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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Orange Glazed Ham

I'm one of the picky people when it comes to ham. When we have chef salad at our school for lunch, I kindly request that the ham be omitted. It's not that I don't like ham, but why waste the calories to my waist of a ham that is lackluster in flavor and depth. I know they are using the ham provided, but it just has no flavor. I really appreciate a good flavored ham. My brother makes a delicious ham. My mom made a great ham too. I visited one of my "sisters" on Christmas morning as I knew she would have her children and grandchildren visiting. I don't see them that often and was excited for the visit. What I also knew was that she always, always made ham and fluffy biscuits too!! Her daughter made an overnight breakfast casserole in the crock pot which rounded out the breakfast perfectly. Fresh fruit was a nice addition too.

My sons are home for Christmas break and it's been a great few weeks. They are at their father's house this week, but last week was my time to cook! I try to make things that take longer to prepare and cook as I have the time. The more I cook for others, and cook with others, makes me realize that I could be a personal chef for someone. Hopefully, they would really enjoy food and not have many "dislikes", but that's an entirely different blog post! (I guess I write in stream of consciousness (my English teachers would be proud). I'll share the filo wrapped lamb in another post. My eldest son, Brad, enjoys cooking, so we have cooked quite a few meals together during the break. I was trying to prepare something that I know they probably wouldn't cook at their apartment at school, and I saw that spiral cut ham at the grocery store. Let's see, the fancy label ham was about $45.00 for a 6 pound ham and the spiral cut no-name was $15.00. Why pay $45.00 for something that someone else glazed? I can make my own glaze and put it in the oven. So, it was ham for dinner. There is the traditional Norman Rockwell ham of long ago with the pineapple slices with maraschino cherry, but I didn't have any pineapple. I did have fresh oranges that my neighbor gave me from his sister's orchard in Florida. How can I go wrong with that? I may have to make a ham for my cafeteria staff at our school. They might like to have someone else cook their lunch for a change!

For a 4 pound ham
4 pound, bone in ham (throw away the glaze packet... you can make an even better one)
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon sharp honey mustard
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
juice of one orange
cloves (6 or 8)

I cut one orange and put the slices on the ham for decoration. I attached the slices with a few cloves. Put the brown sugar, honey mustard, and orange juice in a saucepan and heat until sugar is melted. Put ham in a large piece of aluminum foil, spread glaze on top and cover with the foil. Bake at 350F about 10-12 minutes per pound just to heat through. Don't keep the ham in the oven too long or it will become dry. I always purchase ham on the bone so that I can freeze the bone and use it to make beans, or black eye peas for New Year's Day!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What's for dinner?

During a time in every one's life, one lives alone. This can have it's positive and negative aspects. One of the best comments I have ever heard about living alone is that there isn't anyone home to smell the milk carton and confirm, that yes the milk is NO GOOD!! In my opinion, the milk is always no good as I do not, and will not drink a glass of milk. Not even with homemade cookies, chocolate cake, or anything. I just don't like it. I will drink hot chocolate or a cafe au lait (half coffee and half hot milk). But this post isn't about milk as I could sum make it very short and sweet:


I was lucky because I never had to drink milk as a child either. My dad didn't like milk and I must have inherited this "dislike milk" gene!! We ate absolutely everything that was put on our plates as children, so if we drank water or a coke (drank them both at dinner), it was fine. How many children crave salad, fish, and vegetables?..... my brothers and I. So, what does this have to do with living alone? I don't ever have the change of milk going "bad"! I purchase the cartons of milk that have a shelf life of a year or so, and use it for cocoa and coffee. I do get calcium from other sources though. Being single, one can have ice cream for dinner and no one will mind, or miss, the vegetables.

So if I'm not having ice cream for dinner, I certainly will not purchase frozen meals!! No, I think I deserve to eat something more than a peeled back box top that has been microwaved to perfection! Yes, I will make an entire pan of lasagna, a roast, quiche, cassoulet, or moussaka for dinner! I enjoy cooking and think I'm worth the effort and the healthy benefit of fresh foods. I used a can of condensed soup in something the other day and I swear I could taste all of the added sodium (and this comes from someone who used to salt pickles). I have grown accustomed to making my own chicken, beef, and vegetable stock. Once you try the homemade, you will not want to purchase the canned variety. The one food I will bring home as "fast food" is Chinese food! It takes too long to make the soup, eggroll, and main course during the week (yes, I've done it).

So a nice meal, complete with appetizer is not uncommon in my house, nor is a dinner of cookies and coffee. I will admit, the coffee can keep me up too late on a work night, but I just suffer the consequences in the morning.

Cook as if you're worth it!! Forget the fast food (even though I'm a hamburger and french fry "junkie"), and boxed frozen meals. Enjoy your dinner by savoring every bite. I have to put the pasta on to cook now, as my Greek spaghetti sauce has been simmering for a few hours and is ready to eat!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Cannellini bean soup with spinach

So many people complain about the cold weather. Not me! I enjoy the feeling of the cold brisk wind hitting my face. The air isn't humid like the summer and I'm not gasping for air. Of course, the cold I'm talking about is the cold of the southeastern United States. Yes, I've experienced the cold of France, Germany, and Austria in the middle of winter, but I even enjoyed that too.

Today seemed a good day to make soup. I looked through several cookbooks and stumbled across a recipe for Greek soup made with chickpeas and spinach. Since I didn't have chickpeas, I decided to use cannellini beans. I used some of the herbs in the recipe, but quickly changed the entire recipe!

1 large onion, diced
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
2 tsp salt
2 tsp pepper
1 clove garlic crushed
1 tsp ground coriander
zest of one lemon
juice of one lemon

Cook onion in 6 tablespoons olive oil until tender, add other ingredients and cook for a few minutes.

I cheated and used canned beans (2 15 oz cans)
3 cups homemade chicken stock
9 oz baby spinach leaves
1/2 cup medium grain rice
2 cups water
3 Roma tomatoes diced

Add all of the beans except 1/2 cup to the onion mixture. Add the chicken broth and let simmer while spinach is chopped. Puree 1/2 cup beans and 1/2 cup water and add to the pot. Add chopped spinach, 2 cups water and 1/2 cup medium grain rice to pot. Cover and simmer until rice is tender. Add more water depending on constancy desired. Top each serving with diced Roma tomatoes.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Food for me???

Everyone cooked in my family when I was a child. This tradition continues to this day. Anyone was welcome to add a pinch of this or that to the pot! Everyone knows that my thing is always to "add more lemon"! My sister in law said that when she makes guacamole, she will taste it, and no matter what, add another lemon. I have developed a liking for sweet or plain iced tea. I would usually rather drink water, but on occasion, I will have iced tea. I'd rather not drink it at all if I can't have at least 1/2 a lemon in each glass. I was talking to my brother about the lemon use and he does the same thing. I've even put lemon and lime in my coke, water, etc..Though that's been done since my dad was a "soda jerk" in the 1930's when he was 8 years old! I could have a pantry and a refrigerator full of food, but if there is only one or two lemons, it's time to go to the store!

