Thursday, June 30, 2011

Mini Strombolis

These are perfect appetizers. Or heck, have them as a main course!

You can use bottled marinara if you want, but this version is so easy to make there's no reason to use store-bought. I found the original recipe here.

Be sure to check out our long-time favorite stromboli.

Makes: 6 appetizer-sized servings
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Printable Recipe


  • 1 tube Pillsbury pizza dough
  • 2 T all-purpose flour
  • 24 slices pepperoni
  • 8 slices provolone cheese
  • 8 slices Italian hot ham
  • 8 slices Genoa salami
  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 T sesame seeds
  • 2 T Italian seasoning blend
  • 2 T freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 t red pepper flakes
  • 1 t garlic powder
  • Marinara sauce (see below)

1. Preheat oven to 400 F.

2. Roll out the pizza dough to a large square on a lightly floured surface. Using a pizza cutter, divide the dough into four equal sized squares.

3. Layer each piece of dough with equal amounts of pepperoni, cheese, ham, and salami.

4. Beginning at a corner, roll up each piece of dough. The result will look somewhat like a crescent roll; thick in the middle and thinner at the edges.

5. Place rolls on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with non-stick spray. Brush lightly with oil.

6. Combine sesame seeds, Italian seasoning, Parmesan, red pepper flakes and garlic powder. Sprinkle over dough.

7. Bake until golden, 12-14 minutes. Serve with warm marinara sauce.

For the marinara sauce:

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 7 minutes


  • 1 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 t red pepper flakes
  • 1 T anchovy paste
  • 1 T parsley, chopped
  • 1 15 oz can crushed tomatoes

1. Heat oil over medium heat in a small pot.

2. Add the garlic, pepper flakes and anchovy paste and cook 2 minutes.

3. Add parsley, tomatoes, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Basil and Sundried Tomato Fattie

Anytime we fire up the smoker we throw on a fattie or two. This was a wonderful new fattie using fresh basil and sundried tomato.

Basically, you just flatten out a bulk sausage and then fill it with whatever you want, roll it up and smoke it. Often, they are also wrapped in a bacon weave, but we usually leave that off. You can see the technique here.

Makes: 1 fatties
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 3 hours
Printable Recipe


  • 1 roll bulk Italian sausage
  • 2-3 T fresh basil, chiffonade
  • 2-3 T sundried tomatoes, chiffonade
  • 1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese

1. Prepare sausage by rolling it out into a square (see our technique here).

2. Spread basil, tomato and cheese over sausage. Roll up. Smoke at 225-250 F for 3 hours.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

McDonald's Big Mac Sauce

For some reason I was craving a Big Mac the other day. I remembered that I had found a clone of the McD's secret sauce here, so I got out some freshly ground ground beef and made up a few burgers. Now, I didn't use two patties like the classic. My single 1/2 pound patties are enough by themselves.

They tasted like I remember a Big Mac tasting, but better!

Makes: 1 cup
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Printable Recipe


  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 T Indian relish, drained (see note)
  • 1/2 t sugar
  • 2 T Thousand Island dressing

1. Combine all ingredients. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before using. Stir again before serving.

Note: Most grocery stores have Indian relish in the condiment section. If you cannot find it, you can substitute a dill pickle relish instead.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream

Oh, creamy yummy goodness!

This recipe uses raw eggs. If you are adverse to eating raw eggs, you can use the alternate cream recipe, but the ice cream will not store as well, so eat it as soon as your ice cream maker is done.

Makes: 1 quart
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Printable Recipe


  • 1 pint strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • Cream (see below)
  • 6 strawberries, hulled and diced, for garnish

1. Combine the strawberries, sugar and lemon juice in a bowl. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

2. Mash the strawberries using a potato masher.

3. Add strawberries to the cream and pour into your ice cream maker. Process per maker's instructions.

4. Serve garnished with diced strawberries.


  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk (can use 2%)
1. Whisk eggs in bowl until fluffy.

