Sunday, September 30, 2012

Vegie Burgers with Jeremie

Visiting with Jeremie and Marie
Just testing out blogger for android (updated at home)

Pretty interesting recipe from their Food Coop.

So we visited JerMar at their new Condo - pretty nice.  Jeremie made us veggie burgers for lunch - these were very good.  Slightly crumbly, not to bad, spicy and while not a burger they were good.

They will be going into our rotation.

Vegan - The New Normal

Only in the land of nuts and flakes.  And even then only amongst a few of the "right" people.

NYT article on an LA restaurant - Craig's, in West Hollywood.

I certainly cook a fair bit of vegetarian and even vegan, but the new normal?  Only amongst a small group of Hollywood types concerned about image and being in.  And perhaps a few Grey Lady employees....

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Cioppino -Bouillabaisse - Gumbo - Big Words - Ooh La L

Food is really pretty much the same all over the world.  Sure, different spices.  Perhaps olive oil in one area, butter in another.  But in the end, many of the dishes are the same, basically.  Except the names.

And the names are great.  I mean, who would not want to eat Cioppino?  Bouillabaisse? Gumbo? Sign me up.

How about Fish Stew. 

Doesn't really have that name, that certain j ne c'est quoi.

But in the end, they are all just fish stew, gussied up perhaps, made with crab one place, mussels the next.  This added, that.  Still all just fish stew.n

Of course here in Wisconsin, unless you are the fish slayer, fish comes frozen.  Not very exciting.  Probably why we are the capital of fish frys - beer batter coating, deep fried, big pile of french fries and coleslaw and some tangy tarter sauce on the side - you would never know it is frozen.  Especially after knocking back 3 or 4 brandy manhattans (sweet, of course).

Yet I like fish stew.  It is easy to make.  Fairly flexible.  Tastes great.  So, here goes.


4 potatoes, pealed and diced
1 bag frozen green beens
1 onion, diced fine
1 celery stalk, ditto
Got a green pepper?  Sure, dice that up also
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbs tomato paste
2 tbs Italian Seasoning (Penzeys)
1 cup dry red (or heck, why not, a dry white) wine
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
2 cups stock (vegie, chicken, seafod)
1 tbs fish sauce
red pepper flakes
Fish, Shrimp, Clams, Mussels, Scallops, whatever.  Say 1.5 lbs, thawed.  More if you have mussels or clams in the shell going in.  Generally not an oily fish (so no salmon, for example)


Cook potates, drain and rinse in cold water.  Cook till almost done.
Cook green beans (sure, nuke them)
Saute onion, celery, green pepper
After about 10 minutes, add garlic and italian seasoning
After 2 more minutes, tomato paste, cook till it starts to turn brown.  Don't forget to keep stirring
When the tomato paste turns brown, add wine
Cook wine down some - say 5 minutes
Add Stock.  Add fish sauce.  Add some red pepper flakes if you like a little heat
Cook for 30 minutes, medim low heat.  Don't skip this - it is what brings the flavor together
Turn heat to medium
Add green beans
in 2 minutes, add potatoes
in 2 more minutes, add fisheys
Cook no more than 5 minutes, serve.  Do not overcook the fish

This is a dish made for fresh, crusty, hot bread.  

With the Death of Gourmet, is the New York Times the last refuge of Great Restaurant Reviews?

Gourmet - the old Gourmet from the 70's and 80's, use to have the best restaurant reviews.  I mean want to make you get on a plane, train or car and get there.

Gourmet is dead, and in reality died years before the death panel came.  That leaves, as far as I know, only the Grey Lady as the purveyor of great restaurant reviews.

This one is for Ichimura at Brushstroke, in TriBeCa (NY).  Time to book that flight....

Friday, September 28, 2012

Not a Zucchini fan, but....

This recipe is guaranteed to distress my cousin, Monika (with a "k").  She hates cheese.  She is weird like that - who doesn't love cheese?  This post is in her honor horror.

I hate zucchini.  There, I said it.  Everyone in my family loves it.  My wife grows it.  Everyone wants it.  Blech.  Yet I cook for others, not myself.  It's what I am, it's what I do.  So this recipe from the NYT just might have to go into the rotation.  Except one daughter hates fat and my wife must avoid it.  What is a man to do.  Here is a nice video about the recipe by the author, Melissa Clark

Now, for the direct cut and paste (please don't sue me Grey Lady, I linked twice)


  • Olive oil, for brushing
  • 1 medium Romanesco zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
  • 4 ounces Parmesan, grated medium-fine (about 1 cup)
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Cracked black pepper.


Brush a large nonstick skillet with oil and heat over medium-high until hot. Arrange half the zucchini rounds in a single layer, allowing about an inch of space between them. Cook, without moving them, until undersides are dark golden, about 2 minutes. Carefully flip and cook until golden, about 2 minutes more.
Sprinkle half the cheese evenly over zucchini and into the spaces between it. Cook, without moving, until cheese looks lacy and translucent, and no longer sticks to the pan, about 5 minutes. Tip the skillet and using a spatula, gently help slide the frico in one piece onto a large plate. Sprinkle with torn basil and finish with pepper. Repeat with remaining zucchini and cheese. Break into pieces to serve.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Terrorists Have Won

The Porkapocolypse is upon us

Pressure Cooker Chili - Re-Post

Old, but great, especially this time of the year.  Trust me on this - you enter your office chili cook-off with this, you will win.

Alton Brown's Pressure Cooker Chili, modified with love

You can do this in the oven or on the stove (in your Le Crueset, natch), but it will take longer and while tasting great, not as great as it could be.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012 - WalMart's latest Food Lab experience

Why yes, I did just become a "founding" member at, which is a WalMart effort at....perhaps developing their own shop at home, mail delivery service?  I don't know.  But for $7 a month, they promise me a box of goodies.  Ok, I am game.  Expect to see an un-boxing video!

From their website -

Each month, you will be sent an assortment of 5-8 trial-size to full-size food and beverage items. All items are selected by the Goodies Company team, customers do not select items that will be included in the subscription box.

Goodies Company requests information from customers, including food preferences, in order to evolve the Goodies product offering. While customers do tell us preferences and allergens as part of the sign-up process, we expect all customers to review labeling of food products before consuming.

As of today, all Goodies food items are vegetarian friendly.

All potential Goodies Co. products are first screened by participants in our Tasting Lab. The Tasting Lab attempts to match customers to products, and records detailed reactions and reviews to potential products. Those products that score the highest are invited to be in a Goodies Co. Taster’s Box.

We look for over 40 unique attributes when reviewing potential products, including organic, artisan, non-GMO, and many more. Our food partners range from some of the largest purveyors in the world, to brand new artisan brands.

Red Lentils with Garlic and Onion

This is from Whole Foods (mostly) - what I like about this recipe is that instead of adding the onion to the lentils while cooking, your cook the lentils and garlic separately, then add at then end - it keeps the flavors distinct and stronger contrast to the mildness of the lentils.

Red Lentils cook faster than other lentils, and get soft and pulpy fast.  There is definitely no need to pre-soak them before using.


