Grilled Pizza -Redux

March 23, 2015

Filed Under : main courses

cold cast iron pizza #2 | ©

Last year I bought a kamado style grill and posted about it here: Grilling Fever.  Most people know of the kamado grills via the Big Green Egg brand, but there are several other brands out there. You can read some of my beginners thoughts about kamado grills and grilling here: Kamado Cooking – Notes from a Beginner.  Since I bought the kamado, I’ve probably completed over 100 cooks on it and learned a ton. Now that the weather is nice, I plan to get right back to it and I started off this weekend with grilled pizza.

An eon ago, when I had a gas grill, I wrote about grilled pizza. While that recipe and technique are still good, I want to update it with a new and fantastic pizza method that I’ve learned on the kamado. I learned it from a woman on a cooking forum and I call it the “cold cast iron” method.

It’s super simple and turns out a fantastic pizza in a matter of minutes. Start by lighting your grill and letting it heat up to 550° or 600° F.

While the grill is warming up, build your pizzas on a cast iron griddle or skillet. Once I discovered this method, I bought 3 of these Lodge Cast-Iron Round Griddles specifically for pizza making. They’re 10″ (which makes a perfect personal pizza size) and $15 with free shipping via Amazon Prime. Well worth the price. Amazon also sells a larger 14″ pan specifically for pizza if you wanted to make larger pizzas: Lodge Cast Iron Pizza Pan.

You want to make sure that each pizza starts off on a cold (or at least cool) griddle or pan. Sprinkle a little cornmeal on the pan and then shape your dough into a circle to nearly fill the pan. You can make your own pizza dough or use store-bought (the dough in these pictures was from the Publix deli).

Add the toppings of your choice – for this pizza I used garlic, tomato sauce, sliced tomatoes, sliced mushrooms, red onions, ricotta cheese, and a light sprinkling of shredded mozzarella cheese. (H made his more traditional with sauce, pepperoni, ricotta, and mozzarella.)

cold cast iron pizza #1 | ©

Once your grill has come up to temperature (at least 550°F), place the griddle or pan in the grill. You want the grate at least level with the edge of the grill, and better yet, 2″-3″ above if at all possible.

Close the lid, set your timer for 8 minutes, and keep your hands off! After 8 mins, check the pizza. If the cheese is completely melted and starting to brown on top and the crust is puffy and browned, it’s done. You can leave it in another minute if you want a slightly darker crust, but more than 11 minutes and it’ll start to burn on the bottom. The picture below was after 9.5 min and the crust was just perfectly crunchy on the bottom.

cold cast iron pizza #3 | ©


If you’ve got a kamado style grill, or a grill that you can heat up to 500°+, I strongly recommend you try the cold cast-iron method of pizza making. It makes wonderful pizza. Now I just need to plan a pizza party and invite some friends!

Friday Five #5

March 1, 2015

Filed Under : life

hot pepper oil | ©


Slightly late, but still publishing!


We finally got some winter weather here in the ATL. We got about a half inch of snow on Tuesday and another nearly full inch on Thursday. Of course it was all gone by the middle of the next day, both times. I know it’s nothing compared to what the rest of the country has had to deal with this winter, but I did enjoy the couple of days of it.


In the category of Expensive Items That Are Worth Every Penny: I’m now a full month into owning a Nest thermostat (actually two of them). I’ve already seen a huge difference in energy usage as compared to the same time last year, so that’s a plus. And I love being able to control the thermostats from my computer or my tablet. (So lazy, I know!)


I got a gel manicure last week and I’m quite impressed with it. I never get manicures because inevitably they chip or peel within days – sometimes even hours. I’m hard on my hands and manicures just don’t last. My resort over the last 10 years or more has just to keep my nails super short and filed down. But the gel manicure has not only lasted a full week now with no chipping or peeling or unsightliness, my nails actually feel a little stronger. I don’t know if I’ll keep doing it on a regular basis, but it’s nice to know that I can get one for special occasions and have it stay nice looking long enough to enjoy.


My first Blue Apron week wound up being put on the back burner after the chicken pot pie recipe. I wound up not cooking at home much last week, but now I have a 2nd box of ingredients waiting for my attention as well as the remaining two meals from the 1st box. I suspended the 3rd week (didn’t look interesting to me anyway) and we’ll see if I can get a little caught up. Luckily everything is packaged well enough to last and I’ve frozen all the meats/fish that were sent, so nothing was wasted.


Movies! I’ve added a board to my Pinterest page to keep track of the movies I’ve watched. Z and I saw The Lazarus Effect on our last date night. We’re both suckers for horror movies, no matter how good or bad. This one wasn’t bad – at least the plot made sense. Z laughed at me because there were a few good “jump” moments that caught me by surprise, but there wasn’t much overall tension or any truly scary parts in the movie. Nothing that made me want to hide my eyes or clutch Z’s arm in anticipation, anyway. It was fun, but probably worth waiting for Netflix or Amazon, if you like that kind of movie.

That’s it for this week. Hope everyone is staying warm and safe!

Chicken Pot Pie (Blue Apron)

February 23, 2015

Filed Under : main courses

chicken pot pie | ©

Over the last month or so, I’ve seen a lot of bloggers post about Blue Apron. Seeing as how I’ve been struggling to find new things to cook (despite a thousand pins on Pinterest), and haven’t had much motivation to cook, I thought that maybe trying it out would give me a little shove in the right direction. So I did.

Let me say this right up front: I paid for my Blue Apron subscription. They have not approached me or provided me with any food or supplies. They don’t know me from Adam. I wanted to try them out and see if they were worth the hype AND I wanted some impetus to cook and try new things.

The first recipe I decided to try was the Chicken & Sage Biscuit Pot Pie. My “kit” for this meal included 2 chicken breast filets (vacuum sealed), veggies (mushrooms, turnip, red onion, carrots, celery, sage), buttermilk biscuit mix, and a bag of what Blue Apron calls “knick knacks” for the meal (usually spices or condiments) – which in this case was flour, chicken demi-glace, and heavy cream.

