Thursday, January 28, 2016

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To This Blog...

So like the best laid plans of mice and men my plans for this blog went astray. I started and stopped but was finally getting into a groove presenting my take on scratch cooking for the everyman. Then a funny thing happened. I got sick. Ok, not like sudden illness, but rather I got the annual physical from hell. My blood sugar was at an incredibly high level and the doctor threw in a high blood pressure and high cholesterol to boot. I was 46 years old, 240 lbs and I was killing myself. Long story short I needed to change EVERYTHING!! So nearly 3 years later I’m 49 years old and 185 lbs and maybe in the best shape of my life (the long form version of this story starts here if you’re interested One of the short term sacrifices was giving up cooking some of my favorite meals until I could retrain my diet and make healthier decisions. Well I’m ready to jump back in. I’m back to cooking like crazy. Some (ok most) healthier choices but still making calorie bombs on occasion. So I’ll be picking up where I left off with new recipes, techniques, and toys with some healthy swaps and substitutions. Mostly I hope to show how you can make nearly anything you can order out for at home with just a bit of knowhow…No Excuses!!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

I did it all for the cookie, the cookie 2- Chocolate Chip Cookies

Timing is everything in life and lately my timing has sucked. Well maybe less my timing then the unseasonably warm winter and early spring here in New England. I really wanted to share a lot of baking as it's my true love. Heck I even took a baking course just to fill the blanks in a lot of areas. Unfortunately we're coming to a time of the year where a lot of people start ignoring their ovens in favor of grills. BUT I live in the city and have no grill so I use my oven constantly and as much as my place gets roasting hot it's worth it to turn out sweet and savory treats friends and family will rave about. So with that I present chocolate chip cookies

OK, so I'm not going to give you the whole "Toll House" history. That said, this recipe, like most, is very similar to the one on the back of Nestles morsels bag. It' more exactly Alton Brown's recipe The Thin. The biggest difference is the sugar to brown sugar ratio. As the name would imply these are thin and crispy once they've cooled (and melty, chewy goodness out of the oven). This is how I like my chocolate chip cookies. This is my "go to" bring dessert item and they are so easy to make you will give up cut and bake pre-fab dough forever

I don't wanna re-cover too much ground from the sugar cookie blog so I'll just re-cap. We are again using the creaming method so prep your ingredients. Butter- unsalted, room temperature. Egg & milk, room temperature. I can't stress these steps enough. It makes all the difference in the world and doing this ahead of time makes the whole process come together much quicker. Once again for the sake of simplicity I'll be using my stand mixer (you did go get one, right??) but a hand mixer or wooden spoon (ughhhhh) still works


2 sticks (8 oz, 1 cup, etc etc) unsalted butter room temperature, slightly softened
1 Cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar packed (push it all the way tightly into the 1/2 cup measure)
1 large egg, room temperature
2 oz whole milk, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract (get the good stuff. It goes a long way. I use the stuff from Penzey's Spices)


2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate morsels


Stand mixer (or hand mixer... spoon and a large bowl)
2 baking sheets (I use aluminum 1/2 sheets)
Parchment paper or silicone baking mat
small disher or scoop (I'm not sure how they size these. The one I use hold about 2 tbsp)

Step 1- Pre-heat oven to 375. Combine the flour, salt, and baking soda in a bowl. I'm not a sifter I just whisk them together. Combine the egg, milk and vanilla in another bowl.

Step 2- Put butter in the mixing bowl and beat with paddle attachment at low speed just until butter is softened. Add the sugars and increase speed slightly until the butter lightens in color. At this point drop the speed and add the rest of the wet ingredients. Increase the speed until well combined (probably a minute).

Step 3- Add your flour mixture a little at a time with mixer at low speed. I use an oversize spoon and add a spoonful at a time and mix until it's completely worked in. Stop every now and then to scrape down the sides of the bowl. When all the floor is incorporated I turn mixer to medium for 30 seconds to a minute. Dump in the chips and mix on low briefly to combine

Step 4- Using your scoop distribute 6 scoops per baking sheet spaced evenly apart. Don't over crowd them. Put the sheets in the oven and bake for 13-15 minutes. Halfway thru rotate the pans and move the bottom sheet to the top shelf and vice versa

Step 5- Let them cool briefly on the pan before removing to a cooling rack.

