Friday, July 29, 2011

Easy Cheesecake Recipe

Easy Cheesecake
(8x8 pan, cut 3x3, 9 servings)


1 cup Graham Cracker Crumbs
1/8 cup Sugar
¼ cup Butter, melted
1 box Jell-o Cheesecake Mix
1 8 oz. tub Cool Whip, thawed


In a medium bowl, mix the crumbs and sugar together and then add the melted butter.  Mix until all the crumbs are wet.  Pour this mixture into an 8x8 glass casserole dish and level out.  Use your hand to press the crumbs down all over the bottom of the dish.  Try to keep the thickness equal across the bottom.  You want the crumbs to become a solid crust for the cheesecake filling.  Set the crust aside and next follow the directions on the box to make the cheesecake.  While the cheesecake mixture is still in the large bowl used to make it, fold in the tub of cool whip and continue until all white streaks are gone.  Pour the mixture into the 8x8 dish with the graham cracker crust, smooth the top of the cheesecake and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Note:               To fold something into something else is a relatively easy process.  Just use a rubber spatula and make a circular motion going from the top to the bottom of the mixture.  You are trying to keep as much air (lightness) in the finished product as possible.  It is not the end of the world if you happen to over mix it.  It takes a little practice to be good at it.

Note:               You can use a fruit pie filling (cherry, blueberry, etc.) or sliced strawberries (fresh or frozen) as a topping for the cheesecake.

Note:               If you want to make a larger amount, use a 9x13 dish and just double everything in the recipe above.

Ideas for Future Efforts


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Cooking without Recipes

As I mentioned early this week, this blog is primarily for new or inexperienced cooks.  That being said, I don't want to scare them off by always talking recipes.

I don't know anyone that uses a recipe to cook each and every meal.  For me the time to use a recipe is when you're doing something for the first time, having guests or you have the time to prepare something more complex.  Even then I may not really follow the recipe.  If the item is something I have made many times before, I may use the recipe just to remind me not to forget an ingredient or a process.

Many meals may be the result of throwing a few simple ingredients together.  You may use a combination of semi-prepared, frozen, boxed or canned items with some fresh foods for your dinner.  All of this is alright.  I'll buy fresh twice baked potatoes at my local Hy-Vee grocery store because they are on special.  It saves me time (I don't have to make them myself), gives me something upscale for dinner and goes well with hundreds of entrees.

I may grill, pan fry or bake some chicken, pork chops, ham steak or fish to go with that twice baked potato and some fresh veggies.  All I do to the entree is sprinkle some seasoning before using the cooking process of choice that night and maybe steam those veggies.  Here you have a nice dinner that didn't take a lot of work or time but tasted great and met your needs.

Remember this as you plan your weekly menu and grocery list.  My favorite line comes into play here.  Life is too short not to have fun.  So don't make it so complicated and maybe your stress level can go down.

The cheesecake recipe tomorrow just uses a boxed cheesecake mix but I add something to it.  What I add changes the texture and lightens it up.  There is nothing wrong with doing things like this with your meals.

For those of you on weight-watchers, the cheesecake is only 4 points a portion if I figured it correctly for my wife.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

New & Inexperienced Cooks

I want to remind everyone that the main propose of this food blog is to help new and inexperienced cooks.  If you don't fall into one of those categories, it's alright.  We love having you following the blog too.  In your case, I do ask that you pass on helpful information or the blog's link to people that you feel could be helped by it.  Thank you for, first, your interest and, second, your help, ideas and suggestions.

As I have been writing the blog, it comes to mind that followers are only getting my perspective on cooking, equipment, etc.  In talking to some friends with experience and knowledge, I thought it might be nice to have some other input for the blog.

It is along the line of me mentioning my favorite places to shop Kohl'sFood Network and QVC for your kitchen needs.  I'm just trying to give you different options and perspectives to your shopping and cooking.

So my plan is to have quest "Culinary Trained Chefs" and "Registered Dietitians" contribute to the blog.  I am planning on starting this project in September.  The plan will be to have one of these guests do the last three days of the weekly blog once every other month.  We are not far enough along to set which week of the month they will do.  The week will be the same week each month that we do it so you can make your calendars as a reminder.

