Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Easy Spinach Dip

I spent all day yesterday driving home, so no time for a long recipe today. I must have eaten a pound of this stuff during my vacation - try it on sourdough bread!

  • 1 (10 oz.) pkg. chopped spinach, thawed (use the microwave) and squeezed dry (in a spinner, if you've got one)
  • 1 1/2 c. sour cream
  • 1 c. mayonnaise
  • 1 pkg. Knorr Swiss dried vegetable soup mix
  • 8 oz. can water chestnuts, drained and chopped finely
  • 3 green onions, chopped
Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl. Chill in refrigerator for 2 hours to let flavors meld and dried soup to hydrate. Stir before serving.

Monday, December 29, 2008


I'm still on vacation, so you're getting a post by proxy. Are you trying to figure out what to do with the rest of your leftover turkey and such? Well the Food Network's Alton Brown had a whole show devoted to dealing with that stuff. I just hope you saved the turkey carcass for soup! Check out

We'll be back to real recipes on Wednesday.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Sloppy Joes

Today we finish our week with another easy recipe based on Saturday's Meat Sauce recipe. And who doesn't love Sloppy Joes? They're sweet. They're tangy. They get your kids to eat something other than pizza and hot dogs. Best of all, they taste good!

  • 2½ cups of Saturday's (12/20/08) meat sauce (about ¼ batch), fresh or thawed
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Toasted buns or hearty sandwich bread
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat until the surface becomes shimmery. Add bell pepper and saute until it starts to brown, 5-10 minutes. Add sauce, sugar, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce. Simmer until thickened, 5-10 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve on toasted buns or sandwich bread. Makes 8-10 sandwiches.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Here we continue the theme of easy recipes using our pre-made meat sauce (see last Saturday's post for details).

I love lasagna, but I dislike taking the time to painstakingly lay out each layer of noodles, meat, cheese, etc. No-boil noodles make it a little easier, but it's still a lot of hassle. This delicious recipe allows you to forgo the hassle and just dump everything together. It tastes just like the original thing, and you don't miss the layers of noodles at all.

  • 1 box (1 pound) pene, farfalle (bow tie), or fusilli (corkscrew) pasta, slightly undercooked
  • 5 cups (about half a batch) of Saturday's (12/20/08) meat sauce, (fresh or thawed)
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 4 eggs
  • 32 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 2 cups shredded mozarella cheese (about 4 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesean cheese (about 1 ounce, you probably want to use the good stuff)
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsely
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • Nonstick cooking spray or vegatable oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat eggs in a large mixing bowl. Add cheeses, parsely, nutmeg, salt, and pepper and mix until well combined. Lube a large baking dish with nonstick spray. Dump pasta into baking dish. Mix sauce with Italian seasoning and basil and pour onto the noodles. Smoothly spread cheese mixture on top with a rubber or silicone spatula. Bake for 1 hour or until the top has set up and is starting to brown. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Taco Salad

Today, begin this week's theme of stuff you can make with our super-duper all-purpose meat sauce (see Saturday's post). We start out with a great Mexican-American favorite: Taco Salad

  • 5 cups (about half a batch) of Saturday's (12/20/08) meat sauce, thawed (or freshly made!)
  • 1 packet (1 ounce) taco seasoning mix
  • 6 tortillas (flour or corn), 8-1o inches across (or whatever tortillas you have lying around!)
  • 1 head shredded iceberg or romaine lettuce
  • Toppings (any or all of the following, as you like them)
    • diced onion
    • fresh tomato, chopped
    • sliced jalapenos
    • sliced olives
    • corn
    • crumbled corn chips
    • beans, regular or refried
    • shredded cheddar or Mexican blend cheese
    • sour cream, ranch dressing, or queso dip
Mix sauce and seasoning in a medium saucepan and simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, lightly toast each tortilla over medium-high heat in a dry skillet or saute pan until they just start to become brown and crispy. Put each tortilla in a wide, shallow bowl or dinner plate. Add lettuce, seasoned sauce, and whatever toppings you like.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Super-Duper All-Purpose Meat Sauce

Face it: much of the time, we're too busy to cook. Between jobs, kids, and dishes, we'd rather spend our precious free time with a good book while we wait for the pizza to come instead of slaving over a hot stove. Next week, I'll show you how you can use a little bit of advance preparation (like on a weekend when you have nothing going on) to yield several almost-instant meals. It's like convenience food without the extra price! Today, you get the recipe for a sauce that acts as the base for a myriad of other recipes, making those other meals quick and easy. As an added bonus, this recipe can be doubled or tripled (or even quadrupled or quintupled if you have a large enough pot), making that great deal on hamburger at the bulk club look even better.
(Sorry for no pictures this week, I'm on vacation!)

