NonChefNick, are you crazy? Baked Potato Skin Pizza Pie?

No, NonChefNick is not going crazy. He just hates to waste and so when there are food parts remaining, he brainstorms new ideas on how to use them. This is a perfect example of what it means to recycle unused food parts.

The other day, NonChef made wonderful mashed potatoes. He loves to use baked potatoes to make his mash because they remain very fluffy and therefore wonderful   mashed potatoes are created. The secret of making NonChef Mashed Potatoes will be forthcoming in a later posting. You won't want to miss that one. So anyway, there were these crispy baked potato skins left and instead of making the regular ole standby potato skins with cheese, bacon, and chives, he chose to make this great pizza using the skins as the crust. Trust him, this was delicious and so different, not to mention so simple to do. All the ingredients you will find in your kitchen.

1 springform pan or cake pan ( 10 inches in diameter)
Potato skins from 5 medium baked potatoes
3 green onions, chopped
4 mushrooms of your choice, finely sliced
2 large shallots, sliced (not chopped)
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
4 pads of butter, cut into halves
1/2 teaspoon of cracked pepper
2 or 3 pinches of salt
1 1/2 cups of grated cheese (Gruyere, Aged Swiss, or Parm)

Preheat your oven to 400 and spray your pan with cooking spray. Make sure your potato skins are flattened, so if you need to cut them on the sides, go ahead and do that. Next, begin to cover the bottom of your pan with the potato skins so that bottom is completely well covered. At this point it would suffice it to say that hopefully you left a little of the potato on the skins, as it makes the dish all that much better.

Now begins the layering. Start by sprinkling half of the cheese over the potatoes. The reason you want to do this is that as the cheese melts, it will help fuse the potato skins together. Next, add your shallots, then the mushrooms, the green onions, the garlic, and place the pads of butter evenly around the pie. Finally, sprinkle the remainder of the cheese over the top. If you need to, grate more cheese, as you want to make sure the pie is evenly covered with enough cheese.

Transfer the pie into the oven and bake at 400 for about 25 to 30 minutes or until the cheese has well melted and turning golden yellow with some darker peaks. Remove from the oven and let rest for a few minutes before you transfer the pizza pie onto a cutting board. Using a large sharp knife, cut it like you would a regular pizza or you may cut it in a grid and make square pieces.

The sky is the limit as far as what you can add to this. Suggestions have included chunks of chicken, olives, bacon, and thinly sliced beef. Whatever you desire, you can do. Just remember one thing however, use what you already have in the fridge or pantry, leftovers, etc. This is a great way to empty out some of the stuff you might end up not using because the quatity wasn't enough to feed mor than one. So if you have a leftover piece of steak, chicken leg, or a couple of slices of bacon left, use it. Make two Potato Skin Pizzas and try them out on your next Sunday foodball viewing get together. Enjoy them !!

Lentils are a cool veg when cooled for Lemon Lentil Salad

Lentils, one of the great legumes of its category. These little beans are so full of nutrients and are a wonderful source of protein. No wonder they are always on the grocery lists of so many vegetarians. This is not to say that the rest of us meat eaters haven't fallen in love with them either. On the contrary, lentils can be found in most kitchen cabinets and pantries around. Most of us are familiar with the wonderful soups and stews these beans make. If you go to the archives of this blog, you will find such recipes; however, chilled lentils in salads are a lesser known use. Now I know there are a lot of you in the know that are the exception. But let me talk about a wonderful way of preparing chilled lentils that you will find absolutely refreshing, full of flavor, and oh so healthy. I call this recipe Lemon Lentil Salad.

This recipe uses the French green lentils that are deeper in color and are different than other lentils in that they are more round and tend to hold their shape when cooked. They have a wonderful rich flavor and are ideal when creating salads. I strongly recommend using this type of lentil when preparing this dish. Here's what we need:

1 1/2 cups of dry French lentils
6 cups of water
1 small shallot, minced (optional)
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 green onions, finely chopped
Zest and juice from 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

This recipe will take about an hour from start to finish. When you have put this together, please chill in your fridge for at least an hour before serving. Options for this dish may also include 1 teaspoon of ginger paste and chopped mint leaves.

Start by bringing 6 cups of water to a boil in a large pot. Once water is boiling, add the lentils and boil for about 40 minutes or so. You want to check them so they aren't over cooked, so at 30 minutes check them. When they are al dente, they are ready. They should still retain their wonderful shape. Once ready, remove them from the stove top and immediately strain them and run cold water over them for a few minutes. This will stop the cooking process. Once well drained, transfer them to a large bowl and add the parsley, green onions, and minced shallots, toss gently with a large serving spoon. Cover with plastic and place in your fridge.