My oldest child has inherited my love for cooking, though not sure about the liking lemons as much as I. He will call and ask for a recipe which thrills me to no end. He even said one of his friends wanted a recipe that he made. What an honor! Whenever he comes home from the university, I usually have something in the freezer for him to take on his return. Guess what? When he came home this weekend, he brought the little cooler with two containers of frozen chili that he made! How nice is that? It was a bit on the spicy side for me though, but I'm glad there were not any halabaneros in it.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Cooler Temperatures....finally

It's been one heck of a long, hot summer. Temperatures in the 90's for most of the time. It makes me lethargic, sleepy, and downright grumpy at times. You know the feeling? It is so hot and humid outside that it literally takes your breath. Not to mention that I have black interior in my car...ouch!!

So, we've had some warm days this past week, but nothing like the summer. It's been nice to think about my personal change of menu. So long to all the main meal salads that I've been having over the summer. Welcome to more hearty dishes that will keep me warm throughout the day. Soups, stews, gratins, and casserole dishes will be a nice welcome and change to the routine. Normally, I wait until the first frost to make these foods, but I just couldn't wait!

The store is full of every kind of pumpkin and squash that is imaginable, cabbage, broccoli, and my "petite cabbages" better known as Brussels Sprouts. Am I the only person that will get a craving for Brussels sprouts? I saw the beautiful little mini cabbages (well, they sure do look like one don't they?) sitting in the basket at the market and it took no time at all for me to gather a pound or so for dinner! I like them in cream sauce with bacon, steamed with lemon, or pan sauteed with butter.

I probably had a pound of the little gems! I cut them in half and slowly sauteed them in unsalted butter until they were a light golden brown. I just used enough butter to coat the pan. After they were golden, I added the juice of one lemon and about 1/3 cup of water, put a lid on the pan and let them steam until just tender. I like them to be cooked through, but not mushy!! After they are tender, I drained them and shook off the excess water. To the frying pan, I add a few tablespoons of unsalted butter, the zest of one lemon, pepper, salt, and a touch of red pepper flakes. I put them in a bowl and grated fresh Romano cheese on top! I'm sure they would be good on pasta, but I'm a purist (sometimes) and just wanted the Brussels sprouts. If you don't think you are a fan of this little green gem, try them with this method. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


There isn't anything that I enjoy more than great company and delicious food. Sunday dinner as a child was hours spent around the dining room table with cousins, chatting and eating all afternoon. It seems that now, people are so rushed when they go to restaurants, or dining at home. Soccer or baseball games mean either a late night dinner, or a "grab and go" dinner. Yes, I had some days like that when my sons were younger. My youngest still prefers the grab and go quick meals in front of the computer, but my oldest will linger at the table. Hopefully, that will change as youngest gets older. What's wrong with hearing a story for the 100th time???

Last weekend, my cousin told me about his favorite restaurant, Eclipse di Luna, located in Atlanta. Since there are very few foods that I dislike, I told him I was game for anything unless it involved liver! His favorite restaurant is a Tapas restaurant. We met at 8:15 and chatted until our 8:30 reservation time. The restaurant was huge, with a large outdoor patio if one chose to dine outside (I've learned that "al fresco" isn't used in Italy for dining outside.... but that's another story in of itself).

The menu was vast with two sides: one side for the carnivores who like meat, pork, fish, etc... and the other side for vegetarian meals. I only eat meat about 3 times a week as summertime brings on cooler salads, fish and lighter meals. On this evening, we went "whole hog" and tried several things. After you see the list, please don't go thinking that I have a huge appetite. I'll go ahead and let you know that I have a huge appetite and can eat and eat and eat and eat!! The servings were small plates of items. Here is what we had:

Fried calamari with fresh tomatoes, onions in a sauce of vinegar and a "kick" of something (cayenne?).

A plate of 7 different kinds of Spanish cheeses with honey in one of the sections. Cheese and honey? Believe me, it works!!

Different marinated olives served with oven baked whole almonds. These were the best olives I've ever eaten. So delicious...

My cousin also ordered the skewered chicken and pork ribs which he graciously shared with me.

Hearty, crusty, country bread with an olive oil dipping sauce.

You would think that would be enough to last a week wouldn't you? Not for my cousin and I. Nope, we HAD to have dessert too. Unfortunately, we couldn't decide, so we shared TWO desserts!! Flan with caramel and a tres leches cake. His mom makes the best flan in the world, but this was a mighty close second. I had never had tres leches cake before, and I will say that it is my "new" favorite cake of the month! I've never had a cake that was so moist and delicious.

Being a coffee drinker, I had to have an espresso coffee to compliment the sweet desserts. The coffee was served with a piece of lemon zest, which I twisted to get out a bit of essential oil, and put in the coffee. No sugar needed as the desserts were so sweet. The coffee was as smooth as velvet (if that can be defined for a coffee). Not bitter in the least, but rich with flavor and just a wonderful accompaniment to the dessert.

Our 8:30 arrival time seemed so long ago...and it was!! We looked at our watch and discovered that it was 11:45! Yes, there were many other tables that had sat there just as long as we had; eating plates and plates of tapas and listening to the live Latin music. It was a night I will always remember. I will return with friends, family, and anyone else that wants to give Tapas a try. You won't be disappointed! I'm ready to go back today.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


I can't even think of the word "pancake" with out thinking of my childhood memory of my mom making the little silver dollar pancakes. I think that was the only time she used flour in the house, and that wasn't often. Oh, what fun it was to have little pancakes on the plate that one could stack and rearrange to make a smiley face. We could eat at least 6 or 7 of them. Once, my brother and I went to my aunt's house and she made pancakes. She asked us how many we wanted and she was shocked to hear 6 or 7. She made her pancakes as large as the frying pan and surely thought we were crazy for wanting so many. I still remember the laughter when we told her that our mom made the silver dollar pancakes.

I'm such an adventerous cook. I like trying new recipes, studying recipes, and especially eating them. I will admit though, that there are many, many foods that I probably would not try (i.e. buggy things, worms, snake, and fried bats, you get my drift). I'd probably have a heart attack and it'd be my last meal. Ah... my last meal. What would I choose? I'll have to think about that one. So now that I have completely changed my train of thought, let me bounce back to the "trying new recipes" part of this post.

If there is a kitchen gadget, I want it. If there is a different spice, I want it! Yes, it's that simple. I had some points with my credit card where I can "shop" on line. The first place I search is the kitchen area. Yes, I found something I really don't need, but am glad they had. It's an Aebleskiver pan for Danish pancakes. I already have a crepe pan for French "pancakes", and a pan for Dutch "pancakes", so now to add to my collection. It's a pan with round circles in them. The pancakes are pancake balls that one can make savory or sweet. I chose sweet. They can be filled with jam, fruit, nuts, spices, and whatever your imagination desires.