  • 2 pounds lean or extra-lean ground beef
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2-4 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 2 cans (28 ounces each) diced tomatoes with juice
  • 2 cans (8 ounces each) tomato sauce
  • 1 can (4 ounces) tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
Put beef in a large skillet or dutch oven and cook over medium-high heat until it starts to brown, about 5-8 minutes. Add onions, salt, and pepper and continue to cook until onion is completely cooked, another 5-10 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another minute. Add remaining ingredients and simmer until thickened, about 1 hour. Cool to room temperature before putting into two 48-ounce freezer containers. Refrigerate for up to 4 days or freeze up to 3 months. When using, place frozen container in microwave on high for 3 minutes, then stir (or break up) the sauce with a large wooden spoon, and repeat until thawed.

Stay tuned here over next week to see what you can do with this incredibly convenient stuff!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Grilled Hamburger Salad with Corn Salsa

So normally, I'm not a fan of the "low-carb" craize. I mean, half the point of a hamburger is the delicious, toasted-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside, sesame-coated goodness that is the bun. However, I may have to change my tone a bit, as this salad is effectively a hamburger without the bun, and it is good! To make up for the missing carb-laden bread, we dress the patties with a zesty corn salsa that brings contrasting flavors, textures, and temperatures.

Salsa Ingredients
  • 1 can (14 ounces) diced tomato, drained
  • 1 can (7 ounces) diced green chiles
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
Hamburger Ingredients
  • 24 ounces ground beef
  • ½ cup breadcrumbs
  • ¼ cup milk
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
Other Ingredients
  • Butter Lettuce Leaves
  • Shredded Cheddar or Mexican cheese blend (optional)
Salsa Directions
Simmer tomatoes, chiles, and corn in a small saucepan till the corn is cooked and the mixture tightens up, about 3-5 minutes. Stir in cilantro. Chill in refrigerator for 30-60 minutes (if desired).

Hamburger Directions
Gently mix all hamburger ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Your hands are the best tools for this - overworking the mix is not good for the texture of the patties. Form into 3-inch patties. Grill over medium heat (or place under a broiler 4-5 inches from the heat) for 3-5 minutes on a side, or until they reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees.

Place 2 hot patties on a chilled lettuce leaf. Top with salsa and cheese. You could also add salad dressing (Catalina or French would be good), sour cream, or sliced Jalepenos.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Tomato and Barley Soup

I love tomato soup. It is one of America's true comfort foods. Using roasted tomatoes intensifies the tomato flavor, and adding barley gives it an earthiness and body that makes it even better.

  • 3 cans (14 ounces each) fire roasted tomatoes, with juice
  • 24 ounces beef broth (use vegetable broth for a vegetarian option)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced fine
  • 1 cup quick-cooking barley (uncooked)
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary, ground in mortar or blender
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped fine
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
Place tomatoes (with juice), broth, garlic, barley, rosemary, and Italian seasoning in a large pot. Bring to a boil on high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly (about 3 minutes). Add fresh basil, vinegar, and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Note: If fresh basil is not available, you may use 1 teaspoon dried basil, added with the Italian seasoning.

Serving Suggestions (Try one or all of them!)
  • Add fresh pasta and simmer for another 3 minutes (or until al dente, 7-8 minutes for dried pasta)
  • Put a 1/4 cup of cooked (or canned and rinsed) white beans in each serving bowl before pouring in soup
  • Top with freshly toasted sourdough croutons and Parmesan cheese

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Pampered Chef ® Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Torte Recipe

Here's a favorite dessert from when Michelle was a Pampered Chef Consultant. She always loved demonstrating the cookware when this was the result!

  • Nonstick cooking spray with flour
  • 1 pkg (18-21 oz) traditional or chewy brownie mix
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp vegetable oil, divided
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 6 pkg (1.5 oz each) peanut butter cup candies
  • 1 bag (10 oz) peanut butter morsels (1 2/3 cups)
  • 2 cups mini marshmallows

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray Torte Pans with nonstick cooking spray with flour. Place 8-in. circles of parchment paper over centers of pans; set aside. In a 4-qt. mixing bowl, combine brownie mix, eggs, 1/2 cup of the oil, water and peanut butter; mix well. Divide batter between pans, spreading to edges. Bake 10-12 minutes or until centers feel firm to the touch.

Meanwhile, dice peanut butter cups; set aside. In a Classic Batter Bowl, combine peanut butter morsels and remaining 1 tbsp oil; microwave on HIGH 1-2 minutes or until melted and smooth, stirring after each 30-second interval. Spoon 1/4 cup of the peanut butter mixture into resealable plastic bag; set aside. Fold marshmallows into remaining peanut butter mixture.

