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Showing posts from September, 2020

Grainy Butternut Muffins

When cooking a butternut squash, one needs to plan for leftovers or two separate meals as finding a small butternut squash is impossible. With close to two cups of roasted butternut squash sitting in a bowl and knowing leftovers were not going to happen, a quick dish was needed to use remaining squash. With honey in the entree and honey in the side dish, why not use honey in the dessert?  Healthy Butternut Squash Muffins to the rescue. Quick, easy, and all ingredients are pantry staples. Modifications Made: Recipes was halved, pumpkin pie seasoning for chia, soy for almond milk, honey for maple syrup, and vegetable oil for coconut. Scaled for Likability: Good Well to the teen table counterpart and myself these were good.  We each ate one straight from the oven as soon as they were physically not going to burn our mouth (the teens favorite), then one later when still warm with butter spread over each half, and then a third at room temperature (my favorite version).  Every time with the

Sweet Garlic Chicken Breast

Wanting to incorporate the same flavors of the Roasted Garlic Honey Butternut side dish, Honey Garlic Chicken Breast served over white rice was chosen as the main entree. Modifications Made: A little less than one third cup of honey was used.  This is dinner, not dessert. Scaled for Likability: No, Thank You Candied Chicken.  Even with reduced honey, the chicken was still too sweet.  It may have worked if this was a marinade instead of a sauce, but as a sauce just on chicken it was overpowering.  Once the sauce was wiped off with a fork and the sauce covered rice trashed, the chicken was edible.  Of course, to be fair, the chicken could have been cooked with just onion powder, salt and pepper, fried in butter and the flavors would have complimented well, too.

Roasted Honey Garlic Butternut

Butternut squash. Such an amazing vegetable yet not very common to eat. Baked, boiled, cubed, steamed, roasted. A truly versatile dish.  It can replace sweet potatoes for a less sugary dish and/or pumpkin for those who detest the taste pumpkin. This tables first experience with butternut squash was last year about this same time with Squashy Cranberries . A fantastic side dish still highly discussed. Of course, it was served with cranberries and if you have figured anything out by now it is how much we wait for cranberry season to return. Tonight something completely different was on the agenda to serve with butternut squash,  Honey Garlic Butternut Squash . Modifications Made: Recipe was halved, pecans and walnuts were used at less than half cup quantities, olive oil was to the go to oil, goat cheese was omitted. Scaled for Likability: Good Sweet but not overly sweet like sweet potato casserole, great texture from the nuts while maintaining a softness from the squash, and would have b

Apple Pie Barley

Needing two cups of cooked barley for Barley Vegetable Soup, I made a double batch of barley because the teen table counterpart loves barley like oatmeal.  Served with cinnamon and sugar, cranberries dried, fresh, or jam, or the ultimate favorite is with cooked apples.  Having all ready cooked the barley, I decided to try a new apple variation.  Stewed apples as for pie filling. Instructions: To a small saucepan, add one diced apple of choice, one teaspoon of sugar, two dashes of cinnamon, one of nutmeg and ginger, and a pinch of salt.  Cook on low until apples are to desired tenderness. While apples are cooking, in a small bowl, mix two one teaspoon of cornstarch to one teaspoon of water.  Set aside. When apples are to liking, add cornstarch mixture, mix well and set aside for two minutes to allow cornstarch to thicken water slurry. Serve two parts barley to one part apple pie filling.   Scaled for Likability: Great Sometimes I win the mother of the year award with the teen.  Dessert

Beef and Barley Veggie Soup

Cooking barley for Sun Harvest Lentil Soup last weekend, I stood reading the recipe for Hearty Barley Vegetable Soup  on the back of the barley box and immediately decided it would be made the very next cool snap.  Who knew it would only be a week later when the cool snap came. Two cool snaps before October, crazy man.  Just crazy. Modifications Made: Half pound beef Half cup onion, diced Half cup celery, diced Half cup carrots, diced One teaspoon garlic, minced 15 oz can petite diced tomatoes, undrained 15 oz can green beans, undrained Half teaspoon basil One bay leaf One chicken bouillon  cube Water Two cups cooked pearl barley, slightly al dente Half cup frozen corn Salt and Pepper To a large stock pot, add beef, onion, celery, carrots, and garlic.  Cook until meat fully browned.  Add tomatoes with juice, green bean liquid, basil, bay leaf, chicken bouillon cube and water to cover.  Cook until veggies are tender.  Add barley, green beans, and corn. Adjust salt and pepper.  Let simm