While lentils are cooling, prepare your dressing. In a small bowl, add the olive oil, the lemon juice, salt and pepper and blend vigorously until the olive oil begins to emulsify. You may if you wish, add a half teaspoon of Dijon mustard or a teaspoon of rice vinegar. This is a very forgiving dish, meaning that it has no problem with added ingredients. Once well mixed, add the dressing to the lentils and gently toss. Return lentils to the fridge until well chilled. This dish may be served on a bed of Boston (butter) lettuce and can either be served as a salad course or an appetizer. It's absolutely wonderful. I'm serious!

The Sunday Surprise... new French Toast McNonChef Sandwich satisfies brunch cravings

It's miserable out there today, rain, cold, you just want to stay home. But you have a Sunday brunch craving and what will you do. Well fear not, NonChefNick has come to the rescue again. Chill the Champagne and get ready for a wonderful new sandwich to hit the breakfast scene. Move out of the way McDonalds and Burger King. Wimpy's, you ain't got nothing on NonChefNick's French Toast Sandwich, your Sunday Surpise!

I had all those cravings this morning; however, I was tired of the same old thing whenever I have a craving for breakfast. I guarantee that if you try this sandwich at home, you will have it time and time again from here on out. It is so easy to make and introduces a whole new twist to two popular breakfast dishes, French Toast and bacon and eggs. It marries the two to provide a wonderful savory breakfast or brunch entree that feels perfectly comfortable with a chilled glass of Champagne. Let's begin by getting together all the ingredients for this dish. First, a word about nutrition. The ingredients mentioned here contain very little cholesterol and fat because we are using an egg substitute, you know, the kind that you find in the milk style carton next to the regular eggs. The product can be found throughout the US and Canada, and I'm sure it's available throughout other parts of the world. Another thing to mention, this recipe is for one sandwich, so measure according to your needs. I want to warn you however, one of these sandwiches can easily satisfy two people. As a side dish, you may have a selection of cut fruit such as oranges, bananas, and pears.

2 cups of egg substitute (this saves you 350 mg. of cholesterol)
2 slices of nice thick white bread (I think it's called Texas style?)
2 strips of thick, lean bacon (you may use turkey bacon)
1/4 cup of shredded Swiss, Parm, or Gruyere cheese
2 tablespoons of butter (or butter substitute)
1/4 cup of finely chopped parsley
1 tablespoon of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

If you use some of the substitutes, you will save a lot on fat and cholesterol. If you choose to use regular eggs, you will want to use 3 eggs and 1/4 cup of milk.

In a saute pan, fry the bacon on medium heat until cooked, about 3 minutes or so. Set aside and rest on paper napkins. Wash your pan so that you can use it for your bread.

Pour the egg substitute in a dish or container and soak the bread on each side for about 10 seconds per side. Remove bread slices and set aside. There should be plenty of egg substitute left over. If not, add a bit more. Now add the cheese, parsley, salt, and pepper to the mixture and mix well. Set aside.

In your saute pan, add the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter, heat over medium heat. Once butter has melted, saute your bread for about 2 minutes on each side while reducing heat to medium low. When bread is golden brown, they are ready. Remove and set aside. Clean your pan, spray it with cooking spray and pour the remainder of the egg substitute into the pan, saute over medium heat for about a minute. Cover and shut off heat. Let side for another 2 minutes.

Now it's time to put everything together. Start with setting one slice of the French Toast on a plate. Next, place the sauteed egg substittute on the toast. Then add the two slices of bacon, and finally place the second slice of French Toast on top. Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter and drizzle it over the sandwich and sprinkle any remaining parsley over it for garnish. You may choose to surround the sandwich with the sliced fruit. Enjoy your brunch. To think, you didn't even have to leave the house !

Ginger Prawns highlights what marinating can do for flavors

One of the wonderful things that we can do in the kitchen that always enhances the flavors of various foods is to marinate. You can take meats for instance and marinating will take a lesser cut to a whole new level, thus saving you money. Indeed it's a very inexpensive way of elevating the taste barometer. What's so wonderful about this is the sky's the limit when it comes to ingredients to use for your marinating.

In addition to cheaper cuts of meat, marinating works wonders for even the higher end foods such as seafood. Prawns are a perfect candidate for this process and this article will introduce you to the effects that ginger has on bringing out the rich and savory flavors that come from the sea.  Ginger Prawns are the end result of the infusing of the ginger root's flavor into the flesh of the prawn through several hours of marinating in a bath of several ingredients both liquid and dry, for several hours. This is what you will need to do before completing the dish that we will create today. Let's start by getting the following ingredients into a container that you can snap shut:

2 tablespoons of fresh ginger, minced and crushed
1 clove of garlic, minced and crushed
1 small shallots, diced
2 tablespoons of sesame oil
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
2 tablespoons of rice vinegar
Juice from 1 lemon (love the Meyer lemons)
1/4 cup of cold water
dash of salt and pepper

Mix all these ingredients thoroughly and with a fork, mash the ingredients more. Once well mixed, let it set for about 15 minutes to allow all the flavors to infuse. During this time, you can work on deveining and butterflying your prawns.

