“Mary, what is the secret ingredient of your toast? Josh says it was so good.”

Mary replies, “Smuckers.”

So the next morning, I serve my son toast with butter and Smuckers.

“That’s pretty good, Mom,” he declares. “But not as good as Sammy’s mom’s.”

Of course.

He then spends the next couple of days gushing about this pasta dish he had at Sammy’s house.

“What was in it, Josh?” I ask.

“Well, it had bow tie pasta, pesto sauce, grilled chicken, and toasted pine nuts.”

“Mmmm…I love toasted pine nuts, but it’s so easy to burn them,” I remark.

“Yeah, good thing Sammy’s dad likes burnt ones. He didn’t let her throw away the first batch.”

Well, it was good to know that Mary is human, after all.

From the description, it sounded like a dish I would also enjoy, so I called Mary one more time. I got her recipe and made it for my family, and it was a hit. Even Josh thought it was good. Of course, not as good as when Sammy’s mom makes it, but good enough!

Here’s her super secret recipe for you all to enjoy:



  • 3 tbsp. pine nuts
  • Pesto Butter (recipe follows)
  • 2 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 10 oz. dry Farfalle (bow tie shaped) pasta
  • ¼ cup dry white wine (or water)
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • Salt
  • 2 tsp. chopped roasted red pepper (dry)
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1- 2 cloves garlic
  • ½ cup lightly packed parsley (fresh)
  • ½ cup lightly packed basil leaves (fresh)
  • 1 green onion (including top)
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper
  • ¼ cup butter (melted)


Spread pine nuts on baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees until lightly browned. Prepare Pesto Butter. Cook chicken in frying pan until cooked through. Cut chicken into ½ inch wide bite-size strips. While chicken is cooking, boil pasta just until tender, drain well and set aside. In a wide frying pan, combine Pesto Butter and wine. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until bubbly (about 2 minutes). Stir in cream and bring to a full rolling boil, stirring often. Season sauce to taste with salt then add roasted red pepper (2 tsp. can be too spicy for kids – I use about 1), pasta, chicken and Parmesan cheese. Mix lightly using 2 spoons. Sprinkle with remaining pine nuts.

Pesto Butter

In a blender or food processor combine 2 tbsp. pine nuts, garlic, coarsely chopped parsley and basil, green onion, olive oil, butter and pepper. Whirl until well combined (about 2 minutes).

Meg and Her 3rd Place Win in a Photo Contest


This gallery contains 3 photos.

My 12-year old girl Meg just found out she came in third place in a photo contest!  It was just a little contest by somebody semi-famous on instagram, but Meg did beat out over 230 entries.  Best yet, her friend … Continue reading

Birthday Party for…Mom!

20130110-145956.jpgRecently, I had a birthday party. For a change, it was for…myself!

When was the last time you had a birthday party for yourself, Mom? I’m not talking about the mile stone birthdays, like your 25th, 50th, or 75th to which you invite everyone you’ve ever met in your life to celebrate the fact that you’re still breathing. No, I’m talking about an ordinary, run-of-the-mill birthday like mine was recently.

I don’t think I’ve had a birthday party for myself since I was a kid. I’m pretty sure it was an after-school event with some snacks, cake, and games like pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, not like today’s major productions which I’ve already blogged about. In any case, I wouldn’t even know how I could get anyone to come to my birthday party, because, you know, everyone’s busy planning parties for their own kids. Good thing my birthday happened to land on a Friday this time, because our church small group meets regularly at our home on Friday nights. We’re talking built-in audience. My husband worked in cahoots with one of our members to make certain that someone brought a cake. Actually, there were two, and one of them had my name on it!

Sure, my husband and kids always take me out to dinner for my birthday each year, notifying the server discreetly to ensure that a bunch of off-pitch workers would come out of the kitchen at some point in the evening to sing something like this:

Happy birthday to you

Happy birthday to you

Happy birthday, happy birthday

Happy birthday to you

The song, as with the on-the-house dessert, would be quite generic, though very much appreciated. And, according to the single candle on said desserts, I’m perpetually a one-year old.

But at my recent celebration, the cake specifically said, “Happy Birthday Junko,” courtesy of my friend Sandi. We still couldn’t fit all the candles to represent my age on that cake, as big as it was, so we went for “symbolic,” though more than one candle, for sure. And, all my friends sang to me this very personalized birthday song:

Happy birthday, to you

Happy birthday, to you

Happy birthday, dear JUNKO [dramatic pause here]

Happy birthday to you! [and some bluesy "...and many moooore"]

Oh, how delightful! I felt so special, and my friends and family made me feel so important.

And then I got it — that’s why kids love birthday parties!

Every child deserves a birthday party. I don’t think it’s a narcissistic thing at all to have people celebrate the very day on which you were born. It’s a very basic desire in life, and we parents love to shower our own kids with parties and gifts. Unfortunately, not all kids around the world have families who can afford to throw birthday parties, and my heart breaks for them.

That’s why I love the humanitarian organization World Vision. You see, every year, World Vision throws a gigantic birthday party for every child they work with. Many areas do monthly parties for all children born that month. These kids all feel cherished and loved, just like I did at my own party.

World Vision sends us birthday cards to fill out and to return so that they can forward to our sponsored children (we have four) a birthday greeting from us each year. I just love hearing about the big parties they throw each year! You can learn about them by clicking on this link here. You can also watch a short video explaining what they do. And, if you feel so moved, you can give a small donation to help these children in impoverished areas receive a gift at the next birthday party.

(And, by the way, I don’t receive any kick-backs from World Vision for telling you about this. I just so believe in what they do that I had to tell you about it!)

So, what do you say? Shall we celebrate your birthday this year, Mom? Join me and let’s do it.

Happy Birthday to YOU!