Saturday, June 30, 2018

How to Use a Bamboo Steamer for Vegetables

Going to try out my new kitchen gadget and learn how to use a bamboo steamer for vegetables and other food.

FYI: Did you know you could use the bamboo steamer to store your onions and garlic. Apparently, due to the fact they allow air (steam) to flow in and out it’s the perfect place for onions and garlic. They stay cool and fresh until you are ready to use them.

I know a bamboo steamer is great for fish, chicken and dumplings, but today it’s all about the vegetables.

101 Cookbook States: Bamboo steamers are easy to come by, and relatively inexpensive. The one downside is they take up a good amount of storage space, not much more than a big pot, but still. The steamers are available in a range of diameters, and are made of interlocking trays intended for stacking on atop of the other. Placed above simmering water, the steam from the water rises through the trays and cooks the food. It's a simple premise that works astoundingly well. You can use three trays, but you can certainly go up or down a level.

A couple tips:

1. While steaming with water is most common try chicken broth or a vegetable broth.

2.  If you have a stackable bamboo steamer (I don’t 😢) arrange the longest cooking vegetables on the bottom and the quickest on the top. 
3. A wok is the preferred method for steaming because the bamboo steamer doesn’t sit in the water as it does with a skillet. Your steamer will last longer if it doesn’t sit in water.
4. Line your steamer with parchment paper or cabbage leaves. It makes cleaning your bamboo steamer much easier. 


A selection of vegetables. Serves 2 Total Time: 25 minutes 

I’m going to use fingerling potatoes, onions and peppers 
8-10 Fingerling potatoes, cleaned and cut in 1/8th inch slices. (I tried just cutting them in half, but it took longer than 10 minutes)
1 onion, quartered 
1 bell pepper, quartered and seeded
Olive oil, drizzle very little as most of it will end up in the water
Sea salt 


In your wok or skillet add 1”-1 1/2” water and put on med/high heat. 

In your bamboo steamer add the cabbage leaves or parchment paper. I’m going to use Boston Bibb lettuce. Place your vegetables in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.

Place the bamboo steamer in your wok or skillet when the water is boiling. If you have more than one tray root vegetables take the longest, about 10 minutes. You would cook them for 3 minutes if you are steaming cauliflower or broccoli you’d add that tray and cook the remaining 7 minutes. Now if your lucky enough to have a 3rd tray vegetables like snap peas or asparagus would be added the last 3 minutes of cooking time. Yum Yum! 

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Raspberry Hand Pies

Um...I ate the whole thing, 5 times! I did not share, I was bad. The Only Dough for Pies and Hand Pies is so flaky and light and the raspberries, they get enough time in the oven so the juices thicken just as the crust turns a perfect golden brown.

Hand pies are great because you don’t need a pie dish, they only take 15-25 minutes to bake and they are so cute. They can be made round with a double layer of dough or fold over one piece of dough and make little crescent pies.

What’s needed to make this recipe; parchment paper and a 4 1/2” round cookie/biscuit cutter. Makes 8 hand pies. (You could make smaller round ones and have some dough left to make a few crescent pies. That’s what we did in our cooking class.)


1 recipe of The Only Dough for Pies and Hand Pies (2 disks)
Flour for rolling.
1 large egg
2 pints of fresh raspberries (4 cups)
1/2 cup sugar, divided 
1 tablespoon finely chopped thyme 
1 teaspoon lemon, lime or orange zest 
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces 


Preheat the oven to 375F

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface until it’s 1/8” thick. Transfer to baking sheet and chill for 10 minutes so it’s easier to work with. 

Beat the egg with 1 teaspoon water and set aside. This is the egg wash it will help seal the pies and make them golden brown.

In a small bowl combine the raspberries, thyme, zest and 1/4 cup sugar. Gently mix together breaking up the raspberries. 

If you are using the 4 1/2 ring cutter make 16 circles. With 8 of the circles add some raspberries then a piece of butter. Have a small bowl of water handy and with your finger rub some water around the edge of the circle. Put the other 8 circles on top and press down the edges (we did this over the bowl of raspberries because some of the juice runs out.) when together place on the parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat until all 8 are finished. 