What does it mean to "butterfly" ?

You have probably heard this term time and time again if you've ever spent time on the internet and surfing the various food sites. Whether it is for beef, chicken, fish, or whatever protein you are preparing, butterflying is simply the process of opening and fanning out. Indulge me for a moment and put the palms of your hands together. Now imagine the line that is made where the two palms connect is a cut made by your knife. Now slowly start opening your palms while keeping the end where your little fingers are, tightly connected. This is called butterflying. This is what you need to do with your prawns.

Let's start out by talking about the prawns to use. Don't go with the smaller ones. Stick to the ones that are 16 count or less. The number 16 indicates how many it takes to make a pound. Ideally, if you can find some with a count of 12 it would work great. It's a bit more expensive per pound; however, you also need fewer prawns that way. Next you want to devein which means to cut into the shell at the top (or the back) of the prawn. There is a dark colored string like vein that you want to remove. Easily done with a sharp knife, be sure to run cold water afterwards. Do not remove the shells at all for this recipe. Once you have made a cut on the back, continue to cut into the flesh until you can fan out or butterfly each half, while still connected. Set each prawn shell side up on a board and with your hands, flatten each one nicely. Once done, add them to the ingredients you used for marinating. Mix all the ingredients and prawns well and cover tightly, set in the refrigerator and leave it for about 3 hours. You should count on 4 prawns per person for a 12 count or 6 prawns for a 16 count.

What has been found to compliment very well with Ginger Prawns is a nice Chinese noodle dish, tossed with sauteed mushrooms, shallots, and other ingredients of your choice. There are a variety of Chinese and Asian noodles out there so it is a matter of personal taste as to which ones you will want to use. For this dish, the popular Chow Mein style is being used. These noodles cook very rapidly, so don't start them until you have completed the marinating process. To accompany your prawns, here's what you'll need:

16 oz package of Chinese noodles
1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 cup of oyster mushrooms, roughly cut with your hands
1/2 cup of either Shitake or Enoki mushrooms, sliced
2 garlic cloves, very finely sliced or slivered
1 shallot, chopped
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of sesame oil
Pepper, dash of salt

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Remember the marinating ingredients you put together? Remove the prawns and set them aside. Now add the remaining liquid to the pot of water. This will add a very nice flavor to the noodles.

In a large fry pan, add the olive oil and sesame oil and heat over medium high heat. Quickly saute your prawns once oil gets real hot. Saute skin down first for about one minute, then turn them over and saute for another minute or so. Remove them and set aside, covered with foil. Now add the noodles to the boiling water and occasionally stir with a large fork. Now saute your bell pepper, mushrooms, shallot and garlic over medium heat and stir for about 2 minutes. Add 1/2 ladle of the pasta water to the frying pan and stir with a spatula. Remove pan from heat. Continue to boil noodles for about 2 more minutes until they are cooked al dente. Now add the frying pan back to the medium heat and with prongs, add the noodles to the pan and stir for about 1 1/2 minutes. Transfer noodles and mushrooms to a serving platter and garnish with the prawns. Serve while still hot. You will love the combination of flavors and the ginger very mildly comes through both the prawns and the noodles. This dish is definitely worth a try.

Swai fish provides great value for the nutrition that it packs

Have you heard of Swai fish? Well, if you haven't, you eventually will. It is beginning to show up in many of the national grocery chains including Kroger's. This is a fresh water fish that produces a wonderful mild flavored flaky, white meat. It is primarily raised in S.E. Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand). A versatile fish, you can bake, bread and fry, and poach it. Because of its mild flavor, it lends well to sauces and various spices. And if that hasn't sold you on it, how about $3.50 to $4.50 per pound? This is an unbelievable low price when you consider Halibut, Salmon, or Sole running 3 to 4 times that amount. To top it off, it is very nutritious as well, with only 100 calories per 4 ounces, 2 to 3 grams of fat, and about 50 mg. of cholesterol. These figures are even lower than chicken.

Poaching or baking of course will keep the fat and cholesterol amounts low; however, breading and sauteeing produces an incredible entree that is crunchy, moist, and very savory. I have chosen to do just that. Before I do however, I marinated this fish with olive oil, juices from 1 Meyer lemon, garlic, a dash of rice vinegar, salt and pepper, for about 4 hours in the fridge. Then I dredged each piece in flour, followed by a bath in an eggwash, and finally rolled it in a dish of Panko bread crumbs. I heated up about 2 cups of vegetable oil to 350 degrees and fried each side for about 2 minutes, and finally transferred the fish to a 350 oven for about 15 minutes. It turned out so incredible!