Each guest will take a subject and cover it the first 2 days.  They will then share a recipe on that Friday that ties into the topic they discussed on Wednesday and Thursday.  Some of the topics that we will start with are; sauces, cooking fish, healthy eating and portion control.

If there is a particular topic that you would like covered, please click on the comment button at the end of each blog.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Cookbook Available for Purchase

I'm posting my usual Tuesday blog on Saturday this week because of some exciting news.

I signed off on the completed cookbook last week.  It really felt great to know that what I started on July 1, 2009 is now done.  From first word to the final signing off it has been just under 25 months.  They have been an interesting, fun, eye-opening and rewarding time.  To accomplish a goal in something you have never done before is thrilling to say the least.

I'm sure there are some nuns (from grade school) turning over in their graves and saying they can't believe that little boy could ever do something like this in a million life times.  I want you to remember that as you take on challenges or goals throughout your life.  Many people may think you have no way of completing your task, but they don't know or understand what is in you that motivates you to achieve.  So don't ever give up on your dreams.  You can do it.

I have heard from my marketing contact.  He sent me a quite a bit of information and several forms to fill out.  I have completed the forms and sent them back.  They were to help Jeff (marketing contact) understand where I was coming from as we start to market the cookbook.  I feel a new nervousness as we get into an area that I again am not familiar,  marketing of a book.

But I also received some really good news late Friday from Jeff.  People can start buying my cookbook!  I am able to sell it through the link below, which is my publisher's.

The cookbook's official release date is not until October 25, 2011.  It will only be available at this link until that date.  Once we hit that October date, you will be able to order or buy it through any available website or bookstore.

The cookbook retails for $27.99 in book form and $16.99 as an e-book.  If you have questions after reading the cookbook, please just hit the comment button at the end of one of my blogs.  Now on to whats coming this week in the blog.

This week, we are going to talk a little about cooking without recipes.  I also will introduce a new idea that I hope to implement for the blog in September.  And, of course, this weeks recipe which is "Easy Cheesecake."

Have a great week and let us hear some comments.  I had a nice one from India last week.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Turkey (Chicken) Pot Pie


Turkey (Chicken) Pot Pie
(6 to 8 servings)


3 tbsp. Butter
1 cup Yellow Onion, diced
1 cup Carrot, diced
1 cup Celery, diced
2 cup Mushrooms, diced, chopped or sliced (your choice)
3 tbsp. All Purpose Flour
1 cup White Wine
1 tsp. Salt
½ tsp. Black Pepper
½ tsp. Garlic Powder
¼ cup Fresh Parsley, chopped
2 cup (12 oz.) Cooked Chicken or Turkey, diced
3/4 cup Milk
2 refrigerated Pie Pastry
1 whole Egg
1 tbsp. Water


In a 3 to 5 quart sauté pan, melt butter over medium heat.  Add the onion, carrot, celery and mushroom to the pan and sauté for 10 to 15 minutes.  Now add the flour and stir in continuously for 2 to 3 minutes.  As you continue to stir, add the wine and heat until it thickens.  Once it has thickened, add the salt, pepper, garlic, parsley and chicken (turkey) and combine all together.  Stir in the milk and just heat through.  Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.  Take a 9 inch pie pan and spray with pan release and place one sheet of pie pastry in the pan.  Fill the pastry with the mixture from the sauté pan.  Create an egg wash with 1 egg and 1 tbsp. of water by beating them together in a small bowl.  Brush the pastry edge with the egg wash and place the second pie pastry over it.  Crimp the edges together using the thumb and index finger of both hands.  Finally, brush the entire pastry top with the egg wash before placing on a sheet tray or cookie pan.  Put the sheet tray with the pot pie in a 400 degree pre-heated oven for 45 minutes.  Remove and let set 10 to 15 minutes before cutting into 6 or 8 slices and serving.

Note:   It is your choice on how big or small you dice your vegetables and

Note:   You can use rotisserie chicken, leftover chicken (fried or baked) or leftover turkey (Thanksgiving, etc.) for this recipe.

Note:   You could put this in a square, rectangle or oval baking dish and just use one pie crust to top the casserole.  Depending on the pan size, you may have to double the recipe.  Do remember to use the egg wash as it gives the crust a nice shine.

Note:   If you don’t like using wine in your cooking, chicken stock could be substituted.