Ginger Pumpkin Bread

Oh, pumpkin bread  Oh, pumpkin bread Oh, how I search for a perfect bread Ever the search for a perfect bread.  Pumpkin bread with oil, pumpkin bread with applesauce.  Pumpkin bread with canned, pumpkin bread with fresh.  Pumpkin bread with or with nuts, with or with molasses.  Never once a pumpkin bread with an orange juice glaze. King Arthur's Pumpkin Gingerbread with Orange Glaze sounded very tempting. Modifications Made: Recipe was reduced to half, allspice omitted, dried ginger for fresh ginger, half walnuts and half pecan, two ping pong sized egg instead of one and half regular eggs, cinnamon orange honey for molasses.  Glaze was scratched as the fridge lacked fresh oranges. Scaled Likability: Great The bread was light and fluffy, moist without being sticky on top or bottom, contained the perfect ratio of pecans to walnuts.  It needed more cinnamon and less ginger.  Over half the loaf was consumed before someone had a sense of control and put the bread away. Edit September 2

Box Mac and Cheese

Went to the grocery store for dinner inspiration and was assaulted by the smell of fresh fried homestyle chicken.  Fried chicken!  Everybody loves fried chicken but nobody wants to put forth the effort to make fried chicken.  With only one fried chicken fast food joint in town, guess our local grocer was gonna give it a go.  They already sell rotisserie chickens in half dozen flavors so why not fried chicken, too.  At $8 for two pounds of fried chicken I was game.  With a quick run for box mac and cheese, dinner would be ready in less than 30 minutes meaning the fried chicken would still be warm. Scaled for Likability: Fail Holy crap.  Did you know there is an art to cooking box mac and cheese?  It is called DO NOT ADD SALT.  As in NONE!   I did not know this because I don't eat box mac and cheese.  Occasionally I will eat a small spoonful of Velveeta Mac and Cheese, but not instant cheese powder mac and cheese.  When either variety is made the table counterpart cooks them claiming

Stringy Squash with Sausage and Spinach

Can't be believe it. A whole week of fall weather. While it was upper 80s today and the sun was hot, as soon as the heat of the day was over around 4pm, the air turned cool once again. In fall spirits, yet another fall meal was served.  Having found an acorn squash on sale at the local grocer I self created Acorn Squash with Sausage and Spinach.  Ingredients: One small acorn squash Three links italian sausage, removed from casing One teaspoon garlic, minced One bag frozen spinach, thawed, wrung dry  Salt and Pepper Instructions: Prepare acorn squash savory style.  Once cook, remove skin, dice, set aside. In large skillet, brown sausage, set aside on paper towels to drain.  In remaining fat, saute onion until translucent.  To onion, add garlic, cooking two minutes.  To onion, add spinach and sausage, cooking until spinach warm.  Toss in squash, season with salt and pepper to taste. Scaled for Likability: No, Thank You Yellow squash, good.  Pumpkin, great.  Spaghetti squash, good. Bu

Hominy Hash

I'm in love and it wasn't even a taco.  Nor would I want it a taco.  Even better it is a self created inspiration!   Ingredients: Eight strips of bacon, diced One small yellow onion, diced One red bell pepper, diced One poblano pepper, diced 28 oz white hominy, drained Instructions: In a cast iron skillet, cook bacon till extra crispy.  Set aside.  In remaining bacon grease, fry peppers and onion till fork tender.  Add hominy and bacon.  Cook until hominy is warm. Scaled for Likability: Great Sweet, spicy, bacon, earthy.  Would have been good with a diced potato, a green bell pepper, and a shallot onion.  Would have been good without bacon.  Would have been good if there was enough for seconds.  Alas, there was not just when the non vegetable eating teen table counterpart wanted seconds!  We will be having this again tomorrow if not for breakfast then for dinner.

