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.


Monday, April 30, 2012

Silky Chili Mac Italia

Fancy cooking?  Bah, sometimes you just want comfort food!

 Couldn't get motivated to be all culinary, so the alternative was to be creative.  Sometimes serendipity reigns, and it turns out pretty darned good.

1 quart home made chili, previously made, WITHOUT BEANS
2/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2/3 cup Jarlsberg cheese, diced small
12 ± Italian style meatballs, halved
4 oz.  elbow macaroni, cooked al dente

Heat the chili gently in a large skillet.  When warm, add the meatballs.  


When hot (do not simmer or boil), start adding in the cheese a little at a time, stirring constantly to ensure complete melting.  This is what makes the final result silky, so don't get in a hurry.

 Once the cheese is fully incorporated, start stirring in the cooked macaroni.  When everything is finally heated together, serve in bowls along with Parmesan cheese, cracked black pepper and red pepper flakes available on the side.  If the chili you used is too spicy, some may also want some sour cream.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Taco Bell® Cheesy Gordita Crunch - Clone recipe

Warm, pillowy flatbread covered in a melted three-cheese blend, wrapped around a crunchy taco and topped with a zesty Pepper Jack sauce.”  So says the Taco Bell web site.   

Here’s my version - this is for Amanda!

My sauce is a little runny in the picture.  This comes from not refrigerating it before using it on the hot beef filling.  Don’t make the same mistake. Next time I make this I will replace with a better picture.  I am certainly no food stylist!  


  • 3 hard taco shells, pre-made is easier
  • 3 soft gordita tortillas (recipe here, or you can use thick flour tortillas or buy Gordita shells)
  • 1/4 cup EACH of shredded mozzarella, cheddar and Monterrey jack cheeses (or 3/4 cup of Mexican cheese blend)
  • 6oz Taco Bell clone beef recipe (recipe here)
  • Taco Bell Baja Pepper Jack Sauce clone (recipe here)
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded lettuce
  • ¼ cup of diced tomatoes (optional)
  • ¼ cup shredded cheddar cheese for topping


1.      Gather your gorditas/tortillas.  Top each with about 1/4 cup (2 oz) shredded cheese in a thin even layer.  Warm these in the microwave until the cheese just melts, maybe 35-45 seconds depending on your microwave.

2.      Place a taco shell in the middle of the tortilla. Placing your fingers inside the hard shell, gently press the soft tortilla to the shell on each side until the melted cheese causes the sides of the heated tortillas to stick to the taco shells.  If you press too hard, you will break the hard shell, so be careful.  Let  these sit on there side for 20-30 seconds so the cheese can set. 

3.   Load as much taco meat into the shell as you like.  In the following order, layer in the chilled Baja Sauce clone, shredded lettuce, tomatoes (optional) and shredded cheddar cheese.

Taco Bell® Baja Sauce - Clone recipe

Taco Bell®'s Baja Sauce, also known as Creamy Pepper Jack Sauce, is used in a number of their food products.  It's pretty tasty, so why not make it yourself.  I took ideas from some online recipes and adjusted the taste somewhat, but this one is for Amanda.  This recipe is from

1/3 c pepper jack cheese, freshly grated, the finer the better
2 tbsp Parmesan cheese, freshly grated very finely
1/2 tsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp  salt)
2 tsp corn syrup
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 medium to large jalapeno pepper (seeds and ribs removed), very finely diced
1 Tbsp dry butermilk
1/2 c evaporated milk
5 TBSP vinegar, divided use
1 TBSP drained pimentos or roasted red peppers, diced
1/16 tsp (just a pinch) cayenne
¼- ½ cup mayonnaise (4-8 tablespoons) depending on desired consistency

Combine the cheeses and cornstarch in a small bowl and mix well. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, whisk together the onion powder, garlic powder, salt, corn syrup, mustard, jalapeno, dry buttermilk, evaporated milk, and only 4 tablespoons of the vinegar. Whisk the mixture until the buttermilk powder has dissolved. Turn on the heat to medium and whisk often while the mixture is heating. Bring the mixture to a good simmer and, VERY IMPORTANTLY, remove the sauce pan completely from the heat. 

VERY slowly whisk in the mixed cheeses, about a tablespoon at a time. Briskly whisk for at least 1 minute after each addition, making sure the cheese have completely melted. If you add the cheese while still on the heat, you will cause the proteins in the cheeses to form gritty little particles that will ruin the texture of the sauce.