Note:   You may have noticed that I do not use peas in this recipe.  I don’t like them and so never use them.  You may add peas (frozen work best) or change the vegetables to meet your taste or the season in which you are making the pot pie.  I also like my pot pie a little on the dry side.  If you want more sauce with your, just add a little more milk.

Ideas for Future Efforts

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Leftover Turkey

Today's blog is a short one, but I think it will give you an idea of why I talked turkey yesterday.

Thanksgiving dinner is great and you anticipate the meal for several weeks in advance.  However, it is the leftovers that can get you going.  There is no sandwich better than a turkey sandwich from the leftover turkey the next day.  At least that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

When I cook the bone-in turkey breast for a dinner, I already have plans for what I'm going to do with the leftovers.  That is why I buy a big breast.  I want to be able to get at least 4 total meals out of it.

I'll calculate how much I think will go in that first dinner and then figure how much I want or need for those sandwiches.  I'll always use the carcass and make a soup or some homemade gravy.  Sometimes I'll go for "Hot Turkey Sandwiches" with mashed potatoes and that gravy packet if I didn't make gravy.  If it has been a while, I might try it "a la King" or as "Turkey & Noodles."

When it comes to leftover turkey, the dishes you create are only limited by your imagination and taste Buds.  So try a bone-in turkey breast sometime and enjoy all it has to offer.  Don't forget that you can freeze some for later.  That way you don't OD on turkey and think of changing your Thanksgiving menu.

Turkey Pot Pie is the recipe for tomorrow.  I hope you will enjoy it as much as my wife and I do.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Turkey (and it's not Thanksgiving)

When most people think of Turkey, I believe they think of Thanksgiving and a big special meal.  For most of us, that is a "one time a year" occasion.  It is too much work to do it more than that.

Well, I get a craving for turkey more than once a year and I'm not talking sliced deli turkey.  The deli turkey is good but it just doesn't have the same taste and texture as a bird cooked in your own oven.

I make it a little easier by just buying a bone-in turkey breast every so often.  I'll throw that in the oven and have a nice Sunday Dinner.  Just like at Thanksgiving, there is plenty of turkey and so there will be leftovers for later.

All you need to do is buy the bone-in breast and follow the instructions on the wrapper.  Since they come frozen, remember to place it in the refrigerator to thaw.  You will need to give it a couple of days (2 or 3 depending on size) in a pan big enough to hold the turkey and any juices that may seep out of the covering package.  You will usually find a gravy packet in with the turkey when you open up the turkey wrap.  Use it or freeze it for another time.

Rinse the turkey off inside and out with cold water and left drip in a strainer for a few minutes.  Season it liberally with salt and pepper both inside and out and place in a roasting pan covered with foil.  Follow the time and temperature on the package for the weight of the bird.  If you have some other seasonings you like to use on turkey, go ahead and do it.  Make whatever sides you have a desire for and enjoy your dinner.

Tomorrow's blog will talk about what you can do with leftovers and the carcass.  Then on Friday will be a recipe for Turkey Pot Pie.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Latest Cookbook Update

I've heard back from the "final proof" editors on the mistakes I found in that proof.  All but 2 were approved and were to be corrected.  The 2 that were not approved happened to be the same line in two different locations in the cookbook.  I had asked them to delete a word and it was decided that it should stay.  It was the correct decision.

They then sent me a pdf file of the cookbook to check that all the changes had been made.  I found 3 that were not and notified my layout editor about them.  He also sent instructions for me to now put the page number for each recipe in the recipe index at the back of the cookbook.

I have finished that up and returned the file.  I will now receive a final pdf file to review and then sign off on.  Once they receive the signed form,  I'll be turned over to the marketing department.  The marketing group will be the final step to releasing the cookbook.

It will take a few months, I'm told, to get everything in place with marketing and distribution.  This will be another learning curve for me and I'm excited to get started.

I know some time back, I wrote about the book writing and publishing process.  As I'm coming to the end of the process to get a book written and published, it amazes me how much patience one needs.  Don't get me wrong, I have loved the whole project.  And, in fact, I'm so looking forward to what comes after the cookbook has been released.  It will be another new adventure for me.

Remember what I always say, "Life is too short not to have fun and enjoy it."  I am having fun and certainly enjoying it.

This week we are going to talk "Turkey" and it's not just for Thanksgiving.  Friday's recipe is for turkey pot pie.  Even though the President of the United States said something like "When you have to eat your peas, you have to eat your peas."  My pot pie doesn't have any peas, because I don't like them.