2. Add in sugar, slowly, while whisking, for 1 minute.

3. Add in cream and milk and whisk to mix.

Alternative Cream:

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cups half-and-half

1. Pour cream into a bowl.

2. Add in sugar, slowly, while whisking, for 1 minute.

3. Pour in the half-and-half and whisk to mix.

Grilled Brussels Sprouts

We love Brussels sprouts. I don't know why so many people fear cooking them.

We like them roasted or in a gratin. And now, we love them grilled!

Makes: 4-6 servings
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Printable Recipe


  • 1 lb Brussels sprouts, trimmed
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 T minced garlic
  • 1 t dry mustard
  • 1 t smoked paprika
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/4 t fresh ground pepper
  • 4-5 skewers

1. Place Brussels sprouts in a large microwaveable bowl. Microwave on high for about 3-5 minutes, or until they are starting to soften. Start checking them after 3 minutes, and stir them a bit before microwaving more (if needed). You might have to go more than 5 minutes depending on the size of the Brussels sprouts. Remove and let cool slightly.

2. Combine remaining ingredients and pour half over the sprouts, reserving the rest. Toss to coat.

3. Feed sprouts onto skewers. Try to keep the like-sized sprouts on the same skewers so they will all cook the same. Place over direct heat on your grill and brown, rotating once. Remove to indirect heat and cook until soft and tender. You may have to remove the smaller sprouts earlier than the larger ones since they will cook faster.

4. Drizzle with remaining marinade and serve immediately.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Chorizo Cream Gravy

I found this great recipe over on the Homesick Texan's blog. We really like this twist on the traditional biscuits and gravy.

Don't leave out the chipotle powder, it really helps make this a great dish. And add more milk if your gravy gets too thick (like mine did!).

Makes: 4 servings
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Printable Recipe


  • 1 T vegetable oil
  • 1 lb bulk Mexican chorizo sausage
  • 4 T flour
  • 2 cups milk (plus more, if needed)
  • 1 T fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Salt, pepper, and chipotle chili powder, to taste

1. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Crumble in the sausage and cook until done. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate.

2. Add flour to skillet with the drippings from the sausage. Stir and cook until it turns brown.

3. Slowly add milk, a little at a time, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking until thickened.

4. Add in the chorizo, cilantro, and salt, pepper and chipotle chili power to taste. Add more milk if gravy gets too thick.

5. Serve over biscuits.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

We love homemade salsa, and we love salsa with roasted ingredients even more.

Salsa isn't just for dipping chips. We love it over burgers and steaks too! I found the original recipe over at the My Man's Belly blog.

Makes: 12 appetizer servings, enough for 4 burgers with leftover for dipping
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
Printable Recipe


  • 1 1/2 lbs tomatillos, husked and halved
  • 1 medium white onion, quartered
  • 1 large jalapeño, seeded and halved
  • 1 medium poblano pepper, seeded and halved
  • Skewers, soaked
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 10-15 sprig cilantro (to taste)
  • 1/2 lime, juiced

1. Start up your grill (you can also make this in the oven at 400 F). Put the tomatillos, onion, and jalapeño on skewers. Brush with oil and place on grill over indirect heat. Also brush the poblano and garlic with oil and add them to the grill. Grill for 30-40 minutes or until the vegetables are softened and lightly blackened. Do not burn them.

2. Remove vegetables from the grill and let cool slightly. Place into a blender or food processor. Add cilantro and blend until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste and the lime juice. Pulse a few more times to mix.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Grilled Artichoke Bites

These disappeared quickly.

This is my take on a recipe I found when watching Private Chefs of Beverly Hills, a show that used to air on the Food Network. I'm not a big fan of food shows that concentrate more on drama than food, but Private Chefs of Beverly Hills did have a lot of great appetizer ideas.