2 cups uncooked red lentils, rinsed
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric (or garam masala, or curry seasoning)
1 tomato, diced (peeled if you like)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons oil
1 large red onion, thinly sliced (or chopped fine)
12 cloves garlic, thinly sliced (or minced)
6 cups cooked brown rice


Put lentils, turmeric, tomato and 4 cups water into a medium pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until lentils are very soft and pulpy, about 25 minutes. Add salt to lentils after cooking.  I leave them as is, but whole foods suggest you then purée in blender and set aside (or I suppose it could be boat motor time again).
While cooking lentils, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
Add onions and garlic and cook until golden brown, taking care not to burn them. You can also add some of the season to this mixture to cook into the onions and garlic - cumin would be fine here also.  Don't use more than 1 tps of seasoning.
Add onion mixture to lentils and stir well. Or serve lentils in bowls, then serve onion mix on top of lentils, allowing the individual to mix.

Serve hot, with brown rice on the side. Great as a meal itself, or great with grilled chicken also.

This is a fine dish with yellow lentils also

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Marriott restaurant to have Midwestern menu - What is that exactly?

From the Journal Sentinel -

Sometimes you have to love press releases run as news.  I get it, papers don't have the staff to do real reporting, but sometimes what gets printed is tres amusant.

The restaurant at the Marriott Hotel that's under construction downtown will go with a Midwest-oriented menu, the hotel and its operator announced Friday.

The restaurant will be called Milwaukee Cafe & Bar, and it's being developed by CZH Hospitality Group.

A Midwestern restaurant - what exactly is that?  Well, pretty much what you would expect....

The restaurant and bar is to include Wisconsin cheeses, local craft beers and Usinger's sausages on its menu, as well as fish from the Great Lakes.

That's right.  We need press coverage on a place that serves beer, brats and cheese.  Which makes it pretty much like every other "Midwestern" restaurant.....

But I was actually amused by the end of the press release, where the founder of the management group points out that he has...

...worked with Four Seasons and Ritz-Carlton hotels, Commander's Palace in New Orleans and Tavern on the Green in New York.

That's right, the man that has brought the world great, classic restaurants such as the Four Seasons, Commander's Palace and Tavern on the Green is now down to selling brats and beer, just like the vendor at a Brewers game.  I don't know about you, but that amused me.

White Bean (or Lentil) and Kale (or spinach) and Sausage or Shrimp or ? Soup

This is really a kind of stone soup - there are basic ingredients, but most of them can be mixed and matched, used or not.  It is by far my favorite soup, and it can be vegan, vegetarian, or chock full of meat of sordid types.  One of my favorite ways to make this is with mexican chorizo and shrimp!

The Basics
1 onion, diced
1 stalk of celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 potato, peeled and diced
4 cloves of garlic, sliced (or minced, but not ever, ever, never pressed)
2 tbs tomato paste
1 cup white wine (or not)
4 cups stock or broth (vegetarian, beef, chicken, veal, ?)
Water (if cooking lentils in soup, you will need additional liquid
1/2 tbs cumin
1/2 tbs rosemary
salt and pepper

2 cans White Beans (cooked) or Lentils (2 cups cooked or 1 cup not, adjust time in soup if raw and add 2 cups water to recipe) or ?
1 head Kale, off stem and sliced thin, or 3 big handfuls of spinich or whatever leafy green vegetable you have
1 lb italian sausage, or kielbasa or chorizo, or polish sausage or ham or even ground beef.  Or heck, why not, all of them.
1 lb raw, shelled shrimp


If using meat, brown (but do nothing with shrimp yet)
Add and saute onion, celery, carrot and potato (in 1 tbs olive oil if not using meat) over medium heat.  Cook till onion and celery are soft - the carrot and potato will still be fairly raw.  Add salt and pepper
Add garlic, cook for 2 minutes
Add tomato paste, cook for several minutes - you want to get the paste to turn a darker color, but not burn
Add wine - cook down to half the volume
Add stock, spinach, lentils and water (if raw), white beans.  Cook for 30 minutes or until lentils are tender.  If using cooked meat add at this time.
After 30 minutes, add lentils if  you are using lentils that are already cooked, cook until hot
If using Shrimp add and cook till done ( 5 minutes is more than enough)
Adjust seasoning
Serve - bread would be great, a salad fine.

If you need to boost the vegies even more, add some green beans.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Porc Normande - Pork Loin Roast Braised with Apples and Onions

Meme was the one who cooked "french" food at our home.  Of course my parents cooked many great french meals also, but here it was Meme.  I cooked all other types of food, but never french.  Except for this dish, Porc Normande (or, Pork Normandy, that is to say Pork cooked in the manner of the Norman area of France).  I am not sure why, yet there it is.

This is perhaps the simplest fine dining dish you can make (other than Prime Rib, which is truly stupid easy to make well, so long as you have a bunch of cash for the meat).  Porc Normande however is very inexpensive - Pork loin is often on sale for less than $2 a pound, and the rest of the ingredients are not expensive either.  Yet people will think you are a genius.

If you need to prepare a meal for a large crowd, super easy.  If you want to make it for two - also easy - use  pork chops and downsize the rest of the ingredients.  You can also prepare ahead of time, put it in the oven, entertain guests, pull from oven, finish, serve, and be acclaimed a great cook.  Or, prepare the day ahead and just warm in a 350 oven for a half hour or so and serve.


Pork Loin
2 onions, sliced
2 tart apples - think granny smith, macintosh, regent, northern spy.  Do not use Honey Crisp or the like.  They need to be pealed, cored and sliced
2 tbs Calvados (apple brandy) - you don't have to use this - sometimes I will add a 1/2 c of fresh apple cider
12 oz chicken broth (or, if your not using the Calvados, use 1/2 chicken broth and 1/2 fresh apple cider (do not buy pasteurized - that is just apple juice - live a little and take a chance!  Besides, it is getting cooked for hours)
1/2 cup cream (you can substitute fat free half and half or reduced fat sour cream - but do not bring the sauce to a boil after adding - only cream or half and half can hold together and not separate in the sauce)
Salt, Pepper, oil, butter, flour


Heat oven to 350 degrees and get out the Le Crueset pot - sized according to how much Pork Loin you are cooking
Place pot on stove and heat it up on medium heat
Add 1 tbs oil, brown Pork Loin on each side, remove from pan
Add onions and apples, cook until golden brown.
Add Calvados, flame.  Try not to burn yourself.  Don't blame me if you do - I will only mock you.
After the brandy has burned off, add stock and/or cider, pork loin.  Cover and place in oven.
Cook for 1 - 2 hours - until meat is tender
Remove meat, cover with foil to keep warm
Place pot on stove over medium heat and cook down the sauce.  If you like you can make a roux to cheat and thicken the sauce.
If you like you can use your boat motor to puree the apples and onions, or not.
Add cream, bring to boil, adjust seasoning ( basically add salt and pepper to taste)
Slice roast (thick slices - 3/8 of an inch or more), serve with sauce poured over the top (or just add the sliced roast back to the Le Crueset pan and serve.