Except we already hit the first snag. In my box, which contained 3 meals, I got TWO of the knick knack bags for the beef lo mein and no knick knack bag for the chicken pot pie. Oops. Luckily I had milk and flour and I was able to recover with chicken stock in lieu of the demi-glace and water. More about that later.

chicken pot pie | ©

The recipe was super easy to follow and came together quickly. I actually made this for lunch (while I was on a conference call, even) and had it ready in less than 45 mins, from beginning to end (including a 15 min baking time).

The results? It was good. Z thought there was too much biscuit topping and I thought there wasn’t enough “gravy” for the amount of topping, which I think are fair criticisms. We both thought the mushrooms were the overwhelming flavor, but only because the rest of the filling was somewhat bland.

From a recipe perspective, there are a few other things: The carrots and turnips were slightly undercooked by their timing. I increased the veggie cooking times based on my own judgement and knowledge. The recipe called for the addition of 1/2 cup of water to the biscuit mix, which wasn’t nearly enough to get a sticky, spoonable dough. I wound up adding almost a full cup. Also as I was mixing the dough I kept feeling what I thought were plasticy bits and I was worried I had missed something in the wrapping. I realized, however, that what I was seeing/feeling was some kind of freeze dried butter or shortening chips. That makes perfect sense, but it was somewhat disconcerting at first.

The recipe also made quite a bit. It says on the recipe card it makes 3 servings, but we easily got 5 out of it (and that’s with Z eating his “man sized” portions!).

chicken pot pie | ©

So let’s wrap up a longish post and give my final judgement based on this first meal:


  • All of the ingredients you need in the exact amounts you need them are included for each meal. There’s no buying a whole jar of something just to use 2 tsp of it, or having half a bunch of bok choy going limp in the vegetable drawer because you couldn’t use the whole thing.
  • The recipe was clear and easy to follow and it all came together quickly, plus it gave me some ideas I wouldn’t have thought of before, like putting turnip in my pot pie!
  • It made enough to feed a hungry boyfriend (and me) and still have leftovers for lunch the next day, which is something that’s important as I meal plan around having leftovers.
  • Based on what I got in this box (I still have 2 other meals to cook) I feel that the price is quite reasonable. If all the meals provide leftovers like this, then this will be my cheapest grocery week all year!


  • Missing the “knick knack” pack from this recipe could have been a show stopper for someone who isn’t comfortable working off-recipe or isn’t familiar with basic cooking technique. I was perfectly comfortable substituting ingredients (homemade chicken stock for demi-glace and water, milk for cream, etc), but some people aren’t.
  • I found the cooking times for the veggies was a little short. The recipe called for 8 mins of cooking but the carrots and turnips were underdone at that point. I wound up cooking the veggies for a good 15 mins. Again, a judgement call based on knowledge that might be a problem for newer or uncertain cooks.
  • The filling was bland and I suspect this is because Blue Apron is delivering meals/recipes to a wide variety of people and there are some people who don’t like strongly seasoned foods. This is another area where an inexperienced cook might not be able to adapt the recipe appropriately. A nice upgrade would be for Blue Apron to include some optional seasonings or some alternate recipe options for people who would like a more strongly flavored filling or who are more open to experimenting.

Overall I’m pleased with this first meal from my first box, despite the few cons above. I’ll be reviewing the other meals and boxes as I cook them, so if you’re interested, check back.

This week I’ll be remaking chicken pot pie with my own recipe which I’ll post here for comparison purposes!

Friday Five #4

February 20, 2015

Filed Under : life

chicken pot pie | ©


Food! Really seriously and truly, folks, I have food posts queued up to post next week. I’ve got three posts photographed, mostly written, and ready to go. Plus I have at least two more things to cook. The first one will post on Monday – it’s Chicken Pot Pie. I’m happy to be back to cooking.


Weather is still in my top 5 this week. It’s freaking cold! When I woke up this morning it was 15°F out, with a wind chill of 7°F. Brrr. I’ve been running the heat and the space heater so much that it is super dry in the house and I feel parched all the time, no matter how much water I drink. Boo!


TV time. I’ve been watching quite a bit of TV lately and getting caught up on some things. The Walking Dead is back and so far I like this season. I like that the whole group is together again. I’m also enjoying Downton Abbey, although I wish they’d stop dragging out the whole Mr. Green/Anna/Bates drama. It feels like beating a dead horse, but I guess without that storyline, there wouldn’t be much for Anna & Bates to be doing. Better Call Saul is the best show of the season so far, however. It’s the spinoff series from Breaking Bad. I love it! It has more overt humor than Breaking Bad did, but there’s still the grim, dark side. Plus some favorite characters are back.


I’ve slacked on the decluttering and organizing lately. I haven’t tackled the kitchen yet – mostly because I’m dreading it. I’m slightly addicted to kitchen gadgets and tools and pots and pans and all of that stuff and it’s really hard for me to thin it all out. But I desperately need to. I pointed out the Z the other day that one of the reasons I’m not cooking as much is that it’s become a game of Tetris to just get to the stove and find the right pot or pan. It makes me not even want to get started.


Finally, books.  We watched The Drop the other day on On Demand, which got me back hooked on Dennis Lehane. I am currently almost finished rereading Mystic River which is my favorite book of his. I also zipped through Obsession in Death which is the latest Eve Dallas novel by J.D. Robb. The Eve/Roarke books are some of my guilty pleasure readings they’re fast reads and Robb always does good dialogue. I’ve also been dipping into Stone Mattress: Nine Tales, a collection of short stories by Margaret Atwood. I stalled out on her Oryx and Crake series and I’m finding that her short stories are fitting the bill right now. I’ll get back to the series at some point, though.

That’s it for this week. Stay tuned for food posts (finally!) next week.

Friday Five #3

February 13, 2015

Filed Under : life

beeswax candles | ©


Blogging about weather is probably only slightly less boring than constantly talking about it, but I’m going there anyway. What. The. Hell. It was 70° on Saturday, 66° on Wednesday … and 39° today. And the local channels are now predicting wintry mix and freezing rain for Monday and Tuesday!


I ordered 10 lbs of beeswax from an apiary in Texas and tried my hand at candlemaking. My dipped candles are a little wonky but the container candles have turned out beautifully. I love the subtly sweet scent of beeswax so much more than any artificial fragrances. I used a few old Ikea planters and some old candle jars for my first batch. I might go find prettier containers if I’m going to make more of these.


