Mostly about food, this blog is just a place for me to throw things that are of interest to me. I appreciate you taking the time to stop by an look around. This represents just some of the stops on the various pathways that this amateur home cook finds himself.

You may find that these foods tend toward protein and away from carbohydrates - this is due to diabetic issues, so I try to only sparingly use carbs, and good ones at that. Of course, sometimes I forget....

Feel free to drop me a line with any suggestions or just to let me know what you think. Thanks!

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I want to thank you for the time that you spend here, and hope that you can find useful things here.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Lamb Burgers, with all the extras

Looking for something tasty and different?  Skip the hamburger; embrace the Lamb Burger!  These were served along with pickled red onions, home made tzatziki sauce, and a Greek relish.  You can buy ground lamb in most major supermarkets, but if you have the choice, purchase whole lamb meat and ask them to grind it for you at the time, it will be much fresher.   

Lamb Burgers
1 pound ground lamb
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon olive oil,
1/4 tsp dried oregano
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

Tzatziki Sauce
1 medium cucumber, halved and seeds removed, then grated
1 cup Fat free, plain Greek yogurt
2 garlic cloves, Crushed
1  teaspoon chopped fresh dill
1  tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Salt & Black pepper to taste
2 teaspoons olive oil

Pickled Onions
½ red onion, thinly-sliced
½ cup cider vinegar
½ cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon unrefined light brown sugar

Greek Relish
1 cup coarsely chopped roasted Italian red peppers
1/4 cup pitted and chopped marinated Kalamata olives
2 teaspoons finely minced garlic
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup fresh crumbled Feta cheese
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste


Preparing the onions:
The thinner you can slice the onions, the better this will be.  Unfortunately, I was in an hurry and the onions in the picture below are away too thick.  Mix the vinegars and sugar together, submerge the onions in the mixture, and set in the fridge to marinate.  By the time you are finished with the burgers, these will be ready.

Preparing the onions:
Prepare the cucumber as stated above.  Using a food processor, puree the garlic cloves with the salt & pepper.  Add the cucumber, yogurt, olive oil and dill, the pulse it and give it a taste.  Add seasoning if needed, then remove to a bowl in the fridge until needed.

Preparing the relish:
Prepare the peppers, olives, cilantro and garlic as stated above.  Mix them well in a large bowl with the Feta, salt & pepper.  Add in the lemon juice and olive oil, then mix to coat.  Give it a taste test and adjust salt & pepper if needed.

Move the finished relish in a bowl, and put it in the fridge with the other condiments until the burger is finished and ready to assemble.

Now for the burgers:
Next comes the main act.  The main concern here is not to overwork the meat.  The more you squeeze and mix it, the more tough it may end up.  Start off by taking all of the ingredients for the burger (except the meat) and mixing well in a bowl.  Crumble small pieces of the ground lamb mixture into the bowl, lightly stirring together until all is loosely mixed.  Now you will divide the mixture in half, and loosely form each half into a patty.  These will shrink some on the grill, so if you make the patty just larger than your bun it will work out perfectly.

I left them in the fridge for about 20 minutes to firm up, and then it was off to the grill.  Grill these over medium coals, turning only once.  Now, as they cook, they are going to lose a lot of grease, so you are going to have to keep an eye out for flare-ups.  Just don't overcook them - these were done to 150° internally as was read on a digital thermometer.

Here you see the finished product, assembled and ready to be consumed.  The buns were toasted to help keep the burger together when all assembled.  From the bottom up, there is tzatziki, pickled onion, the lamb burger patty, and finally the relish.  Layers and layers of flavor.

Halfway through it, and boy that lamb is tasty!  Notice that it is not pink like a hamburger might be, but trust me, it's not overcooked...

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Mexican Rice

...adapted from Diana Barrios 

1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups chicken stock, divided
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cup white rice
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
1/2 green bell pepper, minced
1/4 onion, sliced very thin

Blend first 3 ingredients until smooth,  Add 1 cup chicken stock, blend again.  Heat up the remaining chicken stock in a microwave oven, but do not boil.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan on medium heat, and when hot, add in the rice.  Cook the rice, stirring occasionally, until it starts to brown.  Add the peppers and onions, cook for a few more minutes, and then drain off any remaining excess oil.