Step 6- Repeat 12 at a time until you're done. Depending on how precise you are this should yield 2 1/2-3 dozen cookies

This one is wicked simple and wicked good. The dough can be frozen for future use in a bowl (let it thaw before using) or in a log and sliced like the super market stuff. I'm telling you if you try these and go back to refrigerated logs then I'll...I'll...well just don't, OK??

Thursday, December 15, 2011

I did it all for the cookie, the cookie 1-Sugar Cookies

**Authors Note** About a week before Christmas my Mac went on the fritz and my blog on Sugar cookies was not done in time. I love this recipe and they are great for any occasion so ignore the Christmas-centric parts and just enjoy

So not only has it been a month since my last blog but this is the first blog to address my true food love; baking. When I started baking was when my interest in food really took off. Fresh, homemade baked goods, particularly sweets, make people happy. Making people happy should make you happy so baking makes everyone happy. Now baking is also closer to science then cooking and recipes, amounts, ratios, etc can not be played free and loose or your end result will be less awesome then it should. Baking can be a bit challenging at the beginning but if you follow a few steps and it all becomes routine it's really a walk in the park. So here are a few general rules to successful baking experiences.

1) Unless the recipes states otherwise bring all your cold ingredients up to room temperature
2) Make sure your oven is preheated to the proper temperature
3) Quality ingredients= quality results. Avoid Christmas Tree Shoppes vanilla extract and cinnamon etc
4) Sift together all your dry ingredients ahead of time
5) Better hardware= better results
6) preparation makes everything go more smoothly

Regarding hardware, if you"re really going to do a lot of baking invest in a stand mixer. I did. Save up your spare change and get a good one. I did. Literally. I turned all my coins into Coinstar for an Amazon gift card and got myself a Kitchenaid and I use it all the time. By hand and hand mixers work but are way more labor intensive. Also for cooking trays avoid anything labeled "cookie sheets" or "baking sheets" and go pursue nice heavy duty half sheet pans you can find at most cooking stores. Nothing fancy about them but they don't warp and they conduct heat like a superstar. Lastly invest in some silicone baking mats. They can be reused hundreds of times and nothing sticks to them

So the first baked item I want to discuss is cookies. Cookies are the perfect dessert as they are a special treat warm out of the oven, stay fresh for days and are ultra portable and a perfect bring along item. Now, as holidays are looming I want to discuss my 2 favorite cookies before its too late to show off your holiday baking skills. We're talking sugar cookies and chocolate chip cookies. Both are made using the creaming method and both doughs come together quickly and easily. We'll go over sugar cookies first as making the dough is easy while rolling and cutting takes a little more practice


2 sticks unsalted, room temperature butter

1 cup sugar

3 cups all purpose flour

3/4 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 egg lightly beaten

1 Tbsp milk

Step 1- Prep- Early in the day you're going to bake take out the 2 sticks of butter. Leave them wrapped of in a covered bowl. I do it before I leave for work and it's perfect when I get home. When you're ready to get going preheat the oven to 375. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. Beat together the egg and milk in a small bowl

Step 2- add butter to work bowl of mixer with paddle attachment. Turn on low and start creaming the butter. You can increase the speed a bit. The color of the butter should lighten. Turn back to low and add the sugar. Increase the speed a bit for 10-20 seconds to finish creaming the butter and sugar. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the bowl

Step 3- add the egg mixture and mix on slow for a minute until the liquid and creamed butter mixture are combined.

Step 4- with the mixer on low slowly add the dry ingredients. I use an oversize spoon and add a scoop at a time waiting for the flour to incorporate before adding another scoop. At about the halfway point, turn off the mixer and scrape down the bowl. The mixture will become denser and start pulling away from the sides of the bowl. When the last of the dry ingredients are added continue to mix until the dough pulls away from the sides completely

Step 5- separate the dough into 2 even pieces and form them into shallow disks. Wrap the disks in wax paper and put them in the fridge for at least 2 hours (or longer)

So at this point we're going to roll the dough to cut into festive shapes. This is not simple and takes some practice. I implore you to watch the video as to type the whole rolling process would be boring and repetitive. Some general hints ar:
A) use a well floured surface. Actually I prefer confectioners sugar as it won't change the consistency of the dough
B) while difficult to work with the dough must be cold. If it gets warm it will stick to your table and/or rolling pin. Keep a sheet pan in the freezer and if the dough gets to warm lay the cold sheet pan on top of it for a few minutes
C) Roll with even pressure to keep the thickness uniform. We're looking for 1/4" thickness
D) Choose sensible cookie cutters as the more elaborate they are the harder they are to work with
E) Try and get as many cookies as you can on the first pressing
F) Quickly re-roll the left over dough for a second pressing etc

