Peanut Butter Granola

This is a starting point for homemade granola. Substitute any nut butter for peanut butter. Walnuts, pecans and pistachios can be used in place of the almonds. Add flax seeds or chia seeds for extra nutrition.


Tea and Fried Beef

beef.jpg  On my own in Hanoi today, I took a walk around charming Truc Bach Lake. The shops in this area are quaint and seem to specialize in Pho Cuon, which I have not figured out the translation. After the walk, I settled into a cafe for tea and a snack. I ordered a pot of green tea, and fried beef. This beef dish appeared to be the only food item on the menu, and it sounded similar to a divine dish I had a Ladybug cafe on Saturday, “Fried noodles with beef”. Hoping for a repeat, I ordered the fried beef.Suprisingly, fried beef is more like beef jerky than the delicious plate of noodles, beef and vegetables I had at the other cafe.

Tacos de Camarones (Shrimp Tacos)


When living in Guadalajara, my sister asked me what I would like for Christmas. I said I would like anything culinary. She bought me three of her favorites in Mexico: Maseca, a tortilla press, and a tortilla warmer.


The maseca (Corn flour) was a bit of an intimidating item, because all of the instructions were in Spanish.


The dough was sticky, so I used wax paper on the tortilla press.



I grilled the tortillas on the flat side of my C+B grill pan, and added grilled shrimp, peach and mango salso, and a sweeze of lime.

Thank you sister!

Pan Seared Sea Scallops


“Let’s stay the night in Vegas.”

This was the suggestion from my husband, on the plane from Chicago to Portland. We were about to have a one hour layover in Vegas, and he wanted to make it 24 hours. Once we landed, we had 45 mintues to make it happen. He was online finding a hotel on the strip, I went to the ticket agent to change our tickets. A few swipes of the credit card later, and we were in a taxi on the way to the hotel.

Las Vegas Blvd is hot and crowded on a Saturday evening in August. Our destination for the eveing was to go to the Belagio for dinner. The first restaurant we looked at had Pan Seared Sea Scallops, and that is what I had my heart set on. The menu out side of the door listed scallops at $22. We decided that was a reasonable price for Vegas. Inside, as I opened the menu, the same scallops had the price of $45 for two scallops. I changed the desire of my heart for the night to pizza, but still had scallops on my mind.

Back in Portland, still craving seafood, I found these Gi-normous scallops at safeway for $7.99/lb. Compared to $45 for two, this was a good deal.

I seared them with Old Bay Seasoning.

Pan Seared Sea Scallops

2-3 large scallops per person.
Rinse and pat dry scallops.
Season both sides with salt and pepper
Sprinkle one teaspoon of Old Bay seasoning on each side

Heat a stainless steel pan over high heat until very hot. Add a teaspoon of olive oil. Place scallops on pan. Do not move. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until bottom is golden brown. Turn with spatula and sear the other side. Remove and serve with salad.


Chicken Lettuce Wraps


Once every three or four months, my husband travels to Southeast Asia for work. Sometimes he will bring a culinary item back for me to add to my collection at home. I now have 12 sets of chopsticks and this adorable condement holder. I decided it was time to use the chopsticks and the sauce dish, so chicken lettuce wraps it was.


I shredded a rotisserie chicken, shredded a carrot and cucumber, and placed it with a half of an iceburg head. Soy sauce, sweet and sour, and peanut sauce filled the condement cups. Rice and Edamame complemented our wraps.

Peanut Sauce was the best part of this dinner. I have never been satisfied with store bought peanut sauce, so tonight I made my own. This recipe is from Amy, and it is a spoonful of heaven. Here is the recipe:

Perfect Peanut Sauce
From Cooking with Amy

1/4 cup peanut butter (natural, no sugar added kind)
2 teaspoon soy sauce
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon or lime juice
1/4 cup coconut milk (lite is fine, if you prefer or substitute water)
1/4 cup water
red chili flake to taste
chili garlic sauce to taste or 1 clove crushed garlic

sesame oil
curry paste
rice wine vinegar
fish sauce
grated ginger
shallots sauteed till brown in oil
Worcestershire sauce

Combine all ingredients with a whisk in a small bowl, adding the water last. Pour into a small saucepan and heat over medium heat until sauce begins to bubble and thicken. Experiment with this sauce adding a teaspoon at a time of one the optional additions and tasting as you go. Serve hot or cold.