Have a great week.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Spicy Cream Corn


Spicy Cream Corn
(8 servings)


4 tbsp. Butter
1 small Red Onion, diced
4 ears Fresh Sweet Corn, cut off cob
6 oz. Cream Cheese
½ cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
½ cup Jalapeno Peppers from the jar, chopped
1 cup Milk (your choice)


Melt the butter in a 3 to 4 quart sauce or sauté pan over medium heat.  When butter has melted, add the diced onions and cook for about 5 minutes.  Now add the sweet corn and continue to cook for another 5 minutes or so.  Remember to stir the onions and corn as they cook.  Turn the heat down to medium-low and add the cream cheese.  Continue to stir the mixture as the cream cheese melts.  Once the cream cheese has melted, add the Parmesan cheese, Jalapeno and milk.  Stir the mixture until well incorporated and heated through.  Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.

Note:                 To cut the corn, off of the cob, use a shallow large bowl.
                            Cut the end off the base of the cob to give yourself a good
                            base for standing the cob up.  Start cutting the corn from the
                            top of the cob down to the bowl.  Work your way around
                            the cob as you cut all the corn off.  Be careful not to cut any

Note:               You can substitute frozen or canned corn for the fresh sweet
                          corn.  I would use 1 to 1 ½ pounds of frozen or 2 to 3 cans.
                          If you use frozen, remember to completely thaw and drain
                          before using.

Note:               You can use fresh Jalapeno peppers in place of the jarred ones.
                           If you do, I would recommend using 2 or 3 fresh peppers.
                           Remove the seeds and dice small.  You can adjust the amount
                           of either type of peppers you choice to use to meet your
                           desired heat level.

Ideas for Future Efforts

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Stand and Hand Mixers

A stand mixer or hand mixer is another tool needed in your kitchen.  Which one you need will depend upon your style of cooking and spending budget.

If you are into doing a lot of baking, then a stand mixer probably meets your needs.  If, like me, you don't do much baking a hand mixer should do.  You need to remember that the stand mixers also have attachments that you would like to use.  This may save you from having to buy another separate piece of equipment for those functions.  Most of these attachments will cost you extra. of course.

Let's start with the stand mixer.  You can pick one up for as low as maybe $75 and a high of $500 or more.  In stand mixers, the top name is KitchenAid.  Their mixers will run between $250 and $450 roughly plus attachments.  In my opinion, they do make the best.  I believe most KitchenAid stand mixers have a power hub in the top front of the mixer.  Some of the attachments for the power hub include meat grinders, pasta rollers and ravioli makers and one for slicing and shredding.  A basic unit (most brands) usually comes with a flat beater, wire whip, dough hook and pouring spout.  Most models come with metal bowls but some do come with a glass bowl.

Counter space or an easy to get at storage area will be needed for a stand mixer.  If you use it weekly and have the space, put it on the counter as many come in colors to compliment your kitchen.
My Old Hand Mixer

My favorite shopping locations Kohl'sFood Network and QVC have a great selection of stand mixers and their attachments.  The same goes for hand mixers which we will discuss next.

Hand mixers are great for small jobs or the occasional big project.  They will run you from around $19 up to maybe $100.  They too come with usually more than just one set of beaters.  Many hand mixers have dough hooks and whisks in addition to the regular beater.  They are easy to use, clean and store.

Since many of you are just getting started in the cooking arena, it might be best to go with a hand mixer.  It will help save on the budget.  As you grow in your cooking skills, you will be able to determine when you might need that stand mixer.  Start saving for it now and you'll have the money when you need it.  If you decide you don't need one, well you have a nice chunk of change for something else in the kitchen.  Or a road trip of some kind.

Tomorrow's recipe is in keeping with the season of garden produce.  The recipe used fresh sweet corn with a little kick.  Check it out on Friday.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Equipment: Food Processor

The food processor was invented back in the 70's and has become a household staple today.  Many people love their convenience for getting through the tasks of chopping, slicing and shredding food items.  It saves a lot of work for the person doing all that prepping in the kitchen.  The newest ones today can do about anything for you except wipe your,well, nose.