This recipe is perfect for fish and chips and a nice replacement for the much more expensive Halibut. It turned out every bit as good or better than that which you can find in some of the dinner restaurants around town. Squeeze a half lemon over the top, or make a sauce of mayonnaise and wasabi paste, or simply a sauce of sesame oil mixed with rice vinegar and soy sauce. This fish is truly one that you must try before the grocers and resellers decide to jack the price up like they do with everything else that becomes popular. Most of the Swai fish you can find has already been flash frozen, so the freshness is well retained. Buy a pound of it and if you like it, go back and buy another 5 pounds and stick it in the freezer. It will easily keep 6 months. You won't regret it and neither will your pocket book!

Imagine candlelight dinner for two in under 30 minutes ... and less than $3.50 per person!

OK, so now you're intrigued. Is it Burger King or McDonalds. Buzz! Wrong on both accounts. Let's face it, McDonalds and Burger King - and for all you Europeans out there, I include Wimpy's in this list, won't serve you dinner for less than $4.99 per person. Forget about all those fancy restaurants, multiply that by 10. You're probably at home right now, the place where $3.50 will get you an entree and a salad in less than 30 minutes (and you'll even have extra time to light the candles).

It doesn't get much more romantic than to serve your special someone Rock Shrimp Linguine in a light cream sauce and a nice tossed salad of greens, all under candlelight. This is such a simple dish to make and there are probably dozens of versions out there, but this one's my favorite. Needing few ingredients, this dish marries the wonderful textures of fresh linguine with the savory flavors of rock shrimp and garlic, tying it all with a delicate cream sauce that will have you coming back for more. As in France, renew the palate with a refreshing crisp bed of green lettuce drizzled with olive oil. Depending on where you live, this really can be had for between $3.50 and $4.00 per person. The West Coast of the U.S. offers these prices for two:

8 oz. of fresh rock shrimp = $3.50 ($6.99 per pound)
12 oz. of fresh linguine = $1.99
1 medium shallot = $0.20
3 cloves of garlic = $0.15
1/4 cup of parsley = $0.08
1/3 cup of half n half = $0.30
2 tablespoons of olive oil = $0.15
2 tablespoons of butter = $0.30
Salt and pepper to taste = (you've got to be kidding, right?)

Total for the Entree = $6.67 (for two)

3 cups of lettuce = $0.45
2 tablespoons of olive oil = $0.15

TOTAL Cost = $7.27 for two

OK, so I'm over budget by 27 cents, but aren't both of you worth it? Let's get started before we're no long "in the mood". Thinly slice your garlic  and finely chop the shallot and the parsley. Three cups of lettuce is probably equal to about 10 leaves roughly cut by hand. Get all those things prepared.

In a small pot, get about 8 cups of water to a slow boil. In a medium sauce pan, heat the oil over medium high heat. Saute the shallots and garlic for about 1 1/2 minutes. Add the rock shrimp, turning the heat to medium, stir and saute for about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low and add the butter; when butter is melted, add the half n half and stir well. While this is happening, add the fresh linguine to the boiling water and turn that heat to high. Back to the rock shrimp, now add the parsley and salt and pepper to taste. After 90 seconds has passed, your pasta is ready. With a set of tongs, take the pasta out of the water and add it to the saute pan. Stir well so that the ingredients are perfectly incorporated. The extra water that was left on the pasta will also help to keep sauce moist and from drying or getting too thick.

Portion out 2 equal parts on dinner plates, light the candles and enjoy this savory dish. If you want, you may sprinkle a bit of grated Parm or Gruyere, but not too much, you want the flavors not to be drowned out.  When finished, soak the lettuce leaves in cold water for a couple of minutes, drain and place in a bowl. Add your salt and pepper as well as the olive oil and toss lightly. Enjoy your romantic evening.

Roasted Pepper Bread Pudding brings a new twist to pudding...

I've always heard of bread pudding being made for the sweet tooth. Wonderful bread puddings made with banana, raisins, cinnamon, and other sweets have always populated the recipe books. I got to thinking if there were any recipes for bread pudding that included vegetables or meats, bread puddings that would make wonderful appetizers or first courses. So I got to work and decided to come up with my own recipe for Roasted Pepper Bread Pudding. This was so easy that anyone could do it with their eyes closed. And the outcome turned wonderful. I know it was a crap shoot, but I had to try it. And now I want to share this with you. Perhaps you've heard of making bread pudding as an appetizer and if so, I'd would love to hear about the variations. Here's what mine contains:

10 slices of plain white bread, crust cut out
3 large roasted red and yellow peppers or
       1 16 oz jar of roasted peppers
1 large shallot, diced
1/4 cup of chopped parsley
1 1/2 cups of shreaded Gruyere or Swiss
2 to 3 cups of non sweet custard (I will tell you how to make it)
Salt and pepper to taste

That's all you need, it's very simple. Let's first get all the ingredients ready and prepared. With your hands, cut up the bread in one inch chunks. If you have old stale bread, this will be a great use for it. Set bread in a bowl. Dice your shallots and add to the bowl.  Chop your peppers into 1 inch by 1 inch pieces, add to the bowl. Shread your cheese and add 3/4 of it to the bowl. Save the rest to top during the final 20 minutes of baking. Be sure to preheat your oven to 350.

