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Friday Recipe Exchange: What’s in the Pantry?

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The sun is peaking through the clouds after two days of excellent rain. A little thunder, a steady drizzle and snow in the mountains, perfect Colorado fall.

Tonight’s recipe exchange was prompted by a friend of mine who recently lost her husband. I was working at her house and she asked me to come into the kitchen and began going through her pantry, freezer and refrigerator and filling a bag for me with things she didn’t think she’d be able to use. She doesn’t really like to cook much and cooking for one can be a challenge. That’s when I had an idea. I asked her if I could come over every once in a while and cook for her and use up a lot of these amazing ingredients. Her husband was a bit of gourmet, so the whole kitchen is filled with mouth-watering things.

What sold her on the idea was my desire to just pop in, look around the kitchen and come up with something on the spot based on what ingredients sparked my imagination. She thought that sounded like fun and I agree. One of the things I’m really looking forward to is using the black rice. I’ve never cooked with it before.

So for tonight, I went looking through my recipe files to find the ones that started out as a “whatever is in the pantry” meals. They are rarely the same thing twice, but I put the basics in a recipe.

Here are a few:

Pineapple and Bacon Fried Rice is one of the reasons I keep Ponzu Sauce on hand. Click here for that recipe and click here to see all of JeffreyW’s photos and recipes for a variety of fried rice dishes (including the one pictured above).

Pasta is always a great base for a quick dinner.  Here is my Pasta Rustica, (basic recipe here), that can include any number of items from your vegetable drawer or freezer.

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Of course JeffreyW has a great photo of Beef and Broccoli. Yum.

Spicy Beef and Broccoli (click here) is one of my favorite dinners to make with sirloin. And it’s great if you forgot to take the meat out to thaw until late. There is also a full menu, recipes and shopping list at that link.

I thought I hated vegetables, until I had Stir Fried Vegetables in a Bread Bowl, (recipe here) at a local restaurant. Quick and easy, serve over rice or noodles if your basket weaving skills are minimal (that would be me).

Finally, the weekly dinner menu starts with a basic recipe that you can jazz up with whatever you have on hand, Beef Vegetable Soup and Apple Pumpkin Butter. Menu, recipes and shopping list are here.

What are your go-to “raid the pantry” meals? Are there ingredients you always keep on hand for quick dinners? What’s on the menu for the weekend? I’m not sure there will be a recipe exchange next week, I’m hosting a dinner. Stay tuned…

For tonight’s featured recipe, I kept it as simple as it gets. If you can’t find pineapple salsa, JeffreyW has a recipe for it.

Frijoles Ananás

  • 2-15 oz cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 16 oz pineapple salsa
  • 1 tsp to 1 tbsp chili powder (start with 1 tsp and add more to taste)
  • 1/4  tsp to 1 tsp cayenne pepper (start with 1/4 tsp and add more to taste)
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro

To serve:

  • 8 oz shredded cheddar
  • 6 to 8 taco size tortillas, warmed


Add beans, salsa and spices to a saucepan, bring to a low boil for 1 minute, reduce heat and let simmer 10 minutes, add cilantro and simmer for 5 additional minutes. Serve with cheese and tortillas.

If you want to make it a one-pot meal, add corn or cubed zucchini to the mix for a complete dinner. Serves 4 generously.

That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend – TaMara



Sammich Pr0n

DSC_0973 (1600x1060)This was so good yesterday that it seemed like a good idea to make another one for lunch today.DSC_0977 (1600x1060)We are taking full advantage of those great tomatoes from the farmer’s market!DSC_0981 (1600x1060)

Friday Recipe Exchange: Garden Bounty

N1106NIWO126.JPG Eddie Running Wolf of Boulder is carving figures with a Northern Arapaho theme out of the remaining stumps and trees along Niwot Road. The town of Niwot has commissioned him to do the work. For a video of the project, go to Cliff Grassmick / November 5, 2009

Carving by Eddie Running Wolf of Boulder, Photo from Times-Call

I am completely slammed again this week. Though I am hoping to escape early today and head out to Chainsaws and Chuckwagons to see some of the artists. We take our old tree stump carving very seriously here. Since I didn’t have time to cook this week, I decided to raid JeffreyW’s recipes and photos.