As a rule, I'm not a big pancake eater as they seem to sit really heavy on my stomach. Perhaps it's that they just aren't "fluffy" and airy enough for me. I much prefer crepes or french toast. I found a recipe for pancakes that had baking powder in it and I knew they would be light and fluffy. I decided to add some flax seed to part of the batter just because they are supposed to be healthy for us. You let the pancakes cook partway then I used a wooden skewer to gently pick up the edge and turn them. What fun! A pancake ball. I wish I would have had this pan when my sons were younger. They would have enjoyed this as a "breakfast" dinner with tons of syrup and bacon.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Vietnamese Food

When I was a child, I was not really all that interested in Chinese food. At that time, at least to my knowledge, there were not many Thai or Vietnamese restaurants in Atlanta. We did have Chinese restaurants though. My parents enjoyed the food and would bring it home on occasion. For some reason my taste buds just weren't thrilled with it.
When I was in college (at the University of Georgia... GO DAWGS!!) we had a friend that was from Hong Kong. One late night he came o
ver for a visit. He worked in a Chinese restaurant and brought us some food for a late night snack. It was that late night snack that turned my entire eating likes and dislikes 180 degrees! Oh my goodness, how I really enjoyed that food. I just couldn't get enough. So began my adventure with Chinese food. My friend worked in a restaurant where we would go quite often for dinner. Yes, we would
look at the menu, yet end up telling them to "just bring us anything you like". Off to the kitchen they would go, and back with some dishes that may not even be on the menu, yet something that they personally enjoyed eating. So now I was hooked and I had a lot of years of missing Chinese food to recoup!!

When I was working in an office and had an hour for lunch (oh those were the good ole ENTIRE hour for lunch) we would sometimes go out for Chinese food. I think I actually had Chinese food 5 days in a row (including dinner sprinkled here and there too). So, what's wrong with that? After all, Chinese people eat it every day!!

Since I enjoy cooking, I decided to give making Chinese food a try. I do remember that I had my cousins and aunt over for dinner. My husband (now my ex) and I gave it a wonderful effort, and it was tasty and delicious. Some menus one never forgets....ok, so I have forgotten a few of the items made, but I do remember that we had sizzling rice soup with shrimp (one of my favorites), homemade egg rolls, and Mongolian beef. It was nice for a first time effort, but I must say that it is much, much cheaper to eat out than prepare at home.

Over the years, I have made the simple stir fry dishes and a few others. Last night, I was in the mood to try Vietnamese crepes. I made an easy crepe batter (really more like a thin omelet than a crepe).
Two larges eggs
1 Tablespoon water
2 Tablespoons chopped green onion
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp dried basil (I went to two stores and could not find fresh basil!! I didn't feel like getting in the afternoon traffic on a Friday, so I opted to put dried basil in the eggs)

Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet and put 1/4 cup of the egg in the hot pan. Twirl the pan so that the egg evenly coats the bottom in a thin layer. Flip egg and cook "crepe" until done. Please don't over cook! Set aside

The egg crepe is to be added to large lettuce leaves for rolling.

Along with egg, I added fresh cilantro, julienne cucumber, carrots, green onion, and bean sprouts. Roll all ingredients and dip in dipping sauce as follows.

Juice of 1 1/2 limes
1 tsp garlic
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1/8 cup fish sauce (I didn't realize that Thai fish sauce was mostly anchovy (It's really not "anchovieish" at all, but I will cut down on the amount for next time...just my personal preference) When I go to the market next time, I will see if there are fish sauces from
different Asian regions. Will find out!
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp soy sauce

Dip rolled lettuce bundles in the sauce. The red pepper really gives it a nice "kick". Add more if you desire. I k
now my son would certainly add more.

So now that I have my taste buds in tune for Vietnamese food, my friend invited me to join h
er and her family in celebrating her birthday at one of my favorite Vietnamese restaurants tonight for dinner. I already know what I'm having..... Y
es! Vietnamese Crepes!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Varsity Jr. closing in Atlanta

For those of you who are not from Atlanta, the title of this blog may have no meaning for you. The Varsity Junior is a small version of the huge Varsity located near the Georgia Tech Campus. It's a famous hamburger restaurant that once was the world's largest. When I was a little girl, they had carhops that would go to your car and bring your order. It was always more fun to go inside though. There were several different dining rooms with a tv in each room. I was always amused at how many men would be in the room showing the daily soap opera.

The language of the Varsity was quite unique. "whatda ya have?" was asked at the counter... none of "may I take your order please?" No, that just isn't the way it is done at the Varsity. The main Varsity was so popular that about 45 years ago, they made a smaller one called the Varsity Jr. This is located on Lindberg @ Cheshire Bridge Road. Since then, there have been other Varsity Jr restaurants. There is one in Athens, Georgia.... home of my wonderful Georgia Bulldogs and the University of Georgia!

So, it was in the newspaper the other day that the Varsity Jr. at Lindberg would be closing on August 22nd. I will have to make a pilgrimage to the site to have my usual order (that hasn't ever changed since I was a child) of chili steak, fries, and a Coke. I may have to change up a bit and get two chili steaks! I certainly hope someone that likes onion rings will come with me!

Friday, July 30, 2010


During the past week, life has not been like a bowl of cherries! New stresses, old stresses, yet to be known, yet feared stresses have all reared their ugly heads! What to do? What to do? Now, I'm really a "go with the flow" type of person who takes life moment by moment. No choice in several matters, that's for sure. Many people hit the gym when they are stressed, running a few miles to forget about everything. Well, I was never a runner, so after a few minutes I feel like a leaded weight! The most I ever achieved in running was a few miles and I never really enjoyed that! Now, give me a beach with the roar of the waves, warmth of the sand, and I can walk for miles. Since I live north of Atlanta, there aren't too many beaches in the area. Lake Lanier doesn't count as it's a man made lake, with no salt air to cure whatever ails ya!! So what do I do? I combine two of my passions: cooking and photography. Now the fun part begins.... what to cook? It's summer, so definitely it will be something out of my Mediterranean or Lebanese cookbook. Since it more than likely won't be a baked item, I'll be able to "wing it" and make the basic recipe my own with tweeks, addins, takeouts, a splash of this and a bit of that!! Will see what happens.

So my stress relief is cooking. When I prepare a new dish, I'm totally involved in reading and trying to think of the final taste and how I can adjust it to my personal likes. My summer "personal likes" are lime, lemon (never had a day without using one in something..... ok, so that's a bit of an exaggeration, but not by far), and cilantro!! Just reading those ingredients made the Mexican cookbook make a flying appearance through my mind. So..... Mexican it is!! or maybe!! I'll do some searching and let you know the results!

This is my last summer day before I go back to work on Monday. It's 10:22am (I'm not usually a precise type of person, but I am sitting at my computer) and I've not had my morning tea yet! Will let you know later.... What would you prepare?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Summer eats

It's summer and I'm not one to eat a hardy breakfast, or anything for that matter, when the temperatures are high. We've had over 90 F for almost every day in July. It zaps my energy! My diet is just so light and different.

Sometimes I just skip eating which I know isn't good for you. Yesterday, I just wasn't hungry at all. I had juice and watermelon for breakfast and after running errands all day, had hot tea at a local coffee shop. Juice and grapes for dinner! Crazy meals I know, but why force yourself to eat just because the clock says that it's lunch or dinner time. Sure, I could have eaten, just for "eating" sake, but why?

And for every day like yesterday, which are quite rare anyway, there are those days that I eat a lot. Now, eating a lot in the summer and eating a lot in the winter are two different things. Summer breakfast is usually Greek yogurt with fruit and almonds, and drizzled with honey, or a muffin, bagel, or just a bowl of fruit salad. Lunch may be a sandwich or salad, and dinner is usually something cooked on the grill. Oh how I love the taste of charcoal cooked foods! They say it's not good for you, but I just add it to the list of things that aren't good for me like granulated sugar, not wearing sunscreen all of the time, and driving a little too fast sometimes (although lately I've seen more police cars just waiting to catch speeders, so I'm diligent to stay only a few miles over the speed limit) . I certainly don't want to get lost in that train of thought so I'll jump back to the summer foods.