Press the edges with a fork to seal the pies and poke some holes in the tops to allow the steam to escape and thicken the filing. Brush the tops with the egg wash and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar. Bake 15-25 minutes, or until the juices are running out and the crust is golden brown. (Check Pies after 15 minutes) Let cool before eating. Yum Yum!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Cooking in Parchment: Salmon and Asparagus

It’s National Parchment Day! Whoop De Do. I’ve lined my baking dishes with parchment paper, but I’ve never cooked in parchment. Have you?

It looks like it’s a French thing used to cook mainly fish, seafood and vegetables.

According to the National Day Calendar “ Parchment infuses flavor, locks in moisture and preserves vital nutrients. It has been a part of the traditional French kitchen making ever versatile parchment conveniently transition from skillet to oven and from grill to table. It’s ability to be elegant as well as useful makes parchment paper one of the most effective tools in the kitchen.

Cooking “en papillote” enhances natural flavors, without the synthetic sprays and high-fat oils. Not only does culinary parchment simplify preparation and clean-up, but it’s also a much healthier and environmentally friendlier alternative to traditional cooking techniques. The French have cooked with parchment for centuries, perfecting taste and texture in every dish. It has long-served as the secret to preparing wholesome, healthy meals.
With all these added benefits, it’s difficult to ignore what parchment brings to the kitchen and to the table.  Use a variety of parchment products to make composing delicious meals in the home kitchen a culinary success.”

Salmon and Asparagus

Serves 4
Total Time: 20 minutes


  • 1/2 pound potato, sliced very thinly
  • 1 pound asparagus*, trimmed
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound salmon (or trout), cut into 4 pieces
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon white miso or Dijon mustard
  • 1 clove garlic, minced/grated
  • 1 lemon, juice and zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped (or 1 teaspoon dried dill) (optional)
  • 1/4 cup parmigiano reggiano (parmesan), grated
  • pepper to taste
  • Garnish with sliced lemons
  • Gordon Ramsay cooks his lemons in a skillet and seasons them with salt and pepper.


  1. Place the potato slices in a single layer across the center of 4, approximately 12 inch square, sheets of parchment paper or aluminum foil, top with the asparagus, onions and salmon.
  2. Mix the butter, miso, garlic, lemon juice and zest, dill, parmesan, and pepper and spread it across the top of the salmon before wrapping the parchment paper or aluminum foil up to seal the packets.
  3. Roast in a preheated 400F/200C oven (or grill/barbecue) until everything is tender, about 8-12 minutes, depending on the thickness of the salmon. Yum Yum!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Ground Beef Macaroni Casserole

This Ground Beef Macaroni Casserole reminds me of my Goulash  recipe. The basic ingredients are the same; macaroni, ground beef, tomatoes and onions.

This recipe we are adding red peppers and cheese and baking it in the oven instead of making it in a skillet on the stove.

It’s comfort food the whole family will love just add some garlic bread, a side salad and for you, a glass of red wine.


4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
2 medium red bell peppers, cored, seeded and diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon paprika
3/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 lb ground beef
16 oz elbow macaroni
1/4 cup flour
2 cups whole milk
1 15oz can of crushed tomatoes with juice
1 cup chicken broth or stock
3 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (8 oz), divided


Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook the macaroni 2 minutes less than the package instructions (it will continue to cook when baked). When done drain, rinse with cold water and set aside.

Preheat oven to 400F

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat add in the peppers, onion, celery, garlic, salt, pepper, oregano and paprika; cook until vegetables soften but not brown about 7-8 minutes.

Add in the tomato paste, mix well. Add in the ground beef, season with salt and pepper and cook through and no longer pink. Add the flour and cook an additional 2 minutes. Add the milk, crushed tomatoes and chicken broth or stock, stir to combine and reduce heat to simmer.  After 5 minutes the sauce should thicken, now you can add in the macaroni and half (1 1/2 cup) of the cheese. Cook 1 minute. Taste test to see if it needs any additional salt and pepper, add if needed.