Makes: 10-12 appetizers
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Printable Recipe


  • 2 14oz cans of medium sized artichoke hearts, drained
  • Skewers (soaked in water for 30 minutes if using wood or bamboo)
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1/2 white onion, minced
  • 1 cup fresh spinach, julienned
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 4 T freshly grated Parmesan
  • 3 T fresh basil, julienned
  • Dash ground nutmeg
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Fire up your grill. Cut all but two of the artichoke hearts in half. Skewer the halves and place on the grill. Grill, turning once, until tender and lightly charred. Remove.

2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Saute the onions until tender.

3. Add the spinach and cook until wilted.

4. Chop the reserved two artichoke hearts. Add them to the skillet along with the mozzarella and Parmesan. Cook until cheese is melted. Remove from heat.

5. Stir in basil and nutmeg. When mixture has cooled slightly, stir in the yogurt and season with salt and pepper. Spoon mixture onto artichoke heart halves and serve.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Grilled Red Potatoes

It doesn't get any easier (or better) than these grilled red potatoes.

Just make sure you don't overcook them or they'll fall off the skewers! I found the original recipe on the Nibble Me This blog.

Makes: 4 servings
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Printable Recipe


  • 10 red potatoes, halved
  • 4-5 bamboo skewers
  • Olive oil
  • 2 T crushed dried rosemary
  • 1 T crushed dried thyme
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Put potatoes in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave until just tender, about 3-5 minutes.

2. Place potatoes on skewers.

3. In a bowl, combine the oil, rosemary and thyme. Brush onto both sides of the potatoes.

4. Grill potatoes 4-5 minutes per side until browned and completely cooked. Serve sprinkled with the cheese.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Columbus Zoo, Part 3

This is our third post on our trip to the Columbus Zoo. As the day got warmer, we decided to try some of the rides in the zoo.

The little train ride was nice. Although it's not a long ride, you get to sit and look at some of the animals.

There's also a little boat ride, which was pleasant.

Anita totally freaked out on the boat ride when we had to go under this bridge. She was afraid that the lizard on the ceiling was going to drop into the boat, or worse, drop onto her!

There's also an animal petting area. Anita became this goat's best friend.

At this point we headed indoors to the aquatic and reptile displays.

The snake exhibits are awesome.

And last, my favorite picture from our visit to the Columbus Zoo.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Columbus Zoo, Part 2

This is our second post on our recent trip to the Columbus Ohio Zoo.

One of the things I really like about the Columbus Zoo is that they have several aviaries. They are very well done.

There are also many birds in outdoor exhibits.

It was fun watching the orangutans.

These interesting looking fellows were rather playful. Well, when they weren't hanging out in the shade.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Columbus Zoo, Part 1

Anita and I took a few days off and went to Ohio. We decided to spend one of those days at the Columbus Zoo. We'd never been there before.

It was an usually hot day, and the park was quite crowded. Fortunately, many of the walking paths are shaded and there was a light breeze so it was actually very comfortable. The zoo is also very well designed for easy walking. You don't really need a map.

Some of the bigger animals weren't enjoying the heat so much. Several of them were hiding in the shade or lying beneath the trees.

Here are some of our favorite pictures we took around the zoo.

The kangaroos were enjoying the shade.

The kangaroo exhibit is nice in that you walk among the kangaroos. There aren't any fences or walls between you and the animals.

Tiger getting a drink of cool water.

A kid at this exhibit called the cat the 'mad Garfield.'

Flamingos hanging out.

The bears were out early. We made sure to swing by the larger animals first before it got too hot.

The most bizarre looking squirrel I've ever seen. Definitely not like the squirrels in our yard.

Good day to hang out in the shade, just like this alligator was.

A kid in front of us called this 'half zebra, half giraffe and half gazelle'. He got the giraffe part right as the okapi is related to giraffes.

The penguins had the right idea. Stay in the cool water.

They have some great monkey, ape and gorilla exhibits.

Koala bear hanging out.