Add the tomato mixture to the pan, stir and cook for 3 minutes, then add in the remaining hot chicken stock.  Reduce heat again, stir and cover, then cook until the rice has absorbed all the remaining liquid and is done.

Fresh Tomatillo Salsa

...inspired by Lisa Fain 

Simple, crisp and green, vary the heat by varying the pepper count.  Two jalapenos makes for a pretty mild salsa.

3/4 lb tomatillos, smaller is better for taste (11 oz can may be used)
chiles - 2 jalapeño (mild) (or 2 Serrano [warmer], or more if you like)
6 cloves chopped garlic
1 1/2 tablespoon lime juice
1/4 cup chopped cilantro, packed
salt and pepper to taste

Makes approximately 1 pint

Bring a 4-5 quart pot of water to boil over high heat.  Peel the husks from the tomatillos and discard; and rinse the sticky coating off the tomatillos.  Boil the tomatillos for 5 minutes or so to soften, remove and drain.

Add the tomatillos, garlic, peppers, cilantro and lime juice to a blender.  Blend until smooth and add salt and pepper to taste.  After it sits, you may need to add a bit of water as it may thicken.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Oldies but Goodies

I recently stumbled across a couple of old cookbooks - 40 to 50 years old.  These are small limited distribution books, published by small companies and just plain Courier type on paper.  Paging through them, it appears that they contain just what the covers promise - simple authenticity.  I'll be exploring these and maybe post some of the recipes I attempt from them.

Lone Star Stroganoff

Another one of those dishes that everyone has a recipe for, this has a couple of  twists that drag it south of the Mason-Dixon line and west of the Mississippi.  It has some fiery components, but is mild enough for all to enjoy.

Serves 6, or 4 really hungry folks.  Even less if you 'sample' it all afternoon... just sayin'.


3 lb chuck, top round or flat iron steak, trimmed of fat and gristle
2 medium onions - short julienned
1 1/2 lb Cremini (or button) mushrooms, cut into 1/2" thick slices
1/2 cup decent red wine
1 can consommé ( in soup aisle)
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1 large fresh jalapeño, minced fine
1 chipotle in adobo pepper, minced fine
1/2 cup chicken stock (can use water)
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
8 oz. wide egg noodles

Heat a large  skillet over medium heat.  Work your way through the the sliced mushrooms without crowding, this will take a few batches - see Beginning Mushrooms 101 for all you'll ever want to know about cooking mushrooms in a skillet.  When they are all done, remove them to a good-sized bowl for later.

While the mushrooms are cooking, it's time to prepare the meat.  Since you've lost all the fat and gristle, cut the meat into manageable strips, and then into smaller somewhat thin pieces.  This will help them both cook faster and be more tender.  Here you see me slicing across the grain at an angle, also helping to tenderize them. 

Dry the meat well with paper towels, and season liberally with salt and pepper.    If you don't dry it, it won't brown.  Set this aside for a few minutes while we do the onions.

The peeled onions ate cut into strips and the halved.  Put them into the skillet with a little olive oil and let them become translucent and a bit caramelized.

When done, remove the onions to a bowl and set aside.  Now we go back to our seasoned beef and add it to the pan a little at a time, taking care not to crowd it.  This will take a few batches to get it all done.  When you start to see the edges brown, you can start stirring it about.  It doesn't have to cook completely here, just brown. 

As each batch finishes, place the browned meat in with your mushrooms and pour out any liquid from the pan - it is the enemy of browning.

After all the meat is out, the onions head back in one last time, along with the wine and flour.  Whisk this together so that the flour is dissolved. Add in the consommé.

Then whisk in the tomato paste, and slowly, the cream cheese.  Most recipes for stroganoff call for sour cream, but I like the thickness that this brings to the sauce.  Whisk until this becomes uniformly smooth.

Retrieve your chipotle pepper dripping with adobo.  You will want to mince this very fine so it will melt into the sauce as it simmers.  Same goes for the jalapeno.

