Monday, July 5, 2010

Soup Anyone?

I hope you will find this funny.

I made my husband's favorite on Saturday.  Shepherd's Pie.  I used his favorite vegetables, corn and peas and some balsamic onions.  For the top, I made garlic mashed potatoes with Irish butter.  It was really good.  Funny thing is, I left a can of mushroom soup on the counter.  After I finished making the Shepherd's Pie, I put the can of soup in the pantry.  Paul usually eats pretty late, so I had already gone to bed when he had his dinner. So the next day I asked him how the dinner was.  He replied, "It had too much soup in it."  I told him I didn't put any soup in it!  He just assumed because he saw the can of soup that soup went in the pie!

So I am getting my revenge.  Every time I cook, I pull something strange out of the pantry to leave on the counter which has absolutely nothing to do with what I am cooking.

Today I made Ruben sandwiches.  On the counter I had a can of Mandarin Oranges and a jar of Pickled Ginger!


Happy Cooking!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Lamb Chops Puttenesca

When I was a child, we had a herd of goats.  Sometimes, one was used for the family food.  Goat meat is gamey but very similar to lamb.  My mother used to make this rustic dish of goat cubes on the bone, onions and tomatoes that was just delicious.  I have often craved that dish and have come up with many variations to satisfy that craving, but always using lamb.

Today's dish is so easy to make, you can have it ready in 30 minutes.  It's delicious and elegant enough for guests.

5 Lamb Leg chops, rinsed and sprinkled with salt and pepper on each side.

1/4 cup thin sliced red onions (or white, or brown, or yellow)

2 cups Puttenesca tomato sauce (you can make your own tomato sauce which will add to the prep time - see January 30ths posting of Turkey and Spinach Lasagne for the sauce recipe - or just buy a good jar version).

1/2 cup Pitted kalamata olives

3 Fresh basil leaves

1/8 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 cup cooked whole wheat cous cous (or any cous cous or rice or pasta) cooked to package instructions.

Heat a large pan and add the olive oil.  When hot, add the lamb chops and brown on each side, including the ends for about 3 minutes on the thick sides and until brown on the ends.  Remove from pan to a plate and cover with foil.  Discard excess oil from the pan except for 1 tablespoon.

Add the onions, stirring until they have picked up the brown fond from the lamb.  Add the puttenesca sauce and reduce for about 5 minutes.  Add 3 leaves shredded basil leaves.  Nestle the lamb chops back into the sauce.  Meanwhile, prepare the cous cous.

Serve cous cous on the serving platter and arrange the chops on top of the cous cous.  Place the sauce on the side of the lamb and sprinkle with the olive and the cheese.  Serve immediately.

Baked Cherry Tomato Basil Pasta

An option on the pasta salad, is to take the pasta salad, turn it into a baking dish and add some mozerella cheese on top and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and bake until brown and bubbly.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Cherry Tomato Basil Pasta

1 Basket cherry tomatoes cut in half
2 Cups Farfalle pasta uncooked
1/4 Cup fresh basil
3 Tablespoons pesto
1/4 Cup frozen petite peas
1/4 Cup grated Parmesan cheese
Red pepper flakes

Add cut tomatoes, pesto and peas to a bowl.

Cook pasta according to instructions on the package.

Drain pasta, reserving some cooking water if needed.

Add to bowl.  Add cheese.  Roll basil leaves and cut across and add to bowl. Add a sprinkling of red pepper flakes.

Toss.  Taste. The juices from the tomatoes should help make a sauce.  If needed, add some pasta cooking water to thin out the sauce.

Serve with Pesto toasts (see February 2010) 

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Homemade Tortilla Chips

Corn tortillas cut in wedges 
Peanut Oil
Lime wedges

Heat about 1 cup of the oil in a pan until shimmering.  Add one layer of the tortilla wedges and cook on each side, turning over, until crisp.  Drain on paper towels.  Squeeze lime juice over and sprinkle with salt. 

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Chipolte Linguine

I like to braise a beef tenderloin in a good chipolte sauce.  After browning all sides of the beef, I add the chipolte sauce and cover loosely with foil, then slowly cook in a low oven, about 250 degrees for about 45 minutes.  Then I let the beef totally cool down.  You can slice it thin for sandwiches, shred it for all sorts of dishes such as fajitas, quesidillas, BBQ beef sandwiches, just about anything.  This is so versatile, that it is not uncommon for me to buy the meat on a Saturday and finish the last of it on a Friday.  While beef tenderloin is a more expensive cut, I am so frugal to use it so many ways in so many dishes that I actually save money rather than buying meat several times a week.

You can use the same concept on chicken, just don't braise as long.

The question is, what to do with the leftover braising sauce?  It is delicious, reduced and full of meat flavor.  I have sometimes put it in freezer bags and in the freezer to deal with at another time.  Today, I used last week's sauce to make this delicious linguine.

I purchased a package of fresh linguine from my favorite store.  Heat a large pot of water with 2 tablespoons good sea salt or course salt until boiling.  Cook the pasta about 2 minutes until al dente (take a strand and taste want a little bite back, but not raw, and definitely not overcooked.)

