Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Pecan Brownie Pie

Want a different pie for Thanksgiving this year? You need to try this Pecan Brownie Pie. Looks yummy, doesn’t it? Serves 8-10 Total Time: 50 minutes 


1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups (one 12 oz bag) semi-Sweet chocolate chips, divided 
3 large eggs 
1 tablespoon vanilla 
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt 
3 cups toasted pecan halves, divided (to toast: preheat oven 350F and bake 10 minutes, let cool)
2 tablespoons milk 
1 refrigerated pie crust (you can make your own pie crust see The Only Dough for Pie Crusts)
1/4 cup white chocolate chips 
1 teaspoon milk 


Preheat oven to 350F. Make the filing by adding the condensed milk and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat, whisk continuously until sugar dissolves about 5 minutes. Shut off the heat and whisk in 1 1/2 cups of the chocolate chips. In a medium bowl whisk together the eggs, vanilla, cinnamon and salt. Gently whisk the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture, about a 1/2 cup at a time, until blended. Stir in 2 1/2 cups of the toasted pecans. Spread the pie crust over a pie plate and crimp the edges. Fill the pie crust with the filling and place on the center rack of the oven for 35-40 minutes or until the center is fairly firm. Let cool.

After the pie has cooled place the remaining chocolate chips and the 2 tablespoons of milk in a small microwaveable bowl. Microwave on high for 30 seconds to 1 minute, stir after 30 seconds until chocolate has melted and the sauce is smooth. Pour the sauce over the pie. 

For the white chocolate glaze microwave the white chocolate chips and the 1 teaspoon of milk on high for 15 seconds, stir and repeat in
10 seconds increments until it has melted. Drizzle white chocolate over pie, then sprinkle on the remaining pecans. Yum Yum!

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Saturday, October 27, 2018

Baked Cheesy Cauliflower

Boy, does this look good. I’m having this for dinner tonight along with a ham steak, a salad and my new favorite wine. Serves 6 Total Time: 50 minutes

1 1/2 large heads cauliflower
6 tbsp. butter, plus more for buttering dish
1/2 c. heavy cream
6 tbsp. butter
3  cloves garlic, minced
2 c. grated white cheddar
1 c. freshly grated Parmesan
1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
kosher salt 
Freshly ground black pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 400Âș. In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook cauliflower until tender, 8 minutes. Drain well.
  2. Butter a large baking dish. Add half the cauliflower and pour over half the heavy cream. Dot with half the butter, sprinkle with half the garlic, cheddar, Parmesan, and thyme. Repeat with remaining ingredients and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Bake until cheese is melty and deeply golden, 30 minutes.
  4. Let cool 5 minutes, then serve. Yum Yum! Thanks Delish for the recipe!

Spider Web Taco Dip

Do you have a Halloween party this weekend or getting together Sunday to watch the game and need to bring a dish? Well look no more. This Spider Web Taco Dip will be a sure winner with any party goer.


16 ounce can refried beans

2 tablespoons taco seasoning 
1/4 cup taco sauce 
Guacamole: 1 ripe avocado, 1 teaspoon lime juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt, pinch of garlic powder 
1/2 cup sliced black olives 
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese 
1/2 cup chopped tomato 
1 green onion, thinly sliced 
1/2 cup sour cream, squeeze bottle
2-3 tablespoons milk, optional see directions 
Plastic spider rings
Warm tortilla chips


Stir together the retried beans, taco seasoning and taco sauce in a saucepan, then warm beans up on medium heat. Spread the warm beans in the bottom of a glass pie plate.

In a bowl mash the avocado then stir in the lime juice, salt and garlic powder. Spread the guacamole over the top of the warm beans. 

You can either purchase sour cream in a squeeze container or buy a squirt bottle and thin the sour cream with the 2-3 tablespoons of milk, so it easily comes out. Draw a spider web on top of the guacamole with the sour cream.