I recently subscribed to Blue Apron and will get my first shipment next week. I’m hoping it will help get me back to cooking and blogging more. (No, I have not been sponsored or received any free products. I’m just interested in the concept. And I want to be able to blog my honest opinion without obligation.)


I recently picked up a copy of StrengthsFinder 2.0 and took the Strengthfinder online test. I was surprised at how accurate I felt the test was and felt like the feedback was gave me a lot of insight on how I might want to present myself in a job interview or promotion situation. I’m planning on getting a copy for H so he can take the test (you have to buy the book to get the access code to the website). I think for anyone who is job hunting or might be angling for promotion or movement within their company, this is a great resource.


Speaking of books, here’s what I’m reading:  I finished a sentimental binge read of The Emily Books by LM Montgomery last week, which was a fun and fast read.  The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett (I’ve read it before, and am enjoying it again, but there are some parts that now strike me as much more unrealistic than when I was younger and read it the first time). I started Station Eleven: A novel, but I’m having a hard time settling into it. It’s a good book, but not what I’m in the mood for right now – I’ll probably try it again next month. And finally I’m dipping in to Tales Of The Alhambra now and then.

If I don’t get snowed or iced in next week, hopefully I’ll have some food to share! Everyone have a great weekend and stay warm!!

Friday Five #2

February 1, 2015

Filed Under : life


It might turn out that all I post this year is Friday Fives … and then not even on Friday.  Working on it, I promise. Here’s the Sunday edition for your enjoyment.


Last Wednesday was my birthday – I’m not saying which one, just that I’m a lot closer to 50 than seems possible. I feel like I’m still in my 20s. I’ve had a great birthday week and accomplished a lot of personal things that have been lingering in the background for a while. It’s going to be a good year. (I also noticed that Google gives you a custom “doodle” for your birthday – kind of cool!)


I bought myself a bicycle as a birthday gift. I haven’t ridden a bike in more than 10 years and I haven’t owned one in more than twice that. Of course it’s not just a bike, anymore. It’s a car rack, a helmet, a water bottle holder, a small saddle bag to hold my ID and phone while I ride. What happened to the days when you just hopped on your bike and went? Still, I’m excited and I can’t wait to get out and start riding again. (And of course it’s raining today!)


I’ve decided that I’m going to take an actual, real vacation this year, probably sometime around the end of March or beginning of April. I haven’t decided where I’m going to go yet, but I have a couple of options in mind. I can’t decide between Austin, TX; going to a beach somewhere (most likely the Outer Banks); or heading up to Congaree National Park in SC with my kayak and going paddling.


For the first time in I can’t remember how long, I have no interest in the Superbowl – not for the teams or the commercials. I’m not particularly invested in either team and the commercials have become either entirely over the top or wind up being lame in an effort to be cutting edge. I’ve seen most of them on the Internet already. I’m sure we’ll have it on, because that’s what we do in this house when there’s football, but I likely will be reading or doing something else for most of it.


The decluttering has begun to move downstairs. The next room on the agenda is the kitchen. I’m dreading it just a little. Ack!

Hope everyone is having a great weekend, Superbowl or otherwise. More next week – and possibly a recipe, too!

Happy 2015 & A Friday Five

January 23, 2015

Filed Under : life

kara's place | ©

One of my resolutions for 2015 was to be a better blogger. Y’all can see how well that’s worked out for me, considering it’s the 23rd of January and I’m just not making my first post of the year, right? Yeah.

In the meanwhile, since part of being a better blogger is actually blogging I’m going to try something to keep me focused. I’m going to start posting a “Friday Five”. I’ve done summaries and rollups before but I always wind up feeling overwhelmed and abandoning them. I think my issue is that I get too ambitious and tie myself to a structure where I feel like I have to come up with a certain type and amount of content. So I’m simplifying.

The Friday Five will be five random thoughts that I’ll post on Fridays. It might be about food. It might be about books. It might be about TV or movies. It might be about my cats. Who knows. Just five things that are floating around in my head or that have struck me as interesting. So without further ado, here’s the first Friday Five of 2015.


I started the Precision Nutrition coaching program this month and I’m pretty excited about it. It’s a year long program that is going to influence all parts of my life, including what I cook and eat. I suspect it’s going to show up in some of what I start posting, food-wise on the blog.


I have spent the last 3 weeks binge watching Sons of Anarchy. Why on earth was I not watching this before? Although, admittedly, finding the show after it’s over has allowed me to watch it all at once. I’ve got 2 episodes left (yes, I did break down and buy the final season from Amazon).


Last year about this time of year Atlanta was shut down by a major ice storm. It took H nearly 15 hours to get home that day – from his office 12 miles away. So far we’ve avoided that this year, although the weather channels are predicting snow for Superbowl Sunday. We’ll see.


My reading has been all over the place this year. I still need to update my “Books read in 2014″ list and get started on the 2015 list. I currently have 3 books going:
Last Letters from Attu: The True Story of Etta Jones, Alaska Pioneer and Japanese P.O.W.
The Blessing Way (the first book in the Tony Hillerman Leaphorn/Chee series)
Texas Tears and Texas Sunshine: Voices of Frontier Women (this one is a series of vignettes and short personal accounts)
I find it amusing that I’m reading about the histories of Texas and Alaska at the same time. Sort of a cross section of the two biggest states.


I’m almost done with the decluttering of the upstairs (except for H’s room, which I’m not touching!). I have made at least 4 trips to Goodwill, plus given away a ton of stuff via my local Freecycle. I’ve also spent a ton of money on furniture, finishing out my master closet, and upgrading some very old items (lamps, a new shower head, etc), but I think it’s been well worth it. Last year was the year of the new sofa and carpet. This year it was time for the upstairs to get some love.

Those are my five random thoughts for this week. We’ll see what runs through my head next week. Thanks for reading!

Pickled Cabbage Salad

December 3, 2014

Filed Under : veg, salad, & side dishes

Pickled Cabbage Salad | ©

Back in early November, Deb from Smitten Kitchen posted this  pickled cabbage salad. I like cabbage, I was looking for a slaw recipe that didn’t rely on mayonnaise so much anyway, and I decided I’d try it. I had all the ingredients I needed on hand except for the cucumber, and so I forged ahead.