This is a great dish to serve with braised red cabbage, caramelized apples, mashed potatoes, egg noodles - feel free to go with what ever option you like.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Lao Lang Zang - Restaurant Review

2098 Atwood Avenue, Madison, WI

Nice place with good food.  I had lunch with my daughter - she the squash curry, myself the catfish curry.  Don't pass on the squash curry - very good.  The catfish curry tasted slightly metallic - no sure if that was from the coconut milk or what, but it was just a little off.  Still good - but ....

Also, they definitely under seasoned when it comes to heat - I ordered the hot (but not native hot) and it was mild.  Barely would of qualified as medium.  It was good, but I wanted more heat.

Good service, nice decor, good location.  They have a good selection of drinks, I definitely would try this out for dinner or a group of friends after work.  Good for lunch also - lunch is $8 ish, comes with salad, spring or egg roll - good value and you can get in and out quickly.  Nice enough to take a business colleague.  Nice enough for a date.

Also has free wi-fi.

For just food, 3 stars.  Add great prices, good service, free wi-fi, nice atmosphere - 4 stars.

Link to Yelp Review

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Vegan Meatloaf

With a start from Chow Vegan - my version of Vegan Meatloaf


1/2 small white onion, finely chopped
2 celery rib, finely chopped
1 small zucchini, grated, squeezed dried and use paper towels
8 oz mushrooms, finely chopped (I used the food processor)
1 15-ounce can chickpeas
2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons Briggs Liquid Amino's (or soy sauce)
1 tbs Penzey's Italian Seasoning (no salt)
1/2 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs
1/2 cup vital wheat gluten
1/4 cup water


Prep Vegetables, turn oven on to 350
Line rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil, spray with cooking spray
Saute onions and celery.  When soft, add garlic, saute for 2 more minutes.
Mix all ingredients in bowl.  Mix until the ingredients will hold shape in a ball
Cut into four pieces, form into four slightly rounded, small loafs
Place on sheet pan and bake for 20 minutes
At 20 minutes, glaze with barbecue sauce, ketchup, whatever is your favorite
Bake 10 more minutes - basically you are cooking it till it's firm
Let rest 5 minutes, serve

This dish can be "wet" - so while cooking you are really drying out the ingredients.  Marjorie says this is great, so don't be afraid of serving it.  Of course with enough barbecue sauce, most everything is pretty good.

If you do not glaze the loaf, feel free to serve with fat free gravy and mashed potatoes

Friday, September 21, 2012

Rice and Beans - Southwest Style (a.k.a. Spanish or Mexican rice) - Vegetarian also!

Rice and Beans are a classic combination across the world.  Cuban, Puerto Rican, Cajun, and many others.

But as far as I can tell, you can't get "spanish" rice in Spain, nor do you get (typically) rice and refried beans in Mexico (unless you are a restaurant catering to gringos)

Yet I love Rice and Refried Beans.  The only problem is most places the beans are boring (and seemingly straight out of a can) and the rice is a frighting dish too often prepared with tomato soup.  Blech.

However, I am also cognizant of time - how can I get dinner made while fitting it in with everything else that has to get done.  And finally you have the whole rice issue - it's basically like eating sugar pills - simple carbs that add nothing of value (although yes, I understand they make a complete protein when served with beans)

So here is my Rice and Beans recipe - Mexican style - fast, nutritious and delicious.  Just don't pretend this is how it is done in Mexico.  Or Spain.


Cooked Brown Rice (You do make extra when you make other dishes, right?  Otherwise this dish takes way to long to make), 8 ounces cooked.  Basically 2 ounces per serving - no more.
1/2 onion, white, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbs Chicken Taco Seasoning (from Penzeys), in 1/4 cup water
Peas - 16 ounces.  Frozen works great.
1 fresh tomato, diced (or 2 Roma)
1 Can, Vegetarian Refried Beans
1 tbs Rojo Taco Seasoning (Penzeys again).  Or cumin and cilantro if you don't like heat
Cooking Spray or oil

Obviously you will have to adjust based on how many you are serving - the above is for 4 people.  You want at least 2 ounces of peas to 1 ounce of rice.


Rice -

If using frozen peas, microwave about 1/2 the time on the package (your thawing them, not cooking at this time)
Heat non stick frying pan, spray with cooking spray or 1 tbs oil
Add onions - cook till just starting to brown
Add garlic, cook 2 minutes
Add rice and peas
Add Chicken Taco Seasoning that has been rehydrated as above
Cook 5 minutes.
Mix in diced tomato (your heating, not cooking the tomato)
If you turn off the heat but leave it in the pan it will hold for at least 5 minutes till your ready to serve.  Just cover with a clean dish towel

Beans -

Place beans in pan on stove, add 1/4 cup water and seasoning (either the Rojo or the cumin/cilantro).  Mix well
Heat for 5 minutes at medium heat.  Add 1/4 water (or broth) as needed to thin - the beans should be thin (think thick pancake batter), not watery or soupy

Serve next to each other, not mixed.  These are often served as a side dish, but there is no reason you could not serve this with a fresh salad dressed with guacamole and sour cream and it would be a great meal.  Or feel free to serve with carnitas or tinga or grilled chicken

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Vegetable Bourguignon -

With an assist from Smitten Kitchen, my version of Vegetable Bourguignon

Boeuf Bouruignon (literally Beef Burgundy) is one of those dishes made of love by both of our parents.  It is a dish to fill the house with scents and to be treasured as one of those truly great meals.  I am sure Meme learned from her parents, and I know my mom and dad learned from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, as well as her show, The French Chef.

However, with half my family vegetarian and the other on a very restricted diet, it really is not a dish that we can have the way Julia made.  My version pumps up the vegetables, and cuts the pasta.  It is however still a great dish - one worth of family events made of love.


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 carrot, finely diced
2 stalks of celery, finely diced.
1 onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon seasoning - thyme is traditional, but I often used Penzey's mixed Italian blend
2 tablespoons tomato paste (use the double strength in a tube stuff - don't open and waste a can of it)
1 cup full-bodied red wine  Burgundy is the traditional, but a pinot noir or a petite sirah should be ok or any other dry, full bodied red wine (that means no Apothic/Cupcake or other of these modern chocolate bombs)
1 can (or 2 cups) vegetable broth (or chicken or beef if you have no vegetarians for dinner)
1 tbs Bragg liquid aminos (help pump up the flavor)
1 lb bag of baby carrots
2 pounds of mushrooms, halved or quartered, depending on size.  Feel free to use white, brown, button, whatever you have - even use a combination.  Many recipes have you slice them, but I like them a little bigger so they have more bite, more like the Boeuf.
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (evil, I know.  But it is not much)
1 1/2 tablespoons butter (I know, evil. But as this is a meatless dish, I do not mind the limited amount of fat we are using)

Green Beans and little Red Potatoes to serve with.  No little sugar bombs (a.k.a. pasta)