Sprinkle olives, cheese, tomato and green onions around the edges. Place the plastic spider rings in the center and various spots around the edge. Serve with warm tortilla chips. Yum Yum!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Spaghetti Sauce vs Marinara

Pasta (not only spaghetti) is generally served with some sauce, as for itself it is pretty unwelcoming, as a dish. When Italians do not feel well physically, pasta is served with some olive oil and Parmigiano only. They call this kind of “sauce” “in bianco” - that is, “in white”. Lots of sauces where there is no tomato present belong to the “white” typology.
The usual spaghetti sauce you find around in the world is what Italians call “Al Pomodoro” - that is, “Tomato sauce”. Tomato sauce is quite plain - that is, featuring tomato as the main ingredient.
“Marinara” sauce is instead different. The use of the Marinara term (which means more or less “Sailor’s style”) involves the presence of garlic in the tomato. As you can imagine, when the garlic is cooked together with the tomato (some discard it before serving, while others prefer to chop it in tiny pieces and let it dissolve in the sauce), the rest of the sauce assumes a different flavor than the more subtle and plain “Al Pomodoro” sauce.
The use of the term “Marinara” - which strangely, does not have any relation with fish - is also applied to pizza, which is usually served with just tomato and garlic (no mozzarella). Quite strangely, to indicate a sauce accompanied by fish, shrimps and scallops, they use other terms - not marinara - but generally “allo scoglio” - which is “searock’s style” or “alla certosina” (reserved to risotto, usually), which is related to the Carthusian monks! As you can see, Italian is a pretty strange language, especially regarding the names of pasta recipes.
So, in the end, you are talking about ALMOST the same sauce, if you assume that spaghetti sauce is the “al pomodoro” sauce, only with the presence of garlic or not.
Always remember - do cook the pasta on the side, NOT together with the sauce! The sauce must be added only afterwards, when the pasta has been boiled and the water removed from it by the use of a colander.
You can always doctor a jarred sauce with fresh herbs, a diced onion, or other ingredients, if it isn’t exactly to your taste, but I prefer starting with a can of crushed san marzano tomatoes and adding as little as possible. Onions, olive oil, some fresh oregano, rosemary or basil, garlic and salt to taste. Maybe some red chili flakes, for the pop.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Cream of Celery Soup

When you are preparing a recipe with a celery bunch do you find there is a lot of leftovers? Don’t throw it away, make cream of celery soup!


4 cups of celery, chopped
1 cup yellow onion, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
1 cup chicken stock
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 teaspoon celery seed or celery salt, optional


In your Dutch Oven on med/high heat melt your butter, then sauté the onions and celery until softened, 5-7 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add in the flour, stir until incorporated. Add 1/2 of the cream and stir until smooth, then add the other half. Add in milk, seasonings and chicken stock. Bring to boil then reduce to med/low and let simmer for 10-15 minutes. Taste test to adjust seasoning, if needed. Serve. Yum Yum!

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Gluten Free Cheese Quesadilla

To make cheese quesadillas is simple enough, place your favorite cheese between two flour tortillas, heat in a skillet until the cheese starts to melt, cut it with a pizza cutter and serve with guacamole, sour cream and/or pico de gallo. But what if you want it Gluten Free?

The directions would be the same as my recipe on how to make Homemade Corn Tortillas, but with the following ingredients:

Makes 8 tortillas Total Time: 1 hour

2 cups gluten free flour
4 tablespoons vegetable, palm or coconut oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
2/3-1 cup warm water

Directions would be the same as I described above, but you could also use a waffle iron. See my Waffle Maker Chicken Quesadilla recipe.  I’ve made these a few times for my granddaughters. The one at Walmart is perfect because you can remove the plates for easy clean up. I got a more expensive model at Costco and you can’t remove the plates. Pain in the you know what to clean afterwards.

Remember you can always add ingredients to your cheese quesadilla. In the picture below someone added spinach, halved cherry tomatoes and black beans. Topped with a slice of avocado and seasoned with salt and pepper. Doesn’t it look good?

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

This Ain’t Your Grandma’s Ambrosia

I don’t ever recall my grandmother making ambrosia salad. Nor was it made in my house growing up. My memory of an ambrosia salad is at a buffet restaurant as an optional side dish. Is this salad a salad, side dish or a dessert? 

I personally love to have a cold, sweet side dish next to the other hot, salty food on my plate. I think that’s why I always have applesauce to counter-balance all the salt. My parents also made a rice with milk, cinnamon, and sugar, a Waldorf salad and occasionally opened a can of fruit cocktail as a side dish. So I have no idea why an ambrosia salad wasn’t included every now and then, maybe because it was too sweet? This salad has heavy whipping cream, sugar and marshmallows and possibly could make us kids too hyper for my parents to handle after a long day at work. 