Transfer to a 11x7 baking dish and sprinkle the top with the remaining cheese. Bake until bubbly and light brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool on rack 5 minutes before serving. Yum Yum!

Monday, June 25, 2018

The Only Dough for Pies and Hand Pies

Yes, I’ve never made a pie from scratch before and no, I didn’t realize it was so easy to make pie crust. Easy if you have a food processor.

This recipe makes two pie crusts or 12 hand pies. This dough can be kept in the refrigerator for 4 days or frozen up to 2 months.


2 1/2 + cups flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/4 cup (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1” pieces, chilled
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, white distilled vinegar or vodka
1/4 cup ice water.


In your food processor whisk your flour, sugar and salt. Add your pieces of butter a little at a time and pulse to incorporate. Once all the butter is incorporated into the flour and there are no large chunks then add in the vinegar and ice water. Pulse until a dough ball forms.

On your work surface add some flour then dump the dough ball and knead until smooth. Divide the ball in half and create two disks 1” thick. Wrap them in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Frozen Blackberries with Yogurt and Honey

Sur La Table cooking class the other day showed us how to make this Blackberries with Yogurt and Honey dessert. This ice cream does not need an ice cream maker. And you can substitute the blackberries for any fruit; like strawberries, raspberries or even plums. It can last in your freezer for a week, just let it soften before serving. Serves 8


Nonstick cooking spray for the loaf pan and some plastic wrap to line it with.

2 pints of blackberries
3/4 cup honey, mild-flavored
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups full-fat Greek yogurt
Pinch of salt


Prepare your loaf pan by spraying it with the nonstick cooking spray then line it with plastic wrap. The nonstick spray will help the plastic wrap adhere better.

Cook the fruit and 1/4th of the honey in a small pan over med/low heat until the berries start to break down and the liquid has thickened, 8-10 minutes. Remove and let cool, placing in the fridge to speed up the process. Once cooled the berries should have a texture of loose, spreadable jam, not pourable.

Using your electric stand mixer whip the cream to medium stiff peaks. Fold in the yogurt, remaining honey and the salt.

Then add in the cooled berries, use a spatula to just barely fold into the cream, maybe just 3-4 times leaving large streaks of berries throughout. Pour into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top with a spoon.

Place the loaf pan in the freezer up to 2 hours. If you leave it in past 3 hours let it sit in the refrigerator 10-15 minutes to soften up. If your serving the entire amount remove from loaf pan and place on a platter or serve individual slices with your favorite Cobbler...Yum Yum!

Scallops in a Lemon Caper Sauce

To brine or not to brine, that is the question. In this recipe you are instructed to soak the scallops in a saltwater solution for about 10 minutes. The recipe critic said the benefits of a brine are it delicately seasons the seafood, helps it retain moisture and prevents the scallops from becoming too tough as it cooks.

I guess you can buy “wet” scallops and “dry” scallops. Wet scallops are packed in additives while the dry ones are not. Brining wet scallops will get rid of the additives and extra water they come with. Dry scallops do not need to brined.

Many criticized saying this would make the scallops too salty. Especially since they are in a sauce with capers. One person suggested soaking them in milk over night then rinsing them the next day, as an alternative to saltwater.

And why put them in the skillet with the sauce after they’ve been cooked? Why risk overcooking them as they may become rubbery. I’d maybe drizzle some over the scallops on my plate. What do you think?

The second step to cooking perfect scallops, after brining of course, is to dry them between two paper towels until you do not see any moisture and they are slightly sticky when touched.