Heat a saucepan with the braising sauce (I kept my saucepan with the braising liquid covered in the refrigerator so one less pan to clean!).  Remove the pasta from the pot and place on top of the hot braising sauce.  Mix in until all incorporated.  Remove from heat and add about 1/4 cup grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese (or Peccorino, or whatever you prefer - or use a Mexican cheese equivalent).

Remove to a serving bowl and sprinkle with fresh minced cilantro leaves and more Parmesan cheese.  I would even suggest a squeeze of lime juice.  I had a little leftover cherry tomato pico de gallo salsa so I used that as a garnish and put the remaining salsa juice in the pasta.  It is a delicious change from Italian pasta and delicious hot or cold.


Saturday, June 12, 2010

Steak Taquitos Rustica


1 Cup left over steak, cut into thin strips or wedges

2 Fresh corn tortillas (I bought mine at a local Farmer's Market)
1/4 Cup peanut oil

1/8 Cup sour cream mixed with 1/8 cup chipolte salsa
Lime wedges to garnish

In a large non-stick pan, heat the tortillas until soft.  Remove from the pan and add the oil to the pan.  Heat until shimmering.
Place half the steak in each tortilla and fold over on itself in a large roll.

When the oil is shimmering, use a spatula and place the tortillas seam side down in the hot oil.  Let cook about a minute or two until brown and crisp, and turn over and cook and brown the other side.  Remove from the oil and place on paper towels to drain.
Serve immediately with the salsa and lime.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Roasted Duck Salad

2 Duck Breasts
1 Idaho Potato
1 Sweet Potato
2 cups Assorted Salad Greens
1/4 cup grape or cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup mixed raspberries and blackberries
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup pecans
1/8 cup shaved Jicama
Raspberry Vinagarette

To roast the duck breasts:

Wash and pat dry the duck breasts.  With a knife, cut criss-cut lines through the fat side of the breasts, all the way through the fat.  Lightly salt.  Heat a non-stick frying pan and add the breasts fat side down.

Cook on the skin side as the skin renders the fat for about 8 minutes until the skin is brown and crisp.  Turn and cook on the other side about 4 minutes until slightly brown and the breast is firm to the touch.  Remove from the fat and pan and rest on a plate, slightly covered with foil.

For the potatoes:

Cut the potatoes and sweet potatoes in half length wise.  Using a melon baller, cut out half circles of potatoes from the flesh side and place in a large bowl with cold water and about 2 tablespoons salt.  While the duck breasts are cooling, remove from the water and towel dry.  Add to the duck fat and roast on the stove until tender and brown.  Remove and dry on paper towels and add a sprinkle of salt.


In a large bowl:

Add the lettuce, and sprinkle the tomatoes, berries, nuts, potatoes and cranberries around.  Add cooled sliced duck breast and the shaved jicama.  Add about 3 tablespoons of a good quality raspberry vinagarette and toss and serve.

This is great to prepare and serve cold as a Summer evening salad.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Taco Won Ton

Here's a great idea with leftover taco meat for an appetizer: 

Fill 1/3 of a won ton wrapper with the meat.  Wet the sides of the won ton with water by dipping your finger in a bowl of water and running along the edges.  Pinch together to seal.

Heat peanut oil in a wok or frying pan.  Fry both sides until brown.  Serve hot or room temperature.

This is also a great way to use leftover curry, or chili.  Be creative!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Thai Noodles

This is a great fast dish to make with leftover chicken, or steak on a weeknight.  Or leave the meat out.  It's spicy and fills that comfort food zone.

1 Pound Fettuccini, Spaghetti or Linguine, cooked to the instructions on the package

1 jar Thai Curry Paste

1/4 cup Minced Mint Leaves
1/4 cup Minced Cilantro
1/4 cup shiffinad basil leaves (roll the basil leaves like a cigar and cut across for ribbons)

1 cup chopped peanuts
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
Red pepper flakes (as desired)

Cook the pasta and drain.  Return to the hot pot, and remove from heat.  Add the remaining ingredients and toss.  Serve immediately, or at room service.  Makes a great pot luck dish.  

I have a whole bowl to take to work tomorrow for my girls!

Saturday, April 17, 2010


Today I launched a new blog site:

I will feature my new paintings as an interim before I eventually upload them to my web page:

Check it out!

Now back to food!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

An English Breakfast

I was in London over the weekend and my hotel came with breakfast. I arrived mid-morning on Saturday so on Sunday when I woke up, I called the restaurant to see how late they were serving breakfast.

After several rings, a girl answered the phone very politely. I asked her "How late do you serve breakfast?" And she said, "Do you wish to place an order?" I realized she thought I was asking for room service. So I corrected myself, "No, I want to come down to the restaurant. How late do you serve?" She said, "Just a moment, please" and placed me on hold.