I wish I could ask my mom, but she’s been gone since 1992. One big thing I wish I would have asked my grandmother and my mother were family recipes. Recipes that I could of passed down to my daughter and my granddaughters. Maybe my grandmother did make an ambrosia salad and I just don’t remember. I think that’s another reason I’m doing this website so my granddaughters have something of mine they can use and pass down to their children. 


1 20 oz can of pineapple chunks
1 15 oz can of mandarin oranges
1 cup maraschino cherries, rinse and drained 
1 cup heavy whipping cream 
1 tablespoon sugar 
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1/2 cup light sour cream 
3 cups of mini marshmallows 
1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
3/4 cup pecans, chopped 
1 cup green grapes, halved 


Put the pineapple chunks and the mandarin oranges in a strainer and let drain for 30 minutes to an hour. Rinse and drain the cherries, set aside. 

In a medium size bowl use a hand mixer to whip together the heavy whipping cream, sugar and vanilla extract until it’s light and fluffy. Gently fold in 1/3rd of the sour cream until fully incorporated, then repeat 1/3rd at a time until all of the sour cream is in the mixture. Gently add in the pecans, coconut and marshmallows, then fold in the grapes, pineapple, oranges and cherries. Refrigerate up to an hour before serving. When serving top with some shredded coconut or chopped pecans, optional. Yum Yum!

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Homemade Bavarian Pretzel Sticks with Cinnamon Butter

How many of us love large fresh warm pretzel sticks? 🙋‍♀️ At Bar Louie their Homemade Bavarian Pretzel Sticks are served with queso, honey mustard and cinnamon butter. Don’t you think the cinnamon butter is the best of the three? But, comparing their cinnamon butter with other restaurants, I do prefer Texas Roadhouse.

Making homemade pretzel sticks is definitely a weekend treat, because total time for prep and cooking is 2 hours and 10 minutes. Yield: 12

Bavarian Pretzel Sticks Ingredients:

2 cups light brown sugar
2 envelopes active dry yeast
1/4 cup vegetable oil
5 3/4 cups all-purpose flour + more for kneading
3/4 cup baking soda
1 large egg, beaten w/tablespoon of water
Flaky salt, like Maldon

In a large bowl, stir the brown sugar into 2 cups of warm water until dissolved. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Stir in the vegetable oil and 3 cups of the flour. Knead in the remaining 2 3/4 cups of flour; the dough will be slightly sticky. 

Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and knead until silky, about 3 minutes; if the dough is very sticky, knead in up to 1/4 cup more flour. Transfer the dough to an large, oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450°. Line 3 large cookie sheets with parchment paper and butter the paper. Punch down the dough and turn it out onto a floured work surface. Knead the dough lightly, flatten it out and cut it into 24 pieces. Roll each piece into a 9-inch stick about 1/2 inch thick. Transfer the sticks to the prepared cookie sheets, leaving at least 2 inches between them. Let stand uncovered until puffed, about 25 minutes.
In a large, deep skillet, stir the baking soda into 2 quarts of water and bring to a simmer over high heat. Reduce the heat to moderate. Using 2 slotted spoons, carefully transfer 6 pretzel sticks at a time to the simmering water 30 seconds, turning once; add about 1 cup of hot water after before cooking the second batch of pretzels. Transfer the pretzel sticks to paper towels to drain, then return them to the cookie sheets, spacing them evenly. 
Brush the pretzel sticks with the egg wash and sprinkle with salt. Bake until richly browned, about 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature, with cinnamon butter. Yum Yum!

Monday, October 15, 2018

BLT Wedge with Apple Cider Vinaigrette

If you love wedge salads, like I do, you’ve got to try this BLT Wedge with Apple Cider Vinaigrette. I had this delicious wedge at Bar Louis and now I want to make it at home and you will too.

In order to make the wedge salad you have to make two ingredients first; the Apple Cider Vinaigrette and the Bruschetta Tomatoes.

Apple Cider Vinaigrette Recipe


2 cups apple cider
2/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt


In a small saucepan on medium heat add the apple cider and cook until it reduced to 3/4 - 1 cup, about 10-15 minutes. Remove and pour into a bowl to cool down completely. Once cooled add the cider to a blender and add the mustard, blend until smooth. While the blender is running slowly add in the olive oil. Add in the apple cider vinegar and salt. Blend until combined. Taste to adjust seasoning. Pour into a dressing dispenser and refrigerate until ready to use.