Get out the big Le Crueset pot.  Yes, the 7 quart or bigger version.  No messing around, you have a lot of food going in this.
Saute the finely diced onion, celery and carrots for 10-15 minutes, until they are soft.  Low-medium temp, not more than medium.
Add Garlic and thyme (or other spice) and saute for 2 minutes more
Add tomato paste and saute for another couple of minutes - you are turning the paste brown (it really does change the flavor).  Try not to burn it.
Add the wine, turn up the heat (medium high) and cook wine down 50% or so.
Add broth, aminos and baby carrots.  Cook at medium for 10 minutes
Add mushrooms.  Now the pot will look to full - and you will think, not enough liquid.  Yes, you have enough liquid.  Every couple of minutes stir the pot - the mushrooms will release moisture and "poof" all of a sudden you have enough liquid.
Cook for 20 minutes with the lid on on a medium to low medium heat - you want bubbles, but not a rolling boil
Start your potatoes
Cook for 20 minutes with the lid off (time to concentrate the liquid).
Start your green beans
Cut flour with butter (mix and mush together into a paste)
Add paste to bourguignon and cook for another five minutes.  The sauce will thicken and the flour taste will cook off


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wedding Cakes Made of Love

Mom is a good cook, she just doesn't love to cook.  She was perfectly happy to let meme or I do it, which worked well for us, because we loved to cook.

Don't let that fool you into thinking she does not understand that food is made of love.  In addition to canning, Mom has always loved baking.  She taught herself how to make cakes in high school, turned it into a business, and has always loved making cakes.  Even when, perhaps, it might of been better to not make the cakes.....but that is another story, for another time.  Perhaps.

For Emilie and Chris's wedding, Dominique made 17 separate wedding cakes - all eight or nine inch rounds. In 14 different flavors.  Raspberry, almond, coffee, vanilla, chocolate, and a whole bunch I don't remember.  It was a crazy way to spend 3 days before the wedding, as the mother of the bride has a few things going on....I guess I did go into that other story, at least a little bit.  But the end result was wonderful, delicious, and added food made of love to our daughters wedding.

At least I was not crazy enough to try to cook for 200 guests.....

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Nucleus Cafe - Eau Claire -

Worst Service Ever.  I don't care if the food is great - not that I would know.  Walked out after waiting 20 minutes for any of the staff to notice us.  Unforgivable.

Yelp Review Here.  Enjoy your one star rating.

How Mom Makes Food Made of Love - Homemade Jam

At Chez Carlson, the children saw their father and their meme did most of the cooking.

However, Mom also got into food made of love - typically by canning and baking.  For Jeremie and Maria's wedding, she made the wedding favors - over 200 four ounce jars of jam.  Peach, raspberry, blueberry, rhubarb  strawberry and I think a couple of mixes.  Most of the fruit came from our yard, but I will concede that perhaps the peaches came from out of state.....Wisconsin is not a peach growing state.

While she is planning on a weekend of making jam and canning and inviting the children, here is a video on how to make jam and can it, although as the video shows, you don't have to can in order to make it.  It is simple and delicious.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Rice Palace - Not Ready for Prime Time

I love Thai food, and it is nice to have good Thai restaurants in both Eau Claire (Pad Thai) and Chippewa Falls (Mali Thai).  So I was looking forward to some great food at the newest Thai restaurant in Eau Claire - Rice Palace.  Unfortunately, I was very disappointed.

Setting was Friday evening, about 6pm.  Not very busy, but with a decent crowd with customers coming in and out.  The two of us ordered Tofu Pad Thai (mild) and Drunken Noodles with Pork (spicy).  Prices are very reasonable and the food was delivered to our table fast.  That was the only good thing about the meal.

Both items were very greasy - as in pooling oil on the plate greasy.

The Pad Thai had an overpower taste of anise - a common ingredient in Thai food, but not in Pad Thai, and it overpowered the dish.  It also appeared to be comprised largely of just noodles, tofu and sauce - no egg, no onion, no peanuts on the top, no cilantro, no bean sprouts.  I understand there are many ways to make this dish, but this was a bad way.

Drunken Noodles w/pork was good, if also pooling in oil.  Very spicy (which is how I ordered it, so points for getting that right)  I do suggest that you try medium first.

Noodles for both dishes were cooked appropriately, but Thai food should never be pooling in oil.  Never.

Rice Palace does have a limited beer selection

It was also one of the few times leftovers stayed on the plate and did not go home.

Link to Yelp Review

Scrambled Eggs - the Basics

Everyone knows how to scramble eggs, right?  Sure.  But it doesn't mean that you can't do it better.

America's Test Kitchen Blog has a decent start at instructions.

But they kind of cheat the info, trying to push you to their online cooking classes.  Which is fine.  However, here are my additions to their teaching

1)  Thou shalt use salt and pepper.  Or at least salt.  If you don't add a pinch of salt, they are not going to taste good.
2)  Thou shalt not use high heat.  Eggs will turn green after they hit 350 degrees - so never cook eggs on the stove or in the oven at that temp or higher.
3)  Thou shalt cook extra baked potatoes.   Left over baked potatoes are your friend.  You can fry them up with cooking spray in a teflon pan (no need for butter or oil), then you can cook them with the eggs in a frittata, on the side, or folded in at the end.
4)  Thou shalt eat eggs on your diet.  Eggs are great low fat protein, and their cholesterol risk is highly over rated.
5) Thou shalt not overcook eggs - you want them set, not hard.  Hard eggs are bad

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Low Calorie, Low Fat, Low Carb - Great Tasting Pizza

As anyone on a diet can tell you, pizza is terrible for you.

The crust is a big pile of sugar, the cheese is full of fat (as are many of the ingredients) and you eat way to much of it at one sitting.  But it tastes so good!

Most diet options are bad options that don't really satisfy the craving for pizza.

The hardest place to start is the crust - most diet crusts are not really crusts, and don't really satisfy.  We just found one that does - a thin crust, whole heat, low fat, low sugar pre-made crust - from Wisconsin!

Golden Home Bakery makes a 100% whole grain, thin thin thin pizza crust.  One serving - which is a third of the pizza, not a tiny slice, is 130 calories, 1.5g fat, 25g carb, 4 g fiber and only 1 gram sugar.  Not great for you, but really pretty good.

The best part is - it tastes great!  I mean it is a good crust that holds up well and is a real "cracker" crust - which is my favorite.

Smear on a little sauce (go edge to edge - if you don't the edges get too crispy), add toppings (go cooked onions and mushrooms, thin sliced tomatoes, a little italian sausage (turkey or chicken!), some basil from the garden, a dusting of cheese (just a dusting - no layering it on), some penzey's pizza seasoning - bake for 12-14 minutes at 450 degrees...Tastes great.  I mean it really does.

You can have pizza and not kill your diet.  Purchased at Gordy's in Eau Claire - Birch Street.

Curry - All Things Curry

Curry is one word that really should be about 30 words, because there are so many types, some similar, some not.  If you want the complete breakdown, the all mighty Wiki is as good of a place to start as anywhere, but it can be broken down in simpler terms.

In general terms, Curry has two main branches - Indian and Asian.  In addition, curry can be Wet or Dry.

The first thing to note is that Curry is really a grouping of spices, not a single spice.  

