Thursday, August 29, 2013

Grilled Summer Vegetables

Grilled Summer Vegetables
(4 servings)


2 medium (7-8 inches) Zucchini, sliced on bias
2 medium (7-8 inches)Yellow Squash, sliced on bias
½ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 tbsp. Italian Seasoning
½ tsp. Salt
¼ tsp. Black Pepper


Wash and cut ½ inch slices of the zucchini and squash on the bias discarding the ends. Place the slices in a gallon zip-lock bag. In a small bowl combine the oil, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper and then pour into bag with vegetables. Seal bag and work the vegetables and seasoning mixture together and let sit for 15-30 minutes. Set the vegetables on the well oil grates of a very hot grill for 1-2 minutes to create nice grill marks. Turn the vegetables over and continue another 1-2 minutes to mark second side. Reduce heat (of gas grill) or move vegetables to a lower heated section of grill. Continue to grill vegetables until done to your desired taste. Remove and serve with the rest of your meal.

Note: If you would like, grill sliced red onions, sweet onions and/or eggplant using the same seasoning mixture. Or any other vegetable you prefer.

Ideas for Future Efforts

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Grilled Ribeyes with Mushroom Topping

Grilled Ribeyes with Mushroom Topping
(4 servings)


4 (8-12 oz.) Ribeye Steaks, room temperature
as needed Seasoned Salt
as needed Garlic Powder
as needed Onion Powder
as needed Black Pepper
2 tbsp. Unsalted Butter
2 tbsp. Fresh Garlic, minced
2 medium Shallots, thinly sliced
6 oz. Pancetta, small dice
8 oz. pkg. Fresh Mushrooms, sliced
6 cups Fresh Spinach, stems removed


Season the room temperature steaks with the seasoned salt, pepper, garlic & onion powder on both sides. Place on hot (grill on high) oiled grates and cook for 2 minutes on each side. Lower grill heat to medium and continue grilling for about 5 minutes (a little longer for heavier steaks) more per side or until you reach desired doneness for your taste. Remove when done and let rest about 5 minutes before serving. While steaks are grilling heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the butter garlic, shallots and pancetta to pan and saute for 2-3 minutes. Then add the mushrooms and spinach and continue sauteing 4-5 minutes longer stirring frequently. Divide mixture over the steaks just before serving.

Note: You can use other types of steaks if you prefer.

Note: If you can find bottled bourbon sauce, try adding an ounce or two per steak to the mushroom mixture just before serving. Just heat through for a minute or two.

Ideas for Future Efforts

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

End of the Summer Grilling Season

Labor Day Weekend is coming up and that is the official end to the summer grilling season.  It is also 3rd in line behind the other two summer holidays (USA) for the amount of grilling going on.  I'm that the start of college and pro football seasons affects the number of picnics and backyard parties that weekend.

For my international blog friends, the other two holidays for us are; Memorial Day Weekend and 4th of July.  Memorial Day Weekend starts the summer season as schools begin to close for the summer.  the 4th of July is our Independence Day Celebration and falls almost in the middle of the summer between the other two holidays.  Memorial Day and Labor Day always fall on a Monday.  That way most Americans get to enjoy a 3-day weekend.

Speaking of international blog readers, I would like to thank you for taking an interest in my food blog.  I do hope that it is helping you.  I, also, hope that the translation link is doing a good job of putting the blog into your language properly.

I continue to have a nice Russian following and I am very happy for that.  They have been far above any other country (outside of the USA) for a long time.  However, there has been an increased number of Latvia readers in the past month.  They have actually been having greater numbers than the Russians the last few weeks.  Germany and Canada are holding their numbers and France has been increasing a little lately.  I thank all my foreign readers and ask them to help spread the blog even more in their countries.  Now back to the Labor Day Weekend blog.

Still it's an opportunity for you to have a big summer ending event with family and/or friends.  So talk to them and get planning.  Heck, if you're not going to any football games that weekend, pull the big flat screen out on the deck.  Then you can catch a game and add a little more fun to your Labor Day Weekend Event.

I have two great grilling recipes this week that will work year-round on your grill.  The first is for a "Grilled Ribeye with Mushroom Topping" and you can change out the steak for your personal favorite if you like.  The second one is for "Grilled summer Vegetables" and here I use zucchini and summer squash.  However, you can use whatever summer vegetables are available or just the ones you like best.