Chicken Verde Soupless Soup

    As it turns out, fall has stayed long enough another warm meal can served and Slow Cooker Salsa Verde Chicken Soup was the winning recipe. Modifications Made: To a large dutch oven the following was added: 1 small chicken, cut into quarters 1 cup salsa verde 2 teaspoons comino 1 teaspoon paprika 3 bouillon chicken cubes Water from 15 oz canned corn with peppers and onions Water from 15 oz canned hominy Water to cover chicken Chicken was cooked on low until meat falling off bone.  With chicken removed, corn, hominy, and one can of well rinsed and drained black beans were added.  Chicken was shredded, returned to pot, and allowed to rest for 15 minutes. Scaled for Likability: Good Soup flavor was full without being a heavy cream or tomato based soup, spicy without leaving burning lips, smoky from the comino, and full of tasty veggies and tender chicken.  What the soup was not was soup.  Once the table counterparts were served with as much stock as could be ladled out, my bowl was sim

Prebaked Pie Shell Pie

Yesterday's pumpkin pie was finished off for breakfast this morning and not yet having my fill of pumpkin pie along with a half bowl of Cool Whip still remaining in the fridge, another pie was made today.  Unlike all pies before, I precooked the pie shell before adding pie filling. Modifications Made: Wanting a crisper crust, the pie shell was cooked at 350° for ten minutes and allowed to cool before filling was added. Filling was the same as yesterday's pie with less sugar and added nutmeg. Scaled for Likability: Great What a difference those ten precooked minutes made towards the crusts final taste.  Going to try this again with the next pumpkin pie to ensure it wasn't a fluke.

Spicy Shrimp Enchiladas

Everybody loves a good deal at the grocery store.  Buy one, get one.  Reduced for quick sales (my personal favorite for produce and meats),  Seasonal sales on expensive items like shrimp for example.  Went to the grocery store where locally caught wild Gulf shrimp were on sale for $5/lb.  Instantly dinner plans were rearranged for a long saved recipe in the filing box: spicy shrimp enchiladas. To satisfy this table's palate,  Creamy Shrimp Enchiladas  and  Easy Creamy Shrimp Enchiladas  were combined for the p erfect fancy dinner. Modifications Made: Shrimp Modifications: To a large hot skillet all of the following were added and cooked until shrimp were pink in color.  Separate  into eight portions.  Set aside. 1  pound clean shrimp, cut in thirds 1/2 cup   very thin sliced shallots 1  cup  red pepper diced very small 1/2   jalapeno minced 2   cloves garlic minced 1/2 teaspoon   comino 1/4 teaspoon chili powder Juice of 1/2 lime (about 2 Tablespoons) 1/8 teaspoon sea salt 1/4 cup

Pumpkin Pie, A Staple

Fall foods are my favorite. Squash, turkey, cranberries, stews, soups, breads, pumpkin pie. Cold pumpkin pie with lots and lots of Cool Whip.  Nothing fancy here.  Just a classic homemade Libby's Famous Pumpkin Pie . Modifications Made: Quarter teaspoon of nutmeg was added and sugar was reduced to just over half cup. Scaled for Likability: Great Nothing fancy here.  Just old fashioned, classically great cold pumpkin pie served with lots and lots of  Cool Whip.  Perfection in every bite.  Perfectly delicious all year round for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and anytime in between.