Indian Curry is generally dry ground spices, and either cooked dry or cooked in a sauce.  Popular spices include turmeric, chilly, ginger, coriander, cloves, cinnamon, peppercorns, cardamom, cumin seeds, garlic, saffron, mace, fenugreek, caraway seeds, and poppy seeds.  Onion, garlic, ginger and tomatoes are often then used to make the sauce (sometimes called gravy).

If your going to try Indian Curry recipies, I suggest you buy your curry from Penzey's.  Not only great spices, but they will give you a lesson on the different types of curry from India.  Note not all Indian curries are hot, although many are.

Thai Curry tends to be wet curry, often coming in a paste, and then often using coconut milk as the carrying agent,  more of a soup than just a seasoning.  The key ingredients in the majority of Thai curry pastes are mostly wet and fragrant: fresh chilieslemon grassgalangalgarlicshallotkaffir lime,cilantro roots, and shrimp paste (kapee). That last bit is from  Often you will see in the store it labeled red, yellow or green curry.  Generally you can buy decent Thai curry at the grocery store, but if you want to be adventurous, go to a local asian store.  Thai curry almost always spicy when you buy them pre-made, so be careful when adding them to your cooking

I love curry - but it tends to be spicy, so you need to pay attention when cooking.  In general terms I find it easier to buy mild Indian curry than Thai curry.

This is how I would eat in Mexico City

The Grey Lady ain't what she used to be, but still is better than most newspapers.  From last Sunday's NYT, a great article on Tamales, Tortas and Tacos in Mexico City.

Most of what you get in America is not what Mexicans eat.  There are very few places where you can get that kind of food.  In Eau Claire, WI, that is pretty much limited to Taqueria Sandoval and Tacos Juanita  (which happen to be the top 2 rated Mexican restaurants in EC on Yelp, proving at least enough people have good taste).

Fun article.  Makes me want to both go to Mexico City and to eat real Mexican food - It might be time for a run to Taqueria Sandoval for some Tamales that they serve out of a 40 gallon pot by the front cash register.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Something to consider.....

There will be no alcohol in hell. If you want wine to be part of your eternal joy, you must go to heaven

John Piper


Ingredients -Things to keep in the Kitchen - Always

You keep these things in the kitchen you can probably make just about 90% of anything you want to eat.  You may have to pick up a protein, but in general you will always have enough in the house to make a meal of love .

Fresh Things - Ginger, garlic, celery, carrots, onions, parmesan (NEVER pre-grated Kraft – whole only - it lasts a long time), green onions, curry paste (if you like curry), half n half, butter, ketchup, Dijon mustard

Frozen Things – bag of boneless chicken thighs, frozen shrimp, frozen peas, green beans

Chicken and or Vegie Stock

Knorr’s chicken base (for when you’re out of chicken stock)

Salt (table and Sea Salt)

Whole Black Pepper for your grinder

Flour (AP)

Sugar (white and brown)

Baking Soda

Cream of Tartar

Potatoes (Russets)

Rice (uncle bens, jasmine)

Beans (dry – pinto, red, black, navy)

Pasta (several types, straight and otherwise)

Taco Seasoning

Soy, Hoisen and Oyster Sauce

Vinegar – Rice, Red, Apple Cider, White.  Yes, you need all four.  And Balsamic can’t hurt either.  The stuff doesn’t go bad, so buy it all.  And don’t buy the cheapest stuff either, especially Balsamic.

Oil – Canola, Extra Virgin Olive.

Double strength tomato paste in a tube (refrigerate after opening, lasts forever)

Dry Sherry, Dry White Vermouth, Port.  Good for many recipes, doesn’t go bad, ever.

Spices – Cumin, Chili Powder, thyme, basil, oregano, bay leaves, parsley, sage, cinnamon, cocoa, vanilla, celery seed.  After that, go for turmeric, cayenne, dill weed, sweet paprika, fennel, whatever you like.

Hot Sauce - you need Tabasco and Siracha.  Even if you don't like hot food, you will be surprised at how much just a little will improve the flavor of many dishes.

Canned Goods – diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, kidney, black, pinto and northern beans, corn, coconut milk, evaporated milk, tuna

Coffee (preferably Hippie Coffee)

Chocolate (well, you don’t need this, but for some reason it always ends up in the house, so you might as well put it on the list)

Friday, September 14, 2012

Concannon Petite Sirah - 2008

Petite Sirah is not a wine I drink a lot of - it is not very common, often used to mix with other grapes.  Add's color, depth.

Purchased this bottle at local grocery store - they are closing it out at $5 a bottle - who could say no to that?

Color - very deep - almost blueberry red in color.  Dark

Scent - alcohol, some fruit, but not to much.

Taste - this is wine.  Very full in texture.  Sticks around in your mouth, but not in a bad way.  Somehow both very dry, with tannins, but also sweet.  Has acidity. Nothing to much.  Not a fruit bomb, not sugary.  This is not like Apothic, or Cupcake, or any of those current fruit bombs.

Recommendation - This wine is fine on the porch, but I think this big boy needs food - grilled food.  Burgers, chicken, lamb.  If I was grilling, I would definitely pull this out.  If you can find this sub $10, do not be afraid of picking it up.  At $5 - great deal.

Some other reviews are here, here and here.

Peanut Stew (a.k.a. African Peanut Stew)

One of those dishes that you think it is crazy to even think about making, but once you have partaken, it becomes a regular in your rotation.  And everyone loves it.  Although I suppose someone with a peanut allergy might take offense.

Basic idea is that this is a vegetable stew, with peanuts and/or peanut butter. If you keep that in mind, you are free to add or drop ingredients as you have them or are available – don’t worry about having the “right” ingredients.  This is also easy to make vegan if you like.

Ingredients for the Stew

  • 1 medium onion, diced 
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
  • 2-6 garlic cloves, minced (adjust based on level of vampirism in neighborhood)
  • 1 lb chicken thighs, diced
  • 2  medium sweet potato, peeled diced
  • 2  medium potatoes, diced
  • 14 1/2 ounces diced tomatoes with or without green chilies (or use fresh)
  • 1 lb total of butternut squash or acorn squash or carrots or other root vegetable, diced
  • 1 can garbanzo beans
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup creamy (or chunky) peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder/sate powder/cumin – whatever your taste is or you have on hand – or more if you like
  •   Salt and pepper
  •  red pepper flakes – use some, but adjust based on your taste buds
  •   2 cans (small, not the big honking ones) vegetable broth (or chicken).  
For the garnish – prepare and serve on the side for people to spice as they like

·         cilantro, chopped
·         green onions, chopped
·         jalapenos, fresh, chopped
·         lime quarters
·         unsalted dry roasted peanuts

Serve with Brown Rice


Brown onion and celery (and chicken, is using).  Use 1 tbs olive oil
Add ginger, garlic, cook for two minutes
Add vegetables and garbanzo beans (what ever you are using) (but not peanut butter), broth, spices
Cook for about 30 minutes, or until root vegetables are soft
Add Peanut Butter – can use up to ½ cup
Cook for five minutes
Adjust seasonings

Serve over Rice

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Aldi Shopper Blog - yes, one exists

I enjoy shopping at Aldi's.  It is my favorite cheap chain grocery store.  While I don't love some of their product, much of their stuff is either the same brand as you buy elsewhere, or is just as good as other brands.