Bruschetta Tomatoes
Makes enough for 6 serving


2-3 medium to large firm ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons oregano
4-5 fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil


In a medium size bowl combine all ingredients, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

BLT Wedge Ingredients per serving

1/4 head of iceberg lettuce, rinsed
2 strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/2 cup bruschetta tomatoes
1/4 cup green onions, chopped
1/2 hard boiled egg, chopped
1/4 - 1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles
1/4 cup blue cheese dressing
1/4 cup Apple cider Vinaigrette
Salt and pepper, to taste


On a large plate or wide bowl arrange as listed in ingredients. Use more or less of each ingredient per your preference and enjoy. Yum Yum!

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Penne Pasta with Italian Sausage

You know when you go to Sam’s Club on a Saturday they have all these taste test stations to sell food. Well I stopped to taste some Italian sausage and of course had to buy some. It was pretty tasty. Other people thought so too, because it was almost gone. Now, what to do with it.

I also recently bought some Penne pasta, so I’m going to use some of a Rachel Ray recipe she called,  Christmas Pasta and see if I can reinvent it into my Penne Pasta with Sausage Recipe. đŸ€žServes 4 Total Time 35 minutes.


2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup diced pancetta
1 pkg of ground Italian sausage
1 medium onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup beef broth
1 can 32oz crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper, to taste
16 oz Penne pasta, cooked al dente
Greens, to garnish
Parmesan cheese, to garnish


In a  Staub cast-iron braiser on med/high heat add the olive oil. When hot add in the garlic and diced pancetta, brown for 1 minute. Add in your Italian sausage and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Add the onion and celery, cook an additional 5 minutes. Add in the wine, cook 1 minute then the beef broth, seasonings and tomatoes. Bring to boil then reduce heat to med/low and let simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Cook your Penne pasta al dente according to package instructions and as much as you need (8 oz for every 2-3 people). Toss into braiser to coat. Serve in a large bowl and top with greens and/or lots of Parmesan cheese. Yum Yum!

Let me know if you try it. Or would change anything.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Sur la table Instant Pot Pumpkin Sage Risotto

This should be an Instant Pot or not post, because you can make Pumpkin Sage Risotto both ways. The all natural ingredients in Sur la table’s Pumpkin Sage Risotto are: Arborio rice, dried pumpkin, dried orange peel, canola oil, black pepper, Sage, dried green onion, brown sugar, dried shallots, salt, dried chives and turmeric. 7 servings out of the 17.2 oz jar.

Instant Pot Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup risotto mix
1/4 cup chopped onion
3 cups low sodium chicken stock
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste


Use the sauté setting on your Instant Pot and sauté the onions and risotto mix in the oil until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Cancel the sauté setting and add the stock and wine. Close the lid and press the rice setting (it should be set for low pressure @ 12 minutes) When done use the quick release method then open the lid. Stir in the cheese and salt and pepper, to taste. Yum Yum!

Stovetop Ingredients:

6 cups of low sodium chicken stock
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups risotto mix
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste


Heat stock, then set aside. In a large skillet melt the butter over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and risotto mix and toast until evenly coated and opaque, about 2 minutes. Add the wine and stir until absorbed. Add in the chicken stock 1 cup at a time and stir continuously until each cup is absorbed by the rice before the next cup is added. Cook until rice is tender, but firm. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper. Taste test to adjust seasonings and add more cheese, if necessary. Yum Yum.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Emeril’s Chicken and Smoked Sausage Gumbo

Today is National Gumbo Day. Gumbo origin is from Louisiana and the first historical reference is in 1803 when it was served at a gubernatorial dinner. Traditionally made with seafood, I thought let’s switch it up and have Emeril’s Chicken and Smoked Sausage Gumbo instead. Serves 6 Total Time 30 minutes 



  • One 4-pound chicken, rinsed and dried, cut into pieces
  • 1 onion, unpeeled, quartered
  • 1 rib celery, cut into 2-inch lengths
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 quarts water, chicken stock, or canned low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3 onions, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, finely chopped
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne, plus more to taste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 1/2 pounds smoked sausage, halved lengthwise, then cut crosswise into half moons
  • 1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • Salt to taste
  • Cooked white rice, for serving
  • Gumbo file, for serving (optional)

