Friday Dinner Exchange: Holiday Weekend Grilling

Stuffed Burger Uncut Snap

I have a four day weekend and most of it is supposed to be wild and windy weather, so  grilling will most likely have to wait. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have  grilling recipes. These all seem to be favorites based on comments, views and requests.

First up, the basics of grilling a good steak are here.

Next is one of my most requested recipes in the summer, Steak with Coffee Rub (click here). There is an entire dinner menu and shopping list at the link.

There are nine different hamburger recipes here, including Stuffed Burgers (pictured above) and veggie Black Bean Cheddar Burgers.

And finally, a few grilled chicken recipes, including Sunrise Chicken and Fruit Juice Marinated Chicken are at this link.

What’s on your menu for the weekend? Staying home or hitting the road? What are some of your favorite grilling recipes? Hit the comments and share. Be safe this holiday weekend, and don’t forget to thank a vet.

Tonight’s featured recipe is one of my favorites, because, well, blueberries!

Grilled Sirloin with Spicy Blueberry Sauce

  •  2 cups frozen wild blueberries (unsweetened)
  • 1/4 cup sugar + 1 tbsp
  • 2 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp red pepper flakes (depending on how hot you want it)
  • pinch of chili powder
  • 1 lb Sirloin, cut into 4 pieces
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Saucepan and small bowl

Run still frozen blueberries through a food processor until finely chopped.  Add all ingredients to a small saucepan on low heat until the blueberries melt and give you enough water to bring to a boil without scorching.  Boil for 1 minute or so, stirring constantly until liquid is reduced by half.  Let simmer on low, stirring occasionally, while you prepare the rest of dinner.

Broil or grill sirloin until cooked according to your preference, if you can, sear the outside so it’s really crispy on the outside.  It works well if you coat the steak with lots of ground pepper on the outside as well.  Once the sirloin is done, place two tablespoons of blueberry sauce on the plate, place steak on the sauce then top with more sauce.  Place remaining sauce in a small bowl and serve with meal.  Goes great with garlic mashed potatoes and sautéed zucchini.

That’s it for this week. If you missed it, I did post the Blueberry Upside Down Cake photos and recipe here. Later this weekend, I will finally have my gadget review for my robot “butler”.  Have a great holiday weekend – TaMara





Friday Recipe Exchange: Pastas and Sauces

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Last year I did a recipe exchange on meatballs (here) but was surprised to see I had never done one specifically on sauces. Now sauces can be risky and start a great debate, because every family has their version. So hit the comments with your favorite pasta sauce recipe, and for that matter, pastas, because there are so many choices. Like many things, I’m not all that concerned about the right pasta for the right sauce, I say, use what you enjoy and ignore the purists.

Food should be fun. For that matter, so should wine, beer and scotch.

So let’s start out with JeffreyW’s Awesome Sauce (here) because, well, it’s awesome.

Want something a little simpler and quicker? How about his San Marzano Sauce, here.

And his Shrimp & Pasta Formaggio (here) is quick and easy, also.

When everything is in season, I like to make my sauce with fresh ingredients, so I have a Garden Fresh Pasta Sauce (recipe here) that’s lighter and fresher than tonight’s featured recipe.

When it comes to pastas, I favor two options, a nice spiral (fusilli or rotini) or a quick cooking Angel Hair (capellini), but if I can get it fresh from the farmer’s market, I’ll take what I can get, which is usually a linguine. It’s all tasty.

For the featured recipe, I went with my traditional family sauce, the one I grew up with, but with a few tweaks. Now, even in my family, half of which are Italian, even the most basic sauce has as many different variations as there are cooks, so this is just a place to start, add your own touches to make it your family tradition. This is a hearty sauce and my go-to in the colder months when fresh ingredients are not readily available. I always double this and freeze half for a later dinner.