Add the cheese mixture to a blender with the pimentos/red peppers. Whiz the mixture until the jalapenos and pimentos are very finely chopped and the mixture is smooth. Scoop the mixture into a seal-able bowl and allow it to come to room temperature on your kitchen counter.

When the cheese mixture has cooled completely, add the remaining tablespoon of vinegar, the cayenne pepper and sufficient mayonnaise to bring it to the consistency you desire, then stir to combine. Seal and put the mixture in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours to allow the flavors to meld and the sauce to firm up.

Taco Bell® Gordita shells - Clone recipe

Softer and more 'pillowy' than flour tortillas, these are really tasty and are good for many uses.

It has been brought to my attention that this recipe originally appeared in the blog for King Arthur Flour.  that is not where I found it, but it is their intellectual property and so they deserve the reference. The original resides at:  Take time to go through the site - there are lots of tempting recipes there.

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 cups boiling water
1/4 cup potato flour or instant potato flakes
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tsp yeast

Place 2 cups of All-Purpose Flour in a bowl, and stir in 1 1/4 cups boiling water.  Stir till smooth. Cover the bowl and set the mixture aside for 30 minutes to cool.

Combine 1/4 cup potato flour (or flakes or buds) and the remaining 1 cup of flour with 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, and 1 teaspoon instant yeast. Yes, that’s right; just 1 teaspoon. You don’t want/need these breads to rise very much.  Whisk till crumbly.  Add to the cooled flour/water mixture and stir together.  It’ll seem dry at first, but the dough will eventually pick up the flour/potato flour mixture, you can give it a hand with a bowl scraper.

Knead for several minutes (by hand, mixer, or bread machine). The dough will remain soft and somewhat sticky.  Finally, it’ll become very smooth.  Put the dough into a greased container.  Let the dough rise, covered, for 1 hour. It won’t rise a lot due to the small yeast quantity but it will rise some.

Next, divide the dough into 10 pieces. This is made very easy if you use a scale to do the math for you.  For example, my dough  weighed 700 grams, so each small ball was 70 grams.  Roll the pieces into balls and let rest, covered, for 15 to 30 minutes.

Roll each piece out into a circle about 5” across, which should be the same size as your taco shells are wide.   Get them very thin, 1/8” or less, because as you cook them they will rise a bit and get thicker.
Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat; no oil necessary. Place one flatbread into the skillet.  Cook till spotty brown underneath, about 1-2 minutes, and the bread will puff up a bit.  Turn over, and cook till the other side is spotty as well, another minute or so.  If any bubbles arise, puncture them with a toothpick – we are making flatbread here, not pita bread.  Keep the warm in a stack under a kitchen towel as you finish the rest of the breads. 

It doesn’t matter if you have made more than you need - “extras” won’t stick around long!

Friday, April 20, 2012

If You Like Schlotzsky’s...

I had a Schlotzsky’s® Original sandwich a couple of weeks ago, and it had been years since the last one.  I forgot how great all those toasted layers played together, and especially how that great bun really anchored all the flavors with its special taste and texture.  Well, the OCD in me took over and I was determined to make it for myself.  There aren’t any of these restaurants near me, and I figured that if I wanted one I was going to have to make my own some how.

This was basically going to come down to three challenges: find a recipe to recreate the special bun, create a recipe to recreate the special garlic dressing, and getting the sandwich put together with the right things in the right order.

There are dozens and dozens of links to recipes for a “Schlotzsky bun recipe” on the internet, but they basically come down to two – the recipe the store uses (pounds of proprietary mix) or a home made copycat that everyone seems to have copied.  The first is obviously useless, the second I found unsatisfactory as it wasn’t really close.  After many tries, I think I have it nailed pretty well.

Starting with some stock recipes, it only took a few tries to get the garlic dressing down.  It’s very simple and very tasty, and can sure be used on other things too.  Finally, I found a reference from a former employee who laid out not only the ingredients for the sandwich, but also the order of assembly and the instructions for the technique.  He remains anonymous, but the process is outlined below.  Hopefully, some of you will undertake this project and provide me feedback on your results.  