While searching for who makes their Friendly Farms Greek Yogurt (highly recommended - only 89 cents), I found The Smart Aldi Shopper.  Yes, someone has a blog all about Aldi's.  I have often thought about doing a Kwik Trip Blog, considering I am at one of their c-stores at least three times a week, but never took it up. The Smart Aldi Shopper has somewhat infrequent posts, but deserves to have more - Aldi's is a great place to shop.


Someone actually reviews Aldi's wines - and has nice things to say (about some of them).  I think I may have to try them

How to Chop Broccoli - with a video!

Well, it's not my video, but it is still pretty good.

One addition - the stems are good eats also - just peel (or slice) the tough, fibrous outside off - the inside is tender and sweet - good to eat raw, good to use in stir fry.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Don't Tell My Daughter - But I like this Burger

Culver's Colby Jack Pub Burger

mmmmmmm.  And as a general rule, Culver's is the best fast food place to eat.

Roasted Tomatoes

End of summer, early fall is a great time for roasted tomatoes.   They make an easy, healthy and delicious way to make a pasta sauce.  They can also be made year round, although the flavor tends to be less spectacular.   If you are doing it outside of garden grown time, I recommend using only Roma tomatoes – they will have the best flavor available at your grocer.  Second after that are grape tomatoes – the little tiny ones.


Tomatoes – cut into pieces.  Half if grape tomatoes, quarters if Roma, eighths if larger tomatoes.  For a dryer, more roasted flavor, you need to seed and juice the tomatoes.  If you want a juicier sauce, don’t, but you will likely never get good carmalization.
Olive Oil
Seasoning (basil, Italian, oregano).  Dried works well.  If I have fresh, I usually add that to the final dish, not the roasting
Salt and Pepper


Turn oven to 450

Line baking sheet (jelly roll pan) with foil.  Use several pans if you need to – you want each tomato to not touch the others.  If there are too many to a pan, they will steam, not roast or caramelize.

All ingredients in pan(s).  I use 1tbs of oil and seasoning per 1lb of tomato, ½  tsp of salt, pepper and sugar for each 1lb of tomato.

Roast for 20-30 minutes, or desired doneness.  The more juice and seeds you remove from the tomatoes, the faster and better they will caramelize.  If you do not do this, it will take a long time for the liquid to evaporate and you may never get good carmalization.

These make a great pasta sauce – just toss into cooked pasta.  Or, eat them as a side dish, or as a dressing for fish or chicken.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Those that come before us, Live on through us

If for you Food is made of Love, it is so because of those that came before you, who by there actions passed on their traditions, their love, their je ne sais quoiAn intangible quality that made them distinctive or attractive.

I am fortunate to have many people in my life for this is true.  Allegra Carlson, my fathers mother - with tables groaning with food on the farm, with seven vegetables and seven meats.  My parents, who sat us down in front of the black and white tv to watch every episode of the French Chef, then the next weekend make that same meal.

And there there was Andree Orsina, my mother in law.  Her love for cooking was recognized far more extensively than mine, or anyone I know personally.  She loved all food, from everywhere, and she had accumulated more knowledge and more willingness to invest her love in food for others than anyone I know.  Born in France, traveled the world, and then came to Wisconsin, where I was introduced to her through my beloved.

So on this day, I remember Meme - for she would not let any of her children call her anything else.  Thank you Meme.  Thank you for many things, including your gift of food made of love.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Great Use for Bad Tomatoes - Freeze Em!

Good blog post on tomatoes - This is a great use for tomatoes that are cracked or are not perfect.

Step 1 - get a lot of bad tomatoes cheap - many CSA's will have tomatoes that are not good enough to get distributed, but still ripe and edible.

Step 2 - Strip the skin(dunk in boiling water for 20 seconds, then dump in ice bath, the skin will literally fall off.

Step 3 - Cut in half and de-seed/juice - you just want flesh.  If there are any badly bruised areas you can cut them out also.

Step 4 - Cool

Step 5 - Bag, suck the air out as much as possible

Step 6 - Freeze!

Great tomatoes for Winter and Spring cooking!

Dad's Guide on Buying Stuff in Order to Make Meals Made of Love

I am a practical and often cheap person when it comes to shopping.  Having said that, there are some things you can skimp on, and some things you cannot skimp on.  So when I shop, I shop with that in mind.

Restaurant Supply Houses are great for usable, inexpensive things (but not everything)

Goodwill – perfect for cheap dishes, plates, glasses etc.  Can also find things such as Le Creuset Pots (really – we have two from there)

Hardware store sales – every month Ace and True Value put out flyers on sales.  Buy what is on sale, comparison shop for the rest. is handy, and can be price competitive.

Knifes – sharp is your friend, junk is not.  Forschner is always reliable brand to buy, and among the cheapest.  I also like Henkels, others think highly of Wustuf.  Henkels make a lot of junk brands (Fine Edge, etc) – do not buy them.  Always wash and dry by hand – never the dishwasher. 

Knife Sharpening – three options.  Accusharp makes a great cheap carbide sharpener.   Buy a Chef’s Choice Electric Sharpener.  Or just pay a knife guy to do it for you every 6 months.  Keep your knives in a wood block.

Don’t ever by La Choy products.  Ever

Kikkoman, Knorr, Campbells, Zatarain, Goya, Uncle Bens are reliable brands, although full of salt

Calphalon, All-Clad – always good pans.  So is Le Crueset.  In general, buy heavy bottom pans – heat evenly, hold heat.  Not necessary for your Teflon pan, assuming you never get it too hot and deform the bottom.  I always go T-Fal for the teflon pans.

Onions – yellow, white, red, Vidalia (a.k.a. sweet), green.  Yellow are the standard cooking onion.  Except in Mexico, where it is white onions.  Red is a little sweeter, and is often found in salads.  Vidalia are a yellow onion, but are almost sweet – good for hamburgers raw.  Green onions have a very different taste, and are most often served raw, or sliced and added at the end of cooking.  For red, yellow, white, Vidalia, and/or sweet onions, the flatter the root end, the sweeter the onion.  The more pointed the root end the sharper or hot the onion is.

Fresh Spinach is very useful – good for salads, but also great added to many rice and pasta dishes – just toss in for the last 5-10 minutes of cooking.

Two ways of thickening sauces – 1) Mix equal amounts of cold water and cornstarch (think 2 tbs each).  Wisk into sauce, bring sauce to boil to thicken.  Serve.  Typically used in Asian dishes. 2) Mix equal amounts of flour and butter (called cutting).  When combined, whisk into sauce.  Cook long enough to cook out the flour taste (typically a couple of minutes).  Used for gravy, white sauces.  Also how you make a roux for Cajun foods – you cook it until it turns chocolate brown.

Spices – buy them at Penzeys.  Ground keeps its flavor for 6-12 months, whole 2-3 years, so buy appropriately.  Salt lasts forever.