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Barley

Happy Fall! Normally we never experience fall on the first day of fall as we are usually in late summer heat. Today, however, there's a tropical storm in the Gulf and we are getting strong north winds with much cooler temperatures. Last year on this same day it was 95°, upper 90% humidity, and sticky south winds blowing in the low 20mph. Today, the temperature was only 75°, upper 70% humidity, and dry north winds in the low teens. What a difference.  Too bad summer is scheduled to return in two short days. Until then fall foods! To start out the fall fest,  Barely Pilaf with Sweet Potato and Black Beans . Modifications Made: Scallions were reduced to half cup. Scaled for Likability: Great Finding meatless meals that are filling can be difficult.  Meatless meals like stir fry and lo mein are great and healthy and easy to make but an hour after eating both table counterparts are rummaging in the pantry, the fridge, the freezer.  Three hours after dinner the pantry, fridge, and freeze

Heavy Sweet Bread

The problem with making one or two simple desserts when visiting family is that when you come home simple desserts are now wanted after dinner.  And since none of the pound cake or chocolate cake were brought home (because half the cakes were placed in the freezer like instructed) a  Simple Sweet Bread  was made because the opening line stated it "only take 5 minutes hands on time". Oh, sure the pictures looked great with its crunchy top layer, moist insides, and golden color.  Ingredients were simple pantry staples and could easily be reduced to just one bread pan.  None of those were the reason for cooking.  It was the five minutes time. Modifications Made: As mentioned, the recipe was reduced to one loaf pan. Scaled for Likability: Good It was everything the post claimed.  This simple sweet bread was easy to make with the perfect amount of sweet making it worthy of breakfast with eggs on the side or lovely with lemon glaze for dessert.  Great it could not be because great

BBQ Empandas

Last week a brisket was made on the BBQ pit.  Brisket tacos were served on Bacon Tortillas with the tortillas being the highlight of the meal as the brisket was tough as nails. Not wanting to waste the meat I attempted to Beef Empanadas , BBQ style. Modifications Made: Brisket meat replaced seasoned ground meat.  To a food processor, brisket meat was mixed until almost meat was finely diced.  Shredded meat and BBQ sauce were cooked in a saucepan on low while empanada dough was made. Scaled for Likability: Good Empanadas are for pumpkin filling only.  Not lemon, not pineapple, and definitely not meat.  Empanadas should be sweet not savory.  Yet these were so good.  Oh, they could have even been great if it weren't for the tough as nails brisket.  One bite was fine, two bites of brisket and the meat turns to chew in the mouth and there are just not enough teeth to tenderize it before swallowing.  If and when a tender brisket is made I would like to make the BBQ empanadas again. In f

Sun Harvest Lentil Soup

No recipe.  This is a self created dish based upon memory of a bulk soup purchased from a local health food store over 30 years ago.  Sun Harvest was the health food store where we grew up before there was Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Sprouts, etc...  Back in the day when the only customers who supported health food store were labeled as nutters by their friends and family alike, Sun Harvest was the best.  They had bulk dry goods like beans, rice, flour, sugar, soups, and.  And no, you could not buy white flour in bulk unless you were buying organic.  They had dried fruits, veggies, and meats along with tofu, bean sprouts, jicama, and aloe vera juice by the gallons.  They had organic fresh fruit and vegetables, farm raised meats and eggs, aroma therapy, vitamins and minerals, and even a few pre-boxed meals like mac and cheese before there was Annie's Mac and Cheese. Both the table counterpart and I grew up eating from their wide variety of soups.  Sadly, the store closed and all

Eva's Pound Cake

  Some recipes are golden.  They withstand the test of time again and again and again.  Eva's Pound Cake is just such a recipe.  Never in 75 years since Eva made this pound cake for a neighbor has anyone eaten a slice and say it is anything but the best they have ever had.  The. Best. Pound. Cake. This note card the ticket to golden perfection.  For a better recipe instruction method to follow, the same exact pound cake recipe (excluding lemon glaze) can by found in  Dad's Sour Cream Pound Cake . Modifications Made:  Anybody who modifies Eva's Pound Cake recipe is not worthy of using it.  Period.  Find your own version. Scaled for Likability: Great Crunchy top layer than then becomes the bottom when flipped.  Moist.  Decadent. Rich.  Fluffy.  Perfection.  Make it. NOW.   Oh, and by the way.  Pay to attention to the healthy demon sitting on your shoulder telling you to eat a slice as thin as the above shown.  That slice was simply for taking a picture!