Oh. My. Goodness.

Pickled Cabbage Salad | ©

It was delicious the first day after it had rested for about 4 hours in the fridge. The second day it was superlative. The cabbage was still crunchy, the flavors had begin to blend and meld, the pepper I added became a little more prominent, and I may or may not have eaten three bowls of it for lunch. And then immediately made another batch. I also messaged all my friends and said “You have to make this now”. That’s how much I love this salad.

I’ve since made it (ahem) a few more times. As odd as it seems to make a chilled salad my wintertime staple, this is it this year. I’ve had it for lunch with a sandwich or some leftovers almost every day for the last 2 weeks, and even served it as a side with Thanksgiving leftovers on Friday and Saturday. (It really is a perfect companion to a leftover turkey sandwich!)

Pickled Cabbage Salad | ©

I’ve tweaked the recipe a little to adapt it to my own taste, upping the amount of celery seed and adding some cracked whole peppercorns for spice. I’ve also tweaked the vegetables in a couple of batches, even adding red onion in one. This last time I made it with half green cabbage and half red cabbage, which has dyed the whole batch a beautiful, vibrant pink. I’ve also made it with both real sugar and with Truvia, and while I prefer the version with real sugar (and it doesn’t impact the nutritional value that much) the version with Truvia is still very good and worth making.

So as I’ve told everyone I know, I’m now telling you – make this salad. Now. Today. You won’t regret it. It’s that good.

 Pickled Cabbage Salad

(loosely adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

Pickled Cabbage Salad | ©

  • 1 1/2 cups white vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar (or 3-4 tsp of Truvia)
  • 1 tsp celery seed
  • 1 tbsp cracked whole peppercorns (or 1-2 tsp fresh ground black pepper)
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt (I used Mortons)
  • 1 small head of cabbage (you can use all green or mixed green and red)
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into strips
  • 1 carrot, cut julienne (or shredded)
  • 1 cucumber, diced or cut julienne

Mix the first 5 ingredients (through the black pepper) and let it sit for the salt and sugar to dissolve. (If you use Truvia instead of sugar, it will not entirely dissolve in the brine. Go ahead and leave it in; it will sink to the bottom and won’t be noticeable when you serve the salad.)

Dice, shred, and chop all the other ingredients while the brine is sitting then toss them all together in a LARGE bowl and pour the brine over. Toss it well so that every bit of the vegetable mixture comes in contact with the liquid (I used my hands – it was just easier), then cover it and let it sit in the fridge for at least 4 hours. It’s even better if you let it sit overnight.

After the salad has rested and “pickled” some, it will shrink down considerably and you’ll be able to move it to a smaller container and pack it down. I was able to fit the whole recipe into a half-gallon sized mason jar after letting it rest overnight. If you do move it to another container, just pour the brine in as well – at this point it should mostly cover the vegetables.

If you’ve used Truvia in the recipe, you’ll still have little bits of undissolved sediment/grit in the bottom of the bowl. I filtered this out when I moved the salad to a smaller container, but again, it will settle to the bottom if you leave it in.

Makes 10-12 servings.

Per serving (at 10 servings):  Calories: 56 | Protein 1.3g | Fat <1g | Carb 13.5g | Fiber 2.5g
(Made with Truvia, the calories are 30, and carbs are 8.4g. All other nutrients stay the same.)

Boeuf Bourguignon

November 29, 2014

Filed Under : main courses - soups & stews

Crock Pot Boeuf Bourguignon | ©

Every food blog in creation is posting Thanksgiving foods and leftover dishes this week, so I’m going to be contrary and post something not even remotely related to the holiday!

A few weeks ago we got our first real cold spell here in Atlanta and I started craving something rich and warm and comfort-food-like. I started digging through the (way too many) pins I had on Pinterest, looking for something that would fit the bill and I found this Boeuf Bourguignon that I had pinned almost a year ago. I actually had everything needed for this recipe, so it became Friday night’s date-night meal.

Originally I had planned to just throw all the ingredients into the crock pot and let them simmer, but I wasn’t in any hurry, so I decided to take the time necessary to make this using the traditional techniques.

My slow cooker allows me to crank up the heat and brown/sear, before lowering it to slow cook, so I was able to do all parts of this in the one pan. I started out searing the cubes of meat, making sure there was plenty of space between the cubes. It took 4 batches to get all the meat properly seared, and time to deglaze with a little wine between each batch, but it was worth it.

I followed the rest of the instructions and then put everything into the crock and set it on low for almost 7 hours.

Crock Pot Boeuf Bourguignon | ©

Near the end of the cooking time, I used my cast iron skillet to brown the mushrooms, using the same technique as with the cubes of meat – not crowding the pan and leaving lots of space between pieces for evaporation. It took 3 batches to cook a pound of mushrooms, which I added to the crock about 15 minutes before I served it over egg noodles.

Crock Pot Boeuf Bourguignon | ©

I wish I could describe how incredibly good this was. Taking the time to cook the elements separately, to deglaze the pan between each batch of meat, to sear the mushrooms before adding them to the stew … it made an enormous difference to the dish. I’ve made beef stews before with similar ingredients and, don’t get me wrong, they’re good! But this … this was superlative. Cooking the main ingredients separately and letting them get a nice sear on them helped each ingredient stand out a little from the whole. It gave the meal a depth of flavor that you don’t get in a regular stew. Z raved over it and said it was quite possibly his 2nd favorite thing of mine, which is high praise indeed.

I do have a few comments and thoughts for next time.