You as a new or inexperienced cook need to determine if a food processor is something you need and/or want.  The problem for you is that they are not cheap.  The food processor can be found from around $100 on up to $800. Now these are for a 9 to 14 cup size processor.  You can find some for under $100 but most are smaller capacity processors.  My favorite shopping locations Kohl'sFood Network and QVC have a wide variety of models and prices.  Check them out and determine which model fits your needs and price range.

You might try talking mom & dad into getting their food processor while they get a new one.  It might be worth the try.
My OLD Food Processor

A food processor usually comes with two blades.  One is for slicing and shredding foods.  It works great for shredding/grating cheese, slicing vegetables and shredding cabbage for Cole Slaw, for example.  The second blade is for chopping, grinding, mixing and mincing.  It will let you make pizza dough quickly or mince fresh herbs.  It will even make emulsions for dressings and marinades if you want.

They offer easy clean up and you can put the parts in a dishwasher or wash by hand.  The base with its electric motor can be easily wiped off but can not be submerged in water.  Depending on how much you use it and the space restrictions of your kitchen, you can leave it on the counter.  If not, find a storage location that is quick and easy to access.

I guess that I'm just old school, but I don't use my food processor all that much.  There is not enough space to leave it out on the counter and so, "out of sight out of mind."  Most of my training in the kitchen came before the food processor was a staple in even the commercial kitchens I was involved in.  Old habits are hard to break.  When I do use my food processor, I really do enjoy it.

Remember as you decide if it something you must have that there are other pieces of kitchen equipment that might be need more.  Make a good decision and enjoy the food processor if you get one.

Tomorrow we will talk about mixers, both counter top and hand ones.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

This week's Update

We had a little scare this past week.  I had mailed back the "final proof" on Tuesday, the 29th of June.  My wife and I went out of town for about a week working on things for the blog and the cookbook.  When we returned home, I noticed that I had not received any confirmation from my publisher that they had received the "Final proof."

I e-mailed my layout editor and asked how things were going on the edits.  He responded with the fact that he hadn't seen the "final proof" yet.  I told him that the post office had a signature from the publisher with Wednesday, the 30th of June.

He inquired and found the "final Proof" and confirmed back to me.  I was then able to breathe again.

The errors that I found are being addressed and the cookbook should be heading to printing in the next week or two.

The marketing team has not contacted me yet because of the missing cookbook.  However, I should be hearing from them sometime this week.

I think the publisher was just checking to see if my heart was working.  I don't need any more scares.

This week I will talk about some kitchen equipment that could make life a little easier for you.  Tomorrow will be on food processors and the next day on mixers (both stand and hand).  Friday's recipe is in keeping with the season.  It calls for fresh sweet corn and has a little kick too.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce (Marinara & Vodka)


Homemade Spaghetti Sauce
(Marinara & Vodka)
(14 – ½ cup servings)


2 tsp. Olive Oil (EVOO)
2 large cloves Garlic, minced or pressed
1 medium Yellow Onion, small diced
2 28 oz. cans Crushed Tomatoes
1 6 oz. can Tomato Paste
2 Bay Leaves
¼ cup Dry Parsley
1 tbsp. Dry Oregano
1 tbsp. Dry Basil
½ tsp. Crushed Rosemary
2 tbsp. Brown Sugar
2 tsp. Chili Powder
1 tsp. Salt
½ tsp. Black Pepper
¾ cup Red Wine (1 small bottle from a 4-pack)


Add olive oil to a 3 to 5 quart sauce pan over medium heat.  When oil is ready, add the onion and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes.  Now add the garlic and continue another 2 minutes.  The ingredients from crushed tomatoes through black pepper can be mixed in and stirred until well combined.  Heat the mixture until it comes to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and continue for 15 minutes.  Stir in the wine, turn heat to simmer and cook an additional 45 minutes.  Remember to stir the mixture from time to time.  Taste and adjust seasoning if needed and serve over cooked warm pasta.  If it is too thick for you, thin with a little tomato juice, water or some more red wine.  Just remember to taste and adjust flavor if needed.

Note:   If you use fresh herbs (parsley, oregano, basil and rosemary) be sure to double the amount.

Note:   If you don’t like using wine in your cooking, it can be replaced with water or tomato juice.  You may need to adjust some seasonings because of this change.

Note:   You can make this recipe in a slow cooker.  Just mix all the ingredients together in the slow cooker and heat on low for 7 to 9 hours.