I didn’t use any of the optional ingredients, and it was still divine.

Let me know if you like it too.

Turkey Meatballs

Meatballs have always had a superiority about them that led me to believe that it would be too hard to make at home. Three different kinds of groud meat together… veal… it is overwhelming just thinking about how complicated the process might be. This recipe for Turkey Meatballs is from Everyday Italian, and if Giada said not only can I do it, but my guests will love it, then I am willing to try it.


I made these balls on the same afternoon as I made Chicken Parmesan and an angel food cake. It was such a big production that I started a kitchen fire. More on that later. Just remember to always have a jar of flour nearby to put out the flames. Back to the turkey meatballs. They are great and here is the recipe:


Turkey Meatballs
adapted from Giada De Laurentiis and Mama Rocco

1/4 cup plain dried breadcrumbs
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 large eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons milk
3/4 cup grated Romano or Parmesan Cheese
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper
1 lb ground turkey, dark meat
1/4 cup Olive oil
1 jar Marinara Sauce

In a large bowl, stir together bread crumbs, parsley, eggs, milk, 1/2 cups of the cheese, and the salt and pepper. Add the turkey gently and stir to combine. Shape the meat mixture into bite size balls.

Pour the marinara sauce into a large pot over low flame.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Working in batches, add the meatballs and cook without moving or turning until brown on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Turn the meatballs over and brown the other side, about 3 minutes longer. Continue to cook until all the sides are golden brown.

Transfer each meatball to the simmering marinara sauce, and simmer for at least 15 minutes.

Serve with pasta, in a sandwich, or alone. Top with grated parmesan or mozzarella.

Weekend Away


This weekend my husband and I are going to SunRiver, Oregon with my parents. I am so excited for this trip. I am in charge of all food for the weekend, except for eating out. This morning I had some serious culinary therapy in the kitchen: in 3 hours I made the following:

-pita chips

-Fat Free Chocolate Muffins

-Peanut butter cups

-Banana Bread

-Beer Bread

-Chicken Parmesan

I will post the recipes when I return next week.

Ok here are some of the recipes:

Chicken Parmesan
Adapted from Rocco’s Italian American
The key to chicken parmesan is to cut the breasts in half to make them thin, then pound them out.


Canola Oil for frying
1 c. all purpose flour
4 eggs beaten
2 c. plain white bread crumbs
1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese
6 T. diced parsley
1 lb. mozzarella, shredded
24 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breasts, in cutlets 1/4 in thick and pounded
Salt and pepper
3 cups marinara

Heat oil in a large, heavy pot

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Meanwhile, place the flour, eggs, and bread crumbs in separate shallow dishes and arrange in that order. Mix parmesan cheese and parsley with the breadcrumbs.

Dredge each slice of chicken in the flour, then in the eggs, then in the bread crumb parmesian mixture, then carefully place in the hot oil. Fry the chicken until golden brown. Remove the chicken from the oil and place on paper towels to drain any excess oil. Season the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides.

Spoon a layer of marinana on the bottom of a glass dish. Place the chicken pieces on the sauce. Top with parmesan and grated mozzarella. Bake for 5 minutes to melt the cheese.

Serve with pasta or in a hoagie.

The Magic Bullet

Every newlywed has it: one or more items that they received for their wedding that was not on the registry list. I have about seven. These “off-registry” gifts are given with good intentions: it was something that the gift giver loves and thought that the bride and groom’s new home would be incomplete without it.


I received a Magic Bullet as a wedding gift. I did not register for one or ever think that I needed one. Boy was I wrong. The Magic Bullet won’t replace my blender or food processor, but it is quick and easy for certain jobs. I wasn’t sold until I saw the infomercial. Why this infomercial was inspiring to me, I am not sure. But my use of the bullet has grown exponentially because of their clever marketing:

Doesn’t that make you want to order one today? I have made guacamole, salsa, pesto, alfredo sauce, and protein shakes. It is most often used for chocolate shakes at night. It takes more than 10 seconds to blend, and I often have to stop it a few times and mix it by hand, but I still like my magic bullet.