  • Don’t skimp on the bacon for this. The bacon grease adds quite a bit of flavor that you won’t get with olive oil.
  • If my slow-cooker hadn’t had  a sear setting, I’d have started out with my cast iron skillet, which is what I cooked the mushrooms in near the end. I would not recommend using a non-stick skillet as you need the browned goodness that comes from searing meat on a standard or cast-iron skillet to really make this work.
  • I wish I’d had pearl onions as traditional Boeuf Bourguignon calls for; next time I’ll have them and I’ll brown them after the mushrooms, before they’re added to the dish.
  • The recipe from the pin said to use less liquid for the slow cooker version, but I found that there wasn’t quite enough liquid for my taste. It’s possible that the egg noodles absorbed some of the liquid, but either way, I thought it needed a little more. Next time I’ll use enough beef broth to almost cover the ingredients in the crock.
  • The recipe also said to use chicken broth over beef, but I used my homemade beef broth in this. I just couldn’t see using chicken broth in what is essentially a beef stew. YMMV
  • This recipe says it serves 6, but those must be HUGE portions. We ate it for dinner on Friday, lunch for 2 more days, and I had it for dinner again on the 4th day. After that, I froze what was left (at least 2 more servings). I’ll update with how that turned out when I thaw and eat it later.

Slow Cooker Boeuf Bourguignon

Crock Pot Boeuf Bourguignon | ©
(as adapted from the recipe originally posted on

  • 8 ounces thick-cut bacon, diced
  • 3 lb beef round roast, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 cups red wine (I used a Pinot Noir)
  • 2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 medium carrots, diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2-3 cups beef broth (enough to barely cover the ingredients when all in the cooking pot)
  • 1 lb mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 lb pearl onions, trimmed and peeled

Put the bacon in a large skillet (not a non-stick one) and render it down over medium heat until you have crispy little bits of bacon and a good amount of hot bacon grease. Drain the grease into a container keep it handy. Set the bacon bits aside for later.

Turn the heat up under the skillet to medium high and begin browning the cubes of meat in about 1 tbsp of the bacon grease. Do not crowd the skillet or dump all the meat in at once. Leave a good bit of distance between each cube and sear them on each side. You’ll know that they’re properly seared when they release from the pan without having to be pulled free. It may take you 4 or 5 batches to get all the meat seared off and that’s ok. Between each batch, deglaze the pan with about 1/4 cup of the wine, making sure to scrape up all the browned bits on the bottom and pouring it over the meat you’ve already seared. Then add more bacon grease and sear the next batch of meat.

Once all the meat is seared, put it aside in a bowl and turn the heat down to medium again. Put the onions, celery, and carrots into the pan and cook them until they’re soft and beginning to brown ever so slightly. Add the garlic and the tomato paste and give it a good stir to mix thoroughly. Cook for another 3-5 mins.

Move all the cooked ingredients (meat, vegetables, and all the juice) to your slow cooker. To that add the thyme, bay leaf, the remaining wine (if there is any after the deglazing), and enough beef broth to just barely cover the ingredients. Cook on low for at least 6 hours.

About 30-60 mins before you’re going to serve, heat up your skillet again, and begin searing the mushroom slices in a little bit of the bacon fat. As with the meat, do this in batches, leaving plenty of space between each slice so that the liquid from the mushrooms evaporates quickly. You want browned mushrooms, not steamed ones!

If you include pearl onions, do the same with the onions, browning them over high heat, but then add a little bit of beef broth and simmer them until they’re tender and cooked through (you don’t want raw onions in the dish).

Add the reserved bacon bits (from way back at the beginning of the recipe), the mushrooms, and the onions to the slow cooker and let them simmer for at least 15 mins before serving.

You can serve this as a stew, in a bowl with crusty bread as a side, or you can serve it over egg noodles, or over mashed potatoes. Garnish with some chopped parsley if you want.

Makes 8-10 servings.  Per serving (at 8 servings):  Calories: 407| Protein 37g | Fat 21g | Carb 11g | Fiber 2g

Potato Gruyere Gratin

October 26, 2014

Filed Under : veg, salad, & side dishes

Potato Gruyere Gratin | ©

This past week Z said mentioned that we hadn’t fired up the grill in a while and also that he had a craving for good steak, so he suggested we pick up some aged strip steaks at Whole Foods and spend a quiet Friday at home. What with the craziness of the last few weeks, I was all in favor! When I asked what sides he was thinking about to go with the steaks his response was “something green and something potato-y – not necessarily in the same dish,” which gave me a lot of leeway. I went with green and yellow squash for the vegetable, but decided to fancy up the potatoes a bit and go with a deceptively simple 3-ingredient gratin. It turned out to be the right choice, as Z had 2 servings and requested leftovers for dinner the next night, too!

I’m warning you right now, this is not a low-calorie dish. It is, however, creamy, rich, and delicious, so a little bit goes a long way. And it is a perfect accompaniment to a grilled steak for date night or as part of a holiday meal served with a spiral sliced ham or roast beef.

Start off with two large russet potatoes – I think these were a little under 1lb each. Peel and slice them to about 1/8th inch thickness. I’ve used a mandoline in the past to get consistent slices, but any decently sharp knife will work just fine. They don’t have to be perfect

potato gruyere gratin | ©

Layer the potato slices in a baking dish (I like my small cast iron casserole, but any oven safe dish will do):

potato gruyere gratin | ©

Grate over a little cheese – just enough to lightly cover the layer of potatoes:

potato gruyere gratin | ©

Pour over a little bit of cream:

potato gruyere gratin | ©

Repeat until you run out of potatoes, making sure to finish with a last grating of cheese and a good shake of fresh ground black pepper:

potato gruyere gratin | ©

Bake covered with foil in a 350 oven for 60 mins, then uncover for another 15-20 mins to let the top get browned and  bubbly.

potato gruyere gratin | ©

These potatoes are super rich and creamy so even this smaller sized casserole makes 6 full servings of gratin.

A few notes about the recipe overall:

  • I love the rich salty flavor of the cave-aged Gruyere cheese, but you can make this with any reasonably strongly flavored cheese that appeals to you. I’ve made it with an extra sharp cheddar before and it’s equally delicious.
  • I do not add any salt to this recipe because, as I mentioned above, the Gruyere is already fairy salty and I don’t think it needs more. If you choose to try a different kind of cheese, you might need to add salt to your layers.
  • You can also substitute half-n-half or even just plain whole milk for the cream if you want to reduce the calories and fat some. I wouldn’t recommend making it with a low fat milk or a non-dairy milk, however, as the texture can turn a little grainy without the fat from the cream/milk.
  • The casserole itself comes together really quickly, but if you need to, you can assemble it a day in advance and keep it in the fridge covered tightly with foil or plastic wrap so that the potatoes don’t dry up and turn brown. If you bake it straight out of the fridge, add another 15 minutes to the covered baking time.
  • Finally, one final note that this dish does not necessarily reheat well as it is. Although it’s incredibly creamy fresh out of the oven, after it’s sat overnight in the fridge, the cheese and cream separate out a little and you’ll see an oily layer on the bottom of the pan. I like to chop up the leftovers, and saute them in a frying pan for the 2nd time around. The flavor is still great and they make a wonderful accompaniment to eggs in the morning or (as we did) with slices of ham for dinner the next night.