Now here's an easy and quick custard to make. This is so easy it's so silly!  Here's what you need:

2 1/2 cups of milk
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon of salt
dash of nutmeg

If you want a richer custard, use at least 2 percent or better in milk fat. Or if you wish, you can use 2 cups of milk and 1/2 cup of half and half. Heat the milk in the microwave on high for about 2 1/2 minutes. While the milk is heating, beat the eggs, salt, and nutmeg well in a bowl. Now, while still beating, add a small amount of the milk a little at a time. You don't want to have scrambled eggs, so adding a bit of the milk will keep the eggs from cooking. Slowly keep pouring the milk in while beating the mixture. Once all incorporated, add the liquid to the bread and again using your hands, mix everything well. Finally, add the parsley and mix into your pudding.

Now you will need a bread loaf pan for baking. Be sure to rub either butter or spray cooking spray at the bottom and around the sides of the pan. Pour the mixture into the pan and bake at 350 for about an hour, checking it at 15 minutes before done. During that final 15 minutes, sprinkle the remainder of the cheese over the top.

When your bread pudding is done, remove it out of the oven and allow it to cool for about 15 minutes. Carefully remove it from the pan after 15 minutes and slice it in 1 inch slices. You may pour some sauce over it if you wish. I love a bechamel sauce. Or if you wish, just a little melted compound butter made with butter and basil. I hope you like it. It is certainly a departure from what we are accustomed to with bread pudding. Enjoy.

Perhaps the best Braised Pork Ribs you'll ever have..

From the beginning, this blog site has stressed the importance of simplicity in the kitchen no matter what you do. With that said, it has also been understood that visual appeal and savory flavor should never be sacrificed in the process. It is the intent of this blog to adhere to those principles and to never let you, the reader, down without exception. Whether the recipes call for 30 minutes time or 3 hours, you will never be asked to accomplish anything that is beyond the scope of your capabilities. The end result is to expand the possibilities of what can be created in the kitchen and as a result, make us all better nonchefs.

What you are about to learn in this next creation takes simplicity, appeal, and flavor into consideration. This is one of my signature dishes, according to those that have enjoyed it in the past. My Braised Pork Spareribs are the most savory and moist ribs you will probably ever taste, providing you follow my directions, which I assume you will. This recipe has always been a hit at the dinner table and the responses I get have been that my ribs are the best anyone has tasted. Before I get carried away, I will stop with the self promotion; however, I think you get the idea.

Let’s start with the ingredients:

3 lbs. of your favorite cut of pork ribs
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 medium shallots, finely chopped
12 cloves of garlic, rough chopped
2 large roasted red peppers sliced in ½ inch widths (or buy a jar of them)
2 medium carrots, chopped
1 ½ cups of chicken stock
1 small can of tomato paste
4 tablespoons of plain BBQ sauce (smoked)
1 teaspoons of salt
2 teaspoons of coarse ground pepper
½ teaspoon of smoked sweet paprika
1 teaspoon of dried basil
½ teaspoon of thyme
1/3 cup of olive oil

As it is always the case, please do all your prep work before you start cooking. By doing this, you won’t forget anything, accidentally overcook something because you were busy chopping, or simply get frazzled. Trust me, I’ve done it the other way and things always go wrong. So do your slicing and chopping now.

Cooking this dish is a two stage cooking process. First, you’re going to sauté and brown the meat, and then you are going to slow cook it in the oven. If you have a large oval shaped Dutch oven, you will want to use that. Otherwise, just get the largest frying pan you have. If you can avoid slicing up the pork rib rack into sections, that would be great. Otherwise, go ahead and cut it in 2 halves and brown each separately. Start by preheating the oven to 350. Next, get your pan of choice and heat ¼ cup of the oil over medium heat. Sprinkle the meat side of the ribs with  some of the pepper, and the regular salt. Sauté your meat for about 2 to 3 minutes on each side until browned. When browned, pour ¼ cup of the chicken stock over the ribs and deglaze the pan or your Dutch oven. If you’re using the Dutch oven, cover with the lid and place it in the oven. If you didn’t have one and used a frying pan, transfer the ribs and the liquid to a large and deep baking pan (lasagna pan works good), cover tightly with foil, and place it in the oven.

