Sunday, December 31, 2017

Clarification about my posting in the coming weeks....

My blog is a lot about what I feel personally that I generally can’t express in person. A lot of random thoughts that I can organize and display in proper format. A lot of revisions and 2nd  thoughts so what you may have read originally, I may have edited again for a better clarity.  My blog and writing, as terrible as it is, is my meditation. My chance to set my thoughts straight and calm my mind in a very public setting.

Why am I writing about such personal things?

Not to garner sympathy or a Go Fund Me page. While I appreciate the thoughts and prayers and even the unsolicited advice, this is about educating myself about making things better for healthcare and patients as an active participant in the system. An insiders point of view. An active observer. My perceptions are my own colored with my idealism regarding medical care. What I hope to see, how I am disappointed or elated at what I end up with.

Here is what I know for sure...don’t get sick at the end of the year. It’s like a fire sale with folks meeting their deductible and cashing in on all the elective tests and procedures they can. I also am guilty of this putting off tests and exams until after our deductible was met and sadly I met that rather early this year and will again this upcoming year. Like you have any control at all over this.

The reality is that things don’t hurt as bad as I thought they might. I always look to the hours post procedure to get through the present situation that I dread. Once the IV is in, the part I hate the worst, I know that some nice CRNA is going to give me a little happy medicine and I will wake on the other side and deal with the aftermath at that time. I rarely take pain meds for more than the first day post op. I just don’t need it but I am unique in that manner. I am a light weight regarding meds and very little puts me way out. I am fortunate in that regard.

The guilt. How do you interpret what medicine asks or says to you without taking it as an accusation of blame? I struggle with this. Yes, I have smoked in the past and enjoy and occasional cigar. Am I paying for my transgressions? It’s an easy jump, easier than you can imagine. I am not going there, I can’t. It’s not fair but what is fair these days?

I will express my frustrations, pray for patience and carry on no matter what is coming knowing I have seen patients endure much worse but, always will wonder why?  I think maybe it’s more important to pray for acceptance for what comes. I know a few folks that have lived with my condition for years, quietly, unnoticed, doing well. It does not define them nor will it me. But I will talk about it if asked because it’s the way to help others.

Yes I am still cooking.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

This Year’s Birthday Gift....

...was a CT scan. Sadly I have been passing blood in my urine sporadically for a few weeks and had to have it checked out. The CT showed areas of concern and was followed by a cystoscope in a urology office. That also showed a need for further investigation.

I work in medicine and have my whole career. Navigating the system is a nightmare despite claims of  “Extraordinary Care”, no one really gives a crap about you personally unless it’s about payment. Your urgency is not their urgency and you are liable to be speaking to people who have little medical knowledge and are clueless about your plight. I have met some really nice, but aloof, co-workers as well as some folks that probably should not have a job greeting people. I understand now that the public applies these ideas about’Extraordinary Care’ to the whole process from the cleaning team to the physician. In reality, the person that answers the phone at your physician’s office is unfairly lumped into this so any break in the link of this chain affects the system as a whole and shades your perceptions.

I have discovered that it all moves at a glacier pace taking weeks to get things done where it could be days. Labs that don’t post to EPIC, reports that never reach the primary physician. I have gone and retrieved labs after signing releases then faxed my own results to those who need to see them. There are parts of the system that are really nonsensical. Despite this, I have had some fantastic preop  and post op nurses and great CRNAs that were reassuring and lovely. People actually involved in your care are great not unlike the nurses And tech professionals I work or am acquainted with everyday. Despite their schedule or late hour, they are always pleasant and seem to go out of their way to accommodate.

The process of diagnosis is painstakingly slow. You would think scans and testing would be done before consults so a discussion could be had but in reality everything seems to happen in reverse order. It takes weeks to get a visit and then another week to have the exam and then another to get a follow up for discussion. It’s really frustrating and I know how to press things a bit. What about a regular old civilian? My Lord, what do they go through? I am not sure why the progression is so linear seeming unable to veer from some disposed path.

After the CT, I had an ultrasound to clarify the results. A $4000 scan whose results need clarifying? Makes no sense at all. So the ultrasound ruled out kidney cancer which turned out to be a cyst but shed no real light on my congenital ureter defect and where, what is now considered cancer, in my mind, is located. Ureteral cancer is bad. Very bad. Losing a kidney and bladder bad.

Now onto the biopsy. Another week goes by after the consult visit to the biopsy. While I am under, the urologist slips a stent in my right ureter that curls up in my kidney and ends in a pigtail in my bladder. Probably the most irritating implant known to man. I feel a constant vague fullness and “sticking” sensation 24 hours a day and the urgency to void makes me dash to the toilet no matter what. The very act of voiding now sets off peristaltic waves that make need to hold on the walls for support, the pain is so intense. Then it passes till the next urge. The good news is, the ureter is clean, no cancer there.