Time to go all in.  Add the meat and mushrooms into the sauce and stir well to incorporate.  Then add in the minced peppers and mix again.

You'll probably have to let this simmer for a couple of hours.  If it's too thick, add in the chicken stock to make sure all the ingredients get incorporated.  This will allow the meat to get really tender, and allow the sauce to thicken even more.  Of course, you'll have to sacrifice and actually taste a piece occasionally to make sure it is getting tender...

When it is about done cooking down, it is time to cook the noodles.  I prefer using the extra-wide egg noodles as their surface area can carry lots of sauce with each fork-full.  Cook them until al dente, then drain and plate them, then adding the stroganoff mixture.  Top it all with a dollop of sour cream, some sliced green onions and a sprinkle of chile powder.

¡Muy Sabroso!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Tired of the same old tacos, I figured it was time for an upgrade. 
Are they fajitas?  Maybe burritos?  The verdict? 

Muy yummy!  

1/2 green bell pepper, cut into 1 1/2" strips
1/2 red bell pepper, cut into 1 1/2" strips
1/2 small to medium onion, cut into 1 1/2" strips
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 large or 2 small jalapeños, short julienne

1 lb.- 1 1/2 lb. beef, such as skirt steak, flank steak, top round - sliced thin for Asada cooking
kosher salt, coarse ground pepper
olive oil

4 fajita-size flour tortillas (reduced carb)
1/4 lb Mexican melting cheese, such as queso quesadilla or queso asadero, shredded

home-made red and green salsas 

 Gather your ingredients.  Prepare all the different items by doing the slicing and mincing before you start cooking - see "mise en place".  Here's the starters...


Preheat your oven to 350°.  Add all the vegetables to a skillet, and sautée in a bit of oil until they soften and the onions become slightly translucent.  Remove to a plate and cover.  Now cut the beef into strips across the grain, season with pepper only and add them to the empty skillet with a touch more oil.  Cook until just browned - about half-cooked.  Lightly sprinkle with salt and then add the vegetbles back into the skillet and mix together. Oh how wonderful it would be to have a flat top at home!

Now take 1/4 of your meat/vegetable mixture and roll it in a flour tortilla that has been warmed slightly in the microwave to soften.  Repeat for the remaining filling.  Place these rolls seam side down in an oven proof dish lightly sprayed with your choice of a Pam-like product.  This will help them release for service.

Once the oven is hot, slide the dish onto the upper rack, and bake until the tortillas just start to brown.  At this point, kick the oven up to low broil, and pull the dish out to finish.

Top the rolls with the cheese you should have already shredded, and back on the top shelf they go, oven door left cracked open.  Watch carefully until the cheese starts to spot (like picture below), and remove from oven.  Turn the oven off - it's done it's duty for today.

Plate the Fajititos, two per hungry person, one if served with several sides.  Finish off the Fajititos with alternating stripes of red and green salsa, freshly made if available.  Serve with an appropriate side dish, here seen with refried beans with jalapeno bits added and topped with shredded cheese.  Serve hot!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Savory Texas Meatloaf


Everybody has a recipe for meatloaf.  Many people aren't happy with theirs, but are stuck in a rut.  Consider giving this one a try - there are a few tasty differences that make it mighty good.  And even better, it makes plenty, so there's lots left over for meatloaf sandwiches the next day!

1 large onion, cut in small dice
1 carrot, cut in small dice
1 Poblano pepper, cut in small dice
3 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons pepper
5 teaspoons minced garlic

2 lbs. ground beef, 80/20
1 lb. ground pork
1 lb. ground lamb

1 cup breadcrumbs, unseasoned, fresh preferred
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup ketchup
3 eggs
1/2 cup (compressed) of finely chopped cilantro
1/2 cup chopped cooked bacon

1/2 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons pepper


Combine the breadcrumbs and milk together to create a mush. Prepare the vegetables as directed above.