Way too Rich Mousse

For two months I have been saving a Chocolate Mousse Pudding recipe made using evaporated milk. It was simple, used standard pantry staples, and was prepared in less than 15 minutes. All the work was in the refrigeration time.  Modifications Made: Whipping cream was not added. Scaled for Likability: Fail Saying the mousse was too sweet would the biggest understatement of the year.  Eating sugar from a spoon would be less sweet than this mousse.  

Bacon Tortillas

Argh, there's no tortillas! I don't think these words have ever been uttered before at this table. There is at least always one bag in the pantry but normally there are two or three. With five varieties eaten on a regular schedule it seems so odd there were no tortillas. Don't even know how that happened.  Needing tortillas for dinner, I quickly searched for another new tortilla recipe to try. Something equally as amazing as the instant potato flour recipe was found. This time, the secret ingredient was bacon. Bacon Fat Tortillas , who knew. Modifications Made: Bacon fat is stored at the back of the fridge in a tin can.  This is the way bacon fat is always readily available.  Waste not, want not. With cold fat on hand, fresh bacon was fried.  Bummer.  Everybody loves bacon. Instructions were followed using a stand mixer instead of kneading by hands.  Hand kneading.  Ha! Scaled for Likability: Great Couldn't even taste the bacon fat in the tortilla.  If one was lucky, bi

Pre-made Mozzarella Sticks

Sometimes the body needs carbs and sugar.  With stress running high these days we are finding it harder and harder not to eat sugar laden junk food every day for every meal. Tonight I gave in to the urge and made TGIF frozen mozzarella sticks with a spinach salad. Had to offset all that bad a little bit, right?  Modifications Made: Um, fried not baked.  When already consuming fat junk food why skimp and bake it?  These were deep fried at 350° to bubbling perfection. Scaled for Likability: Fail Lacking flavor, chewy like Halloween plastic teeth in texture, and salty.  So sad.  Not even drowned in marinara sauce could these be finished.

Slightly Creamy Sausage Pasta

It's been two weeks since I started the "lets clean out the pantry" kick and it doesn't even look like a dent has been made. The freezer is still full and the pantry almost full. The only thing that has been cleared out is the fridge as dinners created have not been making much for leftovers. Tonight's dinner was Creamy Italian Sausage Pasta and it did not require one additional purchase from the store and was made as a last minute plan. Modifications Made:  Oh, there were so many. All minor and mostly in cooking order and started right from the get go. Stated more times than I can remember now, every time a dish calls for Italian sausage, the amount requested is divided between half regular or sweet and half spicy for a more full flavor. Since sausage links comes in packages of five, it means one dish will be slightly hotter than the other.  The leftover sausage tonight was two links of regular and three links of hot.  Sausage links were striped of their casings


Looking for a better explanation about the differences between chalupas and tostadas I stumbled across this recipe for Authentic Mexican Chalupas . Two things stood out on this recipe making it different from any other chalupa or tostada ever seen or eaten. First it had homemade Spicy Salsa Verde  as the base and it secondly the salsa was fried with the chalupa in the oil. Say what! According to the blog, authentic chalupas from the heart of Mexico are cooked this way and I wanted to give it a go.  What's the worst that could happen? Regular Tex-Mex chalupas. No loss there. Modifications Made: Homemade salsa verde has been made in the past several times.  Most call for some version of charring or roasting the veggies for hours on end before even simmering for hours on end.  This recipe had none of that and it was great.  With exception to the addition of a whole jalapeno, the recipe was followed as written.  Once pureed, the salsa was returned to the stove and allowed to simmer unt