Note:   This recipe can be doubled or halved.  It also freezes well for future

Note:   Just add ground beef or Italian sausage if you want to make this
               marinara into a meat sauce.

Note:   I use this recipe as the base for my “Vodka Sauce.”  To the base recipe I add ½ cup of vodka, 1 cup heavy cream and ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese.  I continue heating the sauce for another 30 minutes.  Taste and adjust seasonings before serving.  You will get about 16 – ½ cup portions from this recipe.  If it is too thick for you, thin with a little tomato juice, water or some more red wine.  Just remember to taste and adjust flavor if needed.

Ideas for Future Efforts

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Freezers and Freezing Food

Growing food is interesting, a learning moment, fun and challenging all at the same time.  Something you have to take into consideration when planting a garden or buying from a farmer's market is consumption.  If you grow or buy more than you can consume, it is most likely going to go to waste.

This means that you must plan to be able to handle any excess foods.  There are two methods that come to mind very quickly.  You can freeze the food or use the process of "canning" the food.  We will talk about freezing today.  The "canning" process will be addressed in a future week of the blog.

I will mention right now that you need a freezer to put the food in for freezing food.  You have a freezer that is part of your refrigerator.  The question becomes whether this freezer is big enough to hold the extra frozen food.  If not, you may need to buy a separate freezer.  You can get a chest or upright freezer.  It just depends on which will work best for your situation.  Chest freezers tend to be a little less expensive but at times harder to get at what you want quickly.  Space is always a consideration in the purchase too.  The nice thing about freezers is that they usually last a very long time.  I've had my upright freezer since 1975 and it works as good as new.  It doesn't look as good as new but function trumps looks in a freezer.

Now, if you have a garden or are buying from a farmer's market, what do you need to do to the foods you want to freeze?  Some items such as peas and green beans need to be washed and picked over to get rid of any bad ones.  The beans need to have their ends cut off, at minimum the end attached to the plant.  They then need to be blanched before going in a good freezer container.  To blanch them, heat water to boiling and drop the product into the boiling water for one to two minutes.  Remove from the water and place into a ice water bath to stop the cooking process.  This blanching helps bring out the bright color of the peas or beans.  You can place into zip-lock freezer bags or plastic containers with lids.  If using freezer bags, they can be flattened out so that you can stack them in the freezer.  This helps save space.

I freeze my peppers-whole, all kinds.  I just wash and let them dry.  Then I place them on a sheet pan, make sure they are not touching each other, and put it in the freezer.  After two or three hours I take the peppers and place them in zip-lock freezer bags.  This process is called IQF (individually quick frozen) and then when you need a pepper or two for some recipe, just reach in the bag and pull one or two out.

I freeze some of my tomatoes, but can most.  The ones I freeze I put in zip-lock freezer bags.  First I wash and core the tomatoes.  Depending on the size, I will then quarter or halve the tomatoes and put them in a zip-lock freeze bag.  Again, I lay them out in the freeze so they can be stacked to save space.  When I pull them out to use, I'll put them in a bowl or dish to thaw in the refrigerator.  I haven't skinned them yet but once they thaw the skins come off fairly easy.

I haven't invested in one of those systems that suck all the air out and prolong the life of the food.  It might be something you want to look into for your situation.  If you do, remember that my favorite shopping places Kohl'sFood Network and QVC have these and storage containers too.

Tomorrow's recipe is for homemade spaghetti sauce (both marinara and vodka).  This I freeze in freezer containers for future meals.  Have a good weekend and please let me know if there is anything you would like me to cover in a future blog.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Garden Produce Coming

We're about halfway through the summer and around here, fresh sweet corn usually hits the farmer's market around the 4th of July.  If you like fresh sweet corn, try to find some that has both yellow and white kernels.  There are several names or brands for this type of sweet corn, but I just call it "Candy Corn".  It is the best sweet corn I've eaten in my life.  The cookbook coming out has a recipe on how to cook sweet corn in small quantities.  It is quick and the sweet corn tastes as good as any other way you can cook it.

If you have a garden, it has probably already produced some vegetables for you.  Of course it depends on what you plant.  We don't usually plant any early vegetables, so it is late July before we start harvesting any product.  Our main crops are tomatoes and peppers.  We plant a variety of both items but not a large quantity.