Spaghetti w/Meat Sauce

  • 9 – 12 oz pasta of choice (I like angel hair for this recipe)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 tsp. crushed garlic
  • 1 lb lean ground beef (or 1/2 beef and 1/2 spicy Italian sausage)
  • 6 oz tomato paste
  • 3 tomatoes, diced (or 14 oz can diced tomatoes)
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 3 tsp dried basil, crushed*
  • 2 tsp dried oregano, crushed
  • 1 tsp rosemary, crushed
  • 1 carrot, finely grated or 1/2 tsp sugar (these reduce the acidity of the sauce and bring out the spices – trust me on this one – I prefer the carrot, myself.)
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • red pepper flakes (opt) to taste
  • grated Parmesan cheese

2 saucepans and large skillet

In skillet, heat oil, sauté pepper, onion, garlic.  Add hamburger and cook thoroughly.  Add tomato paste and 1 tsp ea of crushed basil, oregano and rosemary, mix well.   In saucepan, add remaining ingredients and bring to a low boil, reduce heat, add meat mixture and let simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.

Cook pasta according to directions, drain well and serve with sauce and Parmesan cheese.

*CRUSHING Spices – when using dry spices, to get the best flavor, you should crush them, either by rubbing them in your hand or using a mortar and pestle before adding them to a recipe.

That’s it for this week. I know I still owe you a recipe to go with this delicious looking Cream of Chicken Soup I made this week. And if you missed it, here is the Dinner Menu and Shopping list for the week, Pasticcio and Salata Meze. – TaMara

Just a Quickie

DSC_6532 [1600x1200]A fast lunch pizza using onion naan.  These are in the margherita style. Infuse a little olive oil with garlic by heating a few tablespoons in a bowl with a few crushed and minced cloves and brush it on the loaves, then add sliced tomato and dot with fresh mozzarella.  Garnish with fresh basil.  I like my pizzas with red pepper flakes, I used flakes from my own patio grown cayennes today.  The Parmesan sprinkle is from a commercial blend of cheeses with  additional peppers and herbs.

Gadget Post – Food Dehydrator

DSC_3993 [1600x1200]This wasn’t a huge priority for me but I did want to try a few things.  This one got good reviews on Amazon.  A bumper crop of cayenne peppers prompted the purchase.DSC_3992 [1600x1200]These seemed an easy intro to food drying as they didn’t need any prep to ready them for the trays in the device.  I just tried to keep them from crowding.DSC_3995 [1600x1200]This is the result of about 24 hours in the dehydrator at the recommended temperature setting of 135 degrees.  They are still pliable, no crumbling when handled.  They could be used as is in various recipes but I wanted to put them through the blender to make my own red pepper flakes.DSC_3997 [1600x1200]These look pretty good but the sizes of the flakes vary quite a bit.  Perhaps if they were just a tad drier before the spin they would have broken down better.  I suspect commercially available flakes are sieved for size before they are packaged.  I will note that the usual precautions for handling hot peppers should be followed.  Wash your hands and don’t rub your eyes &etc.  I have some habaneros coming ready shortly, and the next picking of cayennes is not far off.

Thursday Recipe Exchange: Roasted Butternut Squash-Apple Soup

First some housekeeping – there will not be a recipe exchange next Thursday as I will be headed to the beach for some needed R&R.

On to today’s recipes. About this time of year I receive a number of requests for squash and sweet potato soup recipes. I have several:  Chipotle Sweet Potato Soup, Sweet Potato SoupButternut Squash & Leek Soup and Winter Squash Soup (click on each for the recipes).

That brings us to tonight’s featured recipe. The base recipe came to me via an email. I looked over the recipe and thought it needed some punch. The first thing I did was roast the squash to help bring some depth to the dish. I added a little heat and finished with a splash of lemon juice to brighten everything when it was done. I don’t think of it as a stand-alone soup (like my very favorite Tomato-Spinach soup), but I think it would work well as a first course in any meal. I think it would be especially nice at a Thanksgiving table.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Spiced Apple Soup

  • 4 medium butternut squash, halved and seeded
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 large apples – tart works well, but I used my neighbor’s backyard apples which worked great
  • 1 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 12 cups (3 quarts) water or vegetable broth
  • splash of lemon juice

baking dish, dutch oven or large saucepan

Put about 1/4 inch of water in the baking dish, put squash face down and roast at 375 degrees until it is easy to put a fork through the skin. Turn over and continue roasting until tender and squash are golden brown. About 30-40 minutes. You can turn the heat up after you flip them to brown them, if desired. Remove to cool.