The go to pan when cooking scallops is the cast iron skillet. And a very hot one so the scallops can sear quickly. Remember DO NOT flip them until they are ready. You might want to baste them with butter at the end of their cooking to promote even more browning and flavor. Serves 4


1/3 cup kosher salt plus more for seasoning
1 cup hot water
4 cups ice water
1 lb large scallops (14-16), 1 1/2” wide
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup unsalted chicken broth
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon dill, chopped
1 teaspoon chives, chopped
6 lemon wedges
Pepper, to taste


In a medium bowl add the salt and hot water to dissolve the salt then add the ice water to cook the brine. Add the scallops and let sit for 10 minutes. Drain and rinse them under cold water then place them in a single layer onto a paper towel lined baking sheet. Place another paper towel on top and gently pat the scallops. Remove as much moisture for best browning results when cooked.

Allow scallops to sit for 10 minutes at room temperature before cooking. In a 12” cast iron skillet heat the olive oil over med/high heat until the oil begins to smoke. Lightly salt your scallops and place them into the skillet. Gently press scallops with a spatula to make direct contact with the skillet.
Sear 3-3 1/2 minutes without flipping and butter and cook on the other side basting while cooking 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

In the same skillet reduce heat to medium add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add the wine and cook until reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Turn heat up to high and add the broth, zest, juice and capers to the pan. Cook until the broth is reduced by half, 8-10 minutes. Turn off the heat and whisk in the mustard. Now you can turn the heat on medium and add the scallops back into the pan and reheat them for 2 minutes. Or you can put your scallops on plates drizzle the sauce over, season with salt and pepper (if needed) and garnish with the dill, chives and lemon wedges. Yum Yum!

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Strawberry Shortcake Cobbler

Another cooking class and this time we made three berry desserts; Frozen Blackberries with Yogurt and Honey, Buttered Raspberries Hand Pies and this recipe Strawberry Shortcake Cobbler. 

Of the three this one was my favorite. The Shortcake gets baked right on top of the strawberries, so by the time they’re golden brown the strawberries have created a delicious, syrupy sauce.

Shortcake Ingredients:

1 1/4 cup flour
1/2  cup coarse yellow cornmeal
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1” pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream

Filing Ingredients:

5 cups strawberries (2 quarts), hulled and quartered
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon fresh lime or lemon juice


2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons light brown sugar


Preheat oven to 350F

Make the shortcake: in a large bowl combine the flour, cornmeal, brown sugar, sugar, baking powder and salt. Using your hands rub the butter into the flour mixture until no large chunks remain. Add the cream and mix with your hands until blended and no longer sticky. Roll into a ball and set aside while you prepare the filling.

Make the filling: in a medium bowl toss the strawberries with the sugar cornstarch and lime juice. Transfer strawberries into a 9x13” baking dish. Tear 2” pieces off the shortcake ball, flatten them, then put them on top of the strawberries. Brush the tops of the shortcake with the 2 tablespoons of heavy cream, then sprinkle with the 2 tablespoons of brown sugar. Bake about 30 minutes or until the strawberries have thickened and bubbled up around the edges of the baking dish.

Remove and let cool a bit this will allow the strawberry juice to set so it’s not so runny (also to prevent mouth burns). Yum Yum!

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Deep Dish Skillet Cookies

Change up your favorite chocolate chip Deep Dish Skillet Cookie with these five alternatives by making simple omissions and substitutes with the ingredients. First I’ll give you the recipe for the chocolate chip cookie. Serves 8-10 Total Time: 1 hour and 20 minutes


1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup salted butter, softened
1 large egg
3 tablespoons whole milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips, divided


Preheat oven to 325F. Lightly spray a 10” cast-iron skillet with cooking spray. In your electric stand mixer beat the sugars and butter on medium speed until it’s light and fluffy. Add in the egg, milk and vanilla extract; beat until blended.

In a bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and beat on a low speed until blended. Add 1 cup of chocolate chips and beat until combined. Spread the mixture into the skillet and top with the remaining chocolate chips.

Bake about 50 minutes then let stand for 15 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve (hopefully with some vanilla ice cream) YumYum!

Pecan Praline Cookie

     Omit the chocolate chips and prepare the recipe as directed, stirring in 1/2 cup of chopped pecans and 1/2 cup toffee bits in step 3 and topping mixture with 3/4 cup pecan halves and 3 tablespoons jarred caramel sauce in step 4. Sprinkle with sea salt just before serving.