Soon another pleasant female voice came on the line and said, "Good Morning Mrs. Williams. How can I help you?" I repeated my question about how late does the restaurant serve breakfast. Her reply: "Right. Well, we have a lovely hot buffet with everything you could wish for: bacon, sausages, eggs, mushrooms, hash browned potatoes, baked beans and toast. And on the cold buffet we have all sorts of cereals, fruit, cold meat, cheese and breakfast pastries. Is there anything else I can help you with?"

For the third time I found myself asking the exact same question, "How late do you serve breakfast?" I was beginning to wonder if we were speaking the same language which is often a joke between my brother-in-law and me that America and England are two people separated by the same language! But the third time seemed to be the charm because she answered "10:30 ma'am." And I thanked her and hung up. It was right out of a Monty Python skit. I kid you not! But the breakfast was exactly as she described.

I had a lovely, albeit, brief visit with nothing culinary exciting to report. Have a lovely Wednesday! I'm happy to be home!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Appetizer Ideas

I ate lunch yesterday at the Rock Center Cafe in New York next to the ice skating rink. Funny about that - the weather was so warm that they closed the rink. I sat next to the window and watched the ice melt into little puddles. Just 2 days previous, I was at The Sea Grill on the other side of the rink and enjoyed watching all the ice skaters, whether experienced or those holding on to the rail for dear life!

A sandwich that was on the menu was a turkey and brie with cipollini onions. It looked delicious.

So this morning, foodie that I am, I thought that would make a great appetizer.

Spread a good softened brie cheese on a cracker and place a piece of turkey breast, even smoked turkey would be good, and slice a little marinated cipollini onions or pickled onions on top.

As soon as I thought of this appetizer, another variation popped in my head:

Top a cracker with a sharp cheddar cheese or swiss, place under broiler for a couple minutes until softened. Spread with a horseradish sauce and place thin sliced roast beef on top. Top each cracker with a half a cherry tomato.

When I get back from London next week, I will try these cracker ideas and post some photos.

Happy Spring from New York City!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Mexican Lasagne - Vegetarian

4 Cloves Garlic minced
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 large can Italian tomatoes
Chipolte salsa
1 white onion diced

1 package Soy Chorizo

1 package Queso Fresco (or ricotta)

1 cup cilantro

Corn Tortillas

Fontina Cheese
Chili Flakes

In a hot pan, add 2 tbsps olive oil and add the garlic. Remove from heat so the garlic won’t brown. Stir constantly.
Add the canned tomatoes with all their juice. Break up the tomatoes. Add 1 jar of chipotle salsa. Stir the sauce and add a dash of red chili flakes. Turn the heat low and let the sauce reduce, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, heat a separate pan and add 2 tbsp olive oil and 2 more minced garlic cloves. Add the diced onions, stirring until softened. Add the soy chorizo and break apart. Just heat through for the chorizo. Set mixture aside to cool.

In a large bowl, add the queso fresco (or ricotta cheese). Break apart and add 1 cup minced cilantro (1 cup before mincing). Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. When the sauce is reduced, taste for salt. Let cool.

To assemble:
Use a 9x9 baking dish. Use one third of the sauce on the bottom of the dish. Add a layer of tortillas. Add 1/3 of the chorizo mixture. Add a third of the queso fresco mixture. Repeat the layers. For the top layer, add a layer of fontina cheese (or smoked fontina cheese would be very nice). Bake at 350 degrees for about 35-40 minutes until the top is brown and the lasagna is bubbling and hot. Remove from oven and let sit for at least 15 minutes before cutting and serving. You can serve this with a chipotle salsa on top, or a fresh pico de gallo salsa as shown.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Fried Egg Panini - Saturday Brunch

I just made this and it is cooling on the counter. Although, I recommend eating it as soon as it comes out of the panini, it can be reheated on a low oven for about 10 minutes.

Use any bread you like. Today, I had leftover Olive and Rosemary bread which I sliced into 4 slices.

3 Eggs
Any kind of cheese you like (I usually use a very sharp aged cheddar, such as a Canadian Cheddar, but you can use any cheese, even a brie, or omit the cheese).
I also had some leftover mushrooms already sauteed, so I sliced those
And I used some leftover heirloom cherry tomatoes. The idea is you can use anything.
I also had some marinated cippriani onions, but you can use thin sliced red onions, or pickled onions.

I like to "fry" the eggs in a non stick pan, pre-heated and sprayed with an olive oil. Then add the eggs and fry both sides, salt and peppering them. When they are firm enough, remove from the pan.

Pre-heat your panini press and assemble the sandwich.

I used a layer of cheese for a "glue", added the mushrooms, onions and tomatoes, and placed the eggs on top. For 2 sandwiches, 1 egg each might not be enough, so that's why I make 3 eggs and cut the third egg in half to assemble on the sandwiches.

I add the eggs, then a few more slices of cheese on top as a glue, the final slice of bread and on the hot press for about 5 minutes.

This makes a great brunch for 2 in minutes.


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Another Fajita Idea

I served this at my Superbowl Party. I put the fajitas in Tostada cups. You can serve with sour cream, salsa, guacamole, jalepenos, whatever! Martha even suggested a leaf of cilantro on the top. I was running out of time, so I let the guests figure it out.!