Creamy Leek Pasta with Bacon

Waste not want not. Last night's dinner only needed half bunch of leeks.  With a half bunch of leeks left, an immediate recipe using leeks had to be located along with leftover pasta. Pasta with Bacon and Leeks was one of the first recipes discovered of which all the ingredients were on hand. Score, no trips to the store. Modifications Made: Recipe was reduced by half with exception to the bacon quantities. Scaled for Likability: Great Leeks are hit and miss.  Meals have been served with leeks that were extra leeky (like overly fishy fish) and other times there was a complete lack of leek flavor.  Both are equally as frustrating.  Cleaning too many leeks when a smaller amount would have completed the meal.  Cleaning all those leeks for no reason as more was needed anyways. This was not either of those cases.  This was the perfect ratio of leek to bacon to cream to pasta.  Shredded parmesan cheese would have been better than grated for its texture and melting level.  However, if it

It's Always Better in a Tortilla!

The beginning of the week brought the idea of cooking a large pot of pulled pork and then feast on it all week for lunch. Here it is Saturday and this is the first time leftover pork has been reinvented. And let me tell you, it was basically the same concept but better because it was in taco.  Everything tastes better in a taco: brisket, bacon and egg scramble, beans and cheese. Could literally go on forever with this but I will wrap it up by saying, I LOVE, LOVE. LOVE TACOS! Instructions: Took leftover pork from Pineapple Pulled Pork and topped with cilantro, lettuce, Monterey Jack cheese, and homemade salsa and pile it high on a corn flour tortilla. Scaled for Likability: Great What can I say, the pork was already deemed great and pretty much anything already deemed great put in a taco will be great, too.  Yes, I would probably say pizza in a taco is great. Hmm.... 

Pan Seared Fall Veggie Pasta

Fall! Still enjoying the second day of cooler temperatures another warm fall meal was planned. Tomorrow is scheduled to be back in the mid 90s but while it is only in the upper 80s I don't worry about tomorrow.  Last night with lower temperatures dinner was soup, tonight a warm Vegan Fall Pasta Salad . Modifications Made: Um, non vegan non vegetarian.  Veggies were sauteed in bacon fat, full fat mayo replaced vegan mayo, honey replaced agave syrup, and poppy seeds were omitted (as who can afford or find them anyways). Scaled for Likeability: Good Flavors of the mixed veggies were great together.  Dressing offered a nice touch to the veggies but could have been made without.  Noodles were the problem.  They just did not go well with the veggies.  A wild rice mix or even (GAH!) white rice would have been better suited to the dressing and veggie mix.  Lots of room for improvement.

Corny Pepper Soup

Fall has arrived! Well, at least for two days. With highs in the low 90s for the next two days, warm toasty soups have been planned.  Tonight was a  Vegan Roasted Corn and Pepper Soup  that was neither vegan nor soup. Modifications Made:  Corn, onion, carrots, bell peppers were charred in a bacon greased skillet. Once a dark coloring achieved, garlic, a half can of petite diced green peppers and onion tomatoes, zucchini, potatoes, one cube of chicken bouillon, and four cups of water were added.  Scaled for Likeness: No, Thank You Too much corn, too much black pepper, too grainy in texture. Soup should not have been blended and a tomato sauce base was needed as soup was thin and watery. Not even fluffy white bread could help this meal.  Tonight was simple a slurry of veggies in a pot.

Rubberband Stir Fry

Very interesting. A stir fry with no garlic, no ginger, no green onions, no chili sauce, no flour bases noodles, and no rice.  Instead there was sweet potato glass noodles.  Koren Japchae  is unlike anything we have had to eat to date. Modifications Made: Pork replaced beef, onion was grated instead of sliced, a yellow pepper was added, and mushrooms were omitted. Scaled for Likability: No, Thank You Cook all the ingredients as instruction except use classic thin spaghetti noodles instead of glass (more adequately named rubberband) noodles and a winning meal will result.  Or cook as instructed, feed noodles to chicken, and enjoy veggies with sauce.  It was a very pretty meal.