In a large skillet, add the first 5 ingredients and sauté until the vegetables soften.  When soft, add the garlic and stir in well, cooking 1 more minute.  Remove from stove and allow to cool.  Gather your defrosted meats - clockwise from left, beef, pork lamb:

In a large bowl, separate and scatter the meats evenly in the bowl.  You don't want to over-mix the meat mixture, as that will make your meatloaf tough.  Add in the cooled vegetables, milk /breadcrumb mush, ketchup, cilantro and the eggs.  Heat your oven to 350°.

Mix until all parts are evenly distributed and then let it rest.  Divide the mixture evenly between two loaf pans, taking care to make the center a little lower than the edges.  This will help to cut down on the tendency for cooked meatloaf to have a large center bulge.

Finally, scatter half of the bacon across the top of each loaf.  Now pop the loaf pans into your oven, and set the timer for 45 minutes.  Combine the last 4 ingredients into a Texas Tang sauce so that it will be ready for the next step.

After an hour, remove the loaf pans and set on a cooling rack, and remove the loafs from the pans.  Place the loafs on a larger rimmed pan, and divide the ketchup sauce evenly over the tops of the two loaves.  Below you see the loafs after having been sauced, and ready for the oven again.

 Below is an oblique shot, and you can make out how relatively flat the tops are.  This will help a lot with making meatloaf sandwiches later!

Pop them back in the oven for another 45 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 155°.  Don't overcook or it will start to dry out!  The jalapeño garnish is, of course, optional as are the Pintos-n-Pico on the side.

Monday, September 19, 2011


Help for those counting carbs - whether for weight or diabetes.

I try to avoid eating a lot of carbohydrates (except on special occasions), as they induce a pretty psychotic effect on my blood sugar. I do okay at dodging most of them, but the lowly flour tortilla has been my Achilles heel. I still eat them occasionally, but I need to do better. This brings us to the present.

After looking around a bit at the grocery store this past weekend, I came across this pair of offerings. Now, I've had low carb and wheat tortillas before, and to be blunt they were all pretty horrible - dry, stiff, pasty and coarse. It had been a while, so I thought I'd try again. Both of these offering were good enough that I'd even served them to company. They are both made from wheat flour, although only the Mission brand tortillas appear a little tan. The texture is wonderful, being soft and supple and not at all like cardboard. Compare these carb numbers to the flour tortillas in your pantry and see how all that fiber reduces the net effective carbohydrates in these guys..

Santa Fe 'Carb Chopper' 7" tortillas:
70 calories - 2.5g fat, 7g carbs, 3g fiber, 4g net effective carbs, 4g protein

Mission 'Carb Balance' 6" tortillas:
80 calories - 2g fat, 13g carbs, 10g fiber, 3g net effective carbs, 3g protein

These will cost you more than regular store brand tortillas, but the quality you'll taste is worth it. I still say that if you don't have to worry about carbohydrates, then seek out 'Mi Casa' tortillas, as they're about hte best sore brand torts I've found.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

DIY Meat, anyone?

On our last trip to Restaurant Depot, I was looking for something to replenish our dwindling beef supply at home. This trip, the nod went to to a whole untrimmed Inside Top Round. To quote from the the IMPS guide;
"This boneless item consists of the semimembranosus, sartorius, adductor, gracilis, and pectineus and is separated from the bottom round and knuckle through the natural seams. The iliopsoas may remain if firmly attached. All bones, cartilage, and exposed lymph glands shall be removed."
Here's what it looks like in a cryovac bag, on a full size 33" wide sheet pan. It's a big chunk of Choice grade Certified Angus Beef:
After removing the fat cap, I found that the clod was easily separated along the natural seams into a several large cuts and a few smaller trim pieces. Here is a shot of the large sections after reduction:

It's hard to tell from the picture, but there was a nice amount of intramuscular fat, so it should be fairly tender for such a typically lean piece of meat. I have already used some of the small trimmings in some carne asada, beef and some green chile and bean burritos. Very tender, very tasty, and can't wait to dive into some more!