Potatoes Gruyere Gratin

Potato Gruyere Gratin | ©

  • 2-3 large russet potatoes, peeled and sliced thinly
  • 3-4 oz Gruyere cheese (or a strongly flavored cheese of your choice)
  • 3/4 cup cream
  • black pepper

Layer the potatoes, cheese, and cream in a baking dish until all the ingredients are used up. Bake covered in a 350° oven for 60 mins (or until a toothpick or skewer penetrates through all the layers of potato easily). Uncover and cook a further 15-20 mins until the top becomes brown and bubbly.

Makes 6 servings.  Per serving:  Calories: 259 | Protein 9g | Fat 18g | Carb 20g | Fiber 2g

Seared Ahi Tuna

October 13, 2014

Filed Under : seafood & fish

seared ahi tuna | ©

Z’s all time favorite thing to order when we go to “our” restaurant is seared Ahi over wasabi mashed potatoes. He’s mentioned a couple of times that it’s something we should try on the grill and up until now I’ve been a little … well … nervous. A chunk of sushi grade Ahi tuna is not cheap and while I’m pretty confident in my cooking and grilling skills, there’s something about this cook that for some reason intimidates me.

A month or so ago for date night, I decided it was time to take the plunge. If I screwed it up and overcooked it, we’d just have very expensive tuna salad!

I bought 2/3 lb of sushi grade ahi tuna at Whole Foods and kept it wrapped in the fridge overnight. Mid afternoon I mixed up some soy sauce, a little mayo, some brown sugar, and a heaping spoonful of wasabi powder and let the tuna sit in it in the fridge in a zipper sealed quart bag. I flipped it a couple of times over the course of the afternoon.

As part of the treat, I also roasted a few oysters as an appetizer (I’ll post that recipe later). When the oysters came off the grill, I removed the top grate, and put the cast iron griddle (with a very thin coat of olive oil) on the lowest grate to preheat at about 525°. I let the griddle get absolutely smoking hot and then put the tuna on. The white-ish color around the edges is the mayo/soy/wasabi mixture. And you can see the smoke coming off the griddle in the picture below!

seared ahi tuna | ©

I cooked it for a total of 30 seconds per “side”, meaning, I cooked not only the large flat sides, but the 3 “edges” as sides as well. The total time was 2 min and 30 seconds overall. When it came off the grill, I immediately put it in the freezer to stop it cooking and firm it up a little bit. I kept it there for maybe 3-4 mins while I mashed the potatoes and then took it out to slice.

It had a lovely browned color on the outside, but the real nervous-making part was what the inside would look like. I didn’t need to worry – it was perfect! 

seared ahi tuna | ©

I served it with whipped potatoes mixed with cream and more wasabi powder, and lightly grilled asparagus.

seared ahi tuna | ©

It was fun to do this on the grill, but it could be done inside quite easily. I’d use my cast iron skillet on the stovetop and heat it up until it’s nearly smoking hot. Then the same 30 second sear on each side/edge of the tuna to get the rare center.

Here’s the recipe for the marinade for the tuna. Adjust the amount of wasabi powder to your taste; the amount here gives a nice flavor, but isn’t overbearing.

Seared Tuna Marinade 

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp wasabi powder

Dissolve the brown sugar in the soy sauce and then mix with the rest of the ingredients. Baste the tuna with the mixture and let it sit for at least a couple of hours before grilling. (I put mine in a quart sized Zip-lock bag and just flipped it a couple of times to coat the fish.)

Boiled Peanuts

September 25, 2014

Filed Under : snacks, nibbles, & treats

boiled peanuts | ©

If you’re from the South, the title of this post likely made you think “yummmm”, and start daydreaming about weekends at the lake, road trips, and country highways. Because as every Southerner knows, boiled peanuts are best bought from a stand on the side of a country highway, where they’ve been boiling for days and days and days. They’re scooped into a styrofoam cup with plenty of the liquor from the pot, tied up in a plastic bag, and handed over. You nestle that cup into your cup holder, snatching steaming hot peanuts with slightly burnt fingertips. Ostensibly the plastic bag is for holding the shells after you’ve emptied them of the peanutty goodness, but usually I just tossed my shells out the window. They’re biodegradable, after all.

If you’re from the North (or for that matter any point west of the Mississippi) you likely either said “WTF?” or flat out “yuck!” at the title of this post. I get that. boiled peanuts take some getting used to when most of the rest of the country is used to eating peanuts that crunch. The idea of a soft, juicy peanut can be a little … well … off-putting!

But I promise you if you try them in good faith, and really open your mind to them, a boiled peanut can be one of the best snacks in the world. And really they’re super easy to make at home – they don’t need anything fancy and you hardly even need a recipe – just a large pot, a LOT of cooking time, and some patience.

I make mine in my crock pot and cook them on high for a minimum of 18-24 hours. You can make them on the stove top, but most people aren’t willing to let the range run overnight while they’re asleep, which I understand. You can also make them in your oven (exactly the same way you would make an oven simmered stock). Just set the temperature on your oven to 300° and put your large covered pot full of peanuts in there. My oven has an automatic shut off after 12 hours, so I just time it so that my first 12 hours are overnight and I can restart the oven when I get up in the morning.

boiled peanuts | ©

For those who need a recipe as a starting point I offer this:

  • 1 pound raw in-shell peanuts (if you can’t find any where you live, I’ve had luck ordering them from Whitley’s Peanuts)
  • 1/4 pound bacon
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 10-12 cups of water

Fry up the bacon (I use the microwave – no need to be fancy here) and put the cooked bacon AND the grease in your pot or stockpot. Add in your peanuts (rinsed well, but not shelled), the salt, and the water. If you’re using a crock pot, cover it, set it to high, and walk away. If you’re using the oven method, set your oven to 325°, cover the pot, and put it in the oven and walk away.