Pineapple Pulled Pork

Cooking with game meat can be tricky. Game meat can be dry even when cooked with oil, tough even when cooked all day, and gamey even after soaking all night in salt water.  With two tiny wild pork shoulders in the freezer, I attempted a non traditional cooking method in Pineapple Chili Pulled Pork Sandwiches . Modifications Made: To a crockpot all ingredients were added at once with one chipotle in adobo sauce replacing guajillo and habanero omitted.  Once pork was tender, remaining sauce was pureed until smooth and allowed to cook down till thick. Pork meat was cooled, removed from bone, shredded, and added back to sauce. Black beans and sweet pineapple based pulled pork did not go well together during taste test so black bean base was omitted from burger along with extra pineapple.  Creme was mixed with lime zest, a splash of lime juice, a quarter teaspoon of garlic, and a pinch of chili powder. Scaled for Likability: Great Pulled pork always seems to be BBQ based with onions and pic

Chicken Chalupas

Homemade chalupas shells are better than any store bought version. Hands down, no room for arguments. What goes on top of the chalupas is another matter. Myself, I prefer the classic refried bean and yellow cheese with lettuce and salsa. If I'm feeling fancy guacamole is added. Table counterparts prefer beef taco meat. Tonights version used the same shredded chicken for green chicken enchiladas but topped with a white cheese.  Modifications Made: When beef chalupas are made the meat is added after the beans and before the cheese so the cheese causes everything to stick together.  On the chicken chalupas, the meat was added on top of the beans and cheese and before the lettuce.  Shredded chicken holds together well so it doesn't need to be anchored to the shell itself. Scaled for Likability: Good Chicken meat was fully flavorful by itself and held its own with refried beans and white cheese. It would have been better if the beans were black instead of pinto and if the cheese had

Greek Cucumber Salad

Cucumber salads come with a great debate at this table.  To cream or not to cream?  To onion or not to onion.  To sugar or not to sugar? Simple Cucumber Salad with Lime Vinaigrette  offered another level to the debate. To cheese or not to cheese. Modifications Made: Red onions were reduced to a quarter cup and chickpeas were omitted. Scaled for Likability: Great Most cucumber salads in this variety contained mint. Mint as far as this table is concerned is for desserts, gum, and toothpaste. Mint is not for dinner. It was the lack of mine that drew me to this recipe along with the crumble feta and lime vinaigrette dressing. Tangy dressing, salty cheese, crunchy cucumbers make a great salad. If the cucs were left thicker, the salad could be made the night before for a stronger infused dressing flavor. Chickpeas would have been great and I was sad the store didn't have any. My favorite taste was from the cilantro. Never would I have guessed cilantro and cucs could pair so we'll tog

Fettuccini Lo Mein

Stir fry and lo mein are a great way to use up random fridge veggies. Some recipes ingredient list are long and complex. Others are simple and basic such as this  Easy Lo Mein . I've made both the complex and simple versions and with exception to maybe a deeper flavor in the sauce, easy wins out again and again. Modifications Made: Lo mein egg noodles were replaced with standard 12 oz fettuccini noodles and button mushrooms replaced crimini and snap peas replaced snow peas. Spinach was omitted. Sauce quantities were doubled and ginger was increased to one teaspoon for extra heat. Scaled for Likability: Great I might have found a new simple sauce recipe for all future stir fry and lo mein meals. It was not overly salty, not excessively sweet, and had just enough sticky to adhere to the noodles and veggies. Heat levels were noticeable but more of as an undertone than a lip burner. The only thing missing was sliced green onions. How this ingredient escaped the list amazed me. Green on

Tater Not Hash Browns

If a bag of frozen french fries or hash browns been opened and not completely used, once refrozen the inside contents develops a layer of ice rendering them useless. Water and oil don't mix so french fries are trashed. Water on hash browns causes them to become soggy when baked. With yet again another bag of ice covered tater tots discovered in the freezer, a new theory was tested. Skillet Hash. Instructions: In a hot skillet, add tots to quickly sear. Season with a dash of onion powder, salt, and pepper. Turn often to keep from sticking. Tots will fall apart as they cook allowing for larger surface area to crisp. As area gets larger, turn tots in larger sections essentially creating spatula sized hash browns. Scaled for Likability: Good Were these as good as fresh fried hash browns, no. Were these soggy tater tots, no.  Were these enjoyed with eggs, yes.  With that I consider this test a success.  There was even room for a few modifications.  Heavily sauteed onions in bacon grease