Smoked Salmon Hash

This is a delicious brunch idea. I made it for my girls, Celeste and Quida for breakfast on Monday. I was late to work because I was poaching eggs and then had to photograph this, but the results were totally worth it. I'm writing this from Ojai Valley Inn! I swam this morning and will play golf this afternoon. This is a beautiful place. Very peaceful.

Use the same recipe as below for the fajita hash, but add chunks of smoked salmon if you can get a whole piece and not lox, but lox is okay to substitute if necessary. Don't use fajita seasoning as the smoked salmon is salty and flavorful enough.

I served this with poached eggs and a homemade pico de gallo made with heirloom cherry tomatoes, red onions, jalepeno, cilantro, lime juice and salt. The juice from the salsa can be used as a vinegrette or a marinade. I like to find many uses for my dishes.


Fajita Hash

I made this hash with left over beef fajita mixture (see October 2008). You can serve it on a flour tortilla with salsa as a main dish as I have here, or with poached eggs for breakfast. It's a delicious use of leftovers. I divided the potato, pepper and onion mixture to use half in the smoked salmon version.

2 russet potatoes, peeled and diced in 1/2 inch cubes
2 red bell peppers, diced small
1 sweet brown onion, diced small
Olive Oil
Fajita seasoning

In a large pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and add the peppers and onions. Stirring occasionally, cook until carmelized. Add 1 cup of white wine and 1/2 cup of water. Reduce heat and cover. Simmer until most of the water evaporates and the vegetables are fork tender. Remove to a bowl and set aside.

In the same pan, heat 2 more tablespoons of olive oil and add the potatoes. Stir occasionally until browned and fork tender. Add back the peppers and onions and combine. Heat through and add the leftover fajitas. Taste for seasoning, and add more fajita seasoning as needed. Stir all ingredients together well and serve.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Basil and Spinach Pesto

2 Cups Washed Basil Leaves

1 Cup Washed Baby Spinach

1/4 Cup Toasted Pine Nuts

4 Cloves Roasted Garlic

1 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/2 Cup Shredded Parmesan Cheese


In a food processor or using a Kitchen Aid mixer, pulse the basil and spinach. Add the pine nuts and garlic and pulse. Slowly pour in the oil while pulsing. Add the cheese and mix in. Taste for salt and add sea salt as desired, about 1/2 a teaspoon.
I added the pesto to fresh angel hair pasta and sprinkled more cheese on top and some small diced tomatoes.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Grilled Artichokes with Lemon Mayonnaise

As promised, here are the grilled artichokes with lemon mayonnaise.

4 Medium Artichokes

3 Lemons, cut in half

Olive Oil


Fill a large pot with water and squeeze the juice of one of the lemons in the water and add the lemons with the pulp and rind that you just squeezed in the water.

Remove the bottom petals of the artichoke and trim the tips of the petals. Cut the top tips off. Trim the bottom of the stem and with a paring knive, carefully trim the outside of the stem. Cut the artichoke in half and rub both halves with one of the cut lemons. This will prevent them from turning brown. With a teaspoon, scrape away the choke from the center and discard.

Immediately place the artichoke in the water and continue with the rest. Turn the heat on to boil the water and place a wooden spoon or a wooden chopstick between the lid and the pot (this is a clever trick as you get wood chopsticks free when you order Chinese, so keep them around for these things - they're also good to tie up a wayward plant!) Boil the artichokes about 20 minutes until they are fork tender. Remove to a plate and let cool.

The next stop is purely optional, but I did it and it made a world of difference in presentation and taste. Drizzle the artichokes with olive oil. On a grill or a panini, grill the cooked artichokes for a few minutes to get a nice char.

Mix your mayonnaise with fresh lemon juice (I used the juice of a half a lemon for 1/4 cup mayonnaise). With a zester or a fine grater, grate a the outside of a washed lemon to add some zest to the mayonnaise.

I served these with olive oil drizzled on top and squeezed some more lemon juice on tip with the lemon mayonnaise.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Pantry

My next few posts will address the Pantry. Everyone should have a well stocked pantry. I'm showing you mine. One thing I learned from listening to Melinda Lee's Food News is that you have to realize that food is always in a state of decay, no matter how well preserved it is. That made me realize that I need to not just stock a good pantry, but actively use the ingredients in it. Don't buy a sauce because it's "cute" or "whimsical' - because chances are, you will probably never use it.

I made a goal to start using the ingredients in my pantry and then re-stock as needed. So this weekend, I opened a jar of capers that I had with my smoked salmon for breakfast this morning. I made a homemade tomato sauce for a meatball panini, and I made a chicken curry using one of the 6 jars of curry paste that I've had stored! I found I have a yellow Thai curry paste, 2 green Thai curry sauces, a red Thai curry paste, a curry simmer sauce and a Tandori paste. I setteled on the Tandori paste for today's curry.

I will address that curry in a later post.