Step 6- Arrange the cut dough on a 2 sheet pans with parchment paper of a silicone baking sheet. Don't crowd them (I usually go 6 to a sheet or a dozen at a time. Apply a liberal amount of appropriately colored sugar crystals

Step 7- Put in the oven for 7-9 minutes rotating pans once at 4 minutes. When the edges are just starting to brown they're done. Let cool on the pans for a couple of minutes before removing to cooling racks

I'm not kidding when I tell you these are probably the one thing I make that people can't get enough of and that are, with the exception of getting the rolling down pat, pretty damned simple to make. Well, if you have a stand mixer (go get one)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Rise and Shine- Cleaning Out The Fridge

So I haven't really touched on my favorite meal of the day- breakfast. I love eating breakfast and breakfast was the first meal I made well. Omelets, pancakes, waffles...I love them all. However the dish I make most often on weekends is an oven baked fritatta. A fritatta is an egg dish started on the stove top and finished in the oven typically with a carb base such as potatoes or cooked pasta. The best part is it's a great vehicle for leftovers from the weeks previous meals. I use it for leftover proteins, cheese, etc (veggies work great if you go for those things). It's a killer dish for 1 or 2 in the proportions we'll discuss here but it doubles and triples well. I've been known to break out the big ol cast iron skillet and crack a dozen eggs and make one for the family...anyway, this is another one of those where there are no real rules other then the egg base. Whatever carb you're using are best if they are already cooked but in a pinch potatoes can be cooked in the same pan first. As far as the fillings the sky is the limits just use common sense. The vessel for this is kind of important. You'll need a pan with fairly high, straight walls that has an oven-proof handle. A cast iron skillet works great. When I make it for myself I have a great little non-stick sautee pan that works great. Oh one last thing. On the video for this one I was experimenting with my point-of-view cam. Let me know what you think


Egg Base-

3 eggs

1/4 cup of dairy (whole milk, half and half, whole cream, etc) I use whole milk as that's what I usually have in the fridge. Avoid 1 or 2% if you can

A pinch of salt and a couple grinds of fresh cracked pepper


My famous pan fried potatoes

My equally famous pulled pork

Left over ham

Left over cheese from my chicken fajitas

Step 1- preheat oven to 350

Step 2- Beat 3 eggs, dairy, salt and pepper and add half the cheese. Let the mixture come to room temperature

Step 3- Preheat pan over medium high heat. Add 2 tbs off butter and a drizzle of olive oil to the pan. When the fat is properly heated add enough potatoes to cover the bottom of the pan in a single layer. Keep the potatoes moving for a few minutes with a spatula. This is more or less further crisping the potatoes for a better texture on the final product

Step 4- Add the rest of the fillings except the cheese (in this case ham and pulled pork). As with the potatoes keep them moving around in the pan allowing the flavors to mix and putting a little carmelization on the fillings

Step 5- Add the egg mix to the hot pan. Let it set for a few seconds the using your spatula start pulling the cooked egg away from the sides allowing the raw egg to make contact with the hot pan. (see video) Do this around the whole pan. The middle will not be full cooked. This is a good thing

Step 6- Sprinkle the top with the remaining cheese

Step 7- Place in the preheated oven for 12-14 minutes or until the whole thing looks solid and the cheese on top has started to brown

Step 8- Carefully remove from the oven as the handle with be screaming hot. Extract from the pan, slice it in wedges and enjoy

The best part is you get your eggs, meat and potatoes all in one neat package and whatever your don't finish reheats really well so you can have leftovers of your leftovers fritatta the next day...errr or something

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tastes like chicken (fajitas)

I love to play with food. Interactive food types allow you to stretch the culinary imagination a bit. Southwestern or Tex Mex cuisine tends towards foods where you prepare the final dish yourself. The king of these would have to be fajitas a favorite of chain restaurants everywhere. The sizzling cast iron skillet of meat, sides like cheese, sour cream, peepers, onions, pico...yup, awesome.But did you know that making your own is super easy and relatively inexpensive? Well I'm telling you it is. You need only keep 3 rules in mind; a great marinade, larger cuts of meat, and a sizzling hot pan

I'm going to share my favorite fajita marinade which I tend to use on chicken even when I'm not doing fajitas. This marinade would also work great with shrimp and skirt steak (both of which I find overpriced). For demonstration purposes I will also be cooking with peppers and onions which, as you know, I loathe. The things I do for you people!! We're cooking with boneless, skinless chicken breast mostly because I love chicken and it's on sale every other week. Now, the absolute key is leaving the breasts whole, cooking them, then slicing them. When you use small little pieces like you would for stir fry they just dry out. So, we'll marinate, cook until it's mostly cooked, slice it, finish it and eat it!!