While the ribs are in the oven, get a large frying pan and heat the rest of the olive oil over medium heat. Sauté the shallots and garlic for about a minute, then add the onion, and continue to sauté until the onions become translucent and begin to brown. Next, add the carrots and stir occasionally. Continue to sauté for a few more minutes and add the remaining chicken stock and the paprika, as well as the basil and thyme. Reduce heat to low and add the tomato paste and bbq sauce and stir well so that everything is well blended together. Taste for flavor and add salt and pepper if needed. Finally, add the sliced roasted red peppers and allow the sauce to begin to bubble. Transfer the sauce to the pot with the ribs, making sure that all the ribs are well covered. Recover pot tightly and continue to bake for 60 minutes at 325. Be very careful to use oven proof mitts or pot holders, as the Dutch oven lid and sides is extremely hot.

When done, remove the pot from the oven and let sit covered for about 5 to 10 minutes. Get your serving platter ready. Remove the ribs first and set on the platter. Since the pork most likely sweat out a lot of oils, to reduce the calories and fat content, you will want to put your sauce through a strainer to get rid of excess oil. Once done, spoon the sauce over the ribs or around the ribs, it’s your choice. Serve with steamed rice or wonderful boiled new potatoes. Sprinkle some chopped parsley over the ribs as garnish. You are going to find that the meat simply falls off the bone, it’s so tender and moist. I will let you discover the incredible flavor for yourself, but as a hint, I had this for dinner Saturday evening and I’m still smacking my lips. Enjoy it to the bone!

It's like candy for Vegans..... Caramelized Balsamic Boiler Onions

I've got to confess that I've never made this before; however, the other day while at the grocery store, I ran across these wonderful little boiler onions and they were on sale. I purchased about a half pound and decided I'd try my hand at coming up with a recipe. Boiler onions are very small onions, similar to pearl onions except that they are flatter. They are usually about 1 1/2 inches in diameter and no more than 3/4 inches thick. You most likely have seen them in the antipasto counter of your favorite store, along with the pickled condiments, olives, peppers. You can buy those by the pound and be broke by the end of your shopping. These little ones I found were located in the produce department and were on sale for about $3.00 a pound, skin on.

So I take my new little friends home and realize that they are going to need peeling. There is a very quick and cool way to peel little onions like this. You want to just peel away the first thin layer and try not to cut the ends so that the onion will stay intact and not break apart when cooking. Take a small pot of water and bring it to a boil. Drop the onions in and boil for about 4 minutes. Stir about every 30 seconds or so and you will start seeing the peelings begin to flake off. After 4 minutes, remove the onions and soak in cold water to stop the cooking process. Once cooled somewhat, begin the remove the thin skin layer off using your thumb and index finger. The skin should easily come off. If you want to trim some of the end off, use a sharp pair of scissors and just the excess off. Now your boiler onions are ready to go to the sauté pan. Here's what you'll need for this delicious treat:

1/2 lb. of boiler onions, peeled as instructed above
1/3 cup of nice Balsamic Vinegar
3 tablespoons of water
1 tablespoon of olive oil
2 tablespoons of butter
2 teaspoons of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of coarsely ground salt (sea salt is great)
Dash of pepper, coarsely ground

By the way, was there any mention of how simple it is to make this? Well, it's true. For all you vegetarians out there, this will certainly appeal to you. The combination of sweet and tangy is delicious. The onions are so tender and retain good moisture. These flavors will explode in your mouth with every bite.

In a sauce pan, add the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter. Heat over medium heat until butter has melted into the oil. Add the onions and sauté until they have browned to a light golden color. This should take a few minutes or so. Once browned, remove them from the pan and set aside.

Add the Balsamic and the water to the pan over medium heat and stir so as to deglaze the pan. Reduce the heat to low and add the remaining butter, the sugar, salt, and pepper. Stir well and add the onions back in. Make sure the onions are well coated. Continue to cook on low until the liquid has reduced by half. Reduce heat to simmer and cover for another couple of minutes. Remove from heat and let sit uncovered for about 5 minutes so that as the sauce cools a bit, it will also thicken. Serve as an appetizer, allow cooling and adding to a salad, or serve hot as a side dish. This is also delicious with a white fish. Poach the fish and serve a few of the onions on top and pour a couple of tablespoons of the sauce over the fish.

The amount in this recipe is good for two; however, if you have a larger dinner party, I would purchase and prepare at least a pound or so. As a side note, if you want to give this recipe an Asian accent, right before you add the onions back to the sauce pan, add a teaspoon of soy sauce, 1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil, and stir well. Then add the onions back in and continue as the recipe explains. When serving, sprinkle some toasted white sesame seeds over the top and add a few finely chopped scallions. Now doesn't that sound incredible?

Chicken and Pork Marsala provides another 40 minute meal

It's amazing what you can do in less than an hour that will satisfy even the pickiest eaters. Who doesn't like chicken and pork? And the fingerling potatoes add the perfect finish to this very easy, yet elegant dish for two. So get your favorite loved one ready, have him set the table while you prepare your next dinner hit. This one is sure to please and leaving you wanting more. Oh yes, there will be enough to share seconds.