Meanwhile, core and slice apples into about 1 inch pieces. No need to peel or get fancy with the dicing since this is a puréed soup. Melt butter in the saucepan, add apple, onions and sauté until apples are soft and onions are golden. Add spices and coat the apple mixture. Scrape squash from skins and add to the apples, add water or broth. You can use chicken broth, but to keep it vegetarian I used vegetable broth. Let simmer for 30 minutes, purée until smooth, heat an additional 5-10 minutes, adding water if necessary and add a splash of lemon juice just before serving.

You can use a blender or hand blender to purée the mixture. If you use a blender, add a couple of ladles of soup to the blender, cover and blend slowly to start, to keep the mixture from expanding too much. I’ve seen hot liquid blow the lid off…you don’t want that. Blend in small batches. With a hand blender, keep it immersed and again blend slowly, to avoid splattering the hot liquid.

Thursday Recipe Exchange: Potato Soups

Cross-posted at Balloon-Juice.

 Spicy Potato Soup_Snap2

It’s suppose to be record warm temperatures this weekend, so it’s not quite soup weather. I do expect either at least one more big snow or some spring rains (hopefully), so it is still soup season in my mind. I love soups and fall-winter-spring lunches are often homemade soup.  Quick and easy to take to work and reheat.  I make a big pot on Sunday and it usually gets me through the week, add fruit or salad and lunch is cheap and healthy.

This week I made a pot of Creamy Potato Soup and almost immediately knew what I really wanted was the Italian potato soup I usually make. So that is my plan this evening, to put together a pot of this:

Zuppa Toscana

  • 8 oz ground beef or (4 0z ground beef & 4 oz spicy sausage)
  • 6 green onions, chopped (including greens)
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic, divided
  • 6 -8 medium potatoes, sliced thin (do not peel)
  • 3 cups chicken broth (or equivalent)
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 tsp to 1 tbsp dried basil, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 cup spinach or kale, chopped
  • grated Parmesan

Large dutch oven or saucepan

Heat pan and brown ground beef, onion and 1 tsp garlic.  Remove and set aside.  Add chicken broth, water and potatoes to pan, bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are tender.  Add meat mixture, spices and milk and let simmer on medium-low, stirring occasionally to makes sure milk doesn’t scald.  Just before serving, add spinach or kale and let simmer 2 minutes.  Serve with grated Parmesan.

Now hit the comments and share your favorite soups, potato or otherwise. Next week: Chicken & Vegetables

Tropical Menu


Let’s start the new year right. Give the winter blahs the old heave-ho with something a bit tropical.

Chicken in Plum Sauce

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 boneless breasts
  • 4 boneless thighs
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes (opt)**
  • 2 tbsp plum sauce
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp pineapple juice, (reserve pineapple chunks for pilaf)

skillet or wok

Heat oil in wok, quickly stir fry chicken until browned, about 5 minutes. Add onion and sauté quickly (I know, backwards, but keeps the onion from scorching). Reduce heat, mix together plum sauce, soy sauce, pineapple juice, red pepper flakes and add to chicken,  let simmer 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

**This is very sweet, so I like to add some heat to it. You can add it to individual servings if preferred.

Pineapple Pilaf

  • 1 cup rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 6 sliced green onions
  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • 8 oz pineapple chunks, drained

saucepan, skillet

In saucepan, add rice & water, bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and let simmer until water is absorbed about 20 minutes.

Heat butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions, walnuts, raisins, salt and ginger; cook and stir 4 to 5 minutes or until onions are tender. Add rice and pineapple; stir and heat thoroughly.