I've not yet made my mom's and brother's stuffed tomatoes as that involves heating up the kitchen during baking time. Can you tell that I really don' t like the heat? If the temps didn't get over 80 F, I think I would be extremely happy during the summer. Of course if I lived on an island or coast, that would be an entirely different story. Anyone want me to house sit on a Greek Island next summer? Now that would be a fun job wouldn't it?

Anyway, summer is not over yet, and I still have plenty of time to purchase those huge vine ripe tomatoes from the local market and make stuffed tomatoes. In the back of my mind, I'm thinking that frozen fresh corn would be a good idea too. I'm just not one to have a lot of things in the freezer except the frozen pizza and chicken nuggets for my son and ice cream. By the way, the best sorbet is zesty lemon!

So for at least another month, I get to enjoy my summer foods. I know as the weather gets cooler, I'll be thinking of the winter stews, soups, and gratins that I like so much. Off to have my hot tea and fruit

Friday, July 16, 2010

Pizza on the Grill

There is nothing I enjoy more than cooking! Searching through cookbooks always gives me ideas. The only recipes I won't alter are those for baking! Baking is not one of my strong points and I have had many disasters in the kitchen to justify that statement! I could write a book on cooking disasters (ummm... cooking disaster blog?)! Along with baking, comes the use of yeast. There is no better aroma than a cake or pastry that is made with yeast. I consider myself a real trooper and will once again try to bake something, ANYTHING, successfully with yeast. I just don't "get it". Breads too tough, not light enough, and the list goes on and on.....

With that being said, I bet you are wondering why I called the title of the post, "Pizza on the Grill". The simple reason is that I cheated and used store purchased pizza dough! My local grocery store sells a freshly made pizza dough that is fragrant with the scent of yeast, light as a feather, and turns out the perfect pizza.

I purchased a pizza stone for the grill, yet after reading the enclosed paperwork, realized it is for a gas grill. Since I don't have a gas grill, I was somewhat timid about taking the risk and perhaps cracking the stone by using it over charcoal. So, I have a nice stone to use for oven baking, or until I purchase a gas grill. It's huge and will hold tons of cookies I'm sure! I decided to "wing it" and give it my best shot with out a stone.

I decided that I had better put the coals on one side of the grill just in case the dough started cooking too quickly, which it did. I was able to take it off direct heat to watch that it didn't burn.

You have to have everything at the ready when making a pizza on the grill. I didn't, but managed just fine, zipping from the deck to the kitchen, to the utter amusement of my dog who looked at me like I was crazy! The pizza toppings are not as evenly spread out as I would usually do them, but nonetheless it worked.

I used a baking grid with tiny square openings to cook the dough. I certainly didn't want my first attempt to fall through the grates of my grill! It would have been humorous to share, but I didn't want to chance it. I oiled the baking grid with olive oil and placed it over ash white coals to heat. After it was hot, I gently placed the "pre-patted" rolled, free form pizza dough on top. In no time at all I was moving the baking grid to the cooler part of my grill. The bottom of the crust was ever so gently charred with grill marks. I flipped the dough over with the pizza pan size spatula that came with the stone and cooked the other side. Being that my grill is not that big, a bit of the bottom of the crust was ever so gently "blackened" (so I didn't eat that piece).

After the crust was "baked", I quickly added tomato sauce, olives, onions, tomatoes, and mushrooms (which I had roasted in the oven), spices and cheese. I covered the grill and let it heat enough to melt the cheese. I removed it to a large wooden cutting board, cut it with a pizza cutter, and ate!! Hearing the crunch of the pizza cutter going through the dough, was just the dinner bell I needed signaling that dinner was ready!

For one large size pizza, I used the following:

1 large vidalia onion, very thinly sliced
1 large tomato (I'm fortunate that I have a farmer's market stand 5 minutes from my house for home grown tomatoes), sliced
8 oz sliced mushrooms
salt and pepper

Put the above ingredients on a foil lined baking pan, drizzle with olive oil until all are coated evenly, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and broil until the tomatoes start to brown, and the onions are tender. Toss occasionally to make sure all sides are cooked.

I also added sliced black olives, oregano, basil, and fresh parsley. The only ingredient missing was my favorite artichoke. I'll be sure and roast those next time. ....and there will be a next time!! My sons will never want a store purchased pizza again!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Stuffed Grape leaves (Domathes)

Stuffed grape leaves, you either love them or can't stand them! My oldest brother and I could eat them all day until there are no more left. My other brother won't touch them. The canned ones will do in a pinch as you just pop open the lid. I always have a few cans in the pantry for those quick appetizers to have on hand. Jarred pickled veggies (Greek style, not Italian), Kalamata olives, grape leaves, feta cheese, and flat bread, and you have a ready made, emergency appetizer ready to go....

It was Saturday and I was sitting around not being productive at all. House was clean, and I just felt like cooking. Cooking relaxes me, relieves my stress, and just makes me "feel good"! I'd been eying that jar of grape leaves for some time and decided that now was the time to make them. There are as many variations of stuffed grape leaves as there are people. I also like them stuffed with ground meat and rice for a more substantial appetizer. You can also use the filling to stuff cabbage leaves. It's all good!! I just like the grape leaves as they are memories of my childhood! I've been eating them since I was a child and don't think I'll ever tire of them.

They are really very easy to make. It's the chopping and cooking time that use up time.

Grape leaves............... Lisa Style!!
1 jar grape leaves
5 green onions
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
1/2 bunch parsley leaves chopped (I think I'll use 1 entire bunch next time)
zest of one lemon
juice of one small lemon
salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup short grain rice

2 cups water
1 lemon
1/3 cup olive oil (these three ingredients are poured over the grape leaves when cooking)

Cut the tougher part of the onion into pieces and place in a saucepan with 1/4 cup olive oil. Salt and pepper the onions, cover and cook over very low heat for about 10 minutes. You do not want it to get brown, just get tender.

After the onions have become tender, add the rest of the green part of the onion (chopped), parsley, mint, dill, and lemon zest to the mixture.

Add 3/4 cup short grain rice. Some people use long or medium grain rice. I personally used what I had on hand. I add the juice of one small lemon to the mixture.

Put a teaspoon mixture of filling in each grape leaf (towards the stem end), fold in sides, and roll.

Put grape leaves into a large pot, and cover with a heavy plate to keep them in place. I used a heavy lid from a smaller pot that worked nicely.

To the pot, add the juice of one lemon, 1/3 cup olive oil and about 2 cups of water.. enough to cover the plate/lid over the grape leaves. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, cover large pot with lid, and simmer for 45 minutes.

Let cool in liquid. I would probably add more parsley and dill just because I like the flavors and want to see more green specks in the roll.

These can be eaten warm, room temperature, or cold. When serving, sprinkle with fresh lemon juice and sea salt. You won't be able to stop eating them!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

tri color slaw

I'm always trying to think of different recipes to make for the summer months. It's so hot outside (today will be near 100F). Last night, I did not eat dinner until 9:30, which isn't that unusual for me. Tuesday, I had made some boneless ribs and cole slaw for dinner. Back during the school year, I had won a huge cooler filled with all kinds of bar-b-que items: sauces, skewers, napkins, utensils, graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate for somemores, etc... It was a silent auction for our school and I couldn't believe I won!!