So enjoy them and don't let the end of summer end your grilling.  Grilled food is too tasty not to do it year-round.  You will find more recipes for grilling foods in the recipe tabs.  By sure to check them out and keep on grilling and "Happy Cooking" too.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Ham & Cheese Calzone

Ham & Cheese Calzone
(4 calzones)


1 ½ cups Ricotta Cheese
¾ cup Cooked Ham, small dice
6 medium Fresh Tomatoes, peeled, seeded & diced
8 large leaves Fresh Basil, chopped
1 cup Mozzarella Cheese, shredded
4 tbsp. Parmesan Cheese, grated
to taste Salt & Black Pepper
1 recipe Pizza Dough (see note)
as needed Extra Virgin Olive Oil, for brushing


In a large bowl, combine the cheeses, ham, tomatoes and basil. Season with the salt and pepper and be sure the mixture is well combined. Take your pizza dough and divide into 4 equal portions and make balls. Roll each ball out to a ¼ inch thickness. Divide the filling evenly for the 4 discs, placing each portion on half the circle leaving a 1 inch border on outside. Spread filling out as needed to achieve. Now fold the other half over the filling and crimp the edges of the dough together using your fingers to seal. Place calzones on a lightly oiled cookie sheet and brush tops with olive oil. Put into a 475 degree pre-heated oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until top is golden brown and dough has puffed. Let cool a few minutes before eating.

Note: Dough recipe is on my blog ( under the “Homemade Pizza” recipe.

Note: You can change out the ham with cooked sausage or ground beef crumbled up. Also pepperoni would work. I'd chop it up a little so it mixes better in filling.

Ideas for Future Efforts

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Pizza with Onions & Black Olives

Pizza with Onions & Black Olives
(1 pizza)


6 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil, divided
4 medium Yellow Onions, thinly sliced
to taste Salt & Black Pepper
1 recipe Pizza Dough (see note)
1 ¾ cups Mozzarella Cheese, shredded
32 Black Olives, pitted & halved longways
3 tbsp. Fresh Parsley, chopped


Using half the oil in a large saute pan over low heat, cook onions until translucent and beginning to brown (about 15 minutes) stirring as needed. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Top prepared pizza dough with onions spreading evenly and leaving the edge uncovered. Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the onions and top with the sliced olives. Bake in a 475 degree pre-heated oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until crust is golden brown and cheese is bubbling. Let rest a few minutes before cutting.

Note: See my “Homemade Pizza” recipe on my blog ( for the pizza dough process.

Note: If you don't like black olives, then use your favorite ones. I like a mixture of the black with some green olives too.

Ideas for Future Efforts

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Part 11 of Italian (Pizza) Cooking

I'm not sure about it in Italy or the rest of the world but in the USA, when you mention Italian food it's "Pizza" that first comes to mind.  My first memory of pizza form a pizza shop/restaurant was in the early 60's in high school.  It's a great memory too.  The place was called Elfredo's and it was the only one in town.

Now I remember eating pizza at home growing up.  My mother would make it on cookie sheet pans and we would have cut squares of pizza for a slice.  I don't remember if she made the dough from scratch or not.  She baked just about everything we had at home so I believe so.  It was good pizza and I believe that's when I got hooked.  Pizza is one of my favorite foods today and so I need to control myself not to over do it.

There are all types of pizzas and everyone has their favorite and I'm just talking crust for so.  New Yorkers like their thin and want to fold it over.  In Chicago it's deep dish. I think most pizza joints usually offer it 3 ways, thin crust, hand tossed (an in between thickness) and deep dish.  Over the years I've loved all three.  Today, however, I'm prone to a thin crispy crust.  But I won't turn down a thicker crust if offered.

Crusts are really pretty easy to make and most are made of the same basic ingredients. That's yeast, water, flour, sugar and salt.  I know of some recipes for pizza dough that include shortening too.  Some people even flavor their dough with garlic, cornmeal and other fresh spices and herbs.  I'm more of a basic pizza dough person.  The thing is to fine the dough recipe you like for ease of making and because it taste good to you.  Then stick with it.  The recipe I use for pizza dough is already on the blog.  It's the Homemade Pizza one from the "Entrees" recipe file.

Pizza sauce is another ingredient to a pizza that runs the gamete for variety.  Most old school Italians just use fresh tomato puree.  Of course they pick the best tomatoes to make it.  Other tomato based sauces will have olive oil, garlic, oregano, basil or other ingredients in them.  Again it goes back to what meets your taste desires.  Usually the simpler it is the better.

But you are not limited to just tomato based sauces.  People today use Alfredo sauce, pesto, olive oil and garlic sauce (or each alone) and even no sauce.  In fact, one of the recipes this week calls for no sauce.  That recipe is for "Pizza with Onions & Olives" and it will surprise you.  Here again use your imagination and find ones you like, as you don't have to use only one sauce your whole life.