Remove pans from oven to Cooling Rack; let brownies stand in pans 4 minutes. To assemble torte, invert one brownie well-side up onto a platter. Using a spatula, spread marshmallow filling into brownie well. Invert remaining brownie well-side up onto cooling rack; slide onto bottom layer. Evenly distribute diced peanut butter cups into brownie well. Trim corner of filled bag to allow peanut butter mixture to flow through; drizzle over torte. Serve immediately.

Yield: 16 servings

Nutrients per serving: Calories 470, Total Fat 24 g, Saturated Fat 10 g, Cholesterol 40 mg, Carbohydrate 53 g, Protein 10 g, Sodium 250 mg, Fiber 2 g

Cook's Tip: To easily cut torte, knife into hot water between cuts and wipe dry with a damp paper towel.

It's best to use a nonstick cooking spray containing flour (for baking) when baking these brownies.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Chilly Cheer Punch

This festive drink is great during the holidays, or whenever a non-alcoholic cocktail is called for.

  • 16 oz whole cranberry sauce (from the can or homemade)
  • 12 oz frozen unsweetened raspberries
  • 24 oz. ginger ale, plus more for drinking (we use Diet Canada Dry, no corn syrup)
Place cranberry sauce, raspberries and 12 oz ginger ale in blender; blend until smooth.
Place mixture in gallon-size re-sealable food storage bag. Add remaining 12 oz of ginger ale, seal tightly and shake to blend ingredients. Place bag in freezer overnight or until frozen.
To serve, use meat mallet (not the pokey kind!) or side of a can to crush frozen cranberry mixture in bag until slushy. Spoon into dessert cups or wine glasses and enjoy as an ice or pour more ginger ale over it for a slushy drink. Serves 10

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Cauliflower and Pea Salad

I was going to a potluck lunch the other day at work and I needed to bring a vegatable dish. I had planned on making a salad I had seen on TV, but I forgot to buy the ingredients the day before. So I went to the Albertson's deli to see what looked good. They had a "Crunchy Pea Salad" that looked good, and it tasted good too! Since the deli didn't list the ingredients, I had to reverse-engineer the recipe on my own. This is what I came up with.
  • 12 ounces peas (fresh or thawed), about 2 cups
  • 6 ounces chopped fresh cauliflower, about 3 cups
  • 2 ribs celery (about 6 ounces total), split in half and thinly sliced
  • 4 strips bacon, fried, drained, and crumbled
  • ½ cup chopped toasted cashews, about 3 ounces
  • 2 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
  • ¾ cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper (to taste)

Mix mayonnaise, lemon juice, parsley, green onions, and pepper in a small bowl. Combine remaining ingredients in a medium bowl and gently toss. Fold in dressing. Refrigerate 30-60 minutes before serving

Monday, December 8, 2008

Beef Stew

Today we have recipe written up by my wife, Michelle. This stew is especially good served in sourdough bread bowls.
  • 3-4 lbs beef chuck, cut into 1” cubes
  • Kosher salt
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, medium chop (1½ cups)
  • Celery, large chop (¾ cup)
  • Carrots, large chop (¾ cup)
  • ¼ c. flour
  • chicken broth and beef broth, 1 can each
  • 3-4 garlic cloves.
  • 3-4 bay leaves
  • 6 small potatoes – red bliss or Yukon gold
  • 1 tsp. rosemary, crushed (in mortar or blender)
  • ½ tsp ground thyme
  • 2 Tbs. fresh parsley, chopped – divided
  • 2 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 4 oz. peas, frozen

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Place cubed beef in a large bowl. Season beef with salt, drizzle lightly with oil, then toss to coat. Lightly brown the meat (in batches) in a Dutch oven on medium high heat. As the batches cook, remove beef to a clean bowl, set aside. Add 2 Tbs. vegetable oil to Dutch oven. Saute celery, onion, and carrots on medium high heat until onions begin to cook down and carrots are softening. Sift flour into veggie mix (use a mesh strainer or flour sifter). Cook until flour is lightly browned.

Turn heat down to medium. Add garlic and cook just until fragrant. Add equal parts beef and chicken broth to just barely cover everything (about 1½ cup each) & deglaze the pan. Add potatoes, rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, Worcestershire sauce, pepper and 1 Tbs. parsley. Bring mixture to a simmer, then place in oven. Cook for 2 hours.

Remove stew from the oven, and add peas and 1Tbs. parsley. When peas are heated though, serve.