Mississippi Mud Cookie

     Increase milk to 5 tablespoons and prepare recipe as directed whisking 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa into flour mixture in step 2 and topping cookie with 1/4 cup miniature marshmallows during the last 30 minutes of baking in step 5.

Strawberry Shortcake Cookie

     Increase milk to 1/4 cup. Substitute white chocolate chips for the semisweet chocolate chips. Prepare recipe as directed, beating 3/4 cup chopped frozen pound cake into mixture with the white chocolate chips in step 3. Top mixture with 1/4 cup chopped frozen pound cake in step 4. Serve cookie with whipped cream and sliced strawberries.


     Omit milk and chocolate chips. Prepare recipe as directed, beating 3 tablespoons of bourbon into the mixture with the egg and vanilla in step 1. Stir in 1 cup halved thin creme de menthe chocolate mints in step 3. Top mixture with 1/4 cup halved thin creme de menthe chocolate mints in step 4.


     Omit milk and vanilla extract. Substitute white chocolate chips for the semisweet chocolate chips. Prepare recipe as directed, adding 1/4 cup mashed bananas and 1 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract to butter mixture in step 1 and 1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut and 1/2 cup chopped dried pineapple in step 3.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Paradox of Cooking: Onions and Garlic

The things I have learned about cooking while I’ve started this website is staggering..I knew so little and I’m learning new tips and techniques daily.

Did you ever wonder why with a lot of recipes the directions say to sauté your onions then your garlic, but they never tell you to use salt when sautéing them.

This is the paradox of cooking onions and garlic. When you are sautéing you are building up flavors in the dish you are making. Onions, garlic, leeks and shallots are Alliums and they become sweeter when they sweat on low heat with salt.

The salt also pulls the water out of the onions so they cook faster and become translucent in about 4 minutes. It’s a combination of caramelization and the Maillard reaction and it creates a deep, satisfying flavor you can’t get any other way.

Garlic is added after the onions become translucent, because if you burn garlic it becomes acrid and not mellow. You only need to sauté garlic 2 minutes. You also will add any vegetables after this because vegetables release a lot of water and will stop the process. Once the onions have become translucent you can add the vegetables and cook everything together. If you want a sharper taste of your onions do not sauté them just add them right away with your vegetables.....

BUT if you are sautéing your onions and garlic DON’T forget the SALT!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Braised Country-Style Pork Ribs with Fire Roasted Tomatoes and Red Peppers

Braised, it means to fry or sear in this case and stew in a closed container. I’m sure the closed container can be a crockpot/slow cooker or a Dutch Oven. These Braised Country-Style Pork Ribs with Fire Roasted Tomatoes and Red Peppers can be cooked both ways. I’m going to cook mine in a crockpot on low for 6-8 hours, but you can bake them in your oven at 350F for  1 1/2-2 hours.

I usually cook country-style pork ribs in my electric skillet, first searing them then letting them “stew” in a couple cans of “stewed tomatoes “ until they fall apart. Does this qualify under the braised definition?

I’d say yes, but what do I know I’m just learning all this stuff. What do you think?  Serves 4


2 1/2-3 lbs boneless country-style pork ribs
2 tablespoons olive oil
4-6 oz roasted red peppers from a jar or you could roast 1 red bell pepper see instructions here.
(FYI: 1 12 oz jar of roasted red peppers has 1 1/2 peppers)
2 cans fire roasted tomatoes
1 large onion, diced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon cumin
1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon sugar


In a skillet on med/high heat add your olive oil, when it’s hot sear your ribs on both sides until they are nicely browned. Transfer them to the bottom of your crockpot. Add the onions and garlic to the skillet on med heat and cook them until the onions are just tender, about a minute or two then add them to the crockpot.

In a bowl combine the tomatoes, peppers, oregano, cumin, apple cider vinegar, water and sugar; mix well. Pour over the ribs. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 or until the ribs fall apart. Serve with or on top of mashed potatoes, butter noodles or rice. Yum Yum!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Potato Cakes

Do you have leftover mashed potatoes? You can make these potato cakes and have them for breakfast as well as a side for lunch or dinner.