  • Place chicken, onion, celery, smashed garlic, bay leaves, and liquid to cover the chicken by 1 inch in a large soup pot or small stockpot. Add salt and pepper and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook, skimming any foam that rises to the surface, until chicken is fall-from-the-bone tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour. (Add water if necessary to keep chicken submerged in liquid.)
  • Remove chicken to a heatproof bowl and set aside to cool. Strain broth through a fine-mesh sieve and set aside. When chicken is cool enough to handle, remove skin and bones; discard. Pull meat into bite-size pieces and place in a bowl; refrigerate until needed.
  • While stock is simmering, make roux: In a large, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat; whisk in flour. Cook, stirring constantly, reaching every portion of the bottom of the pot, until roux begins to take on some color. Reduce heat to medium or medium-low and continue cooking and stirring constantly until roux reaches the color of milk chocolate. (The timing here will vary depending on your cooktop as well as the pan you are using; the most important thing is to not let any portion of the roux scorch, and to stir constantly until you've reached the desired color.)
  • Add the chopped onions, celery, bell pepper and minced garlic, and cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables have softened, 5 to 7 minutes. If stock has cooled by this time, add it to roux-vegetable mixture along with cayenne and bay leaves, and stir to combine. (If stock has not cooled by the time vegetables have softened, set aside to cool; you should always add a hot stock to a cool roux or vice versa.)
  • Once roux and stock are combined, bring to a gentle simmer. Continue to simmer until sauce is thickened and flavorful, about 2 hours, skimming any foam or excess oil that comes to the surface.
  • While simmering, saute sausage in a large skillet over medium-high heat until browned on all sides. Add sausage to gumbo. Taste gumbo and season lightly with salt. Simmer for 2 hours.
  • After simmering, add chicken, chopped scallions, and parsley to gumbo. Stir well and continue to simmer for 30 minutes longer. Adjust thickness if necessary, then season with salt and cayenne to taste.
  • Serve gumbo ladled over hot white rice in large shallow bowls and gumbo file (optional) Yum Yum!