I spent the last 6 hours cooking. Something I love to do. I made homemade pesto using basil and some baby spinach with toasted pine nuts and some stored roasted garlic and a very good olive oil that I don't know why I was saving it. With the pesto, I made some parmesan pesto toasts (mostly gone by now!). I made a couple of poached eggs and put on top of a wilted spinach salad (and I was too tired to eat it, so that's lunch for tomorrow!). The chicken curry with the tandori paste served with Texmati (a Texan Basmati long grain rice) and a homemade Thai salsa with fresh ginger. Tomorrow's leftover curry and rice can be used in wontons with the salsa. It's all about using everything and searching for flavor!

And finally, I think the best dish I made today was grilled artichokes with lemon mayonnaise. It was absolutely divine! I cooked the artichokes in water with lemon until fork tender then drizzled them with some olive oil and grilled them on my panini. They look very impressive and then I drizzled them again with more olive oil, fresh lemon juice and made a mayonnaise with lemon and lemon zest.

I hope this post encourages you to store food in a creative way and then to USE the stored food!

Happy Cooking!

Freezing Leftover Pesto

Here's a neat trick for freezing leftover Pesto.

Fill up a silicon ice tray with the pesto and freeze it. The next day, remove from the ice tray and store in a freezer bag. I find the pesto has a soft texture, so I individually wrap each cube with plastic wrap and place all in the freezer bag and into the freezer. You can remove individual cubes to flavor soups or sauces as needed.

Favorite Breakfast

This is one of my favorite breakfasts. I eat this almost every morning when I'm on cruise ships or otherwise traveling. And I believe it is one reason I never gain weight when I travel.

3 ounces smoked salmon
Squeeze of fresh lemon

A bowl of fresh berries

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Jules's Chicken with Rice

Rice 2 and a half cups of chicken stock 1 cup of brown rice Chicken 4 chicken breast halves a pinch of salt pepper to taste pinch of poultry seasoning bunch of asparagus cut into 1 inch pieces 1 red bell pepper slices into 1 inch strips 1 tbsp capers zest of 1 lemon 1/2 cup chicken stock 1 tbsp olive oil 1 tbsp chopped garlic Rice: Bring the chicken stock to a boil. Add the rice and let boil for 3 minutes then cover and let simmer on low heat until all fluid is absorbed and rice is soft. about 40 minutes Chicken: Heat a large skillet with olive oil Sprinkle salt, pepper and poultry seasoning on chicken. Brown both sides of chicken in skillet. about 5 minutes on each side. Add the peppers and garlic and then add the asparagus and lemon zest. Pour in the chicken stock and let simmer covered for about 20 minutes until the vegetables are tender and the chicken is cooked through. Before serving mix in the capers. Serve chicken and vegetables over the rice and enjoy.

Easy Snack

This snack is so easy to make and so satisfying. If you're craving pasta and don't want the calories, I suggest you try this instead.

Heat up a cup of your favorite marinara sauce in a microwavable bowl. Add some shaved parmesan cheese, and I like the crushed red chili pepper flakes. It is such a satisfying dish without the pasta guilt.

Pesto Parmesan Toasts

This is a delicious snack, appetizer or just nice with a glass of wine.

Either thin slice a mini baguette, any kind such as sourdough or seeded, or rosemary, or use the pre-sliced baguettes that you can find at specialty stores, such as Bristol Farms.

Pre-heat oven to broil.

Layer a baking sheet with foil, shiny side up and spray with a vegetable spray or olive oil.

Place the bread on the tray and spread pesto sauce on each slice to evenly coat. Add enough shredded parmesan cheese to cover each slice. Place under broiler until brown on top. Serve warm or room temperature.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

BBQ Beef Panini

1 lb Deli Roast Beef, trimmed of fat, and torn into small pieces (Or shredded with a knife) 1 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce Hamburger buns, onion rolls, or hotdog buns Shred the beef into a large bowl. Add the sauce (add as much as you like if you like it wet) and combine. Add the mixture to the buns and cook on the Panini. Serve immediately or set aside and reheat.

Falling in Love with Roast Beef

I remember when I first fell in love with meat. I was 12 and we were at Lake Tahoe at a church convention. We were not well off by any means, but we had kind friends who looked after us. One of these was a girl a little older than my sister, Kathy. Her name was Dorothy and she was in college. I think my mother became friends with her mother a couple of years prior when we went to the fall church convention in Penticton, British Columbia. Maybe Dorothy was acting on her mother’s instructions to be kind to us. Well she was very kind.

She invited us all out to dinner…a very rare occurrence in my childhood to eat at a restaurant. It seemed like it was a very nice restaurant, though looking back I probably have eaten in better places since. But at the time it was very grand, indeed. The only drawback in my mind was the menu. The main courses offered only 2 items: roast beef or trout. Since I hated fish, I was dismayed that the only thing I could choose was roast beef. My lovely grandmother, God rest her soul, was a terrible cook. And since we lived with my grandparents, I was very familiar with her cooking. She was a great pastry chef, but she just didn’t make good meat. The Sunday roast chicken was greasy, the hamburger concoctions questionable, but the roast beef was inevitably dry and tasteless. In order to eat it, I always had to put a lot of ketchup on it.