So, before I tell you the slaw ingredients, I will tell you how I made the pork spare ribs. I rarely use ready made spices or bottled sauces just because of the fact that I enjoy making my own!! It's so much easier and fresher tasting to me, plus I enjoy it so much. I decided that I may as well use the bottled sauce since I had it.

Boneless Pork Ribs

6 large boneless pork ribs
bottled "bar b que" seasoning
bottle of bar b que sauce... your choice of flavoring

Preheat oven to 375 (I had intended on putting them on the grill for the last thirty minutes of cooking, but plans came up and I didn't want to wait for the coals to heat)... anyway, line a 9 x 13 baking dish with heavy duty foil (you will appreciate this step at clean up... I promise), put ribs in pan and rub generously with the bbq seasoning. Let them bake, uncovered, for 1 hour. Pour enough bbq sauce over the ribs to coat nicely and return to the oven for another hour. Do not cover them. You can turn on the broil for a few minutes at the end of cooking time. They turned out really tender as my youngest son can attest. I had about 1/3 of a rib just to taste it and he ate the rest!!!

Now for the slaw:

Yes, I "cheated" on this a little too..... How could I resist the sale on the ready made shredded cabbage and carrot slaw! Yes, I find shredding cabbage a pain. I do it, but I like it really fine and it takes forrrrreverrrrrr to slice it. I rarely measure ingredients as I cook, and it has been a challenge to remember to measure ingredients when I know I will post for my blog. This was one of those days when I made the slaw, ate it, I had an "OHHHH NOOOO" moment when I realized I should have written the ingredients. I bet you can "wing it" though and it will turn out fine.

1 package of ready made slaw (green and red cabbage and carrot mix)
1/2 bunch cilantro chopped
olive oil (I mix extra virgin and plain for this)
Juice of 1 1/2 limes (I like a lot of lime)
probably about 1 tsp cumin and 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
5 or 6 pickled jalapeno slices diced
black olives (not Greek) chopped (about 10 or so)

So pretty much it's just the olive oil that I can't remember! Try using 1/3 of a cup at first, then add more if necessary.

It's refreshing and has just a little kick from the red pepper flakes!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Farmer's Market

Three times a week, we have local farmers markets not too far from my home. I went for the first time last Saturday morning. I arrived at 9:30, which is early during the summer months, yet "late" for attending a farmer's market! I was talking with the vendors and was told that many had sold out already and left the premises! I guess it is true that the early bird does get the worm, or in my case, the blueberries! Yes, everyone had sold out of blueberries, but that didn't stop me from shopping! Friendly people with their tables set up with their home grown veggies, flowers, jams and relishes. My eyes are always bigger than my stomach, so I tried to have a little restraint. I settled for red potatoes, and 6 stems of sunflowers. My hopes for watermelon were also dashed as I was told it's a little early for them. July 4th seems to be the time that they are most available by local farmers.

I also read in the local paper that a elementary school parking lot was the site of a farmer's market on Friday afternoons. Perfect for those driving home from work. I contacted a friend and decided to meet her and her daughters at the place. This farmer's market was quite similar, yet very different than the one on Saturday. It was similar with booths of fruits and veggies, yet different with Hawaiian ices, vendors selling homemade soap, and a local restaurant selling fresh tamales and the salsas to accompany them.

Luckily for me, I found a vendor with blueberries!! I was so excited. It brought back memories of picking blueberries at my former in-laws garden. The perfect breakfast for summer is homemade blueberry muffins and hot tea! When I make blueberry muffins, I always add a tsp. of fresh lemon zest and juice to the batter. It just gives it a little hint of citrus with the blueberries. I also purchased some apples called "transparent". Now, I'm an apple lover from way back and I must say, I've never heard of them. The gentleman was older and said that they were an old variety he remembered from his grandmama. "Way before your time, young lady!" he said while telling me about the characteristics of this green gem. Not as tart as a granny smith, but it's on the tart side. I have tried just about every kind of apple, so I had to purchase some of these. The apples did have a slightly tart taste and the texture that I prefer. If you've ever eaten a Fuji, that is the texture I like in an apple. Plus, Fuji, is the apple I prefer to eat as a snack too.

The lady that sold me the sunflowers the past Saturday was at the Friday market shucking the corn and selling her garden's bounty. I was spoiled by my in-laws who grew the most delicious silver queen corn. Again, since it was just me, I tried my best to purchase only items that I would use until the next market day. Cucumbers and apples filled my shopping bag.

I can't wait to go back on Wednesday morning with hope that someone will have a fresh watermelon for sale! I'm curbing my watermelon craving with store bought, which is sweet and delicious, but awaiting the taste of one that is fresh from the garden! I'm sure that with the 4th of July just around the corner, the corn on the cob will be the first items to go! Grilled burgers, hot dogs, corn on the cob, and a few salads are the perfect meal for July 4th!

More market adventures to follow as they are open until mid September! Yes, there are advantages to living in the south. Our gardens supply us with fresh veggies through then.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Apple Stack Cake

I have three special recipes from my former mother in law, Myrtle. I was telling her granddaughters that I had the peanut brittle, pecan pie, and apple stack cake recipes. One of them wanted the apple cake recipe.

Myrtle and her husband lived on many acres of land complete with pecan trees, a huge garden, blueberry bushes lining the fence, rose bushes, flowers galore, and a "witches forest"! Oh, how I remember those days picking fruit or veggies from the garden, walking in the woods, or just sitting on the porch, or around the kitchen table talking for hours. What fun times.

My ex husband isn't much of a sweet eater. Two cookies would be "dessert" for him. For me, two cookies is just getting started!!! This is one cake that he did enjoy. When we first started dating, of course, I wanted to impress him with my cooking skills and his mother's recipe!

Being that my family is of Greek heritage, we used to have huge Easter celebrations with about 40 or so people inside cooking, outside grilling, and just having an all day affair. It was one of those days that I had made the cake the previous day and it was in a cake taker ready to go.... Well, we don't have many shy friends and nor did my parents. Our home was their home, and everyone felt at ease in the kitchen. One of my dad's friends remarked: "That was the best apple cake I've ever had!" to which my dad replied: "oh, no! You didn't cut that cake did you?". The answer was: "sure I did! How else could I have told you that was the best apple cake I've ever had?". We all laughed about it, and I took the cake down and told the story. I doubt that they remember though as there were so many stories over the years that brought tons of laughter.

Myrtle would dry her sliced apples in the hot summer sun! I did it the easy way and purchased the apples already dried. I wrote the recipe in a non-traditional way. I left it this way because this is how she said the directions to me. Give yourself a few days to make this cake as it needs to sit 24 hours before slicing. Also, you need to plan time to rehydrate the apples.

Old Fashioned Apple Stack Cake

In a small bowl put 1/2 cup buttermilk, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp baking powder Stir lightly

Cream together 1 cup shortening, 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar until well mixed

Add 2 eggs (probably large) and 2 tsp vanilla to shortening and sugar mixture

Add buttermilk mixture to the above mix

Sift together and stir into mixture: 4 cups all purpose flour and 1 tsp. salt. Add enough flour to make the dough easy to handle (like a cookie dough). Divide into 5 portions. Pat mixture into 5 round 9 inch cake pans lined with wax paper. It's a thin cake layer when baked. Bake 10 minutes at 425F. Let layers cool.