In fact I’m having them with my Crockpot Kielbasa and Baked Beans  for dinner tonight. Serves 4 Total Time: 21 minutes


2-3 cups mashed potatoes

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 egg
6 tablespoons flour, divided
1 tablespoon grated onion
1 tablespoon fresh parsley or chives, chopped
3+ tablespoons oil


In a medium size bowl combine the potatoes, egg, 3 tablespoons flour, onion and parsley or chives.

On a plate add the remaining flour. Take a heaping tablespoon of the potato mixture, shape the pancakes in your hands then dredge them in the flour.

As you see mine didn’t quite work out, because the consistency of my mashed potatoes, they were too mushy. I couldn’t shape them nor dredge them as they just fell apart. So I fried it all together. Actually it didn’t taste that bad.

In a non-stick skillet add the 3 tablespoons of oil and sauté the potato cakes about 2-3 minutes on each side over med/high heat or until golden brown. Add more oil if needed.

Remove potato cakes to a plate lined with a paper towel. Serve with a dollop of sour cream. Yum Yum!

And here you have it a pile of fried mashed potatoes 😟. Well maybe next time it will work out.

Tip: I’ve just learned what to do if you’ve added to much milk to your mashed potatoes. And maybe help me with my mushy potato cakes! Slowly stir in instant potato flakes, a little at a time, until the potatoes thicken up. Hopefully it save the mashed potatoes without changing the taste. 

Crockpot Kielbasa and Baked Beans

What’s for dinner tonight? If you have a family I bet you hear this question every day.

If you made my Instant Pot Red Skin Mashed Potatoes you might have some left over. If that is the case why not make mashed potato pancakes with this Crockpot Kielbasa and Bake Beans along with another side like a salad or vegetable.

My usual go to recipe for Kielbasa is with potatoes and peppers, since I’m having potato pancakes I had to think of some other way to cook the sausage.

This recipe you can throw together in the morning and when you come home most of your meal will be ready.


1 14oz pkg Kielbasa, sliced into 1/8” pieces 
1 can baked beans
1 can great northern beans, drained
1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 onion, chopped
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup BBQ sauce
1/2 cup molasses
3 tablespoons yellow mustard


In your crockpot add all the ingredients together except the Kielbasa and stir to combine. Place the Kielbasa on top, close lid and cook on low for 6-8 hours. Stir before serving. (Not recommend to cook on high as the beans might dry out, but if you do you might need to add water during the cooking time, which is 4-5 hours) Yum Yum!

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Kat’s Pick a Peck of Peppers 🌶

Kat’s Pick a Peck of Peppers: A Guide to Peppers 
Everyone is familiar with the sweet bell peppers, but why stop there? Be adventurous with your cooking and try one or more of the hot varieties. Pepper heat is based on the level of capsaicin, a chemical compound that creates a burning sensation on contact with mucous membranes, like the skin in our mouths. It is measured in Scoville heat units (SHU), a scale developed by pharmacist Wilbur Scoville in 1912. For a bit of perspective, bell peppers are 0 SHU, Tabasco sauce is 2,500–5,000 SHU, pepper spray is upwards of 2,000,000 SHU, and pure capsaicin is 16,000,000 SHU. Capsaicin is usually concentrated in the seeds and ribs of the pepper, so those can be removed to soften the kick.

Banana Pepper
     These banana-shaped peppers range from sweet to mildly hot. It’s Scoville Heat Unit (SHU) ranges from 0-500. The peppercorn is hotter than this pepper. It’s SHU is 100-500. The sweet version is great for salads, sandwiches (my favorite pepper in my Subway submarine sandwich) and relish plates. The hot version, called Hungarian Hot Wax, is often served stuffed.