8-12 servings

Friday, December 5, 2008

Home Fries with Sausage and Eggs

A breakfast favorite in my home, I can even get my boys to eat these with no complaining (and I have very picky boys)! You will want to use your largest frying surface to cook the potatoes, either a 12-inch skillet or a large griddle. Cast iron works best for this, but anodized aluminum or stainless steel would also be fine. You probably don't want to use a Teflon pan - they don't brown things very well.

  • 2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and partially cooked in the microwave for 3 minutes.
  • 8 ounces of Italian or country sausage (hot or mild, your choice), casings removed and cut/broken into ½ inch cubes/chunks
  • 1 onion, frenched - i.e. ends removed, peeled, cut in half longitudinally, and then sliced radially (see illustration)
  • 8 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • salt and black pepper
Illustration: How to "French" an onion


Thinly slice the potatoes about ⅛ inch thick (you can use a mandolin slicer or food processor). Put the potato slices in plenty of cold water and soak for 5 minutes to remove extra starch. Remove potatoes from water and rinse in a collander under running water (do not just dump potatoes into the collander or all the starch in the water will collect on the potatoes as it runs over them). Dry potato slices in a spinner or with paper towels. Heat oil in your largest skillet over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes and salt and pepper to taste (about ½ teaspoon each). Fry the potatoes until deep golden brown, gently stirring them over every minute or so to ensure even cooking. Meanwhile, put sausage in a large skillet and turn on medium heat. When the sausage is just starting to brown, add the onions. Continue to cook, stirring frequently until the sausage is cooked through. When both the potatoes and sausage are done, gently fold the sausage into the potatoes and continue to cook for 2 minutes. Fry the eggs in the other pan. Serve with toast and juice.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Chinese Chimichangas

My wife Michelle plans our meals a few weeks at a time, so she can coordinate grocery lists, shopping schedules, store sales, etc. One Sunday, the meal plan called for "Mu Shu Pork," something I didn't really feel like eating. What I did feel like eating was a chimichanga (a fried burrito). I did the next best thing - I took the ingredients for the mu shu pork and put them into chimichangas. They turned out to be quite tasty - at least tasty enough to include here!


  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 red bell pepper cut into short strips
  • ¾ pound pork tenderloin, cut into short strips
  • 1 small zucchini or summer squash, cut into short strips (about ½ cup)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced fine
  • 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
  • 1½ cups fresh shredded cabbage or coleslaw mix
  • 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 4 large flour tortillas
  • 1/4 cup plum sauce
  • 1 gallon peanut or safflower oil
Heat sesame oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add pork and brown on all sides. Move pork to a clean plate and add bell pepper to the skillet. Cook for 2 minutes and add zucchini. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until zucchini softens slightly (about 5 more minutes). Add cabbage, garlic, and ginger. Cook, tossing frequently until the cabbage starts to wilt (about 2 more minutes). Add browned pork and hoisin sauce, cook for one more minute.

Heat oil in deep fat fryer or large dutch oven to 350 degrees. Fill each tortilla with the stir-fry mixture, tightly roll up (securing with toothpicks, if necessary), and deep fry, 2 at a time, for 3-5 minutes, or until golden brown. Drain on a wire rack

Monday, December 1, 2008

Meatball Subs

Although I've put these yummy meatballs in a sandwich here, they would work equally well on spaghetti or baked into a casserole with noodles.


  • 8 ounces lean ground beef
  • 4 ounces italian sausage, casings removed
  • 10 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 8 shredded wheat crackers (like Triscuits), about 1½ ounces
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon basil (divided)
  • 1 tablespoon vegatable oil
  • 12 ounces spaghetti sauce (about 1½ cups)
  • 1 french baguette, split in half lengthwise and then halfed crosswise (making 4 open-faced sandwiches)
  • your favorite Italian dressing (I like the Good Seasons packets)
  • 1 cup Shredded mozzarella or Italian cheese blend


Mix together beef, sausage, spinach, crackers, eggs, and 1 tablespoon basil in a medium bowl until thoroughly integrated. Shape into 16 meatballs (I use a #40 disher). Heat a medium nonstick skillet (just large enough to hold all the meatballs in a single layer) with 1 tablespoon vegatable oil over medium-high heat until the oil is shimmery and just barely starting to smoke. Add the meatballs and brown on all sides, turning frequently. Once the meatballs are brown all over, add spaghetti sauce and remaining basil and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 8 minutes, or until the meatballs reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees. Cover and keep warm.

Preheat the broiler. Slightly hollow out each piece of bread (save the removed bread, it makes good croutons or breadcrumbs). Put the bread under the broiler until lightly toasted. Remove bread from broiler and brush lightly with Italian dressing. Add 4 meatballs and sauce to each piece of bread. Sprinkle the sandwiches with the cheese and toast under the broiler for 2 minutes, or until the cheese starts to bubble. Serve immediately with salad or chips.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Peanut Butter & Oatmeal Cookies

I found this recipe on the Internet the other day, posted by an user named "Michele." I don't know who you are, but your cookies are amazing!