For the filling: 1 pound dried apples, 1/4 tsp salt, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp nutmeg, 1 tsp ground clove, 2 cups sugar.

Soak apples overnight in water and they will become soft. Drain off excess water. Add spices to apples and mash until an applesauce texture. Put the apples between the layers and let stand 24 hours before cutting.

When I first made the cake, I did not mash the apples. I had the slices between the layers and the cake was so tall it was almost impossible to cut!! It was so funny. The family endured my error with the chunky apples, but enjoyed the cake nonetheless.

I wrote the recipe just as she told me. I can hear her saying all of the steps. What a wonderful woman she was! I miss her and her joy of living!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Pie a la mode or not?

That is the question. I guess it depends on the type of pie. I think the only pie I like a la mode would be apple pie. It's always vanilla ice cream on fruit pies. My dad prefers chocolate ice cream with his apple pie. I'm such a "vanillaholic"! Vanilla ice cream or homemade whipped cream with vanilla is the perfect topper. I'm a dessert lover since childhood. I inherited the sweet tooth from my dad. My mom rarely ate sweets except on occasion. I have such a sweet tooth. I enjoy making pies as they are a lot more forgiving with errors than cakes. That's an entirely different story. I will share some of my cake catastrophes with you at another time.

I've had a few disasters at making pie. My family loves lemon!! We always have lemon in the house. I made a lemon meringue pie and doubled the lemon since we were lemon lovers. Guess what? The pie was so tart that all of our lips puckered, eyes grew wide, followed by "this is the best lemon pie I've ever eaten!!" Tons of laughter followed that episode.

My friend's husband enjoys baking pies. He's know for "Bob's Pies"! Anytime I am invited to an event where he will attend, I know that there will be pie....lots of pies; blueberry, raspberry, apple, and pecan all in one evening. How can I ever eat a slice of all of them? Where there is pie, there is a way! Bob is such a nice guy and he knows I enjoy his pies. There usually is some pie leftover, but not much, and I can usually have at least one piece to take home for breakfast the next day, that is unless it turns into a midnight snack first!

Back to the pies. My sister in law, Debbie made a delicious pecan pie just like her grandmother.... strictly southern style with a sweetness that just melted in your mouth. It was just a terrific variation on the pecan pie taste test of my life. I will admit, I have been known to purchase a slice or two of the frozen variety when I just had to have "one slice"! Living alone most of the time, I could easily eat an entire pie in a few days! My former mother in law, Myrtle, made the most unusual pecan pie! It doesn't use as much syrup as many and has almost a pudding base constancy. There are as many variations on pecan pie as there are southerners!! She used box pudding mix incorporated into the corn syrup. They even grew the pecan trees on their property. You can't get a better tasting pie than with home grown pecans! The trees were huge! I remember sitting and chatting with her and my sisters in law while cracking the pecans. What fun times. My brother in law, Bill and I were the ones that would get all "weak-kneed" when we found out she was making that pie! I used to joke and say the pie served two: Bill and I. I was never one to say: "just a small sliver" to her offering of pie! I would always take the slice that was "too big" for someone else.

Always hoping for leftover pie, I would take my slice home carefully wrapped in aluminum foil. "This is going to make a great breakfast" I would think on the way home. The next day, after the children and husband had left for school and work, I would place the pie in the oven to warm, coffee or hot tea at the ready, and the aroma of pecan, vanilla, and butterscotch filling the house. The pie will be savored soon. That is one of my all time favorite desserts for breakfast. Any kind of pie really.... or German chocolate cake, coconut cake, apple pie, etc.... I do eat typical breakfast foods too!!

Myrtle's Pecan Pie
8 inch pie shell-unbaked
1 cup light corn syrup
1 small Jell-O brand butterscotch or caramel pudding (I don't know if they make caramel any more)
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1 to 1 1/2 cups pecan
1 large egg

Mix all of the above ingredients and pour into pie shell. Bake at 376 for 35 to 40 minutes.

my variation: 1/2 box vanilla pudding and 1/2 box butterscotch pudding
1 tsp vanilla extract

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Tangy Potato Salad

It's summertime and the perfect time for grilling over charcoal, sitting on the deck and enjoying cool foods. I certainly have my summer menu and winter menus. Summer meals tend to be light, refreshing, and cooler. I have hundreds of cookbooks which I use during different times of the year. Spring and summer bring out my Greek, Lebanese, Mexican, and Mediterranean cookbooks. I found a recipe in one of my Lebanese cookbooks for a potato salad. Being the lemon lover that I am, I had to give it a try. After trying the recipe as is, I decided to change it up. Basically, I left the huge lemony flavoring but changed up the spices and herbs to suit my tastes. I have a tendency to do that with all of my cooking. I rarely leave a recipe "as is" except when baking. Baking is my least favorite part of cooking, but one of my favorites in eating!!! Where would I be without my crusty breads?

1/4 cup lemon juice (fresh lemons of course)
1/4 cup extra virgin Greek olive oil
zest of one lemon
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. chopped fresh mint
2 green onions, minced
2 or 3 chives, minced
1 tsp. lemon thyme
1/3 cup parsley, chopped
1 tsp Greek oregano
1 1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 1/2 pounds red potatoes or Yukon gold potatoes

This recipe is VERY LEMONY.... just the way I like it. You may want to cut the amount of lemon juice in half and see if you want to add more.

You can either boil the potatoes whole, or cut them into chunks prior to boiling. I always add salt to the water to give the potatoes a little flavor as they cook. Cook just until tender. You want them to hold their shape when stirring in the remaining ingredients.

Add the remaining ingredients to a medium bowl and stir until incorporated. Add the mixture to the potatoes after they have been drained, yet still warm. The delicious flavors will be incorporated more into the potato. This is delicious warm with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese, or served at room temperature or cold. Delicious for a picnic. It is light and very refreshing with grilled hamburgers, chicken, or fish!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Summer Cold

It all started on Saturday. That scratchy sore throat, no energy, just wanting to sleep. Ahhhh the dreaded summer cold. I'm the kind of person that doesn't get sick often and I can usually psyche myself "healthy"! I made a beverage of water with fresh ginger slices, orange slices, lime slices, and fresh mint. I let it sit in the refrigerator for hours. It was delicious cold, but I decided to heat a cup in the microwave. What a real sore throat soother...... just added a teaspoon of honey to sweeten it up a little.

There are certain foods that really soothe the cold for me. During the winter, I enjoy the Greek Avgolemeno soup. A soup with a chicken base with a lot of lemon and rice. It's not winter now, so what for comfort? Sure there are the beverages of citrus water (above), and of course hot tea. I remember countless mugs of hot tea, lemon, and honey when I was a child to soothe a cold. What else though?? My second thought was hot and sour or won ton soups from the local Chinese restaurant. I've even purchased frozen won tons to make my own soup from time to time. It's so easy with the addition of green onions, bamboo shoots, and water chestnuts. Not enough time to make really good soup after work today as I have no stock in my freezer, so I may head to the local Chinese restaurant for some warming soup.