In fact, we have some good friends that plant the large quantity of these items.  Howard and I have gotten into making salsa the last few years.  Each year the amount of salsa has increased.  This past summer, it was around 60 to 70 quarts and this year will be much more.  I believe that between us, we have a little over 40 tomato plants.  We also have quite a few pepper plants.  Mainly they are green peppers and jalapeno peppers.  Although this year we are trying to grow a new one.  It is called the Ho Chi Minh pepper and it is HOT.  It has the same heat as a Habanero pepper on the Scoville Scale.  The difference is the Habanero has a quick burn and it is all in your mouth or on your lips.  The Ho Chi Minh has a delayed heat and it makes your whole body warm from the inside out.  So this year Howard and I will make our medium salsa and then make a new hot variety with our new yellow HCM peppers.

Sorry for getting carried away there.  I'm going to guess that many of you don't have a garden.  It is something you might want to consider some day.  Just remember to start out small and try only a few items you really like in the garden.  You can always expand it or find friends for a community garden.  Give it a try next year.

So under that assumption, let's talk about farmer's markets.  I don't know it for a fact but almost every town has some kind of farmer's market.  If you have not been to one, find one.  They are great with usually more variety then you can imagine.  At this time of the year, you really need to take advantage of all the fresh food products you can find at these markets.  The prices are comparable to the stores you shop at for your groceries.  One of the neat side benefits of buying at these markets is you are helping your local economy and keeping neighbors in business.

In many towns the markets only operate on Saturday mornings.  You can find them that are open one day a week to six day and everything in between.  Get out and support them in your community.  It really is a fun adventure so take a friend or two.

I'll continue tomorrow with freezing vegetables.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Tuesday Update

Last Tuesday I shipped off that "Final Proof" for the cookbook.  This week I should be hearing from the marketing team to start putting together the plan to move (sell) the cookbook.  We're in totally new territory again but I'm looking forward to it.  It is really getting exciting now as we approach the release date for the cookbook.

So what am I doing now?  I'm putting together a list of all the colleges in a 250 to 300 mile radius of Maryville, Missouri.  We are interested in setting up book signings with the Bookstores at each college.  Hopefully this will just be the start of connecting with colleges throughout the country.

We will also put together a list of Bookstores, Libraries and locations to have more book signings.  If anyone out there has some suggestions, please pass them on to me.

The marketing team and I will be setting up a website too.  Hopefully when the cookbook is released both the website and this blog will have links to buy the cookbook.

Have I mentioned that the cookbook will be in e-book form as well as the traditional print?

This week I'm going to talk a little about fresh garden produce.  Where to find it if you don't have a garden of your own and what you can do with it.  I'm also going to talk about freezers and freezing food.  This week's recipe is Homemade Spaghetti Sauce.  It covers making a marinara sauce and how to make it into a vodka sauce.

I hope everyone had a great 4th of July weekend.  We certainly enjoyed the fireworks.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Bleu Bacon Burger

Bleu Bacon Burgers
(8 servings)


2 lb. Ground Chuck (85/15 or 80/20)
1 – 2.8 oz. jar Hormel Bacon Pieces
1 – 5 oz. tub Bleu Cheese Crumbs
2 tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
As needed: Lawry’s Season Salt, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Black Pepper
8 Hamburger Buns of your choice, toasted on grill


In a large bowl, mix the ground chuck, bacon, bleu cheese and Worcestershire sauce.  Then form the mixture into 8 four ounce patties with your hands.  Refrigerate the patties while you get the grill ready.  When you are ready to put the patties on the grill, sprinkle them with a good dose of the four spices.  Put them on the grill seasoned side down and repeat seasoning on the top side.  Grill for 4 to 6 minutes per side depending on thickness and desired doneness.  I like mine a little pink.  That also helps keep them from drying out.

Note:   If you really like cheese, try topping each burger with a slice of sharp

Note:   If you are not into bleu cheese then try crumbed feta.

Note:   The numbers behind the ground chuck are the meat to fat percentages.  Either of these will give you the best flavor for ground beef.  My personal opinion is that ground chuck at those percentages is the only way to go for burgers.

Note:   You can adjust the amounts of bacon and cheese to meet your personal tastes.  If you make larger burger patties, it will add a little time to the cooking process.

Ideas for Future Efforts