  • 1 cup plain or butter-flavored shortening
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup rolled oats

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk or sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. In a large bowl (or stand mixer) cream together shortening, white and brown sugar, and peanut butter. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Slowly add the flour mixture and stir until thoroughly combined. Add the oats and stir until they're evenly distributed.
Drop by tablespoons (I use a #60 disher) onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until just light brown (don't over-bake). Cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes and move to a wire rack until completely cool. Store in an airtight container.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Salmon Cakes

Most of the time, I develop recipes because there's a specific food I want to eat. This recipe is a little different. We had some leftover spinach and potato pie and Michelle thought that salmon would be a good main dish to accompany it, so I came up with this recipe specifically to go with that side dish. Despite how it got started, I think it's a good general-purpose salmon cake that will go well with all kinds of side dishes!

  • 2 cans of salmon (7 ounces each), drained
  • 1½ cups of saltine crackers (about half a sleeve), crushed
  • ½ cup mayonnaise (homemade from Monday's recipe would be nice)
  • ¼ cup finely minced onion
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon seafood seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil (you could also use dill or cilantro)
  • vegetable oil for frying
Mix all ingredients in a mixing bowl until combined. Form into 6 patties about 1½ inches thick. Let the patties sit on a wire rack for 10 - 15 minutes so the moisture from the mayo can be fully absorbed (this helps "set up" the salmon cakes and improves the texture). Meanwhile, heat about 1 inch of oil in a large skillet to 350 - 375 degrees. Pan fry for about 4 minutes on a side, or until deep golden brown. Alternatively, you can deep fat fry them. Let them drain on a wire rack for a couple of minutes and serve.

Monday, November 24, 2008


My 4-year old boy is allergic to soy. Have you ever tried to find a mayonnaise at the store that has no soybean (or "vegetable") oil in it? There's only one brand, and it tastes funny. Fortunately, I discovered that homemade mayonnaise is really easy and tastes much better than store-bought.

  • 2 tablespoons vinegar (white wine /champagne vinegar works well)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (fresh-squeezed, please)
  • 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon fine or "pickling" salt (I don't like table salt because of the iodine-metallic taste)
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 cups canola or safflower oil
Put all ingredients except the oil in the work bowl of your stand mixer or food processor. Use a hand whisk (or the whisk attachment of the mixer in your hand) and mix until well combined. Put the bowl on the mixer with the whisk attachment and turn it on its highest setting (if using a food processor, put in the blade, put the lid on, and turn it on). Slowly drizzle in the oil over about 90 seconds. Pour the mayo into a jar and let it sit on the counter for about 2 hours. This lets the acids in the lemon and vinegar kill any bacteria that may have been (unlikely, but possibly) present in the eggs (alternatively, use pasteurized in-shell eggs). After the those 2 hours, keep refrigerated and use within 2 weeks.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Eggs Benedict (With Hollandaise Sauce)

My absolute favorite brunch item to make at home. It seems like a lot of work, but it's well worth it! One requirement is that you must make the Hollandaise sauce from scratch (the recipe is included here) - canned Hollandaise is not really worth eating.

  • 3 English muffins, split and toasted (keep them warm in an oven set to low)
  • 6 slices Canadian bacon or ham
  • 6 fresh eggs
  • water for poaching
  • white vinegar
  • Hollandaise Sauce
    • 3 egg yolks
    • 1 teaspoon water
    • ½ teaspoon sugar
    • ¾ cup unsalted butter (1½ sticks), chilled and cut into small pieces (about 1-2 teaspoons in size)
    • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (or ½ teaspoon table salt - kosher tastes better though)
    • the juice of 1 lemon (about ¼ cup)
    • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (to taste)


Bring one inch of water to boil in a large, non-stick, straight-sided skillet with one teaspoon of vinegar per cup of water (don't overdo the vinegar, it makes the eggs rubbery). Crack one egg into a small custard cup or prep bowl (about 1 cup in size), then carefully pour the egg into the boiling water (as gently as possible). Repeat with remaining eggs then remove from heat and cover the pan. The eggs should be set in 8-10 minutes (you may want to include a "test egg" for sampling). Using a slotted spoon, carefully move the eggs to an ice-water bath and set aside.