What are your favorite foods to "cure" the common cold? Who knows, I may try one of them too.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Strawberries are possibly my favorite summer fruit. I remember as a child, my grandfather planted several strawberry plants at the back of the house. I remember the fragrant scent of those berries when I went to "help" him pick the berries. He would pick the berries and I was able to eat several of them as they were picked. You just can't beat a fresh picked strawberry. Even when I purchase them at the store, I pick up the container and smell it. I'm still searching for that "perfectly ripe" strawberry of my childhood. Sure I've come close, but never the exact same.

I've not picked strawberries since my sons were little boys. There is a certain excitement of spying the "biggest", "reddest", or most perfectly shaped strawberry. We filled a nice size bucket before continuing on our journey to Tennessee one year. This great berry needs no refinement or adornment to be enjoyed. I must admit that a chocolate covered strawberry is nice from time to time, and they do look nice on a chocolate cake, but I prefer them plain.

I attended a party this weekend and my job was to put the berries on a large white platter. These are the biggest berries that I have ever seen! They were so delicious too. A little powdered sugar and bowl of freshly whipped cream to give them a little more sweetness....which they did not need. These must be the berries my mom spoke of about their days of living in California. She said that the berries were so large, that she would peel them for the lady with whom she was helping! Now that is something I've never heard of.... peeling a strawberry!!! Perhaps the lady could not have seeds for some reason. I don't know as I never asked my mom.

If I am going to sweeten the berries, I'll add a touch of honey or sugar. I've been curious to try adding balsamic vinegar as I've heard that it really accentuates the flavor of the berry. I've not given it a try yet, but I do have some strawberries...................and some balsamic vinegar.

Two of my summer favorites for the warm evenings are zesty lemon sorbet and fresh strawberries. The tartness of the lemon (which happens to be my most used kitchen food) and the sweetness of the berry satisfy both the sweet tooth with a little tang to lessen the sweetness a tad.

I'd like to go strawberry picking sometime in the next month or so. I must look at farms in and around my area and see if that is possible. I do know that they must be eaten quickly as I'm not one to freeze them.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Spring Break

Ah.... Spring Break. Ten days off of work, sleeping past 5:30am, and doing whatever I want. Well, I had good intentions for spring break. I will say that half of the spring break was very nice albeit the pollen in the air. Unfortunately, for a few days, the flu reared its ugly head and I was sick. I went to the grocery store and was exhausted when I returned home. Took one look at my flushed face, took my temperature, and voila... 102! So that was the culprit. Groceries unpacked and not hungry at all. Now, that's a food lover for you. Shopping when not hungry just because I like to cook.

A good night of rest helped somewhat but I wasn't hungry. I knew I had to eat something though. Not much energy to cook, but wanted something warm. I now have a new favorite spring breakfast food which I ate for about 3 days while I was feeling ill.

Plain white bagel.. Yes, I like white bread!! Always have and always will. Whole wheat, pumpernickel, rye, are good too, but when I want bread as a comfort food, it's white all the time.

White bagel topped with sliced garden tomatoes, a few pieces of strong Swiss cheese (Emmentaler will work), a few grinds of salt and black pepper to finish it off.

Toast under the broiler until the cheese is golden brown. I served it with hot tea. This simple breakfast snack got me through the entire day.

I hope the spring flu doesn't grab hold of any of my readers. It was a few days of annoyance, discomfort, and lots of rest.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


Easter has to be one of my favorite times of year. What a wonderful time for renewal!! Traditionally, we have always had lamb on Easter Sunday. As a child, I remember the men digging a pit in the yard and filling it with charcoal to start the lamb turning on a spit. Yes, those were the days when everyone had a chance to turn the handle to keep it roasting evenly. Those days are gone. Several years ago, my dad ordered a grill that was especially made for the occasion.

My oldest brother Johnny's favorite time of year was Easter. He loved seeing all of the friends, relatives, and of course immediate family. The day started very early and ended usually very late. It was a lot of fun, music, laughter, stories, and of course more food than one can imagine.

Since his passing, Easter is a difficult time of year. Last year, Easter fell on my birthday and we celebrated at a Chinese Restaurant!! Now, that was something different. This year, we were talking about getting together as a large group, but family illness and us being "not quite ready" have made their appearance. So, we are all doing our own thing which is fine. Everyone has their own time frame of healing from the loss of a loved one. The boys are with their dad today. I've been home just doing things around the house. A reflective day on may aspects for me. I did make the traditional Greek Easter cookies yesterday which lifted my spirits. We only have them once a year, so they are always a special treat. I did freeze some of the dough, so I can have a special treat in a few weeks. The cookies can be made and then frozen, but I decided to freeze the dough.

It's a glorious day! I talked with my dad, aunts, brother, and others to wish them a Happy Easter. Christos Anesti (Christ has risen) Alithos anesti (Truly, He has risen). These are what I've heard every year on Easter Sunday. Indeed, He has risen!!! Have a blessed Sunday.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Potato Quesadilla

The other night it was cool outside, so I wanted something that would be filling for dinner. Something that would "stick to my ribs" as we used to say. I almost always have potatoes in the pantry and I was thinking about a baked potato for dinner. Then I saw the two perfectly ripe avocados in the bowl on the counter. Ummmm how to marry potatoes and avocado? I decided to bake the potato in the microwave. Ok, that part was done... now what? A little olive oil and butter into the frying pan. I sliced the potato into 1/4 inch slices and browned them in the pan until they were golden brown. I had some left over salsa (here is the link on my blog)

I heated a flour tortilla over the gas flame so much easier than getting out a pan, topped it with the salsa, placed the potato slices on top with Mexican grated cheeses, topped with fresh guacamole, and fresh cilantro. It was delicious. I decided that for breakfast it would be perfect with the addition of chorizo sausage or bacon and eggs included in the mix! I'll have to try it for breakfast one weekend.

Not really giving the measurements here as one medium size baking potato is more than enough for one tortilla. Also, you can use an amount of salsa to your taste as well as guacamole.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Lessons From a French Kitchen

While living in Paris and environs, I discovered to my delight many wonderful foods. Since I'm rarely hungry in the morning a cup of coffee, tea, or cocoa would start my day. Sometimes if classes were late, or I had the day off, I would eat some homemade yogurt. The yogurt was always homemade and I quickly became a master at making the yogurt too. My preference to this day is plain yogurt. No fruit on the bottom, no flavorings added, just plain. I will eat it with fresh fruit and honey on the side though. The machine would make 9 little containers of yogurt and it was made almost daily. When I returned home, a yogurt maker was one of the first things that I purchased. It lasted me several years. I have since discovered the Greek yogurt at the grocery store. It's the thickest yogurt I've ever had and the texture and taste are "perfection" in my mind.

If I did not have yogurt, I would always enjoy a soft, creamy cheese called Petit Suisse. I quickly became addicted to these little cups of high fat, creamy goodness. I was getting my calcium wasn't I? Sprinkled with sugar, the Petit Suisse could easily top a bowl of fresh fruit. Just reminiscing about all of the foods, makes me wonder if I can find this little gem of a cheese at one of my international stores here in Atlanta. I must take a look.

Orange juice for breakfast usually was fresh orange juice from the half of orange placed on an electric juicer. To this day, those have to be the easiest juicers for extracting all of the juice.

It's interesting how different sounds and smells can take me back to the Parisian kitchen. The "click, click" of my gas starter takes me back to Paris as well as way back to my childhood at my yia yia (grandmother) Maria's apartment. At least once a week, I am drawn back to France when I prepare my breakfast. It helps that I have a container next to my stove with French writing....