BLT Wedge Salad


I have had a fascination with wedge salads ever since they became mainstream a few years ago. Perhaps it is the unique dimension of the perfect, crisp, iceberg quarter standing tall that makes me feel like I have created a masterpiece. Every other salad is a mound of stuff, this salad is a masterpiece.

This was my thinking yesterday as I started to create my masterpiece. The wedge salad starts with a crisp head of iceberg lettuce, cut into quarters. The quarters stand on end in the middle of the plate and the dressing (blue cheese) is drizzled on top. The decorations are sprinkled on and stay beautifully in place.

I did not have that experience.

Avocados, crumbled bacon, and tomatoes are my toppings today, and they did not stay on top as they should. As a result, a new wedge was created. I cut out an inch of the center and placed the ingredients in the heart of the wedge. Only a slight drizzle of dressing was needed, and the BLT wedge was ready. I used a fork and knife to eat my salad. My husband picked it up and ate it like a taco. I would like to know your opinion:

Should this salad be consumed with utensils or with your hands?

BLT Wedge Salad

1 head of Iceberg lettuce, cut into quarters
4 strips of bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
1 tomato, diced
1 avocado, diced
blue cheese dressing

Place one Iceberg wedge on each plate, outer edge down. Slice one inch from the center of the wedge. Drizzle with dressing. Sprinkle tomato, bacon, and avocado slices on each wedge. Finish with a few grinds of pepper. Eat with a fork and knife, or with hands.


Southwest Chicken and Black Bean Soup


Living in Arizona, I developed a love for the flavor of lime with food. Any southwest or Mexican dish is not complete unless there is a squeeze of lime. That is why I love this soup. Chicken and black bean base, flavored with lime, cumin, garlic, cilantro and dark beer. It is like a chicken and black bean burrito made into a soup. I planned for this to last for two nights but we ate it all in one night. I recommend doubling the recipe to have leftovers.

Southwest Chicken and Black Bean Soup
adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine and the Oregonian

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 thick slices bacon
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and finely diced
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 cup beer
1 can (15-1/2 ounces) black beans, rinsed (about 2 cups)
1 dried chipotle (optional)
2 cups homemade or low-salt canned chicken broth; more if needed
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 lime
Sour cream for garnish
baked tortilla strips (optional)

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy pot over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until it renders much of its fat and crisps slightly, about 7 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels. Season the chicken well with salt and pepper. Dice the chicken and cook in the pan until cooked through, about 7-10 minutes. Remove chicken.

There should be 2 to 3 tablespoons fat left in the pan; if there’s more, spoon out and discard the excess. Add the onion and bell pepper, season well with salt, and cook, stirring often, until the onion softens and caramelizes slightly, about 7 minutes. Raise the heat to high, add the chili powder and cumin, and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the beer and cook until it’s almost completely reduced, about 3 minutes. Add the beans, the chipotle (if using), and the chicken broth. When the mixture comes to a boil, adjust the heat to maintain a simmer and cook for 5 minutes.


Return the chicken to the pot, cover with the lid slightly ajar, and simmer for 5 minutes. If the stew is too thick, thin it with more chicken broth. Discard the chipotle. Crumble the reserved bacon. Juice one half of the lime; cut the other half into wedges. Stir the bacon, lime juice, and 2 tablespoons of the cilantro into the stew and season well with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, ladling some of the beans and chicken into each bowl. Sprinkle each serving with the remaining cilantro and a small dollop of sour cream. Serve with the lime wedges and baked tortilla strips, if you like.

Baked tortilla strips are just as satisfying as their greasy cousins. Simply cut a corn or flour tortilla into strips and bake at 400 degrees until toasted.

Roasted Red Peppers


I roast my peppers on the stovetop, over an open flame. It takes about 10 minutes to achieve the charred skin around the pepper. This can also be done in the broiler.

Once the skin is charred, I place it in a zip lock bag to let it steam.