Canned Vegie or Chicken stock is your friend.  You can use it in place of water, adds lots of flavor.  Just remember unless you made it yourself, it has lots of salt, even the low sodium versions.

Beans are good for you.  And cheap.  If you make them yourself.  They are still pretty good in cans, but are full of salt.

Cooking shows are your fun, but not often useful.  Useful ones are Alton Brown’s Good Eats (Food Network) and America’s Test Kitchen (PBS).  Fun ones are anything with Anthony Bourdain.

Always let Poppa bring the wine.

Always let Kelly buy the coffee – hippie coffee.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Dad's Kitchen - Meals made of Love - The Appliance Edition

For your shopping convenience, a link to Amazon

My other list - Dad's Kitchen - Meals Made of Love Edition, has everything you truly need to cook. However, there are some appliances that, while not mandatory, do make cooking nicer in many ways.

I have never been disappointed with Kitchen Aid. If you have to choose between a KA and something else, go with the Kitchen Aid.

You don't need most appliances. You just don't. But I admit I love some.  Those that I do are on the list.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Dad's Kitchen - What You Need to Make Meals Made of Love

Dad's Tool List for the Kitchen - this is the basics (no appliances) what you need.

There are often cheaper alternatives. Just don't go too cheap. I love high end Henckels, but if you need to spend less, don't waste your money on junk, buy all Victorinox with Fibrox handles. Can't afford (or steal from your father) Le Crueset? Tramontina is a good brand, less expensive. 

Do Not EVER put you knives in the sink or the dishwasher. Use them, hand wash them, hand dry them, put them away. Don't make me stage an intervention.

Don't buy sets of anything (other than place settings and silverware). Sets are filled with things you won't ever use. Better (generally) to buy just what you need.

You don't need that much (this comes from a man with darn near every piece of junk ever made). Don't waste your money filling your cupboards - buy good things. You will love them, use them, and ignore everything else. You don't even need everything on this list to produce a whole lot of meals made of love.  An 8" Kitchen knife, cutting board and a teflon fry pan will get you through most everything.

This also makes a great list for wedding gifts

Friday, September 7, 2012

Easy Cassoulet - And Healthy!

Cassoulet is a classic french dish.  It is also, made traditionally, very high in fat.  It also takes a long time to cook.  Well, I need less fat and more time, so I came up with this recipe - Easy Cassoulet - Start to finish in 45 minutes.  No, it's not traditional.  Yes, it is good.  If Meme liked it, it's close enough.

It is also easy to make vegetarian - drop the meat.  You can add a couple of tsp of soy sauce or Braggs aminos.  Some whole mushrooms can add "meatiness" to it also.  You can also always cook the meat on the side and serve it that way, although the meat juices add a lot of flavor to the dish.


2 (or 3) cans northern beans, drained and rinsed.  If available, I like Randall's Beans - they come in a glass jar. 
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 celery rib, diced
1lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs – diced
Chicken sausage (left overs if you have them)
Low fat ham if no sausage, diced.  Can use Canadian bacon
1 tsp oregano and thyme (each)
1 Bay leaf
4 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
1 can chicken broth/stock
½ cup white wine, if you have it.  White vermouth works also
2-3 cups fresh spinach, if you like.  Kale is also an option

Whole wheat garlic croutons (home made) – Toast bread, peal garlic clove, cut garlic clove in half.  Rub garlic over toast.  Cut into small pieces.

Either frozen veggie or salad on the side. 

Cooking instructions

Sauté onion, carrot, celery, chicken with 1 teaspoon oil.  When beginning to brown, add garlic and spices – cook an additional 2 minutes.  Add white wine, if using.  After wine cooks off some, add beans, sausage and chicken stock.  Add fresh spinach if you are using.  Cook for ½ hour.  Add ham/Canadian bacon about 15 minutes in.  

Make low fat garlic croutons (see above)

When done, toss garlic toast croutons over cassoulet, then serve.

Serve with veggies or salad.  A green salad with a vinaigrette is very nice - the acidity pairs well with the cassoulet.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Dad's "Rule of Thumb(s)" for Healthy Eating

1)  Limit processed carbohydrates - bread, pasta, rice.  To zero.  Use higher fiber alternatives - whole wheat/grain bread and pasta, brown rice, higher fiber alternatives like barley.

2) Protein is great - just limit the fat.  I don't worry about white or dark meat - it just has to have no skin and as much apparent fat trimmed as possible.  Eggs are great, Beans are awesome.  Tofu is ok, but hard to cook and really not that low in fat. Cheese - well, really hard to trim fat from cheese - plus most low/no fat cheese really tastes terrible and doesn't melt.

3) Fresh vegies and fruit are your friends - no limits.  This includes potatoes.  However, juice is terrible for you - it is not the same as fresh fruit/vegies.  Basically it's sugar water.

I try to construct meals with this formula - 1- 2 - 3.  For every one processed carb serving, the meal should have two proteins and four vegies/fruit.  Ok, so that is really more like 1 - 2 - 4.  And no meal should have more than 2 oz of processed carbs.

The final key item with this is sauces - it really does you no good if you eat a lot of vegetables but then serve it in a sauce that is high in fat or in sugar - or both!  But that is for another post....

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Chicken Taco's with Black Beans

Taco's.  Wonderful taco's.  And again, they can be a super diet killer.  I love me some hard shell corn tortillas - wonderful little fat and sugar bombs.  Sorry - you don't get to eat them.  At least not very often.  Fortunately, there are plenty of high fiber tortilla options these days.  I don't worry two much about the fat content - I just look for what I like the taste of that has lots of fiber.  And then I don't eat more than 2.  One if they are really big.

Ingredient List

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced small
1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs, sliced thin (not a huge fan of ground chicken)
1 green or red pepper, sliced thin
1 onion sliced thin
8 oz fresh mushrooms quartered or smaller
Chicken/Veg stock
Whole wheat taco’s
1 tomato, diced
Cumin, taco seasoning, adobe seasoning
Low or no fat sour cream (8 oz container)
Lettuce, sliced thin
No fat cheese slices

Cooking instructions

Three basic things are happening  - cooking beans, cooking chicken/veg, cook tortillas.  Start the beans first, then move on to chicken/veg once the beans are underway, then do the tortillas when everything is done and keeping warm.

1)  Beans - Mix beans, sweet potato and a little water or chicken/veg stock.  If you like, you can put in ½ teaspoon of cumin or adobe seasoning (available from Penzeys).  Cook at medium heat until sweet potatoes are soft (about 20 minutes).  Lower temp and keep warm.  If watery, you can take some out and mash, then stir back in to thicken, or serve with a slotted spoon to drain excess liquid.  Or feel free to mash all of them into more of a re-fried bean.  But please don't fry them.  And not in lard, no matter how good they taste that way.

2) Meat – brown chicken, onions, peppers and mushrooms.  Do them separately.  Use cooking spray.  When all browned, toss in pan together, along with Taco Seasoning (one packet or 4 tsp of Penzey’s seasoning)  After about a minute, mix in water according to the taco seasoning instructions.  Keep at low temp to keep warm.  Of course you can keep chicken separate if you have some vegetarians at dinner.