Hollandaise Sauce
Bring an inch of water to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Meanwhile, in a medium metal bowl whisk together the eggs and 1 teaspoon water for about 90 seconds, until the eggs lighten in color. Add the sugar and whisk for another 30 seconds. Turn the pan of simmering water down to low and place the bowl with the egg mixture over it (the bowl should not touch the water). Whisk constantly for 3-5 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened enough for the whisk to leave a clear trail in the bowl (or the mixture will coat the back of a spoon). Remove the bowl from the pan and gradually whisk in the butter, one piece at a time, until fully incorporated. As the butter cools down the sauce, move the bowl back to the simmering water just long enough to keep the butter melting in as you whisk (be careful not to overheat it - completely melting the butter will break the sauce). Once all the butter is in, mix in the salt, lemon juice, and cayenne pepper. Pour the sauce into a thermos, or place the bowl on a heating pad set to low to keep warm until ready to serve.

Bring the poaching water back to a boil and remove from heat. Meanwhile, put each English muffin half on a plate with a slice of bacon on top. Using a slotted spoon, take the eggs from the ice water and reheat in the poaching water (it should not be boiling now). Place an egg on each muffin and add sauce. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Quick Lunch

I'm trying to post 3 times a week. I haven't come up with anything new, so I thought I’d share a lunch idea I had about a year ago:

Meatball Ramen


1 Package Ramen Noodles (I used beef flavor, but chicken or oriental would work too)
1 Package Aidells Teriyaki Meatbals
2 Cups Water


Put Ramen (with seasoning packet) in small saucepan with water and simmer until the noodles just begin to soften. Add meatballs and simmer until heated through. Serve (or, if you're me at home by myself on a Saturday afternoon, just eat out of the pot while standing over the sink!) Yum.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Chipotle Sweet Potatoes

You know how at most family gatherings, the sweet potatoes end up covered in marshmallows and brown sugar? Well even though sweet potatoes are sweet, they also work equally well in spicy dishes. Here is a recipe I adapted from Good Eats on the Food Network.

  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes.
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt.
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper.
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika.
  • 1-2 canned chipotle chillies, chopped (there are generally several whole chilies in one can).
  • 1 tablespoon adobo sauce (from the canned chilies). This stuff is very spicy, so use less (or leave it out) if you like your food mild.
  • 2 tablespoons butter.
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream.
Put the sweet potatoes in a steamer. If you do not have an electric steamer, you can use a metal colander set inside a large pot with a couple of cups of gently boiling water in the bottom (do not let the water come up through the bottom of the colander). Cover and steam for 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft (but not mushy). Drain off water and put potatoes back in the pot (or a large mixing bowl if you used an electric steamer). Add remaining ingredients and mash together with a hand masher. Using an electric mixer is not recommended, as sweet potatoes will turn pasty/gluey if over-beaten. Serve with minced chives or green onions (or even onion rings!).

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Ribs and Greens

Here's all the fixings for a mighty weekend feast!

BBQ Baby Back Ribs


  • 2 full racks of baby back pork ribs, weighing between 3 and 4 lbs
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt
Dry Rub
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin (freshly toasted and ground from whole seeds would be best)
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (regular paprika would also be OK)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cayenne or chipotle chile powder (1/2 tsp if you don't like heat - wimp!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1 can (14 oz) diced tomatoes with juice
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons prepared mustard
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes (optional - leave it out for mild sauce)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Preparation - 4 to 24 Hours Before Cooking

Combine all rub ingredients in a medium bowl and mix well. Rinse the ribs under cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Place each rack on a large piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Sprinkle ribs with salt, putting about twice as much on the meat side as you do the bony side. Liberally apply the spice rub to the ribs (you won't use it all this time - store leftovers in an airtight container in a cool, dark place), focusing on the meaty side of the rack and patting it on to ensure good adhesion. Wrap the foil up around the ribs, meat side down, and refrigerate for up to 24 hours on a sheet pan (to catch drips).

Cooking - 3 to 6 Hours
Whisk together all sauce ingredients in a medium bowl until integrated together. At this point you have a few choices:

Water Smoker Method
If you have a water smoker, you are in good shape as this is the best way to cook ribs. Get the smoker going with your desired wood, between 200-250 degrees. Mix the sauce with 1/2 gallon of boiling water and put it in the smoker's water pan. Smoke the ribs for 3 hours, meat side up, adding hot coals and/or wood as needed. After 1 hour, check the water pan every 1/2 hour, adding hot water as needed to keep the sauce liquid and prevent burning/scorching.

Hot Smoker Method
If you have a regular hot smoker you can remove the ribs from their foil pouches and smoke for 1-2 hours (depending on how smokey you like the ribs). However, you will need to braise the ribs in the oven for a couple of hours afterwards. If you totally cook the ribs in a hot smoker, they will be tough and leathery - dry heat just cannot duplicate the process that breaks down collagen into gelatin and creates the lip-smacking goodness that makes ribs so tasty. So after smoking the ribs, proceed to the oven braise method.