So when the waiter stood in front of me after getting everyone else’s orders, and me being last because I’m the youngest, I didn’t know what to do. “Try the trout” my brother Randy said. He loves fish and was really excited to order something as exotic as trout. “No, Tina doesn’t like fish. She’ll have the roast beef,” my mother said for me. Then I piped up “with a lot of ketchup, please.” Dorothy and my mother exchanged glances and laughed. My mother said, “Try it without ketchup. You’ll be surprised. If you don’t like it, you can then ask for ketchup.”

Now I was really worried. While we were waiting for our food to be prepared, I was fretting about how was I supposed to eat dried roast beef with nothing to help choke it down? Eventually our food arrived. Randy was thrilled that the head of the trout with its eyes still intact was staring at him. “I’m going to eat the eyes!” he said in excitement. I shuddered and thought him very strange. Then I smelt something wonderful as the waiter placed my plate in front of me. I did not see a dark brown lump of stringy beef…instead I saw something pink and glistening and smelling wonderfully strange. “Go on, try it” my mother coached me. Tentatively, I picked up my fork and knife and cut a very small sliver of the beef. I put it to my mouth and put my tongue out to taste it. I felt all the eyes at the table watching me. “Don’t play with your food. Put your fork in your mouth and eat it” my father barked at me from across the table. Gulping, I quickly did as he commanded and my eyes must have popped open because everyone started to laugh. I had never tasted anything so good, the texture and feel of it in my mouth was like nothing I ever had before. And from that moment on, I realized that it is not the beef, but it is what you do with it that counts.


Saturday, February 13, 2010

Jalapeno Tuna Melts

2 6 ounce cans tuna, drained
1 Jalapeno seeded and minced
1 Stalk celery minced
1/4 cup white onion minced
1 cup minced cilantro
Juice of one fresh lime
1 cup mayonnaise

Mix all the ingredients together for a Mexican flavored tuna salad.

Cut 6 red and 6 green jalapenos in half length ways . Remove the seeds and ribs.

Spoon the tuna into the jalapenos and top with pepper jack cheese. I was told by a reader that if you refrigerate the stuffed peppers for 3 hours before baking, the tuna will absorb the heat from the peppers and make them taste milder. Thank you H!

Place in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees for 10 minutes until the cheese is melted.

Monday, February 8, 2010


Chilaquiles are a great way to use leftovers. And after my Superbowl party yesterday, I have a lot of leftovers that need to be used up. So I have some cooked steak, tortilla chips, bean dip, salsas and cheese. Here’s how to turn this into a delicious homestyle casserole dish, very similar to enchiladas. This is a rustic, rural Mexican dish and is often served with eggs at breakfast. You can use chicken or pork or any leftover meat. The idea is to use the leftovers and not cook this fresh. I even have a corn salsa leftover to serve as a side dish for a complete meal. In a baking dish (I use a 9 x 9 square as there are only 2 of us) spray it with a good vegetable spray or olive oil spray. Add a thin layer of salsa. Add a layer of leftover tortilla chips. Add a layer of beans or bean dip, or guacamole. Feel creative. Add a layer of shredded cheese. Add a layer of shredded meat. Repeat layers until filled. Press down on the layers. Add remaining salsa on top and a final layer of cheese. Bake at 350 degrees until hot and bubbling, about 20-30 minutes. Remove and let stand for about 10 -15 minutes before serving.

Tomatillo Salsa

10 Medium to large tomatillos
2 cloves garlic
1 jalepeno
1 bunch cilantro
2 limes

Remove the paper like husk of the tomatillos and rinse and place in a foil lined baking dish.
Rinse the jalepeno and place in the dish.
Wrap a whole head of garlic in foil and add to the baking dish.

Roast everything in the baking dish at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes until the tomatillos are soft and brown. Remove from the oven and let cool.
In a food processor, add the cooled tomatillos, and squeeze out 2 of the garlic cloves. The remaining garlic, store in a plastic bag or container in your refrigerator for other uses. It is even good spread on crackers with wine.
Remove the stem and seeds from the jalepeno and add to the food processor.

Rinse the cilantro and cut away the stems and add to the food processor. Squeeze in the juice of a whole lime and add 1 tsp of kosher or sea salt. Process in food processor until blended smooth. Taste for salt and lime and add more as desired.

This salsa will thicken up with time. The tomatillos have a natural pectin in them that acts as a thickener.

I take this salsa to office parties and it is so simple to make and very popular.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Blueberry Crumble

I have to confess that I saw this on “Fast Food My Way” on PBS with Jacques Pepin. So now that I can’t take credit for it, enjoy it anyway! It’s about the easiest, tastiest dessert to make.

The Ingredients:

1 Package Blueberries per Person
2 Shortbread Cookies per Person (I can find individual Walkers Shortbread sold 2 to a package at a local store)
Drizzle of Honey
1 Ramekin per Person


Wash the blueberries and put into the Ramekins. Drizzle Honey on top. Crumble the Shortbread Cookies and place on top of the blueberries. Heat the Oven to 350 degrees. Place Ramekins on a cookie sheet and bake for about 10 minutes until the blueberries are bubbling. Serve with Vanilla Ice Cream or Clotted Cream if desired.