Once you have the crust you like with your favorite sauce, you have to start thinking toppings.  In the USA the number one pizza topping is "Pepperoni" and for me it's the only one I don't care for.  Actually it doesn't agree with me so I avoid it.  Your crust with it's sauce is like your own canvas to paint.  If you are into meat, pick the ones you like.  However, with meats it is best to use cooked as apposed to raw.  The raw ones can cause your pizza to be extra greasy.  As for vegetables to put on a pizza, fresh are better than canned or frozen by far.  The trick to the meats or vegetables is to make them small in size.  Pizzas cook quickly and so you want the toppings to be able to cook in that same time frame.  Remember some toppings can go on after the pizza has finished baking.  The "Taco Pizza" would be a great example of that.

You can't have pizza without cheese.  I suppose you could but why would you want to do that (vegan only in my mind).  Mozzarella is far and away the number one cheese of choice on a pizza.  But you're not limited to just that.  Try other cheeses as you experiment to find your ultimate personal favorite pizza.  You don't have to stick to just one cheese either.  Mixing cheeses is a good thing.  Remember that some cheeses go better with certain ingredients than others.

The baking of pizzas is just as important to a successful pie as any of the ingredients. First, what type of oven are you using for your pizza?  There are several choices although the standard oven in a normal kitchen accounts for the largest percentage.  But more and more people are putting pizza ovens in their backyards.  Even with these ovens, are you using a wood-fired one or some other fuel source?  A lot of people are also using their backyard grill to cook the pizza.

I'm going to say that 425 degrees is about the lowest temperature you should use for any pizza.  You are really better off baking thin crust pizzas around 475 to 525 degrees. These pizzas should be placed directly on the oven rack or a pizza stone that has been in a pre-heated oven for about 30 minutes.  This helps give you that crispier crust you look for in a thin pizza.  Those wood burning ovens get even hotter and usually have the heat coming from one side.  You need to watch those pizzas closely and turn them during the baking process as needed.  Deep dish pizzas should go at the lower end of the heat range.  You don't want to burn the outside before getting the inside done.  Recipes have cooking times on them but with pizza you want to keep checking on them.  It doesn't take long to go from almost done to over cooked and burnt.

My second recipe this week is for a calzone.  That is basically a covered pizza or an Italian sandwich.  This recipe is for a "Ham & Cheese Calzone" and it is good.  So "Happy Cooking" until the next time.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Chicken Curry over Rice

Chicken Curry over Rice
(4-6 servings)


1 tbsp. Olive Oil
1 small Yellow Onion, thinly sliced
2 tsp. Curry Powder
½ cup Plain Yogurt
¾ cup Heavy Whipping Cream
½ tsp. Salt
¼ tsp. Black Pepper
1 (14.5 oz.) can Diced Tomatoes, drained (optional)
Warm Chicken Meat from a Rotisserie Chicken, pulled & chopped
4 cups Cooked Rice (your choice)
¼ cup Fresh Cilantro Leaves, rough chop


In a medium sized saute pan heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and saute for 5-7 minutes stirring as needed. Stir in the curry powder and continue for another minute. Now mix in the yogurt and cream after lowing the heat to a simmer. Stir in the salt and pepper (tomatoes if using too) and heat through. Then remove from the heat. To serve, fill individual bowls with rice and top with the chicken. Now ladle on the curry sauce and garnish with the cilantro leaves and enjoy.

Note: If you want a little heat in curry just add some cayenne pepper or diced fresh jalapeno pepper.

Ideas for Future Efforts

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Chicken Chow Mein

Chicken Chow Mein
(4 servings)


3 tbsp. Cornstarch
¼ cup Water
1 ¼ cup Chicken Broth
¼ cup Soy Sauce
1 cup Fresh Celery, sliced
1 tbsp. Canola Oil
1 cup Fresh Bean Sprouts
1 (4 oz.) can Mushroom Stems & Pieces, drained
1 (7 oz.) can Sliced Water Chestnuts, drained
2 cups Rotisserie Chicken, chopped
4 cups Cooked Rice, warm
as needed Chow Mein Noodles


Combine cornstarch and water in a medium bowl until smooth. Add the broth and soy sauce, combine and set aside. In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, cook celery in oil for about 5 minutes. Then add the sprouts, mushrooms, chestnuts and chicken to the pan and combine. To this mixture add the cornstarch mixture and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes stirring occasionally. Serve over warm rice and top with chow mein noodles.

Note: You can use fresh mushrooms if desired. Just add to celery when you start to saute.

Note: You can change up the ingredients a little to meet your personal taste. You can also add some red pepper flakes for a little heat in you like.