2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast (if you watch the videos (and I hope you do) you'll see I'm obviously not cooking the whole 2 lbs at once as I was cooking just for me)

1 yellow or white onion

1 pepper (green, red, whatever you want...I'm using red)

For marinade-
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke flavoring
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Flour tortillas
sour cream
shredded cheese (cheddar, jack, etc)
pico de gallo

Step 1- To make the marinade combined all ingredients in a container with a lid and shake the heck out of it. Don't sub bottled lime juice for fresh!!

Step 2- Put the chicken in a zip top bag and pour the marinade over it. Seal and move the chicken around to coat it all (note- if you breasts seem overly thick you may want to butterfly them-see 1st video). Put it in the fridge for at least 2 hours, ideally overnight

Step 3- Cut the onion in thin rings then cut in half. Cut the pepper into long strips then cut in half (again see first video)

Step 4- Preheat a heavy skillet (or electric skillet) on medium high. Add a drizzle of oil (I used regular olive oil). Add the chicken to the skillet. Cook 4-6 minutes depending on the thickness of the breast (if the bottom is nicely brown it's ready to turn). Turn the chicken over. Add the onions and peppers. Keep the veggies moving. We want to saute them, not burn them. After about 4 minutes remove the chicken

Step 5- On a cutting board, with your sharpest knife, cut the chicken into thin strips. The chicken should be a bit "under" cooked. Return to pan with onions and peppers and continue to stir the chicken and veggies around the pan. The meat will pick up the flavor of the veggies and the marinade which now coats the pan. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes and enjoy

I'm not going to tell you how to serve fajitas as anyone who's been to a chili/friday/applebees knows how to do that!! I hope you like this one as it's both tasty, fun, and a great meal for a group (or one hungry, hungry person)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

(cold) Salad Days

OK, I'm still not out of the weeds yet with work and life but I wanted to get a quickie in before summer unofficially ends. Cold salads are a staple for cookouts, BBQ's, and picnics alike. There are so many variations on potato and pasta salads it's mind boggling. Here is one I like because it comes together quickly and has only 3 ingredients. This is my version of tortellini salad


1 8.8 oz package dry tortellini (I'm using Ronzoni 3 cheese tortellini)- Your can use fresh or refrigerated but make sure you still boil it. Uncooked refrigerated ends up too al dente

8 oz creamy dressing- I like lite creamy parmesan

1/4 cup shredded carrot

Step 1- Boil the pasta according to the package- It will likely say 11-13 minutes but I'm telling you to check it a around 8 minutes. We are looking for super al dente. If you over cook it it will fall apart when adding the dressing. Drain it and let it cool completely (refrigerate it if needed)

Step 2- Shred a carrot with a box grater to get approximately 1/4 cup of carrot. It adds to the taste and a textural crunch to the pasta

Step 3- Add the dressing and carrot to the cooled pasta. Mix thoroughly with a spatula to distribute evenly. Refrigerate for at least an hour and ideally 3 plus hours to let the flavors meld.

And that's it. The cold, cheesy tortellini and the crunchy, sweet carrots offset perfectly by the creamy, tangy dressing. Because we're using dry pasta and salad dressing it's primary ingredients are something you can always have in the pantry so, um, no excuses

Thursday, August 18, 2011

No Excuses Excuse

As I posted on my other blog ( I have just plain run out of time and energy these last few weeks and haven't found time to post new recipes etc. Work, like the job I get paid for, has been exhausting and idle time when I'm off has been hard to come by. But oh, I've been cooking and filming so once I get a chance to sit down in from of my Mac Book and edit some vids they'll be coming fast and furious (no, not the Vin Diesel movie). In the next few weeks look forward to chicken fajitas, several salads (seriously) and Texas red chili and some other goodies. I've also upgraded to a high def video recorder and look for the debut of the P.O.V. cam

Keep cooking, no excuses!!