Trekking down about 100 steps to breakfast, I was always greeted with the sound of the coffee grinder noisily grinding beans for the morning coffee. At the time, I preferred my hot tea or cocoa as they were so easy for me to make myself. Oh, what I would have given to have had one of those travel cups that are so common now to enjoy on my way to the metro (subway) station.

Along with an occasional yogurt, petit suisse, or pain au raisin, I might have had a slice or two of baguette that was left over from the previous night. With my love of bread, Mme. always purchased more than enough bread so there would be some for the morning. Delicious butter from the western regions of France, along with strawberry, cherry, blueberry, or plum jam made the simple slice of baguette absolutely delicious.

I taught English conversation at a French high school for a few hours a week. The high school was called Lycee Sophie Germain and it was in the heart of the Jewish quarter of Paris. Needless to say, I quickly discovered the most delicious bagels that I have EVER had. This was before bagels were common at our local grocery store bakeries.

I learned to appreciate a really good cup of cafe au lait while frequenting an occasional cafe. Yes, the wonderful cafe, where after a time, the waiter knows your name and your order. Just to sit and drink coffee and watch the world go by is still one of my favorite ways to pass a few hours. I went to a coffee house this morning as we were out of school. Yes, I sat with my cup of tea, the newspaper, a book, and planned my day. Oh, how I wish I could start every day with a leisure cup of coffee watching the hustle and bustle of those running to work. Now, I'm part of that hustle and bustle, but not on my days off or the weekend. I'll enjoy the luxury of coffee with friends when I am able. Anyone want a Starbucks? Just give me a call.

Breakfast in Paris

One of my favorite breakfast items, I first had in Paris. While I was a student in Paris, I had to walk several blocks to the nearest metro station (porte d'Auteuil). Since I'm rarely hungry in the morning, a cup of hot cocoa could suffice for the walk and metro ride to classes. I can visualize now the back bakery door that was open on those cold mornings. The heat of the ovens and the aroma of the French breads would greet me on my walk. It was hard to resist stopping at the bakery, but most times I would continue on my way. Off to the metro, a few transfers, and several blocks later, I had reached my destination of the Sorbonne or the Alliance Francaise (depending on the day of the week). Invariably, I would pass a few bakeries on my way, until the aroma and chill of the morning would pull me into one of them. So many different things to try and try I did! My favorite breakfast treats were the croissant or the pain au raisin (raisin bread). It certainly is not the raisin bread that we know in the U.S., but more of a very flaky, croissant like dough sprinkled with golden or dark raisins. Rich, buttery goodness through every layer. Steaming hot from the oven, almost too hot to hold, but not too hot to eat, these were the perfect fuel.

That's how the French stay so thin. Walking from home to metro, then to work or class. It seems that all of my classes were always at the top floor of any building! Yes, I was using a stair master before there was a stair master! Walking up 5 or 6 flights of stairs does wonders for the legs. The home in which I lived was a 4 story townhouse in Paris. Guess where my room was? Yep, up at least 100 steps to the top. The view was terrific and the daily exercise did wonders for my figure. The bakeries sometimes have pain au raisin in the U.S., but none are as delicious as the ones found in Paris.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Will I ever grow up?

One of my favorite late night snacks is a grilled cheese sandwich! I don't know a single person that does not like grilled cheese. White or wheat, American, cheddar, or Swiss, it doesn't matter. What does matter is that one puts a lot of butter in the pan and cooks the sandwich slowly so the cheese is sure to melt.

The other night, I wanted a grilled cheese. Whole grain bread for starters. I then looked in the refrigerator and saw Swiss and provolone cheese. Two slices of Swiss and a slice of provolone cheese. Cooked slowly until golden brown. Like the old television commercials, I tried to do the sandwich showing the ribbons of cheese going from one side of the sandwich to the other. You know, it's sometimes the stupid little things that make me laugh!!

Every time I make a grilled cheese it reminds me of my son David. When he was 5 or 6 years old, I taught him how to make grilled cheese sandwiches. I even have a photo somewhere of him in his baseball uniform making lunch! He once asked how old one had to be to cook grilled cheese sandwiches at Applebees (a local restaurant). He was ready to go to work. He knew he could make a good sandwich.

When I was a child we had one of those griddles that was on a hinge. You folded the top portion over the sandwich being grilled and cook both sides at once. We were making our own paninis before we even knew what they were! hahahahaha So we've always liked our sandwiches kind of "squished"!
With my sandwich I like to have bread and butter pickles, olives, and dill pickles too.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Avocado appetizer

I enjoy avocado as guacamole, by itself, or in a salad. I usually eat about 3 or 4 avocados a week. It's one of those things that I always have sitting in a bowl on the counter. My guacamole is different each time. Sometimes, it's really heavy with fresh cilantro and parsley, other times I add green and black olives to the mix. I've even made avocado soup! What a refreshing summer dish. The other night, I treated myself to an appetizer of avocado and French bread. It was surprisingly delicious and simple.

4 slices of a French baguette, sliced about 1/2 inch thick
1 small avocado cut into slices
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp lemon pepper
drizzle of extra virgin olive oil... probably 1 tablespoon total

Cut the bread and put on serving dish. I did not toast it, but left it fresh cut.
Slice the avocado into slices or small pieces
put slices on the bread and drizzle with olive oil, lemon juice, and sprinkle with lemon pepper.

The olive oil and lemon juice saturate the bread as it sits for a few minutes and makes for a very simple appetizer. Best if eaten with a fork.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Cold January Day

It's a cold January day in Georgia. It's 9:30 am and the temperature is 27F. I've not even had my morning coffee and I am already thinking about what to make for dinner! Am I the only person that wakes up thinking about stuffed cabbage leaves? I've not made them since last winter, but they certainly are a warming dish. I was thinking if I could make a kind of stuffed cabbage lasagna style, using the cabbage leaves instead of the pasta. This is something I will have to think on today. Let's see.... cabbage leaves, ground sirloin/veal/pork mixture mixed with onion, garlic and tomato sauce. I'm wondering if it needs a sour cream/creme fraiche layer mixed with fresh dill. Perhaps just layers of cabbage, and meat sauce for now. I can always top it with a sour cream dill sauce. I may just give it a go. Don't know if I want to spend the time rolling up the individual leaves today. Yes, my dinner is set. Now, I need to find a good bakery with some fresh pumpernickel bread to serve with it. Off to find my Hungarian cookbook to get a few more variations on herbs and spices to use. Caraway, Dill, ... those are a given for me. A nice cucumber salad will compliment it nicely.

Essen Sie! Ok, that's German, but my translator did not have Hungarian! Eat!


Ingredients I must have in my kitchen (It's a long list, but I try and have these items on hand)

  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Cheese
  • Cumin
  • Curry
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Fresh Bread
  • Fresh Cilantro
  • Fresh Fruit
  • Fresh Garlic
  • Fresh Parsley
  • Greek Oregano
  • Kalamata Olives
  • Lemon ( At least 3 or 4 ALWAYS)
  • Peppers (Wax, Jalapeno, banana)
  • Red Wine Vinegar
  • Regular Olive Oil
  • Rice
  • Salad Ingredients
  • Sea Salt
  • Spanish Olives
  • White Balsamic Vinegar