Black Bean Salad

2 15 oz cans of Black Beans, rinsed and drained 1 JalapeƱo, seeded and minced 1 small Red Bell Pepper, cored and diced ¼ cup small diced Red Onion ¼ cup minced Cilantro leaves ¼ cup fresh Lime Juice Salt and Pepper to taste ½ Teaspoon Ground Cumin Combine all the ingredients in bowl. Let marinate for 30 minutes and taste to adjust seasonings. Options: For a more Middle Eastern flavor, increase the cumin to 1 tsp, and add Mandarin Supremes and toasted slivered almonds or pine nuts. Or puree ingredients to make a flavorful bean dip with no fat. Or add thawed sweet corn for a whole different concept.

Corn Salsa

2 Cups of Petite Sweet Frozen Corn, defrosted ¼ cup diced Red Onion 1 Jalapeno, cored and seeded and minced ¼ cup minced Cilantro (or basil leaves) Juice of 1 lime Salt and Pepper to taste Combine all the ingredients

Blue Cheese Spread

I first tried something similar to this at a Bed and Breakfast in Mendocino, California. They served evening wine and appetizers during the cocktail hour. This spread is great on crackers or vegetables.

Soft blue cheese, such as a Napa Valley
Minced dried apricots
Chopped pecans

Bring the cheese to room temperature. Add the apricots and pecans and drizzle honey to taste.

Melba Pizzas

I created this snack a few years ago and it quickly became a favorite for parties, hors d'eouvres or just snacking.

Garlic flavored Melba toast crackers
Smoked cheese, such as Mozzarella, Fontina, Gouda, Cheddar
Plum tomatoes (or garlic roasted tomatoes or dried tomatoes)

Fresh Basil leaves
Parmesan Cheese
Red pepper flakes

Preheat your broiler

Line a pizza pan or a baking dish with foil, shiny side up

Spray the foil with a vegetable or olive oil spray

Arrange the Melba crackers on the foil

Add a fresh basil leaf. By putting the basil down first, the other toppings will prevent it from burning.

Add a slice of cheese on top of the basil.

Add the tomato.

Sprinkle the top with the grated Parmesan cheese.

Place under the broiler and watch carefully so it doesn't burn.

Remove as soon as the cheese is melted. Sprinkle with the red pepper flakes as desired. These can be served immediately or at room temperature.


This is so easy to make and is great with leftovers such as chicken, steak, my sister-in-law had me use a pork loin once in this. Or just with cheese.

Flour Tortillas
Sharp Cheddar cheese (or jack, pepper jack, whatever you prefer)
Your favorite taco sauce (optional)
Leftover meat (optional)

Salsa, sour cream, guacamole - whatever you like.

Heat a large skillet and place a flour tortilla in it. Heat for a few seconds and turn over. You are just making the tortilla pliable and warming it up. Remove to your work space.

On half of the tortilla, spread a layer of cheese and a layer of meat (optional) and add a small amount of taco sauce. If you over fill it, it will ooze and make a mess. Fold the tortilla over in half to a half moon shape. Do the same thing with a second tortilla. Return the quesadillas to the hot pan. Keep an eye on the bottom not to burn it. As soon as it starts to turn brown, flip them over. As soon as they are brown on the other side, remove from the pan to a cutting board. The cheese should be melted and the outside crisp. Cut each quesadilla into thirds and plate with toppings.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Turkey Sausage and Spinach Lasagne

Turkey Sausage and Spinach Lasagne

I have to blame Quida for this. She keeps asking me to make my lasagna…and in all fairness, I’ve only made it once. Right when Celeste was first pregnant…and I thought it would be fun to cook for her. So I made up this lasagna…which is completely wasted on my husband who doesn’t like most things pasta. I went for flavor. So I flavored each layer. I must say, I was impressed. My first lasagna I used a combination of ground sirloin and ground veal. I thought the result was pretty fantastic, especially for a first. The next day I took in a slice each for Celeste and Quida…only to discover that Celeste was now in the queasy stages of her pregnancy. So Quida had hers for lunch and raved about it. The next day Celeste was still very sick so Quida’s attitude was, “Oh well. More for me!” Apparently she loved it so much that she has been raving about it to her friends. Her Martha Stewart friend, April, is almost at the point of “Enough already. Either show me the lasagna or shut up.” I told Quida that I wanted to try a turkey and spinach lasagna and her response was, “bring it on.” So here it is. One Sunday and six hours later…

The Ingredients:

Tomato Sauce:
1 Large Can peeled Italian Tomatoes (I recommend the imported kind from Italy)
2 Cloves Garlic, minced (or crushed)
2 Tbsps Olive Oil
¼ cup Torn Basil Leaves
Salt and Pepper to taste
Good Quality Vinegar, such as Sherry Vinegar, Zinfandel, etc.
Honey if needed (A good quality imported Italian tomatoes picked at perfect ripeness, may not need any sweet added at all.)