Ideas for Future Efforts

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Rotisserie Chicken Works Well for Other Recipes Too

Life is pretty busy for most of us and that leaves little time to cook.  Having time in the kitchen is difficult for those who enjoy it.  And then there are those individuals who don't like cooking and want to spend the least amount of time they can in the kitchen.

A big help in today's society is "Rotisserie Chicken" and you can get it almost anywhere.  Most grocery stores now sell a version of it.  They may use different seasonings but I've never had a bad one.  You do want to shop around when buying a rotisserie chicken.  In the area where I live the size and price vary greatly.  I can find chickens that range from 2 1/4 lb. up to a high of 3 lb.  The prices go from a low of $4.99 to a high of $6.99.  The interesting thing about this is the largest is also the least expensive.  Our Costco store sells a 3 lb. rotisserie chicken for $4.99.  With that, why would I buy them anywhere else.

Now a rotisserie chicken makes for a great dinner when served with a few of your favorite sides.  But the nice thing about that rotisserie chicken, you can do so much more with it.  There is usually only two of us having dinner if we are actually eating rotisserie chicken for our meal.  We'll eat the breast because we both prefer it.  I'll then take what is left and use it in my soups or casseroles.  That not only uses it up but helps make our meals less expensive.

Just last week I used one side of the breast for an entree salad for dinner.The other side I froze for a later use.  I then removed as much of the remaining chicken meat as I could to use in making my Chicken Wild Rice Soup.  The soup we had for dinner one night and I froze the remaining soup in several containers for future needs.  The other thing I did was take all the bones and skin and make my own chicken stock.  Which I used in the soup too.  I put the bones and skin in a 3 quart sauce pan and covered them with water (about an inch from the top) and added one bay leaf.  I brought it to a boil, reduced the heat to simmer and let it go for two hours with a lid slightly offset.  I then let it cool for about 30 minutes before straining it into a container and putting it in the refrigerator overnight.  The next day when I went to make the soup, I skimmed off the fat that laid on top of the stock.  I then used the stock in my soup.  I had about two quarts.  If I had not been making the soup that day, I would have froze the stock for another time.

Going back to that rotisserie chicken from Costco, it yielded my almost two pounds of chicken meat.  Each breast side was 8-9 ounces and rest of the chicken gave me an additional 14 ounces,  Plus the bones and skin for stock.  Now if you buy the smaller chickens you will naturally have a smaller yield for meat.

This week I have two recipes using rotisserie chicken and they're quick meals because of it.  The first is for "Chicken Chow Mien" and the second is "Chicken Curry over Rice" and I hope you will try them.
The Engagement at Sunrise!

My eldest son is getting married this Saturday (can't wait) to a wonderful girl.  Neither of them like to spend time in the kitchen.  They already use rotisserie chicken in a lot of their meals.  As a wedding bonus, I hope they will add these two recipes to their menu cycle.

You're really not limited when it comes to using rotisserie chicken in making a recipe.  Just think about all those recipes that call for cooked chicken, use rotisserie chicken in them.  I've mentioned using it in soups and for entree salads but there are plenty more ways it can be used.  How about using it for homemade pizza, chicken nachos, tacos, many other Mexican dishes, chicken chili, BBQ pulled chicken sandwiches and even omelettes for breakfast.  Let your imagination be your guide and get creative with your cooking.  "Happy Cooking" until next time.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Summer Tomato & Cucumber Salad

Summer Tomato & Cucumber Salad
(4-6 servings)


2 tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar
2 tbsp. Red Wine Vinegar
3 large cloves Fresh Garlic, minced
½ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
10 medium Fresh Basil Leaves
5 medium Fresh Oregano Leaves
3 small Fresh Cucumbers (a little bigger around than a quarter)
2 large Fresh Heirloom Tomatoes (best if ripe & just picked)
½ tsp. Salt


Combine the two vinegars and the garlic in a dish and set aside. Place the leaves on top of each other and roll like a cigar. Thinly slice (chiffonade style), then chop and add to the olive oil in a small bowl. Now peel cucumbers and slice into ¼ inch coins and place in a large bowl. Core both ends of the tomatoes, slice into wedges and add to bowl with cucumbers. Sprinkle the salt on the tomato mixture. Take the vinegar mixture and whisk it into the olive oil mixture. Dress the tomato mixture with the vinaigrette and serve at room temperature.

Note: Try a little fresh mozzarella in this salad to add another dimension.