After 15 minutes, the skin will flake off. I rinse it under cold water while I take the skin off. Next, slice off the top and remove all of the seeds inside. Slice and serve, or store in olive oil for a few days. Also good with mashed potatoes.

After School Snack

Goat Cheese
Here is my after school snack today.

1 baguette, sliced 1/2 inch thin, toasted at 350 degrees for 10 minutes
Chavrie Goat Cheese with Basil and Roasted Garlic
1 tomato sliced and tossed with olive oil

Naughty Vegetables

Zucchini Custard Bake

Last weekend my husband and I spent the morning watching the Food Network. The highlight of the morning was Paula’s home cooking. I am always amused with her recipes, the amount of butter and cream that makes it way into every dish. Today’s episode was no exception. The side dish for her Easter dinner included zucchini, but she did not stop there. Cubed zucchini, cream, butter, Parmesan cheese baked together in a baking dish with an extra layer of Parmesan on top. When she presented her cheesy, salty, cream vegetable dish, she proudly proclaimed her creation as healthy vegetables.

My husband responded, “Those are naughty vegetables!”

Anything that earns the title “naughty vegetables” has earned its way into my blog. We had to try this one at home. This vegetable is in the same category of other naughty vegetables such as broccoli drenched in Velveeta cheese, deep-fried mushrooms, or onion rings. Perhaps there is a time when naughty vegetables are craved and acceptable.

– When you are serving dinner for kids under 12.

– When hot dogs are the main course.

– When you resolve to eat healthy, starting tomorrow.

Really, naughty vegetables have no rules. I enjoy a serving of fried vegetables once in a while. I even enjoy a hot dog about once a month. I would encourage everyone to have a naughty vegetable once in a while, just to see what happens.

Zucchini Custard Bake
from Paula Dean

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, melted
2 pounds zucchini, cut into small pieces
3 eggs
1/2 cup undiluted evaporated milk or light cream
2 tablespoons fine dry bread crumbs
1/2 cup onion, diced
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Dash hot pepper sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, combine melted butter and zucchini. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat, set aside and let zucchini cool before adding eggs to avoid them becoming scrambled. Beat eggs with milk; add bread crumbs, onion, Worcestershire sauce, hot pepper sauce, salt, pepper, and 2 tablespoons of the Parmesan. Mix well. Let zucchini cool. Combine mixture with zucchini, stirring until blended. Turn into a buttered 1 1/2 quart casserole. Sprinkle top with remaining Parmesan. Bake uncovered for 35 to 40 minutes. If the dish has been refrigerated, allow about 10 minutes longer baking time.

Good-bye, faithful grill pan

grill-pan.jpgThere is no question as to what my favorite kitchen item is. I love my grill pan. It is two sided, fits on the stove over two burners, and makes those perfect grill lines on food. I use the grill pan almost every night, for chicken, turkey burgers, veggies and grilled fruit. The problem with the grill pan is that it sets the smoke alarm off every time I use it. We hear the smoke alarm so often, “The Daily Smoke Alarm” was the original name of this blog.Today, I said good-bye to the large grill pan, and bought a new, smaller grill pan at Crate and Barrel. Hopefully, it will control the smoke and heat output a little better. ***UPDATE 05 january 08***Grill Pan #2 has been replaced, due to extreme ammounts of smoke, weight and difficulty to clean. The new grill pan is going to be a keeper. It is light, non-stick, and produces perfect grill lines. This grill pan is from IKEA. pan.jpg Here is my recipe for a grilled veggie sandwich:veggiesand.jpgGrilled Vegetable Sandwich1 green squash1 yellow summer squash1 portobello mushroom1 roma tomato1/4 white onion, sliced thin1 roasted red pepperolive oilsalt and pepper1/3 c. goat cheese or ricotta1 loaf cibatta, focaccia, or baguetteSlice veggies at an angle, 1/2 inch thick. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Heat grill pan on high, try to avoid setting of the smoke alarm. Place each piece on the grill pan. Do not move, we want the grill lines to show on each piece. Grill on both sides until slightly charred and just cooked through. Remove with tongs.Slice ciabatta bread in half. Over a preheated hot grill or under broiler, using tongs, grill bread until grill marks appear about 2 to 4 minutes. Spread goat cheese or ricotta on the inside of the bread. Add a layer of each veggie. Place bread on top. Serve warm.