1 Package Turkey Sausage Links

1 Package Baby Spinach
2 more Cloves Garlic, Sliced
Lemon Zest and 1 Tsp Lemon Juice
Fresh Ground Nutmeg
Salt and Pepper to Taste

¼ Cup Minced Parsley
¼ Cup Minched Oregano
1 Package Ricotta Cheese
More Fresh Ground Nutmeg
Salt and Pepper to Taste

1 Layer Fresh Basil Leaves

1 Package Fresh Lasagne Noodles

1 Package Smoked, Sliced Fontina Cheese

¼ Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese

The Sauce:

Open a large can of Peeled Italian Tomatoes and pour into a large bowl, with the juice. With your hand, crush each tomato. Heat a large pan and add 1 tbsp Olive Oil. Crush 2 Garlic Cloves into the oil and let bloom a couple of seconds. Add the tomatoes, all at once and bring to a simmer. Tear half of the basil into the sauce. Add a dash of Crushed Red Chili Flakes. Stir occasionally until reduced and the sauce is not watery. Tear the remaining Basil into the Sauce. Taste. If it needs salt, add some now. Sometimes the tomatoes have salt already in the can, so be sure to taste the sauce before adding additional salt.

Smoked Fontina Meat Lasagna

Smoked Fontina Meat Lasagna

½ Pound Ground Sirloin
½ Pound Ground Veal
1 Box Strained Italian Tomatoes
1 Bunch Italian Parsley
1 Bunch Fresh Oregano
2 Bunches of Fresh Basil
3 Garlic Cloves
8 oz Shredded Mozzarella
6 Slices Smoked Fontina Cheese
2 TBSP Grated Parmesan Reggiano
15 oz Fresh Ricotta Cheese
2 Sheets fresh Lasagna
Port Vinegar
Salt, Pepper, Dried Sage, Ground Cumin, Red Pepper Flakes, Cayenne, Dried Garlic Powder, olive oil

Brown the meat and season with salt, pepper, dried sage, ground cumin, cayenne and garlic powder.

In a separate skillet, heat about 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add a ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes and 3 cloves minced or pressed garlic. Stir for a couple of seconds, then add tomatoes. Reduce heat to simmer. Add salt and some torn basil leaves. Heat until reduced to a thick sauce. Remove from heat and add about 1 teaspoon honey and about ½ teaspoon vinegar. Taste for salt, add more as necessary.

Remove the parsley from its stems and mince, place in bowl. Remove oregano from its stems and mince, place in bowl. For ½ remaining basil, mince and place in bowl. And ricotta cheese and mix together with salt and pepper to taste.

Assemble Lasagna:

In a 9 inch casserole dish, spray with non-stick spray. Add a small layer of tomato sauce. Add one layer lasagna noodles. Add one half of ricotta mixture. Add one half of meat. Add one half remaining tomato sauce. Layer remaining basil leaves. Sprinkle with ½ mozzarella. Place one more layer noodles. Add remaining ricotta mixture. Add remaining meat. Add remaining sauce. Sprinkle top with remaining mozzarella. Place smoked fontina on top in a layer. Press down. Sprinkle top with about 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese. Bake in pre-heated oven uncovered for about 40 minutes until dish is bubbly and the top is brown. Remove from oven and let rest about 30 minutes. Cut in four even squares and serve.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Juliane's German Risotto

Juliane ("Jules") made this risotto for her dad tonight. The consensus from both of them was, "It's good!" I asked Jules if I could post her recipe. From what I understand, this may have been translated a couple of times. I can't wait to try this myself. When I do make it, I will come back and give my comments.

5 1/2 c vegetable broth
1 small onion chopped
2 cloves of garlic chopped finely
4 tbsp olive oil
1 lb arborio rice
1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp of red pepper flakes
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
fresh basil cut into thin strips
1 cup shredded mozzarella

Heat the vegetable broth and set aside. In a large skillet, saute the onions and garlic in the olive oil until tender. Add the arborio rice and stir for about 2-3 minutes. Add the vegetable broth and let simmer on med to med high heat uncovered for about 10 to 15 minutes while occasionally stirring until fluid is mostly absorbed. Add the red pepper flakes,chopped tomatoes and brown sugar while stirring constantly. When the rice is tender and the fluid has been absorbed almost completely, mix in the parmesan cheese. Add sea salt and cracked pepper to taste. Just before serving add the strips of fresh basil. Spoon onto plates and top with the mozarella cheese and enjoy.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sunday Bread Board

Sleep in late on Sunday. Make some tea, check your blogs. And make a bread board to snack on for the late morning.

I like to use a couple of cheeses. This one has a creamy Napa Valley blue cheese and an aged Canadian cheddar. I had a small seeded baguette from a couple of days ago that got hard, so I wrapped in in foil (in its paper bag) and put it in the oven at 220 degrees for about 10 minutes to soften it. Added some dates (very high in potassium) and the bread board is done.

Try cutting a pitted date in half and stuffing it with blue cheese. Drizzle a good honey on top. This is fantastic. I used a truffle honey, but I would also suggest any honey, even a lavender scented one.

Happy Sunday! And Happy New Year! Good to be back.