Chicken Fricassée with Portobellos & Pasta


3 lb of mixed boneless skinless chicken breasts and thighs
2 qt chicken stock
2 bay leaves
½ t ground thyme
½ t rosemary leaves, finely chopped
1 tsp black peppercorns
¼ lb bacon, chopped
4 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
½ lb. button or chestnut mushrooms, trimmed and large ones halved
½ t rosemary leaves, finely chopped
12 oz. dry white wine
12 oz. double cream
1 ½ tbsp Dijon mustard
1 lb fresh rotini, tagliatelle or similar complex pasta
Handful of flat leaf parsley, leaves chopped
Olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

With a sharp knife, remove the excess fat from the thighs, cut them into large chunks, approximately 1" cubes.

Put the chicken stock, bay leaves, thyme and peppercorns in pan with a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and add the chicken thighs. Gently poach until the meat is tender. Remove chicken from the pan with a pair of tongs and let cool slightly. Strain the poaching stock and save 1 1/2 cups for later use.

Heat a large frying pan with a little olive oil. Season the breasts and add to the pan. When the meat is three quarters cooked, add the poached leg meat and cook for a few more minutes until golden brown.

Transfer the cooked chicken to a plate. Add the bacon and shallots to the pan with a little more olive oil, if necessary. Sauté for 3-4 minutes over medium heat until the shallots are translucent and the bacon is lightly browned. Stir in the mushrooms and rosemary and sauté for a few more minutes. Pour in the wine and scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to deglaze. Let the liquid boil until reduced by half.

Add the previously set-aside stock and reduce again by half. Finally, pour in the cream and simmer for a few minutes until the sauce has thickened to a desired consistency. Stir in the mustard and season to taste. Add the browned chicken into the sauce to warm through.

Meanwhile, blanch the pasta in a pot of boiling, salted water for 1 ½ - 2 minutes until al dente. Drain the pasta and toss with the sauce to coat. Divide amongst warmed plates and arrange the chicken over the pasta. Garnish with a sprinkling of chopped parsley and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve immediately.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Stuffed Portobellos with Prosciutto-wrapped fresh Asparagus

• 2 Portobello mushrooms
• 1 T plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
• 6 oz. ground lamb
• 2 oz. Mexican chorizo
• 1/3 cup combined finely chopped onion & bell pepper
• 2 t minced garlic
• 1/3 cup combined bread crumbs & grated Parmesan cheese
• 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
• 1/2 t BBQ rub
• 1 egg, lightly beaten
• Balsamic vinegar, for drizzling

• 1 lb. fresh asparagus
• 1 Portobello, stemmed, gilled and cut into strips
• 2 slices thin Prosciutto de Parma
• kosher salt & fresh ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare the Portobello mushrooms by removing the stem and then gently scraping out the brown gills. Clean and finely mince stem; discard gill material. Rub each Portobello mushroom down with a bit of olive oil.

Lightly salt and pepper the lamb and cook in a small skillet until just browned. Remove to a bowl. Next, cook the chorizo until just cooked, say 4-5 minutes. Add the lamb back in, as well as the onion, bell pepper, garlic, and mushroom stems and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat.

Transfer sausage-vegetable mixture to the bowl of a food processor. Add half of the breadcrumb/ cheese mixture, 1/2 the cilantro, the rub, and the remaining olive oil. Pulse until mixture is finely chopped and comes together slightly, about 30 seconds. Transfer the mixture back to your bowl, add the egg, and stir until well combined.

Divide the filling among the mushroom with 1/2 for each mushroom. Place the filled mushrooms on a baking sheet.. Divide the bread crumb/ cheese mixture evenly among the tops of the mushrooms. Bake until golden brown on top and the mushrooms are tender, about 15 to 18 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.

While the above is cooling, snap the asparagus to length and cook along with mushroom strips on a plate in microwave for 45 seconds. Remove to counter, divide into 2 portions. Fold each slice of Prosciutto in half lengthwise. Wrap each bundle of asparagus and mushrooom strips in one slice of Prosciutto, season with salt and pepper, and place in a lightly oiled skillet over medium heat. As you see the edges of the Prosciutto start to turn, flup the asparagus bundles carefully to cook the other side. This may only take like 2 minutes per side.

Remove the asparagus to your plates, then add the stuffed mushrooms tot he plates. Garnish them with remaining tablespoon of cilantro, drizzle with olive oil and vinegar and serve warm or at room temperature.