Wait at least 18 hours before trying the first peanut. They will be tender after anywhere from 8-12 hours, but you really want to cook them long enough for the salt and the bacon flavor to penetrate the shells, which takes considerably longer.

Use the above recipe as a starting point only. Some places add Cajun spice, or Old Bay to their peanuts. Some places use salt pork instead of bacon (or don’t use any bacon at all). Some places put onion and garlic in theirs. You can add any flavoring or spices that strike your fancy. Boiled peanuts are amazingly flexible and adaptable to just about any flavor profile.

Whatever you add to them, once they’re cooked, they’re best eaten piping hot. And think of them like … well … crawfish. You’ll want to not only peel open the shell and eat the nuts inside, but you’ll want to suck the juice out of the shell as well.

These will keep in the fridge up to a week (although I’ll bet you they won’t last that long) and can be reheated on the stove top or in the microwave.

If you’ve never had boiled peanuts before, I hope you’ll try these. I suspect you’ll love them!

Meatballs on the Grill

September 7, 2014

Filed Under : blogging

In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been pretty much grilling everything I can get my hands on lately. I’m pretty much inches away from trying to bake a cake or a pie (or both) on the Kamado. Truly .. I don’t kid.

But in the meanwhile, there are still foods that it’s “normal” to grill – or at least mostly normal. And after the way the grill enhanced my standard go-to meatball recipe, I have to say that it’s going to be hard to have them any other way again.

These are the meatballs I make all the time. They’re moist, tasty, and can be customized to any cuisine. Want something Tex-Mex? Add cumin and chili powder. Want Italian? Add basil and oregano. Want something really spicy? Berebere and paprika or ancho chilies? Want to go all New Mexico or Colorado style? Mix in a can of diced green chile. Seriously, the options are endless.

This time I kept them plain and basic, but instead of pan frying them or baking them and then cooking them in sauce, I grilled them  – and boy were they good.

Started with my favorite basic meatball recipe: ground beef, breadcrumbs, ricotta cheese, eggs, onion, toated onion flakes, worcestershire sauce. Rolled out 20 meatballs (2.5 oz each).




Brought the grill up to 400 and put ‘em on.




Kicked back with my book and a vodka tonic with lime.




After about 6-7 mins, rolled them and added the pan with the asparagus.




Had company to enjoy the evening on the patio:





6 more mins and off the grill, basted with a little A-1 sauce. (Sometimes I use BBQ sauce, sometimes i drop them in tomato sauce, today was A1)




Served with leftover veggies from the chicken roast and the asparagus:

After they came off the grill, I basted them with a little A-1 and served them up with leftover roasted veggies and some asparagus. It’s a good thing I made lots, because leftover the next day, these were also awesome.

Here’s the basic recipe; have fun with it and adapt it to your liking:

  • 2 lbs ground beef (I use 85% lean)
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese (I make my own)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 medium onion diced fine
  • 1/4 cup of toasted onion bits (I get mine from Penzey’s)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce.

You can add up to 3 tbsp of various spices as you want. Sometimes I add some oregano, some chili pepper flakes, some parsley, some cilantro and cumin .. just depends on what cuisine you’re going for.

Mix it all together well and form into 20 meatballs. Each meatball will be about 2.5 oz. (I’m anal – I weigh mine on a food scale as I make them to make sure they’re all pretty even).

Cook on the grill at 400°-425°. 6 -7 mins or so per side.  Don’t be afraid to take one off after 10 mins and test it. (If you’re baking in the oven, 12-15 mins at 400 will do it, just give them a shake about halfway through.)

Sourdough Kalamata Olive Bread

June 19, 2014

Filed Under : blogging

Kalamata Sourdough Bread | ©

As part of my push to eat more naturally fermented foods (and because whole grain breads have been giving me a lot of heartburn and reflux lately), I decided to dip my toes in to the world of sourdough. I ordered a starter from King Arthur Flour and followed their excellent instructions on working with it. This is my first big bake with my starter and it couldn’t have come out any better.

Kalamata Sourdough Bread | ©

Word of warning – this bread takes a full 2 days to make due to the sourdough component. Your starter will need to be fed, and then the dough will require an overnight proofing in the fridge before baking. Don’t do what I did and plan to make it on Sunday afternoon only to realize that I couldn’t actually bake it until Tuesday.

Also this works best if you have a stand mixer with a dough hook.

Prep Your Sourdough Starter

If you keep your starter in the fridge as I do, then you’ll need a day of prep and feeding to get your starter in working shape. Take the starter out of the fridge and divide it as usual. Don’t discard what you remove. Set it aside in a bowl. Feed the remaining starter just as you normally would and put it back in the fridge.

Take the “discarded” starter and mix in 1/2 cup water and 1 cup flour. Let the starter work for at least 4 hours and better yet, overnight. (Don’t refrigerate it!) When it’s bubbly and frothy, it’s ready to work with.

 Mix the Bread Dough

Measure 5 oz by weight of your starter into the bowl of your mixer.

7 oz (just shy of 1 cup) of cold water

Start the mixer and get the water completely mixed with the starter.

10 oz of flour (I used all purpose White Lilly flour)

Mix this until it’s just sticky, then cover with a towel and let sit for 20 mins.

1 tbsp salt (I used kosher)
1 cup pitted Kalamata olives, roughly chopped,
1 tsp chili flakes (
1 tbsp chopped rosemary (I used fresh from my garden, add a little extra if you’re using dried)

Turn the mixer back on and as those ingredients are incorporated, start adding more flour. You may need to add up to another 8 oz of flour (about 2 cups) to get a smooth but slightly sticky dough.

Once you get a smooth dough, continue to knead it for about 6 mins.

Rest Overnight

Put the dough in the fridge overnight to proof. I put mine in the loaf pan first and then put it in the fridge, but you can also just leave it in the bowl.

Kalamata Sourdough Bread | ©

 Bake & Eat!