Oven Braise Method
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Unwrap one end of the aluminum foil packets (or re-wrap the ribs if joining us from hot smoking) and pour half the sauce into each. Tilt the open end up to allow the sauce to percolate through the ribs. Re-seal the foil and put in the oven (still on the sheet pan) for 2 1/2 hours. Remove ribs from oven and drain the sauce out of the packets (this is most easily accomplished by suspending the packets over a large mixing bowl and cutting holes in the middle where the ribs hang lowest). Transfer the sauce to a medium saucepan and boil for 5-10 minutes, until thickened. Activate the broiler. Leaving the ribs on the pan, unwrap the pouches and brush on the sauce. Broil the ribs until the sauce slightly caramelizes, adding a second coat of sauce (if desired). Serve with remaining sauce.

Hearty Green Saute


  • 1 lb hearty greens (such as kale, collard greens, or swiss chard), washed, trimmed of thick stems/ribs, and chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrot
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed/minced fine
  • 1/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • fresh ground pepper
Melt butter (or heat oil) in a large skillet over medium heat. Add carrots, onions, and salt. Saute until the carrots start to soften and the onions start to brown. Add the greens and saute until they start to wilt. Add garlic and continue to saute for another 90 seconds. Add the chicken broth. Simmer for about 3-5 minutes, or until the broth is slightly thickened and the greens are as tender as you like them (be careful - overcooking will make the greens discolored, mushy, and generally unappealing). Stir in the lemon zest and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Gyro Sandwiches

There are 4 steps to this recipe:
  1. Thicken the yogurt for the Tzatziki sauce (see the toppings section)
  2. Make the pitas (optionally, buy pitas from the store, but they won't taste as good)
  3. Prep the toppings & sauce
  4. Do the meat
  • 1 package yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1½ cups warm (110°) water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour (plus more for dusting & rolling)
  • Non-stick spray
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable or canola oil
Combine yeast, sugar, and water in the work bowl of a standing mixer with a dough hook. If not using instant yeast, wait 5-10 minutes for the yeast to bloom and become frothy. Turn the mixer on low and add the salt. Slowly add the flour, a little at a time, reserving the last ½ cup. Turn off the mixer and feel the dough. If it is very sticky to the touch, add reserved flour. Slowly power up the mixer to medium speed and knead the dough for 5-10 minutes, until smooth and elastic.

On a lightly floured clean work surface, roll the dough into a tight ball. Place in a clean bowl or bin that has been sprayed with non-stick spray, rolling the dough around to coat the top of the ball with the spray. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm place for 1-2 hours, until the dough doubles in size.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and lightly punch down to redistribute the gasses. Divide into 8 equal portions, keeping each dough ball covered under a damp tea towel. Let rest under the towel for 15 minutes. Heat a large skillet or griddle to medium-high heat or heat a pizza stone in a 500° oven. If using a griddle/skillet, lube very lighly with oil to prevent sticking. With a rolling pin, roll out each dough ball into a thin circle 8-10 inches across. As each pita is rolled out, cook on the griddle or pizza stone for 3-4 minutes as you roll out the next one. If using a griddle/skillet, flip each pita halfway through cooking time. As the pitas finish cooking stack on a plate and keep covered under a sheet of aluminum foil. Keep in a warm oven (i.e. not 500° any more) while you work on the rest of the Gyro stuff.

I like the following on top of my Gyros:
  • sliced onion
  • chopped cucumber
  • sliced tomato
  • shredded lettuce
  • sliced olives (I like green, but black work too)
  • crumbled Feta cheese
  • Tzatziki sauce (recpie follows)
Tzatziki Sauce
This recipe makes a lot of sauce. You may want to make a half batch.
  • 16 oz plain (unflavored) yogurt
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped fine.
  • Kosher salt
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced fine or pressed
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 5-6 fresh mint leaves, finely minced OR 1-2 teaspoons dried mint (to taste)
Pour yogurt onto the middle of a clean tea towel. Gather up the corners and suspend the yogurt over a bowl (use a skewer or a mesh strainer) so excess moisture can drip out. Thicken in the fridge for 2 hours.

Spread out the chopped cucumber on a couple of layers of paper towel on a sheet pan. Lightly sprinkle with kosher salt. Let sit for 10-15 minutes. Add more paper towels on top and press with another sheet pan to squeeze out water. Put drained cucumber and thickened yogurt in a medium mixing bowl and combine with remaining Tzatziki ingredients. Add additional salt to taste. This will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.