1/2 lb of pork loin, cut in 1 x 2 inch pieces
3/4 lbs. of chicken breast or boneless thighs, cut in 1 x 2 inch pieces
1 Italien or pork sausage cut in 1/2 inch slices
16 button mushrooms, stems off, left whole
1 medium yellow onion
1 medium shallot, minced
10 cloves of garlic, whole
3/4 lbs. of small fingerling potatoes
1 1/2 cups of Marsala wine (sweet)
5 tablespoons of olive oil
1 teaspoon of pepper
1 teaspoon of salt (or to your liking)
1/2 cup of water

In a 10 inch saute pan, heat the oil over medium high heat. Saute the meat together until light brown or about 4 minutes or so. Remove the meat and set aside. Now add the mushrooms top down and saute on each side for 1 minute each. Remove and set aside.

If you need to add a little more oil go ahead, but chances are you won't need to. Now saute the onions, garlic, and shallots, reducing heat to medium. Add the potatoes and  saute for about 4 minutes. Now pour the Marsala wine in and deglaze the pan. You should begin to see a nice light rustic brown sauce in the making. Once deglazed, add the water a little at a time, and add the salt and pepper. Cover, lower heat to low to medium low, and cook for about 12 to 14 minutes. Add the meat back into the pan, cover, and cook for another 6 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook a final 2 minutes.

Serve in a deeper dish so that you can enjoy the sauce. Sprinkle with a bit of parsley and enjoy this oh so easy entree that truly takes less than an hour to make from prep to plate. And you won't believe the sauce! It's so deliciously rich that you will want to have a spoon ready to scoop every last drop.

Forty minutes from start to finish and you get a culinary delight

Truly a delight to make as it is to eat; Chicken Saffron Rice raises the bar for simplicity in the kitchen. It really only takes 40 minutes to make from start to serve, 10 minutes to slice and chop, 10 minutes to sauté, and 20 minutes to slow cook. Now how tough can that be? If you're looking for a culinary richness of flavors and colors, you must treat your guests to this, and you won't be spending all evening in the kitchen! Here's what you will need:

1 large (3/4 lb) boneless chicken breast
2 sausage links (either Italian or Chorizo)
1 large green Italian pepper
1 large red bell pepper(roasted if possible)
1 medium yellow onion
1 large shallot
12 cloves of garlic, left whole
1/2 teaspoon of Spanish paprika
1/2 teaspoon of Saffron threads
1 1/2 cups of short grain rice
3 cups of chicken stock (or broth)
3 tablespoons of olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

That's all you need. A word about the peppers first. The Italian green peppers can be found in the produce section of your grocery store. They are a bit smaller and deeper green than regular bell peppers and they are very good with a thinner skin. They are also usually cheaper than the bells and come to about 70 cents per pepper. As far as the red pepper, if you can roast them, great. Otherwise, you can also purchase roasted red peppers in the jar, usually on sale for $2.99 to $3.49 per jar, which contain 2 to 3 peppers. Now that comes to less than fresh red bell peppers price wise. In any case, it's your choice.

OK, glad we got that out of the way. Let's start with our first 10 minutes by slicing and chopping. Start by slicing your chicken breast in 1/2 inch thickness and about 2 inch lengths, the sausage at 1/2 inch thickness, the onion roughly cut into eighths, the shallots finely chopped, and the peppers in 2 by 2 inch slices. Remember to leave the garlic cloves whole.

Now heat your oil in a deep (3 inch) skillet that's a good 10 inches in diameter, over medium high heat. Start by browning the sausage, about 3 to 4 minutes. Next, add the peppers (except the red if you bought the jar version), stirring for a couple of minutes. Next, add the chicken, shallots, and garlic, stirring for another 2 minutes. Finally, add the onions, stir for another minute or so. Bring the heat to high and add the chicken stock, paprika, and saffron threads, stir well for one minute. At this time, if you bought the roasted red peppers in a jar, you may add them now. Taste the broth and season with salt and pepper to your taste.

When broth comes to a boil, which should take less than a minute, add the rice, stir well, cover, and reduce heat to low. Simmer covered for 20 minutes. When rice is done, stir gently, remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes if you want, or just plate each portion for your guests. This recipe will make enough for 4 dinner guests. You may finish dinner with a nice tossed salad of baby spinach leaves which will compliment the entree. Enjoy and bon appétit!