Bell Pepper
    The bell pepper is the most common pepper and has a SHU of 0. These sweet, mild peppers can be found in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors, from the ubiquitous red, green, and gold to orange, purple, and even chocolate brown. Bell peppers do not contain any capsaicin, making them a delicious addition to salads, stir-fries, and other dishes. Have you seen the bell pepper called Enjoya? It’s striped red and yellow. I just saw my first one a couple of days ago at Kroger.

The Fryer

     This pepper has a SHU range of 0-1000. Sweet frying peppers are a broad category that includes long, thin-fleshed varieties, such as Cubanelle, Italianelle, Gypsy, and Jimmy Nardello. Their flavor is enhanced when sautéed with a bit of oil.

Personally I didn’t know there were so many peppers. Here is a list of peppers with the SHU 0:

     We are going to turn up the heat with the poblano pepper. It’s SHU ranges from 500-2500.  This mildly spicy dark green chile originating from Puebla, Mexico, is traditionally stuffed, breaded, and deep-fried for chile rellenos. (One of my favorite Mexican dishes)  When dried, it is known as an ancho, a common ingredient in the classic Oaxacan sauce mole poblano

     This is the best known hot pepper aka chili pepper in the United States and is used widely in southwestern cooking; nachos, salsas, stews, chili and more. They are easily seeded and available fresh or canned. Smoked jalapeños are known as chipotles. The SHU reange is from 2500-8000. 

     Skinner than the jalapeño this pepper turns up the heat a few notches as it’s SHU range is 10,000-23,000 and can be found in green to red. It’s often used in spicy salsas and guacamoles.

  Usually found dried and ground, this pepper packs a punch with a SHU range of 30,000-50,000. It comes in hues of red to yellow and often used in Asian dishes and hot sauces.

     With a SHU range of 100,000-350,000 this pepper is a favorite in hot sauces. 

Here’s the website to see the  list of peppers over SHU 0 (too many too count)

Here’s a recipe using sweet peppers: Roasted Peppers with Basil 


1 each green, red and yellow pepper 
9 fresh basil leaves
1 garlic clove, minced 
1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar 
1/8 teaspoon salt 


Broil peppers 4” from heat until the skins blister, about 6-8 minutes. With tongs rotate a quarter turn. Broil and rotate until all sides are blistered and blackened. Immediately place peppers in a bowl, cover and let stand 15-20 minutes.  Peel and discard charred pepper skin. Remove stems and seeds. Cut peppers into 1/4” bite size pieces and place in bowl. Add garlic and basil, toss to coat. Drizzle on the vinegar and sprinkle with salt, toss to coat. Cover and let stand for 30 minutes before serving. Yum Yum!

Monday, June 18, 2018

Instant Pot Red Skin Mashed Potatoes

On my last post, Pork Chops in a Garlic Wine Herb Sauce, I mentioned that it would be good with some mashed potatoes, but not just any mashed potatoes, we’ve got to have Instant Pot Red Skin Mashed Potatoes!

One reason being you won’t warm up your kitchen using the Instant Pot. With these temperatures we don’t need to keep the air conditioning on any longer than we have to.

No peeling is necessary. You want these potatoes to be a bit lumpy and rustic. Serves 6-8 Total Time: 18 minutes

I have a mini Instant Pot so I’ll be using half of the ingredients below.


3 lbs red potatoes, cleaned and cut into 1/2” chunks
1 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup warm milk
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1 tablespoon onion flakes
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1/4 cup sour cream
Salt and pepper, to taste


Place potato chunks in the Instant Pot, add the kosher salt and the water. Make sure the steam valve is closed and cook on pressure cooking for 8 minutes. Use the quick release method to release the steam. Drain the potatoes.

Using a hand potato masher, lightly mash the potatoes. Add enough of the warm milk so the potatoes are creamy but not soupy. You may not use the entire amount, or you may need more warm milk, depending on how creamy you like them.

Add in the butter m onion flakes, parsley, sour cream and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Yum Yum!

Pork Chops in a Garlic Wine Herb Sauce

It is soooo hot out you can’t enjoy being outdoors let alone stand in front of a hot grill. You might wait until the sun sets to grill, if you want to eat around 9:30. What am I going to do?