Blackberry Cobbler


When I was twelve years old, this was my favorite dessert to make on my own. I would come home from school and whip up a pan of blackberry cobbler. I liked the cobbler better than the berries, so I would put a minimal layer of berries with a double recipe of topping. Now that I am 29, I am willing to eat a few more blackberries. My sister gave me the idea of using creme brulee dishes for individual cobblers.

Blackberry Cobbler
makes 8 personal cobblers, or one 8X8 pan.

2 c. flour
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. shortening or margarine
2 eggs
1 t. salt
1 T baking powder
1 lb. black berries, thawed

Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Cut in shortening. Stir in eggs. Mixture will be crumb like. Divide berries among dishes, or fill pan halfway with berries. Add crumb mixture on top of berries. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Serve warm with ice cream or whip topping.

Seared Steaks with Bagna Cauda Butter


If you were coming over to my house for dinner, and I was going to make steaks or fish with bagna cauda sauce, I would not tell you until the end of the evening that the star ingredient is anchovy paste. This is an absolutely incredible flavor combination from an ingredient that I had never used before. The anchovies sautéed with the garlic make a succulent spread for the juicy steaks. Don’t skip this ingredient, it makes the dish amazing. I also make this recipe for tilapia.

Seared Steaks 
adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

3 T. extra-virgin olive oil
1 steak, rib-eye
1 t. salt
1 t. pepper

Rub 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper on the steaks. In a large sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Add the steaks and fry until seared on the outside and cooked to desired doneness, and 7 minutes per side. Transfer steaks to large plate and let rest for 10 minutes. Spread one tablespoon of the bagna cauda butter over each steak.

Bagna Cauda Butter

3 T. unsalted butter
2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
3 anchovy fillets or anchovy paste
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper

Cook butter and olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the butter is melted, stirring frequently. Add the anchovies and stir until they dissolve, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, and 30 seconds. Remove from heat. Drizzle over steaks or tilapia.

Roasted Red Pepper Mashed Potatoes

Roasted Red Pepper Mashed Potatoes

Whipped mashed potatoes are my new favorite side dish. Last night I was knee-deep in my usual bowl of mashed potatoes when I decided that I wanted to spice it up a bit. I have had wasabi-mashed potatoes, but I did not have any of the spicy green mash at home. Garlic mashed potatoes was an option. Or what about Red Pepper mashed potatoes? I had never tried it before, but I had a red pepper in the fridge that I roasted the day before. I blended it in my magic bullet express, and added it to the already whipped bowl of mashed potatoes. One more dash of salt, and it was excellent.

Roasted Red Pepper Mashed Potatoes

2 russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 T. sour cream
2 T. butter or margarine
1 clove garlic, peeled
1/2 c. chicken broth
salt and pepper
1/2 roasted red pepper (recipe below)

Bring large pot of water to boil. Add potatoes and garlic. Return to boil, reduce heat to medium. Boil until fork tender. Drain. Add remaining ingredients, whip with electric beater until creamy.

Roasted Red Pepper

Place red pepper over open flame on stove top, grill or in broiler. Monitor closely. Let flame char the skins of the pepper. Turn frequently until entire pepper is black. Place directly in zip lock bag or sealed container. Let steam for 15 minutes. Remove from bag, rinse under cold water to remove black skin. Remove stem and center seeds. To store, add olive oil and seal. Serve with bread and goat cheese or mashed potatoes.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Hi Mandy,

Here is my recipe for chocolate chip cookies. Instead of a chocolate bar, I have also used chopped heath bar.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 c. (2 sticks) butter
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla
2 c. flour
1 t. baking soda
2 1/2 c. blended oatmeal (measure first)
1/2 t. salt
1 8oz chocolate bar, grated
1 t. baking powder
1 c. chopped nuts
12 oz. chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Cream eggs and sugars in large bowl. Add eggs and vanilla. In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder. Add to butter mixture. Stir in grated chocolate, chocolate chips, and nuts. Drop by rounded spoonfuls on cookie sheet. Bake 10 minutes. Let cool on wire rack.