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Cooking Techniques

Here are some easy effortless tricks and knowledge that will make your cooking better immediately:
  • Meat (especially beef, pork, and poultry)
    • Dry meat with a paper towel before cooking it. Wet meat turns out “dry” and boiled-tasting. Dry meat, ironically, turns out moist and tender. What you call “moisture” in a finished meat dish is mostly the natural fats and oils, not water, which will actually boil the meat and carry those natural fats and oils away.
    • Always bring your meat up to room temperature. Don’t cook from refrigerator or freezer temp.
    • Salt your meat ahead of time to give it time to distribute throughout the meat. Up to 24 hours for beef or pork. This is a restaurant secret.
    • Even if meat is slow-cooked, a quick sear on a grill or fry pan will give some lovely maillard-reaction browning that makes it taste infinitely better. You can brown or sear meat at the beginning or at the end of cooking your dish (whichever makes more sense), but without it, meat tastes bland.
  • Vegetables
    • Fresh is better than frozen, and anything is better than canned.
    • Most people overcook their vegetables. A quick stir-fry is one of the most reliable methods for fresh veggies, and let the colour be your guide — they’re perfect just as they turn bright green. One of the easiest side dishes in the world is to get a bunch of fresh kale or other leafy green, wash it, roughly chop it, and then stir-fry it for about 2min in some oil and a dash of salt.
    • Root veggies are often best oven-roasted or grilled, and again, don’t overcook, or they’ll become rubbery. If you’re short on time, you can boil (or, sshhh don’t tell, even microwave) your potatoes or carrots to get them partly done and then finish them on the grill, pan, or oven.
  • Eggs
    • Get your oil hot enough before adding the eggs and they won’t stick. Butter always works better than oil, if you don’t mind the calories. Most people cook their eggs too cold. Especially omelettes.
    • If poaching eggs, add some vinegar (never salt) to the water, and you’ll find that the eggs stay together rather than exploding everywhere.
    • Cracking eggs into a small bowl and then pouring them from bowl to the pan (instead of cracking straight into the pan) is always a good idea. ESPECIALLY when poaching.
  • Sauces
    • An interesting sauce can turn a dull dish into a WOW dish. Supermarket roast chicken? Meh. Supermarket roast chicken with a basic black cherry sauce that you made in 10 minutes? THAT’S INTERESTING. Often the sauce matters way more than the dish, and is the easier part.
    • Don’t overheat. This is when sauces get lumpy or burnt. Double-boilers are great. If a sauce does separate, you can sometimes save it by vigorously stirring in a little more base (water, broth, cream as appropriate) and then slowly bring it back up to temperature.
    • For cream sauces, always use cream, not milk. Yes, cream seems less healthy, but milk lacks the fat content to keep it from curdling, especially if the sauce includes an acid like lemon or white wine. If you don’t want the calories of a cream sauce, pick a different sauce. Nobody likes accidental ricotta.
    • If it’s a sauce that uses corn starch or arrowroot or flour to thicken, dissolve the starch in a little cold water first, and then take your dish off the heat and mix that paste into your broth away from the heat. Then heat it back up. No lumps.
  • General
    • If you’re cooking food from a frozen dinner or jar or can, even one fresh ingredient will make a world of difference. Next time you bake a frozen pizza, add some fresh basil leaves or fresh pepperoni/salami or whatever else you like, and you’ll be amazed. Same goes for pasta sauce or curry sauce from a jar — some fresh garlic or peppers or other appropriate ingredient will totally rejuvenate it.
    • Learn the natural timing that things need to cook, and your cooking will also improve a lot, especially on the stove:
      • 1) Non-burning long-cooking ingredients like seed-based spices (cumin, coriander seed, mustard seed) and foundation vegetables like onions, celery, carrots are usually what to start with.
      • 2) Ingredients that burn a little more easily come next, like garlic, chili peppers, etc. Add them to your onions, etc, and only cook for a couple of minutes before adding the other stuff.
      • 3) Your main ingredients come next.
      • 4) Save leafy herbs like parsley, cilantro, oregano, basil, etc, to the very end. If you put them in too early, they’ll lose all their aroma and become worthless. Some even get bitter with too much cooking.
    • Also, learning what flavours are oil-based vs water based can inform your cooking a lot. Peppers and a lot of seed spices need oil to bring their flavours out, so that’s why recipes tell you to saute them first. A great trick from Indian cuisine is to do this in a separate pan when the food is nearly ready and then mix the aromatic oil and spices in at the last minute. Not just great for curries, it also works for soups, pasta sauces, and anything else that simmers a while but whose spices you don’t want to get dull.
    • Similarly, a little bit of acid (lemon, vinegar, white wine) can really make a dull dish sparkle. Add it near the end. DO NOT do this to creamy sauces or soups, though, or they can curdle.
    • Ensure your pan (and the oil in it) are at temperature before you add the first ingredients. If you throw the ingredients in the pain cold, immediately after turning on the heat, this is how to get dull, soggy, and also stuck-to-the-pan food (see “eggs” above).
    • Don’t just cook with your eyes. Use your nose and ears to tell you when things are too hot or too cold, or done enough or starting to burn. Regardless what the recipe says.
    • Similarly, use your tongue. Except when there are raw ingredients (pork, chicken, etc) that could make you sick, taste your food. A lot. Not only do personal preferences differ, ingredients do too! One jalapeño pepper can be super mild while the next is fiery hot. Spices in jars don’t necessarily go bad but do lose their flavour over time and will need different amounts than what the recipe says. Add seasonings to a little corner of the pot or sauce first, and taste that to see if it’s right before adding it to the rest of the surface and stirring it in. The recipe may say 1 tsp, but your tongue knows whether that’s right or if you need half that much or 5x that much.
    • Lastly, keep it simple. The techniques mentioned here will make a lot more difference to your cooking than a recipe that has 40 exotic ingredients. Stick to foods that are easy, but that you can do well. Take a hint from the Italians: most authentic Italian dishes (not the Americanized ones) only have 5 or 6 ingredients, but they use great ingredients and treat each one the way it was meant to be treated.

Hells Kitchen Lobster Risotto vs Bret Hauser’s Shrimp Risotto

If you watched Hells Kitchen last week the big todo was about the Risotto. Chef Gordon Ramsay decided to take his famous Lobster Risotto off the menu and have everyone prepare their favorite version. Bret Hauser was the winner with his grilled shrimp with charred asparagus tips and seafood/tomato brodo (broth) with Parmesan cheese.  Do you think Bret made a stock in the time allowed? 