I’m going to make these fabulous pork chops in a garlic wine sauce in a skillet on my stove in an air conditioned house.

Since I made my Blueberry Mango Ice Cream this morning I’m thinking maybe I can enjoy a bowl full sitting out on my patio at sunset when the temperature should be in the low 80’s and not when it feels like 104! I’m sure hoping that the weather prediction is true for July and August...cooler than normal. Then I might be able to grill this good lookin’ chops on the grill.....but in the meantime this recipe serves 4 and the total time to prepare and cook is 30 minutes. If you have your chops in the fridge you need to let them sit out at room temperature and warm up a bit before you cook them, at least 20 minutes. This is not part of the 30 minutes total time.


4 boneless pork chop
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper, to taste

Garlic, Wine and Herb Sauce:
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup dry white wine, white wine vinegar or rice vinegar
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 tablespoons dried thyme or 4 sprigs of fresh thyme (leaves only)


In a large bowl whisk together the flour, onion powder, garlic powder, Italian seasoning and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Dredge Pork chops in the flour mixture. In a skillet on med/high heat melt the butter then add the chops. Sear on each side 3-4 minutes. First side on med/high and the second side on medium. Remove to a plate and cover to retain the heat.

Use the same skillet on medium heat  to make the sauce. Melt the butter then add the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the flour and mix well to form a paste. While stirring add in the wine and cook 1 minute. Squeeze the lemon juice into the pan and add in the stock and cream, stir to combine. Season with the thyme and Italian seasoning. Taste test to determine if salt and pepper is needed. If so, add to taste.

Reduce the heat to low and add the pork chops to the skillet. Reheat chops on low (time depending on the thickness of the pork chops). To serve be sure to drizzle some sauce over the chops. Would be great with mashed potatoes. Yum Yum!

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Salt Block Dilemma

What is the Salt Block Dilemma? According to Mark Bitterman’s book Salt Block Cooking after heating a salt block the color will change. So, a salt block can be used indefinitely for serving cool and room temperature recipes, but once you’ve cooked on it you can’t serve on it again.

The beauty of the salt block vanishes once it’s heated. It will turn paler and develop cracks. That’s why I bought a block for cooking and a bowl for serving. Once you’ve cooked on it you can use the same block for eggs, steak or even sea food.

My favorite food, many other people have stated the same thing, that cooking scallops on a salt block balances the buttery flavors with a spritz of citrus and reinforces the taste of the peppercorns.

Scallops are fun to cook, impressive to serve and tasty to eat. Serves 4

2 4x8x2 inch Himalayan salt bricks (or one 8x8x2 inch salt plate) cooking grade Himalayan salt blocks
1 1/4 pounds large wild-caught sea scallops (about 16)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cracked peppercorns
Finely shredded zest and juice of 1/2 lemon and 1/2 lime

Place the salt block(s) over a low gas flame and heat for 15 minutes. Raise the flame to medium and heat another 10 minutes. Raise the flame to high and heat another 15 minutes, until it is uncomfortable to hold your hand about 2 inches from the surface of the block for longer than 3 seconds (approximately 500°F).
While the salt block is heating pat the scallops dry and pull off their white gristly tendons (located on the side of the scallop) if not already removed. Coat the scallops with the olive oil and peppercorns and let stand at room temperature until the salt block is hot.
Place the scallops on the hot block.  The scallops should almost skitter across the top.  If they just plop there and sizzle modestly, the salt block is not hot enough. Once ready sear the scallops until browned and springy to the touch but still a little soft in the center, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Work in batches if your salt block cannot comfortably fit all the scallops at once.
Remove to a platter or plates, or carefully move the entire salt block to the table and set on a professional-grade oven mitt or ceramic trivet to serve still sizzling to your guests. (Do not use a metal trivet because it will conduct all that heat from your salt block to your table....and will ruin your table. Remember salt blocks can heat well in excess of 600F and the bottom of the block is hotter than the top). Scatter the citrus zest over top and drizzle with the juice.  Eat immediately. Yum Yum!