The Professor and I are back from Italy – and what a trip it was! And though the locals kept apologizing for the weather, we found the mid-70s temperatures perfect – even the occasional day of rain wasn’t enough to dampen our spirits – we were in Italy!

We have quite a bit of post-production work to complete and a lawn to mow and a small garden that needs some tender loving care after being away for 12 days; we missed the blooming of our Korean lilacs, columbines and our white peonys – some of my favorite early spring bloomers. The lillies, roses and iris are beginning to bloom now but the best part of coming home is the farmer’s markets are now in full swing: asparagus, strawberries, tender baby greens, spring onions, peas, baby kale and rhubarb can be seen on more than one market table this time of year.


I don’t think I have to tell you that the markets in Italy were spectacular: sugary sweet strawberries, Tuscan melons, orangey-golden apricots and some of the best tasting tomatoes I’ve ever had – sweet enough to stand at the kitchen sink and enjoy every bite while the juices ran down my double-chin – no salt, no olive oil, just sun-ripened tomatoes all by their little lonesomes – pure heaven in my book.

Something really magical happened in that Italian kitchen that I hadn’t expected. Most breakfasts and dinners were on our own and even though the attendees were from both coasts of the US and everywhere in between, people would head to the market each day and bring back something to cook and share. That kitchen was full of conversation, laughs and delicious smells each night until the wee hours of the next morning; strangers became fast friends, the quiet and shy introverts joined in alongside the boisterous extroverts – and in a Tuscan kitchen, thousands of miles away from home, people connected in very genuine ways.


One of the books we’re cooking from these days is The Fresh 20 by Melissa Lanz; Melissa is a personal friend whom I’d met at a writing workshop more than a year ago – I was working on memoir pieces, she was finishing up this book. And while The Fresh 20 is geared towards families, we have found it quite enjoyable to use for the two of us. Personally, I wish a book like this was available while raising my own kids – what mother wouldn’t love to take a 20-ingredient list to the grocery store and be able to make 5 healthy, yet simple, meals for the week??? The book is organized by seasons which makes it quite easy to shop at a Farmer’s market or grocery store and there isn’t a single recipe that requires a hard-to-find ingredient; and ‘simple’ doesn’t mean boring: Lamb Penne, Swiss Chard Frittata, DIY Corn tortillas, Fish Tacos, Maple Soy Salmon and Fancy Franks and Beans are just some of the recipes you’ll find in the book. Husband/photographer extrordinnaire Trent, has created such mouth-watering photos, I find myself choosing something new every time I flip open a page.

And just like that big Tuscan kitchen, there isn’t a recipe in this book I wouldn’t serve to those gathered around my table; with shopping lists, prep guides and more than 125 recipes using whole, unprocessed foods, The Fresh 20 really is a beauty.


We found some lovely French radishes at the market this last week which made for some mighty fine radish butter; Melissa cooks her radishes to remove some of the heat – we chose to grate ours raw – either way, this is an easy, yet filling spring appetizer or light lunch or dinner.


Disclosure: I was sent a copy of The Fresh 20 free of charge; however, all reviews and opinions are strictly my own.


  1. I’m curious as to what you’re favorite GF tortillas are? One of my favorite summer lunches is a toasted baguette slathered with salted butter and sliced radishes. If I’m going to keep up this GF thing, I need to find a good bread replacement!

  2. We visited Itlay last year and I cared less about all the walking, bad weather, the rain, we were Italy after all 🙂 Love that place and loving your radish butter. Sounds crazy GOOD!

  3. Jenny Hartin

    That looks beautiful and delicious!

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