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Let’s start with his Stuffed Anaheim Peppers, pictured above and recipe here

Then there is his Homemade Sauerkraut, for instructions click here.

I bought ribs on sale and am going to make my slow-cooker Polynesian Ribs this weekend, the complete dinner menu and recipes are here. Even if I can’t find time to cook, these are easy and quick.

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JeffreyW took some of his garden harvest and made a fresh batch of Hot Giardiniera last weekclick here.

Have any recipes to share using fresh from the garden bounty? What’s your recipe for fun this holiday weekend? Cooking up anything special?

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I picked two featured recipes tonight, both taking advantage of fresh garden veggies and herbs, like JeffreyW’s lush basil, above. They are simple and quick to make, so you can get back outside to take advantage of the last unofficial weekend of summer.

Pasta w/Fresh Basil

  • 10 oz bow-tie pasta
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 bunch basil (1 loose cup)
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan


Cook pasta in saucepan according to package directions.  Drain well.  In saucepan, heat oil, basil, tomatoes and sauté for 1 minute, add pasta and toss with cheese.  Serve immediately.

Collard Greens w/ Bacon

  • 4 slices bacon
  • 6 green onions, chopped
  • 1 bunch collard greens (or spinach)
  • 4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • salt & pepper to taste

skillet, saucepan, steamer

Wash collard greens. In skillet, cook bacon till crisp, remove, cool and crumble. In bacon drippings, sauté onions, remove. In saucepan, place steamer and enough water to come to the bottom of the steamer, add greens and steam until tender. Mix honey & vinegar, and a little of the bacon drippings if you like. Toss all ingredients together and serve.

Aren’t JeffreyW’s photos fun? I’m so lucky he came on board years ago. That’s it for this week. Have a safe and fun holiday weekend.  – TaMara




Dinner Menu: Grilled Steak with Coffee Rub and Blueberry Coffeecake

Blueberry Coffee CakeBeen busy with my new motorized standing desk. I haven’t even stepped in the kitchen today. Had to put the desk together, then actually get some work done. I’ll post more about it tomorrow, it’s very cool. Until then, here is one of my most requested recipes:

From August 2013

A friend of mine spent a few months one summer experimenting with coffee rubs. This was one of my favorites. If you need something fun to do with your next grilled steak, this is a recipe to try. And with my love of blueberries, can’t go wrong with a blueberry coffeecake.  Yum.

On the board tonight:

  1. Steak with Coffee Rub
  2. Green Beans w/Bacon & Onion
  3. Baked Potatoes
  4. Blueberry CoffeeCake

Steak with Coffee Rub

  • 3 tbsp chili powder (pure ancho or a blend)
  • 3 tbsp finely ground coffee (espresso works best)
  • 1 ½ tbsp paprika (use a good one)
  • 1 tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp fresh ground pepper
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 to 1-1/2 lb of steak (rib-eye, sirloin, NY strip, etc) in 4 thick pieces

Mix together all spices. Lightly rub each steak with oil and then coat liberally on both sides with coffee rub. Now you can cook in a pre-heated skillet on medium-high heat, 5 to 7 minutes each side for medium rare. You can broil in the oven, using the second slot down from broiler, for 5 minutes each side, again for rare to medium rare, longer for medium. Or if you’re lucky (sigh) you can grill them outside. Cooking times will vary no matter which style you choose, so watch carefully and you’ll probably have to use a meat thermometer to really judge, because the rub makes it a little harder to eyeball it. Let sit for a few minutes before serving.