Okay, here we go…

FILLING INGREDIENTS (for 1 large sandwich, adjust as needed):
CLONE - Sandwich Bun (recipe below)
CLONE - Creamy Garlic Dressing (recipe below)
Parmesan cheese, grated
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
2 oz. cotto salami, sliced very thin
2 oz. genoa salami, sliced very thin
2 oz. boiled ham, sliced very thin
yellow mustard
red onion, sliced thin
tomatos, sliced
lettuce, shredded
½ cup black olives or marinated black olives

Slice open the loaf horizontally into 2 even thicknesses.   

Apply spiral rings of garlic on each bun half starting from the outer edge inward - six for large, 3 for medium, 2 for small sandwich.  Add Parmesan cheese from a shaker, roughly 5 to 6 shakes to lightly dust both entire buns.

Distribute one cup of shredded cheddar cheese on the bottom bun, and one cup of mozzarella cheese on the top bun.  Put both buns in a toaster over at a heat of 375 degrees, to barely melt the cheese until you see it bubbling a bit, then pull them out and spread the cheese evenly with a spatula.
On the bun with the cheddar put 1/2 cup of the olives, then slices of boiled ham covering the entire sandwich overlapping each ham slice.

Remove the top bun from the toaster over spread the mozzarella cheese out evenly with the spatula; put the bottom bun back in the oven while you work on the top.

On the top bun place slices of cotto salami laid out the same as the ham then the slices of Genoa salami even spread out on top of the cotto salami, finishing with rings of yellow French’s mustard.  Put the top salami bun in the oven and take out the bottom bun and get ready to dress it.  On the bottom bun add first shredded lettuce, sparingly just enough to cover the bottom meat.  Next, add your slices of tomato and thinly sliced red or yellow onions, six thin slices, no more. 

Here are two beauties, ready to go.

Retrieve the other bun but it together, and prepare to feast!

CLONE - Original Sandwich Bun

Makes 2 large or 3 medium sandwich buns

1 recipe CLONEsky’s® sourdough starter (recipe follows)
2 teaspoons white sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup lukewarm milk (at about110° F)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups bread flour
2 tablespoons corn meal

In a large bowl, stir together the warm milk, sugar, salt and baking soda. Stir to dissolve, then add in the CLONEsky’s® sourdough starter and whisk together.  Beat the flour into the liquid mixture one half cup at a time until smooth, then move on to the next half-cup. When you are finished, the batter should be thick, very sticky and smooth.

Prepare 2 each 8” or 3 each 6” pie or cake pans with non-stick spray, and then scatter the bottom of the pans with the corn meal.  Divide the dough evenly between the prepared pans.  It won’t look right, but the batter will spread as the dough rises. Spray the top of each bun with non-stick cooking spray, and then cover and let rise for one hour in a warm draft-free spot for one hour.  I turn on the oven for a minute and then right back off, and let it rise in there.  It should be barely just warm.

Once the dough has finished rising, spray the top of the bread with non-stick cooking spray lightly again. Bake in a preheated 375° F for 20 minutes.  Once the top is lightly golden and a toothpick comes out clean, you are done.  Turn the finished loaves out on a cooling rack, and allow to cool for an hour before slicing.

CLONESKY’S SOURDOUGH STARTER - yields about 1 ¼ - 1 ½ cups
  • 1 cup warm water (110 degrees F)
  • 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
Combine the water, yeast, and sugar. Let sit until the yeast becomes foamy, about 5 minutes. (If the yeast does not foam, discard the mixture and begin again with  new yeast – check the date.)
Add the flour and stir briskly to work in. Cover loosely and let rest in a warm, draft-free place (like an oven with pilot light or light) for 8 to12 hours. (The mixture should become very bubbly.)  Now you can use your Schlotzsky’s® sourdough starter to make your Markzsky’s® Original® No-Knead Sandwich Buns!
CAUTION: Never keep any sourdough starter tightly closed! The gasses that build up from the yeast can pressurize the container (such as a glass jar) and possibly make it burst!

CLONE - Creamy Garlic Dressing

1 c. mayonnaise                                               2 tbsp. minced parsley
1 tbsp. white vinegar                                       1 tbsp. milk
1/2 tsp. powdered garlic                                 1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt

Whisk all ingredients together in a medium bowl.  Load into squeeze bottle and keep in refrigerator. Makes about a cup

Monday, April 16, 2012

Best Ground Beef Taco Mix - so far...