Ideas for Future Efforts

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Tomato Basil Soup

Tomato Basil Soup
(½ gallon, 8 servings)


4 cups Fresh Tomatoes, cored, peeled and chopped
4 cups Tomato Juice
1 doz. Large Fresh Basil Leaves, chopped
8 tbsp. Unsalted Butter
1 cup Heavy Cream
to taste Salt & Black Pepper


In a large pot combine tomatoes and juice over medium heat. Bring to a boil, lower temperature to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the basil and puree the mixture with a stick blender (or in small batches using a blender or food processor). Now add the butter and heavy cream stirring until butter has melted. Serve at once garnishing with a little fresh basil cut chiffonade.

Note: Chiffonade is the stacking of basil leaves on top of each other and rolling them up like a cigar. You then cut thin slices starting at one end of the cigar shaped basil leaves. Fluff them up to loosen and sprinkle over the dish for presentation.

Note: You get more tomato flavor using very ripe heirloom type tomatoes straight from the garden or farmer's market.

Note: You might want to try subbing a little champagne for half the tomato juice for a little different flavor. Some chopped sun-dried tomatoes added 5 to 10 minutes before serving will add to the taste too. Try making some adjustments to make it your own dish.

Ideas for Future Efforts

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

What to do with all those Fresh Tomatoes?

When tomatoes come they usually come fast.  Their season is upon us so take advantage of their taste and flavor.  You can't get this great flavor during other times of the year.  The commercially grown tomatoes just lack that flavor you get from ripe tomatoes fresh off the vine.  So if you don't have your own or a friend with extra, get to the farmer's market or your local farm truck on a street corner and buy some.

I've talked about it last summer when we moved to Minnesota from Missouri.  I miss the fun my old "Salsa" partner (Howard) and I had making gallons each year of "The Best Tasting Salsa Around" and recipe is in my cookbook.  It's a sweet salsa with the heat you want to give it.  The heat part is adjustable to meet your palate.  The cookbook is worth the price just for that recipe.
My blog assistant waiting for me take a seat to discuss our upcoming salsa making.

Now many of you are not into canning food and that is what we did with the salsa.  But smaller batches will keep in your refrigerator for weeks without canning.  However, I don't know of any batches that lasted that long.  Someone always devoured it long before age could set-in.

I'm now have fun making it with my son-in-law (Matt) and we've taken the heat level up a few notches for our personal inventory.  I think it's the "Sweet Heat" that keeps you wanting more of the salsa.

Enough about salsa.  Fresh tomatoes are so versatile that where do I start.  Here are a few of the recipes that I have put on the blog using fresh tomatoes just to make it easier for you have some options:
Bruschetta with Tomato & Basil (V), PA AMB TOMAQUET (bread with tomato) (V), Tomato Corn Salsa (V) and Caprese Salad (Tomato, Mozzarella & Basil) (V).

This week I'm adding both a salad and soup recipe for fresh tomatoes.  The salad is called "Summer Tomato & Cucumber Salad" and is easy to throw together for a meal.  The soup is a main stay for soup lovers.  It is "Tomato Basil Soup" and is best with fresh tomatoes but can be made year-round with the use of canned tomatoes from the store.  If you use canned ones, please use the best you can find.

Don't forget this is also the time to have one of the best summer meals possible.  That is a traditional BLT sandwich and fresh corn on the cob.  Get your favorite bread and toast it.  Lather on the mayo on both slices.  Place lettuce down on one slice and top it with the fresh sliced tomatoes.  Pile on several slices of good cooked bacon and top with the second slice of bread and mayo.  A little watermelon for dessert and you have a summer feast.  I can't wait myself and I hope you will enjoy trying this meal.  "Happy cooking" until next time.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Deep Fried Avocado

Deep Fried Avocado
(3 servings)


1 cup Beer (your choice)
1 cup All-Purpose Flour
1 ½ tsp. Paprika
2 cloves Fresh Garlic, minced
as needed Salt
2 Haas Avocados, peeled & sliced into 6 wedges each
as needed Canola or Peanut Oil


Whisk together the beer, flour, paprika, garlic and salt in a medium bowl until well blended. Heat oil to about 360 degrees in a fryer (if you have one) or a large dutch oven on the stove. You will need about 2 inches of oil to fry. Using a skewer or toothpick to hold each piece, dip into the batter and let excess drip off before placing in hot oil to fry for about 3 minutes. Don't over crowd the oil and keep temperature above 350 degrees. Once done place on a wire rack in a rimmed baking dish and then repeat process until done. Fried Avocados can be placed in a 200 degree oven to keep warm as you continue to fry the rest of them. Serve with your favorite condiment for dipping.

Note: If you would like yours with a little heat, try adding some spicy seasoning (such as creole) or hot sauce to the batter. The amount depends on your heat tolerance.

Ideas for Future Efforts