Healthy eating must include a wonderful Butter Lettuce with Red Peppers

I would imagine that many people have included eating healthier as one of their New Year's resolutions. I for one have put that on the top of my list. By the second week of January, I usually go back to eating what I like. I must confess however, that many of the things I like tend to be healthy. I've decided to help out with all those New Year's Gotta Healthier resolutions by presenting some of the healthier recipes from time to time. A couple of days ago, you will recall that I presented you with an open face pork loin sandwich, which is a healthier alternative to the norm. Today, let's back that up with a wonderful refreshing salad of butter lettuce, roasted red peppers, chick peas (garbanzo beans), baby deep green capers, grated Parm or Gruyere, and a dressing of olive oil and lemon juice. This salad is refreshing, low calories, low fat, and wonderful fiber. Treat yourself to another one person lunch sometime this week and serve this.

A small head of butter lettuce
1 cup of chick peas (garbanzo beans)
1/4 cup of baby capers
2 medium red peppers
1/2 cup of grated Parm or Gruyere cheese
1/4 cup of olive oil
Juice from one lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Start by roasting your red peppers and then peeling them. It's very easy. Preheat the oven to 400. Place the peppers on the middle rack and roast for about 30 minutes, turning them every 15 minutes. They should have some charred peaks when ready, but please.... not burned to a crisp, you don't want them to look like coal. If they are, just start over, LOL. Remove the peppers from the oven and place in a large bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to sit for about 20 minutes. Finally, remove them from the bowl and with a sharp knife, start at the stem and simply peel. The skin should come right off. Slice the peppers lengthwise into quarters and remove the seeds and stem. Your roasted peppers are ready. Isn't that easy???

Now get your lettuce ready by carefully tearing apart the leaves. With your hands, cut the leaves in half. Don't use a knife, as I have found for some odd reason cutting them with a knife bruises the cut ends and they turn brown. Rinse the lettuce over cold water and pat them dry. I have found that if you have a large kitchen towel, you can place the lettuce in the center, grab all four corners like you're going to wrap something, and then just swing the towel with the lettuce. The moisture is soaked up by the towel by centrifical force. Isn't that cool?

Now add the lettuce, capers, chick peas, and peppers into a bowl, mix your olive oil and lemon juice together, along with the salt and pepper, and pour over your salad and stir gently. Don't be afraid to use your hands, they work pretty well. Finally, serve into two portions and sprinkle the cheese over each to finish. Oh my, did I say two portions? And this was to be lunch for one. Did I mention I was coming over?

Cooking for one can be a pleasant experience...

So you have the day off and the house to yourself, decided to sleep in and save the chores for another day, and the calendar has been cleared of appointments and commitments. This is your selfish day, shared with no one else but you and self indulgence. Afterall, you've earned and deserve it. As lunch approaches, you pop in your favorite CD, crank up the volume, and watch the rest of the world go by from your window as the late morning sun fills your space with the  brightness and warmth that Winter all too often tries to make scarce.

On days like this, be creative and prepare lunch for one. Today, you're not going to fight the traffic, stand in long lines at your favorite restaurant, or be disappointed that you didn't get a window seat. You already have the best seat in the house and the lunch you are about to prepare won't be found on any menu but your own. You are about to enjoy an open face pork loin sandwich with a lemon Dijon sauce, and as an option, a side of Frisee drizzled with olive oil. A simple dish, yet full of contrasting flavors of tart and sweet, this will certainly pamper your taste buds. Let's start with the ingredients.

1 4 oz. pork loin steak (about 1/2 inch thick)
1 thick slice of rye bread or country white bread (3/4 inch thick)
1/2 crispy apple, peeled and chopped
1 small celery stalk, finely sliced
2 tablespoons of pimientos
2 green onions (scallions), sliced
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 tablespoons of butter
salt and pepper

For the sauce:

Juice from 1/2 squeezed lemon
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon of tomato paste
5 to 6 large capers

Make sure you have done your prep work, chopping, slicing, and getting your ingredients together before you start. In a saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Saute your pork loin, turning it over each minute until done. It is ok to leave a little pink in the loin, but it is your choice. Once cooked to your liking, remove the pork and set aside with foil covering it. At this time, toast your slice of bread and set aside.

In the same saute pan, remove any excess oil and melt the butter over medium heat. Add the celery, apple, pimientos, and green onion, and saute for about 90 seconds. Salt and pepper to taste and remove pan from heat.

Prepare your sauce by adding all the ingredients, except the oil, and mix well. While mixing, slowly add the olive oil and continue to stir briskly until mixture is smooth and velvety. Add the capers, gently stir, and set aside.

Place your pork loin over the toasted bread and with a sharp knife, cut around the pork so that the toast will be the exact size and shape as the meat. Now you are ready to assemble your sandwich. Start by setting the toast on your plate. Next, with a soup spoon, add the mixture from the saute pan to the toast, covering the toast to about 1/2 inch high. Now add the pork loin on top. Finally, drizzle your sauce over the pork, allowing it to drip down the sides. You may serve this with a Frisee type of lettuce with a drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper. Enjoy your gourmet lunch and continue your day as your started, with an afternoon nap and soft background music.