This is what Taco Bell beef would taste like if it was really good!

I have been in search of a really good taco meat creation process for a while now, and it has been somewhat frustrating.  As those who know me will attest, I'd rather cook from scratch than use a lot of store bought items, so a packaged mix was out.  Most of the recipes I've seen either result in dried out meat, runny meat, or some wacko balance of flavors, so I had to come up with something of my own.  At least I know what's in it (and can pronounce all the ingredients!).  This is not your standard spice mix, but it adds up to one flavorful and moist change from the standard blah mix.  I also like those new store-bought taco shells that are flat on the bottom.  Not only will they stand up for filling, you can get more goodies in them!  Now go and bite some tacos!

1 lb ground beef - 80/20 or leaner
2 Tablespoon all purpose flour
2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons dried onions
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1 t beef bullion powder
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons corn starch
1 dash cayenne – for flavor, not heat (optional)

1/2 cup water

Mix the raw ground beef with all ingredients except water.   I have found the easy way to do this is in a quart size plastic zip bag – add the meat and spices, and squish it around until it is uniformly distributed.  Keeps the hands clean.

In a skillet over medium to medium-high heat, brown the beef mixture along with 1/4 cup water.  The key here is to break up all of the ground beef as it cooks so that there are no chunks.  You want it reduced to a fine and even texture.  You can see below that there is still some liquid to dispel.

As the mixture cooks, add the remaining water occasionally until all incorporated.  Keep stirring and cook the meat until the proper consistency is reached - soft, juicy and velvety.  You may have to evaporate some of the water, but don't drain it or you'll lose flavor.

Ideally, the texture should be very moist but not quite like a Sloppy Joe mix.  This way it won’t be dry, won’t be over cooked and will stay in your tacos.  All you need do is add some lettuce, tomatoes and cheese, and voila - TASTY!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Jalapeño Cheese Flatbread



    • 3 12 cups flour
    • 1 teaspoon sugar
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1 12 tablespoons yeast
    • 1 cup water
    • 4 tablespoons olive oil
    • 2 eggs
    • 4 tablespoons olive oil
    • 12 cup of chopped jalapeno peppers
    • 2 tablespoons Herbes de Provence
    • 1 12 cups of grated cheddar cheese


  1. In a large bowl mix together 1 cup of flour and the sugar, salt and yeast.
  2. Heat 4 T of oil and water until warm, then beat in egg.
  3. Add the liquids to the flour mixture and mix until moistened, and then beat for 3 more minutes.
  4. Stir in 1¾ cups of flour a little at a time until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
  5. Place dough on a floured surface and knead in remaining flour.
  6. Place in bowl and cover for 8 minutes, then remove dough and place on greased cookie sheet.
  7. Cover with greased plastic wrap and two tea towels; let rise for 35 minutes.
  8. After rising, remove the plastic wrap and poke holes in one-inch intervals with a butter knife.
  9. Pour 4 T of oil on top, and sprinkle herbes, cheese and jalapenos evenly across the top as well.
  10. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes or until golden, remove to cooling rack.


Picadillo has been a part of my life since I can remember.  Our housekeeper Santa in Laredo used to make it, and I’ve sampled it now and then my whole life.  It’s a very versatile dish, and can be used alone as a main course, or in tortillas as tacos, or on buns like Sloppy Joes.  I’ve even seen it mixed into cheese and used as a dip.  Anyway, everyone who makes seems to do so differently, and this is the recipe I am currently using.  The ingredient list is different and somewhat longer than many, but it really comes together well.  

  • 1½ pounds lean ground beef
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 can, or 1 lb, chopped/diced tomatoes
  • 3 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 large potato (about 1 lb), 1/2-inch dice
  • ½ cup beef stock
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 chipotle chile/adobo sauce puree*, or canned chipotle chile with adobo sauce, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 1½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ teaspoon caldo de res powder / granulated beef bouillon


1. Brown the meat, onion and garlic. Drain, and then add everything else.
2. Simmer for half an hour, stirring occasionally. 
3. Add water or stock to keep from drying out if necessary. 
4. Serve warm with tortillas or as tacos.

*I take an entire can of chipotles in adobo and whir them up in a baby processor until they become a nice paste.  This will keep in the fridge nearly forever and is easy to measure.