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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!


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