Gyro Steak
Although lamb is the traditional Gyro meat, steak is much easier to find where I live. I like flank steak because it is very flavorful, inexpensive, and is already a thin cut from the butcher (making it cook quickly and slice easily).
  • 1 teaspoon each dried rosemary leaves and whole peppercorns
  • ½ teaspoon each fennel seeds, dried oregano and dried thyme
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons canola or vegetable oil
  • 2-4 lbs steak such as flank steak, skirt steak, fajita steak, or stir-fry steak, about 1-2 inches thick
Finely grind the rosemary, oregano, thyme, and peppercorns together in a spice grinder or coffee mill. Lightly sprinkle both sides of meat with Kosher salt. Spread a thin dusting of the herb/spice mixture onto both sides of the meat, patting it down to ensure good contact and adhesion. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat or prepare grill for direct heat. Rub both sides with oil. Cook 5-7 minutes on a side, or until internal temperature reads 125° for rare, 145° for medium. I guess you could go until 160 for well-done, but why would you? Rest the meat off-heat for 10-15 minutes under a tent of aluminum foil and bias-slice thinly across the grain.

It looks like we did it! To assemble, place a few slices of steak on half of the flat side of the pita. Add other toppings as desired. Fold the pita over and eat. Yum!

Pleasant Springs Chili

I made this for a church activity a couple of months ago (The 2nd Annual Pleasant Springs Ward Chili & Pie Cook-Off), and this seemed like a good recipe to christen my blog with. I’ve always said that good chili is not simply cooked, it is crafted. I’ve been working on this recipe for years, and I think I’ve finally come up with my final version. Please note that there are no beans in this chili - I believe a good chili either has meat or beans, so if you like meat (and I do), you must leave the beans out!


2-4 lbs of stew beef (chuck shoulder, bottom round, etc.), cut into one-inch cubes
1 tablespoon peanut or vegetable oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt (or 1 teaspoon table salt)
2 jalapeño chilies, seeded and chopped with ribs removed (leave in the ribs if you like it hot)
1 jar (16 oz.) of Pace Thick and Chunky Salsa1 (mild, medium, hot - your choice)
1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce
1 tablespoon chili powder2
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 cup crushed tortilla chips. (I like Tostitos Yellow Corn)


Preheat oven to 200°. Toss cubed beef with oil and salt in a large bowl until evenly coated. Heat a large dutch oven over high heat. Working in small batches, evenly brown the beef on all sides3. As each batch finishes, move the browned beef to a clean bowl. Once all beef is browned and in the bowl, reduce heat to medium and add the jalapeño, sautéing until just starting to brown around the edges. Add the tomato sauce and salsa. Use a wooden spoon or spatula and deglaze the bottom (scrape any brown bits off the pot). Dump the beef (and any collected juices) back into the pot. Add the spices and the chips and stir thoroughly to combine. Bake in the oven for 3 hours or until the meat is as tender as you like it4.


  1. Yes, I call for a jar of salsa. I like Pace and it works well, but that’s not to say others won’t work also. If you are offended by the thought of putting commercial salsa in “homemade” chili, then you can go out to the farms, pick the best produce (in season), and spend 30-60 minutes (depending on how fast you work) cleaning, chopping, and sweating your vegetables. I don’t have the time for that, and since thats exactly what Pace does down in San Antonio, I’ll let them do the work for me.
  2. Homemade chili powder is best. I actually do make my own. You can find many recipes on the internet (Alton Brown’s is good) or you can come up with one on your own. I find a good ratio of spices to be 50% dried & ground chilies and 50% other stuff (cumin, oregano, garlic, paprika, etc.), however it is a matter of personal preference. It is best to toast whole spices in a dry skillet and cool completely before grinding in a spice grinder, coffee grinder, or blender.
  3. The idea here is to brown the beef on the outside without cooking it through. The less cooked the inside of the beef is now, the more tender the finished chili will be. To accomplish this, you want the pot as hot as you can get it. Working in small batches is essential. If you crowd the pot (no space between each piece of meat or the meat not in a single layer), steam and juices will build up that cooks the meat without browning it - which will certainly toughen the meat and reduce the flavor and texture of the chili. Please note that if you do it correctly you will generate some smoke (from the high heat), so you should turn on your range vent and open a window.
  4. If you don’t have 3 hours, you can do 2 hours at 250° or 1 hour at 350. The quicker you cook it, the tougher the meat will be (see #3 above).


I love to cook and I frequently come up with my own recipes. It seemed like every time I blogged on my general "news about me" blog, it was always food related. I decided that a recipe blog would be a good way to share my creations with the world (besides, I haven't posted regular news in forever).