Mayo-less Mexican Corn Nachos

Nachos are almost as good as tacos. They can be as simple as chips and cheese, chips with beans and cheese, or to the elaborate as chips with meat, beans, rice, cheese, lettuce, sour cream, guacamole, and salsa.  Never once have nachos been anything like Mexican Street Corn Nachos . Modifications Made: Corn was cooked in a cast iron skillet for the most perfect charred.  Sauce was cooked in a heavy bottom pan without mayo. Directly before serving a space of lime juice was def to the charred corn for a hint of tang to offset the creaminess of the cheese. Cotija cheese and creme were omitted as they was plenty of cheese in the sauce. Instead of sprinkling cayenne on the nachos, the pepper was added to the sauce itself. Scaled for Likability: Great Meal decisions are 99% mine and mine alone. And even though I picked this recipe I was not overly confident it would be tasty.  For starters the sauce contained mayo and as far as I'm concerned mayo is for tuna and potato salad.  More conce

Tomatoless Spaghetti Sauce

Nothing says an accomplished cook like homemade spaghetti sauce. For something that seems so simple, spaghetti sauce is very complex to create.  Combining  Red and Ready Spaghetti  and  Marinara Sauce  seemed so simple. Ingredients are straightforward and simply required more time than effort to create. Modifications Made: Combining two sets of instructions allows one to pick and choose between ingredient one likes (sauce) and don't like (canned tomatoes). 14 oz tomato sauce 1 small onion, diced 1 tablespoon garlic 1 tablespoon olive oil 1 - 2 teaspoons salt 2 teaspoons basil 1 teaspoon rosemary  1 teaspoon marjoram  1 teaspoon sugar 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes All ingredient were tossed in a heavy bottom of and allowed to simmer for over two hours, testing for seasoning and adding water as needed. Scaled for Likability: No, Thank You Like I said it seems so simple.  It's not. It's not even close to a homemade spaghetti sauce, either.  Lack of tomatoes in the sauce was t

Sweet Chili with Beans

Ah, a debate as old as Texas. Chili with or without beans.  Or in my case with or without meat.  Good vegetarian chili is thick and hearty and soul filling. Finding good vegetarian chili on the other hand can be challenging. Sweet Potato Chili  came close to a good vegetarian chili. Very close. Modifications Made: Only one can of tomatoes was used and Hungarian paprika replaced cayenne pepper. Scaled for Likability: Great Even without the turkey this chili would have been great. Even without the sweet potatoes this chili would have been great.  If the turkey had been left out, barley would have been a great addition along with a can of black beans. If the sweet potatoes had been left out, a red bell pepper and a can of green onion tomatoes would have been great.  A definite winner, this chili recipe should be doubled when making to allow for leftovers. Yum!

Tender Tips and Taters

My local grocer has very strict guidelines to fresh produce and meat.  If the product is within three days to the sale by date, the product is clearanced at 50% produce, 25% meat.  Entire weeks meals have been rearranged on the fly because of clearance sales.  Other times, product is frozen for later usage.  Rummaging around in the deep freezer last week, I stumbled upon a 2.5 lb beef shoulder that had been purchased back in July.  Not wanting it to go bad and not wanting one the standard go to meals for beef shoulder (beef stir fry, shredded beef in a variety of flavors) I settled upon Beef Tips and Gravy .  Tips are not quite roast or stew and not quite shredded beef either.  And with the exception of one ingredient all were pantry staples.  Modifications Made: Onions were not cooked until soft.  Once meats cubes were browned, finely diced onions, beef broth, french onion soup, pepper, and bay leaf were added all at once.  Beef tips seemed more along the lines of a crockpot recip