3) Tortillas – heat over medium heat one at a time.  Takes about 20 seconds a side.  After heated, put in foil or clean towel to keep warm

When all three are done, serve with lettuce, sour cream, salsa, tomatoes, cheese.

Veg options are varied.  You can use zucchini, eggplants, potatoes, sweet corn.  You can mix sweet corn in with the beans also.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Sausage and Spaghetti - Healthy Style

There are a number of dishes that are difficult to make in a healthy manner.  Sausage and Spaghetti is one of them.  Combine high fat sausages with high carb spaghetti - the perfect one-two punch to ruin your diet.

Yet, I grew up with it, and I don't want to live without it.   So with that in version.  

Caveat - adjust amounts for  numbers your feeding.  Below is for 4 people.  Or 2 with leftovers.

1 Onion, diced medium
1 med zucchini, diced medium
8 oz fresh mushroom, quartered if large, halved if small
Archer Farms (Target brand) Chicken and Spinach cooked sausage - leave whole or slice
1 jar spaghetti sauce (Bertolli) - try for something with limited fat and sugar.  If using no sugar sauce, be prepared to add some sugar or other sweetener - it is often to acid without
1 box Rozoni Smart Taste Pasta - 2 oz per person - or less!
1 bag frozen green beans

Cooking instructions
At the same time….do the following three things
1) Saute with 1 tsp oil - onion, zucchini, mushroom, sausage.  You can cook separately if you pan is not large enough - that has the added benefit of cooking them to their preferred doneness.  If you have vegetarians in the house do the sausage separately and serve on the side.  
2) Nuke green beans
3) Cook pasta (don’t over cook), drain

When all are cooked, mix all together in the pasta pot (after you drained out the pasta) with the jar of pasta sauce.   Heat and serve.  Serve with salad if you like.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Wedding Beverage List - Wine, Beer, Water, Soda

This worked out pretty well for my daughters wedding - I know I searched the internet for advice and got conflicting information, so here goes what worked for us.

Setting - 200 guests - 180 adults, outdoors, on a hot summer night (no, not that hot summer night).  Wedding at 4, dinner at 6, dancing till 10.  We had an open bar - no charge.

20 cases of water - we ended with two cases left - did I say it was a hot day?  We put it out in galvinized wash tubs so guests could grab one as they arrived, and placed them around the tent also.  I had frozen 4 cases to help cool down the rest and save on ice.

2 half barrels of beer (actually 1 half and two quarters).  We went with PBR and two micro brews - PBR went first, so don't fret serving cheap beer.

4 cases of Champagne (12 to a case, Barefoot Extra Dry) - we ended up with one left.  This is the only area I think we could of gone with less - 3 cases for the toast would of been enough.

6 bottles non-alcoholic sparking cider - we should of gone more - at least 12.

7 mixed cases wine - I went overboard with the varieties - Menage et Trois red, Columbia Two Vines Merlot, Houge ChardonnayBarefoot Moscato, Columbia Crest Riesling, Lindemans sauvignon blanc Wolersheim's Prairie Fume.  The amount of wine was fine - ended up with a mixed case at the end.  But if I were to do it over - I would of gone with just the Merlot, the Chardonnay, the Sauvignon blanc and the Moscato.  Buy what people want - that's pretty much it - it doesn't have to be expensive - just worth drinking.  And I think all of those wines are pretty good on a hot summer night

3 cases mixed soda (half diet, half regular)  Interestingly enough, I should of gone another case of regular soda - we had diet left over at the end of the night, but none of the regular.

300 lbs ice - you need a lot to ice down all that, especially on a hot summer night.  (no, not that hot summer night either)

We used 4 galvanized wash tubs for water, and four coolers to keep the wine cool - I also dropped some ice in the red wine cases - no one really wants to drink red wine that is 85 degrees.

The venue provided the insurance, but we still had a licensed bar tender there.  Good way of making sure you are cutting off those that are getting a little too happy, and are good at dealing with people.

It was a great fun night.

Cuban Style Pork Shoulder - in the Crock Pot

First, go to the LATIMES for their recipe.

Great recipe - I only make a couple of changes (even simpler than theirs)

I use one whole bay leaf (not crushed or ground)
I zest an orange and then juice it, same with the lime - I don't bother measuring.
I use Penzey's Adobe seasoning instead of the ground chili pepper - and I still add all the other listed spices - pump up the volume, but not the heat.

Adjust the spices depending on how much pork shoulder you use - if it is a 2.5 lb piece, then half the spices.

Pork shoulder is a pain to defat - lots of fat, lots of stuff to trim.  But do not substitute - just be diligent in trimming if you are looking to limit your weight, and then be sure to eat lots of other things with just a reasonable portion of the pork.  Great dish with black beans and rice.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Easy Black Beans - Cuban (or is that Puerto Rican?) Style

Beans and Rice are a favorite food at our house. Black, Red, Navy, Pink, Pinto - we love them all.

This recipe is my version of Cuban Black Beans (no meat) with a little of the Puerto Rican influence from some south Milwaukee places that I remember. Is it authentic? Well, no.... But everyone loves them. I am happy to use dry beans but I never seem to plan well enough - so canned it is. Also, this is a great dish for your Le Creuset Pot, or other heavy enameled cast iron pot with tight fitting lid.

Rice I am not going to tell you how to cook - we are eating more brown rice as it is moderately healthy for you (compared to white rice), but make whatever you like. Follow the directions on the package.

Black Beans - Made of Love

3 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 medium onion, chopped fine
1 medium green pepper, chopped fine
4 cloves of garlic, minced (use fresh, and don't use a press)
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced small. Feel free to substitute fresh pumpkin, or other squash)
1/2 can vegetarian broth
1/2 cup Alcaparrado drained(green olives, capers and red peppers (aka pimentos)- easy to find in your local mexican/puerto rican or other grocery.
1/2 cup sherry
1 tbs oregano
1 tbs cumin
1 tbs ground pepper
1 bay leaf olive oil 

Saute onion and green pepper until very soft (in about 1 tbs olive oil), but not browned. Add garlic, saute for another 2 minutes. Add all other ingredients. Bring to simmer. Put on lid, cook for about 1/2 an hour. Check and add more broth as needed. You need to cook the sweet potatoes, but you don't want soup here - you want it fairly thick. Taste and adjust seasoning. Some cooks add sugar at this point, but I find the sweet potato add enough, plus, way better for you. Many recipes call for vinegar, but the Alcaparrado adds that zing, plus extra.

Feel free to take a cup of the beans out, mash them fine and add it back in to thicken it up. After you have adjusted seasonings, keep at low for 10 minutes and serve.

Great thing about this dish is once it is cooked, you can turn it to low and it will be great for an hour or more - so it is easy to fit with the rest of the meal. Serve with a salad, roast pork or even better, crock pot cuban style pork shoulder My only change to that recipie is drop the chili pepper, use Penzey's Adobe seasoning in its place.