Green Beans w/Bacon & Onions

  • 1 lb fresh or frozen green beans (if fresh, snap off ends and snap into smaller pieces)
  • 2 strips bacon, cut into small pieces
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • salt & pepper to taste

Sm. Saucepan, steamer and Skillet

Steam beans until slightly crisp, but tender. While beans are steaming, begin browning bacon until crisp. You can drain most of the bacon drippings, leaving 1 tbsp to lightly coat beans. Add onions. Drain beans and dab with a paper towel. Add to bacon mixture, mixing well, until beans are coated in bacon drippings. Cook on medium-low for 1 to 2 minutes, until onions are heated through.

Blueberry CoffeeCake

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp cultured buttermilk powder (or 1 cup butter milk  & omit water)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 8 oz frozen blueberries


  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup flour

8×8 baking dish, greased

2 bowls

In bowl, add flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, buttermilk and mix well. Make a well in the center add egg, water & oil. Stir quickly until all everything is mixed well, but don’t over mix. Fold in blueberries. Spread batter evenly in baking dish. In bowl, mix topping ingredients until crumbly. Sprinkle evenly over the top of batter. Bake at 400° for 25-30 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean.

Shopping List:

  • 3 tbsp chili powder (pure ancho or a blend)
  • 3 tbsp finely ground coffee (espresso works best)
  • 1 ½ tbsp paprika (a good one)
  • 2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 to 1-1/2 lb of steak
  • 1 lb fresh or frozen green beans
  • 2 strips bacon
  • 4 green onions
  • 4 tbsp cultured buttermilk powder or 1 cup buttermilk
  • egg
  • 8 oz blueberries

Also: brown sugar, butter, flour, vegetable oil, vanilla, salt, baking powder, sugar, fresh ground pepper


Friday Recipe Exchange: Breakfast in Bed

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I thought Mother’s Day weekend would be a good time to visit some breakfast recipes. I love French Toast – deliciously captured in still life above by JeffreyW – second only to German pancakes, with Walnut Syrup (recipes here). So perfect French Toast is tonight’s featured recipe.

If pancakes are your favorite, don’t worry, got those recipes, too. A local breakfast spot makes the fluffiest pancakes I’ve ever had and I played around with ingredients until I made a comparable batch of Perfectly Fluffy Pancakes, recipe here.  A Whole Wheat version can be found here, and yes, they’re surprisingly fluffy, too.

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You want bacon, of course, because what’s breakfast without bacon? Here are some interesting takes on it: Candied Bacon hereCayenne Candied Bacon (photo above by JeffreyW) here, and Oven Baked Bacon here. (And of course we covered waffle iron bacon last week)

What’s on your breakfast menu this Mother’s Day? We’ve got a prediction of SNOW! Say it isn’t so. Share your favorite breakfast recipes in the comments, I can always use new ideas for when company arrives. And because it’s Mother’s Day weekend, here’s a flower for you:

Star Trek Enterprise Iris

My friend grows specialty Iris and this is called the Star Trek Enterprise Iris from her garden.

Now for the french toast. The key for really good french toast is using a hearty bread, flavoring the batter and letting the bread soak for at least 30 seconds to soak up all the good flavor. Yum.

French Toast

  • 1 cup milk or half and half
  • 3 eggs
  • dash of salt
  • dash of cinnamon
  • tbsp of honey or tsp of sugar
  • Day old bread such as a country, brioche or challah loaf, sliced into eight, 1/2 inch slices (stale bread soaks up the batter nicely without getting soggy)
  • butter
  • toppings of choice – maple syrup, powdered sugar, blueberry preserves, strawberries, whipped cream – you get the idea

8×8 glass baking dish, 2 baking sheets, cooling rack, skillet or griddle

Place cooling rack onto the first baking sheet (to catch batter drips). Pre-heat oven 375 degrees, then turn down to 300 degrees.

Whisk together milk, eggs, salt, cinnamon and honey (or sugar) in 8×8 baking dish. Soak bread, two slices at a time, for about 30 seconds and then remove to cooling rack and let sit for a minute or so.