First are the ingredients for the lobster risotto:

4 cups water or 3 cups water and 1 cup white wine
3 8oz lobster tails
1 med onion, roughly chopped
1 carrot, sliced
1 celery stalk, sliced
1 tomato, chopped or use 1 8oz can diced tomatoes
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper, to taste

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon shallots or white onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/4 cup dry white wine
3 cups of lobster stock
Diced lobster meat from the 3 tails
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons mascarpone cheese or cream cheese
Zest from a whole lemon
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons Freshly chopped chives, to garnish
Shaved Parmesan cheese, to garnish


LoBster stock

  1. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil, add lobster and continue to boil for 4 minutes. Remove lobster and plunge into ice water. Remove the lobster meat and dice for the risotto, then refrigerate. Return the shells to the boiling water.
  2. Add onion, carrot, celery, tomato, bay leaf then add salt & pepper to taste. Simmer the broth for 20 minutes then 
    strain out the lobster shells, vegetables and spices. Reserve broth and keep on medium heat for use in the risotto.


  1. Bring a large skillet or frying pan to medium heat, add olive oil, shallots and garlic. Cook until softened (1-2 minutes). Add the Arborio rice, cook (stirring occasionally) for 1-2 minutes before adding dry white wine. 
  2. Add wine and cook for a minute, keeping the rice moving (stirring frequently). Add one-third to half of the lobster stock, cook (stirring occasionally) for 3-5 minutes until the rice has absorbed most of the liquid.
  3. Add the remaining lobster stock in ladled increments, allowing the rice to slowly absorb the liquid until the Arborio rice becomes slightly translucent and is an al dente firmness and the core can still be seen in the center (about 20 minutes total time once broth is added).
  4. Add the reserved diced lobster meat, butter, mascarpone cheese, lemon zest and salt & pepper (to taste). Stir vigorously until all ingredients are well combined and a thick, creamy risotto is achieved. 
  5. Correct the seasoning (if necessary), serve and garnish with parmigiano and chives (if desired).

    So how do you think Bret made his seafood/tomato brodo (broth)? Do you think it was something like this?

    1 tablespoon olive oil 
    3 garlic cloves, finely chopped 
    1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes 
    3/4 cup dry white wine
    8 oz strained tomatoes 
    Salt and pepper, to taste 
    1 1/2 lbs assorted seafood; clams, mussels, shrimp, scallops or even sea bass 
    2 teaspoons fresh parsley, chopped 


    In a heavy Dutch Oven or saucepan add the oil over med/low heat. Add the garlic and the red pepper flakes, cook 1 minute without browning. Pour in the wine stir and allow the wine to reduce slightly. Stir in the strained tomatoes and salt and pepper, to taste. 

    Turn up the heat to medium and bring to a simmer. If using shell seafood liken clams or mussels rinse well then add them to the pan, cover and let steam for 5 minutes or until the shellfish open. (If any shellfish do not open, discard)

    Season the shrimp, scallops or sea bass evenly with salt and pepper, then add them to the pan. Stir to coat and cook an additional 5 minutes.

    Shrimp Risotto:

    1/2 cup white wine 
    3 cups chicken stock
    1 1/2 ups arborio rice
    1 large onion 
    1 tablespoon olive oil 
    16 oz fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined 
    1 cup seafood/tomato broth 
    1 cup chopped parsley 
    1 cup grated Parmesan cheese 
    Juice from 2 limes
    1 teaspoon salt
    Charred asparagus, to garnish 


    Simmer white wine and chicken stock in a small saucepan. Rinse the rice in cold water, then shake to remove excess. Place rice, onion and olive oil in a large saucepan over med/low heat. Allow the onions to become slightly translucent, about 3 minutes.

    Turn the heat to low. Add in 1/2 cup of stock at a time, stirring to combine with the rice. Once absorbed add another cup of stock and repeat until stock is used up. Add in the seafood/tomato broth and shrimp, stir to cover shrimp completely. Allow to cook 5-7 minutes, or until the shrimp are cooked through. Add in parsley, Parmesan cheese and the juice of 2 limes, cooking an additional 3-5 minutes. While cooking char your asparagus on an open flame or in the broiler. Risotto should be creamy and al dente. To serve: top with a few charred asparagus. Yum Yum!

    What do you think?