The next day, take the dough out and let it come to room temp (at least 2-3 hours). If you’re going to shape it in to a round, this is the time to do it. Otherwise you can leave it in the pan.

Bake at 450° for about an hour (if you’re using a thermometer, the internal temp should be around 200°F.

Kalamata Sourdough Bread | ©

Let it cool, slice, and try not to eat the whole damn thing! :)

Kamado cooking – notes from a beginner, part 1

May 28, 2014

Filed Under : food

Last night on Facebook, my friend Lindsey told me that she had used my kamado cooking photos to help convince her husband that a kamado grill was the way to go. Then she asked me for suggestions and tips. I started to respond to her and realized that all the stuff I’ve learned is way too much to type into a Facebook response on my tablet. Besides, I owe the blog a post or two. So here it is.

The Grill I Chose

kamado grill | ©

There are a ton of different brands of kamado grills out there. Probably the best known are the Big Green Egg (BGE) and Kamado Joe (KJ). There are also the Primo brand, the Akorn brand, the Bubba Kegs, and the one I got, the Bayou Classic. Why did I choose the one I did? A couple of reasons:

  • Price The Bayou Classic was in the midrange overall for pricing, and at the lower end for ceramic kamado style grills, but still got decent reviews.
  • Location: The BC is assembled in the USA – in fact in the next state over from me, Mind you some of the components are made overseas and shipped to the US, but assembly is local to me and I like that.
  • Style: I’m not gonna lie, I’m a girl and pretty counts. I loved the look of the BC when I saw it at Lowe’s a few years ago and have kept an eye on them ever since. I love the glazed finish as opposed to to primary green, red, or black colors that most grills are finished in.

I did my research and although there were a few negative reviews about fireboxes cracking, overall what I read was positive and I felt that I knew enough about working with clay cookers in everyday use that I was confident in the product. Also there’s a nice 5 year warranty, so I wasn’t worried if I had to return or replace the unit.

I bought mine from and used their Prime shipping. You gotta love a service that will get a 400 lb grill on a pallet to your house for free. Unfortunately because of the way my townhouse is set up, they couldn’t actually fit the crate through the back door to the patio, so we had to uncrate it in the dining room, take it out in pieces, and reassemble it on the patio. It wasn’t hard, but I highly recommend a minimum of 2 people for the setup. Z and I together could barely lift the base of the kamado into the stand/nest.

Accessories I Use the Most

I think a lot of people who buy a grill like this are definitely aficionados of the cooking style and, as with any hobby, it’s easy to go a little crazy on accessories and “toys”. It’s easy to get suckered into spending way too much money on the fun stuff that you never wind up using. I’ve had my grill for a solid 8 weeks now and done probably 20 cooks on it, and here’s what I find the most useful so far:

  • Ash Dragon Fire Box Divider - $60 plus shipping. This item definitely ranks up at the top of my list. Quite often I’m only cooking for 2 people and the Ash Dragon divider allows me to fill and heat only half the firebox at a time. It also makes it easy to cook over direct heat on one part of the grill, while putting something on indirect heat on the other half – think searing steaks on one side while putting a couple of skewers of veggies on the non-fire side. Plus, the owner of the company is a super nice guy and VERY willing to answer questions, take suggestions, and create products that will work with a variety of grills.
    ash dragon firebox divider | ©
  • Big Green Egg Pizza Stone – $65. I bought mine at a local Ace Hardware that is an authorized BGE dealer, but Amazon has them for Prime shipping, as well. It seems like a lot of money to spend on a pizza stone, but this is the thickest, heftiest pizza stone I’ve found. I’ve used it to make pizza, to bake hand pies, and as a heat shield while making ribs on the grill. Worth every penny.
    pizza stone | ©
  • Bayou Classic Cast Iron Reversible Griddle - $32. I like this because it has a flat surface and a raised/grill surface. I’ve made steaks on this twice now and they’re fantastic. Seared and crusty and meaty. (Unlike the Lodge pre-seasoned cast iron, this one needed to be seasoned first so I gave it a good coating of coconut oil and let it bake in the grill one night after cooking a chicken.)
    grill griddle | ©
  • Bayou Classic Raised Grill Grate - $42. I got this particular one because it is made for my grill, but any of the brands is going to have an extender/riser. I recommend getting one. It not only allows you to cook on multiple levels, it gives you a way to raise food away from the coals and even put a head shield (like a foil wrapped pizza stone) between the food and the fire. This really helps for making pizzas at high heat, I’ve found – you still get the brick oven high heat effect w/out burning the crust.

There are a ton of other accessories out there, but these are the ones I’ve used the most. Oh, and some kind of timer, and some kind of instant probe thermometer to check the internal temperature of meats. But I think that goes without saying for any cooking or grilling.

Charcoal, Lighting,and Fire

When I first started cooking on my grill I figured lump charcoal is lump charcoal – it’s all just burned wood, right? Boy was I quickly disabused of that idea!! Locally I can buy Red Oak All Natural Lump Charcoal for about $12 for a 17 lb bag and it has so far done really well for me. I understand that there is also a blue bag that isn’t as high a quality, but I haven’t seen it here locally.

Based on the advice of a grilling group, I ordered a 40lb bag of Quebracho lump (for $42 with Prime delivery from Amazon) and have been using it for the last 4-5 weeks or so (and still have a good bit of the bag left). $42 sounds like a lot to spend on charcoal, but I’m finding that at prices of about $1 a pound you get the best charcoal bang for your buck, so to speak. There are far more large, dense pieces in the Quebracho bag. And bigger lumps make for longer lasting cooking.

grill starters | ©

To light the grill I use the BGE firestarters, which are really nothing more than chunks of cardboard soaked in paraffin wax – like canning wax. I might at some point try making my own, but for now these do fine. I cut each square in quarters using my kitchen shears and it takes 2 quarters to light a half sized fire (using the Ash Dragon divider) or 3-4 quarters to light a full fire box.

grill starters | ©

I know some people swear by the chimney starters, but I found the one I ordered messier and more trouble than it was worth, and so I gifted it to my former brother in law. :)

Ok, I think this post is quite long enough for now. Next up, I’ll do a post on learning to control temperatures and getting started cooking. And I’ll discuss some of the cooks I’ve done over the past few weeks.

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