Melt 1 tbsp of butter in a skillet or griddle over medium heat. Place both slices of bread into the melted butter. At this point you can put another two slices in the batter for 30 seconds and then move them to the cooling rack.

Flip the slices in the pan once they’re golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side. (I know I’m asking you to multi-task, but you can do it, I have faith. Set a timer, it’ll help). Once both sides are golden, remove to the second baking sheet and place it in the warm oven. Repeat until all slices are cooked.

Serve hot with favorite toppings.

Have a great weekend – TaMara


Fun With Food: Waffle Iron Breakfast Sandwiches

Breakfast Sandwich

Last month when I was so sick, I spent a lot of time resting on the couch, watching TV. This was on some cooking show, they were making a breakfast sandwich using only a waffle iron. Sounded like fun. It took me a couple of times to get the timing right because it all happens fast. Start to finish it was ten minutes per sandwich. And clean up was a breeze. Paper towel to clean out the waffle iron is all you need.


I started with the biscuits, because I didn’t want the bacon to flavor everything. I first tried refrigerator crescent rolls, but they were hard to work with and way too sweet. My second try was with refrigerator biscuits. I thought they worked about really well. The crew on the show actually reheated store bought bagged croissants. That would work, too. For the biscuit, I used one biscuit that I separated in half to cook. You could use two if you wanted thicker sandwich.

Bacon slices

Next up: bacon. My waffle iron is 7 inches across and easily held two slices of bacon, cut in half. It cooks up fast, so keep an eye on it.

Bacon slices 2b

It was crisped in less than 2 minutes. I then drained off the excess grease and it was time for the eggs and cheese.

Waffle eggs

I had no trouble with it sticking, because the bacon grease kept the waffle iron well oiled. Mine held only one egg. Milk worked better than water for mixing. And my iron has adjustable temperature, so on my second try, I lowered it to the lowest setting and got the egg the way I liked, less brown, more light and fluffy.

The eggs were surprisingly fluffy, no matter what, but milk gave them a bit more loft.  You could easily add green pepper or onions to the mix, maybe even tomatoes. Just watch the amounts because you don’t want the egg to spill out of the sides, then you have a mess.

The key to preparation is to have everything ready to go. Biscuits separated, egg beaten, cheese shredded and bacon cut. Then it is a quick process – biscuit took 2 minutes, bacon took 2 minutes, egg took less than a minute, then I added the cheese and that was another 30 seconds, tops. Assemble and eat. Yum.




Mmm… homemade pita for gyros

DSC_0228 (1600x1060)We had gyros yesterday using store bought pita loaves and they just weren’t that good.  I’m guessing the turnover on flat breads isn’t very high and they were a tad stale.  I’ve made pitas before but it’s been a while so I looked up a recipe.  The NY Times recipe came up first and it looked to be easy.  We didn’t have any whole wheat flour, fresh milled or otherwise, so these are made with plain AP flour.  The only thing you need to watch for is getting them too brown.  The recipe warns:  “The pita should be pale, with only a few brown speckles.”  The brown parts are very dry and fragile and crack apart rather than fold.  I have a pizza stone in my oven, big enough to do two of these at a time without crowding.  A couple of them puffed up like little pillows but most of them just blistered here and there.DSC_0230 (1600x1060)The loaf is from Alton Brown’s recipe, as is the tzatziki sauce. I make a few alterations in his recipe, adding 1/3 part hamburger and several slices of bacon to the loaf recipe and this time I added fresh chopped dill to the yogurt sauce.  I haven’t used lettuce before but I thought it needed a little more green and we had no mint for a garnish.

Pasta Pr0n – Penne with Prosciutto and Sliced Sprouts

DSC_0047 (1600x1060)This was very good and really easy to put together.  I saw an off hand comment someone made about having lemon butter pasta with Brussels sprouts the other day and a search turned up a NY Times recipe that looked good.  I went with bacon and prosciutto for this one, and an entire head of garlic.  A couple of tablespoons of butter went into it at the end along with a splash of good olive oil and the juice of half a lemon.DSC_0045 (1600x1060)I followed the “pinch of red pepper flakes” option instead of the pretty red chilies in the recipe photo because I didn’t have any.  Mrs J got one of the pepper flakes on the tip of her tongue after enjoying half of her plate and quit eating, declaring the bottom half to be too hot.  I have to admit, my pepper flakes from the cayennes I dried from last summer’s crop are actually hot, unlike the ones they sell at the Kroger spice aisle.

Baked Lemon Chicken

DSC_9757 (1600x1060)This worked out nicely.  I saw this recipe the other day after a search prompted by one of the foodie shows on TV.  I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the one I saw put together on the show but it looked really good.  I made some minor changes but nothing radical.DSC_9747 (1600x1060)Dredge the chicken in seasoned flour and brown the pieces in oil.  Set them aside and wipe the pan out, add more oil and cook some sliced onions down, then add sliced lemons, sliced garlic, chicken broth, and a little lemon juice with a few sprigs of rosemary and let it come to a simmer.DSC_9746 (1600x1060)Spoon the veggies into a baking pan and lay the chicken over the top, then pour the liquids over everything and place the tray into a preheated 400 degree oven.  Baste every 15 minutes until the chicken is cooked through, about 40 minutes in my oven.  I turned the chicken over for the last 15 minutes and then back again before I took this shot.DSC_9752 (1600x1060)We had pearled couscous and Brussels sprouts to go with the chicken.  The sprouts were sauteed in bacon fat with balsamic vinegar and more lemon juice.  Pretty decent dinner.DSC_9755 (1600x1060)

Friday Recipe Exchange: Happy 80th, Elvis

Fools Gold SandwichYesterday would have been The King’s 80th birthday. I like Elvis, but I’m young enough that I missed out on the frenzy of all things Elvis. Though, I’ve managed my own six degrees of separation…

My friend has an adorable, sweet story of how he hit on her (she was very much engaged at the time) when she worked on a film with him. She remembers him as a complete gentleman and had a lovely conversation between takes.

I met his step-brother years ago and he also had only wonderful things to say about him, especially when he was just a young boy and Elvis was already an American icon. Family was important.

So how does this get us to the recipe exchange tonight? All over the news last night was the story of how one of his favorite sandwiches was created right here in Denver. It had bacon, so I had to try it.

I’m not well versed in Elvis’ favorite foods. Fried banana sandwiches (recipe here) were about it, but I searched around, turns out there is a whole cookbook of his favorite foods, recipes and links here. Seems to be a lot of bacon involved.

How about you, what unusual things do you like to make into a sandwich? My brothers like peanut butter and dill pickles. I love lettuce, tomato and mayo on whole wheat. What else is on the weekend menu?

Tonight’s featured recipe is my take on Elvis’ favorite Mile High sandwich and you can find the whole story and video here.

Fool’s Gold Sandwich

  • 1 foot-long loaf Italian, French or Sourdough bread
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 16 ounces creamy peanut butter (I used crunchy, because that’s what I liked)
  • 16 ounces grape or blueberry preserves (I used an all fruit style, no added sugar)
  • 1 pound bacon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Slice the bread in half, length-wise, coat with butter. Place on a baking sheet and bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes

While the bread is in the oven, fry the bacon until crispy. Drain on paper towels.

Hollow out one of the bread halves, fill with an entire jar of peanut butter and an entire jar of preserves. Top with bacon and top with the other half of the loaf. Slice to serve. I have no idea how many this would serve, I made enough for 2 servings instead of the entire recipe.

That’s it for this week. For the pet lovers, here’s some new Bixby, and here and his favorite new treat here.  Next week…I think something chocolate – TaMara



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