I am diagnosed with a congenital condition, Hutch diverticula, which is close to my right ureter (the tube that delivers urine from the kidney to the bladder). The stent prevents the ureter from shutting down since he removed a tumor close to its location in the diverticula.  I will now pass a lot of bright red blood for the following weeks until the next phase of treatment. That depends on the pathology results.

The pathology news is devastating. While the cancer did not invade the muscular wall of the bladder, it happens to be a sarcoma type cancer known to be aggressive and resistant to chemo. My urologist calls to deliver news neither of us expected. I will likely lose my bladder so as not to ‘seed’ cancer cells into my belly if he were to open the bladder in situ. My surgeon heads out of town. A follow up in a few weeks. What?  So now it’s waiting, thinking, crying and praying. Life without my bladder will be like...what? Part of my next visit is to meet with the oncologist also. Is this the primary site? Has it spread? My chest X-ray was clear, what does that even mean? The ultrasound showed normal abdominal organs. Ok, but am I clear?

More to follow....

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

A Tuesday Nosh as a Meal

Another Tuesday night and we have had our share of salmon lately. I still have a few bags of shrimp in the freezer as well as bread dough rising in the fridge that has to be baked tonight. Not wanting a lot of pasta or rice carbs I opted for a snack approach to dinner. Light yet satisfying. A French loaf, spicy Bloody Mary shrimps and a cheese assortment. A nice dipping oil for the warm, fresh bread and we are in business. Brenda worked late Tuesday and the bread was just crusting up when she walked in the door. The recipe for the shrimp  here:

Monday, November 27, 2017

Irish Stew at the Rainbow House

We have cooked for this charity before but this is our first time flying as a solo family. Mackenzie signed us up for the Sunday after Thanksgiving and it came upon us in a flash. The last thing on my mind was cooking again after all that fuss a few days ago. I had started buying groceries a few weeks ago as the chuck was on sale and I had to save some money. Cooking for 45 can be pricey.
I started thinking about my Instant Pot and how this could help shave some kitchen time off the day and if I borrowed Mackenzie's, all the better.  I had 12 pounds of chuck roast that has to be fork tender.  Potatoes and carrots in mass that needs to be dealt with and a very large 10 gallon pot to cook in ( that won't fit in the fridge). Brenda was helping me contain the considerable mess I was making. Browning that much beef is a greasy mess but worth the tasty results.
I decided to stage the cooking, deconstructing the recipe and then assembling the finished parts. I can control all the variables this way and make sure each part adds up to a delicious whole. Seasoning along the way.

Job one...prepping everything. I started with onions on the stove top. Cooking them along with garlic and celery, adding flour and broth to make the base of the stew. Seasonings and umami flair to deepen the flavors and concentrate the base for later diluting. Then on to the meat prep. Cubing the 12 pounds of chuck then browning in a cast iron skillet and setting 6 pounds into each Instant Pot on a bed of mushrooms and 2 cups of water. 45 minutes with Natural Pressure Release.  Lastly was peeling 3 pounds of carrots and 7 pounds of russets. Brenda made a great Sous chef for me as my hands got weary of all the peeling. I used the Instant pot to cook those also but 4 minutes was too long and 3 minutes was too long. Not sure where to go with those in the future but they were softer than I cared for. They still were great in the final product though.

Guinness Irish Stew for 45

12 pounds of chuck roast, cubed into 2 inch pieces, trimmed of excess fat and gristle
3 tbl oil
1 cup red wine for deglazing pan
1 pound mushrooms, sliced, divided
4 cups of water, divided
5 large onions, chopped
1 garlic bulb minced
1 pound celery, chopped with leaves
1/2 cup oil
3/4 cup flour
2 - 32 oz cartons of Chicken broth (I used low sodium)  I used 4 total
2 tbls dried thyme
1 tbls dried Rosemary
3 bay leaves
2 tbls salt
1 tbls pepper
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup Soy Sauce
2 tbls Better Than Bullion, Roast Beef flavor.
1 small can tomato paste
Kitchen Bouquet
3 cans of Guinness beer
3 pounds of carrots, peeled and 1 inch chunks.
7 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and uniformly cut.

I browned the beef in batches and added them to a 8 ounce bed of mushrooms in each pot.
I added about 2 cups of water to each pot and processed them for 45 minutes with a natural pressure release.
I used an 8 quart stock pot to sauté the onions in oil, adding the garlic and celery as they cooked. The dried herbs went in then the flour. After cooking for a few minutes, I added 2 cartons of the broth and a bit of Kitchen Bouquet to color the sauce a bit. I added the Soy sauce and fish sauce.
After setting aside the beef, I skimmed the broth, reserved the fat, and added the broth and cooked mushrooms to the stock pot. Add the beer, tomato paste and stir, allowing it to cook a bit. Taste and adjust the seasoning. The pot should be full now.
I checked the overall texture for a nice body but I can adjust the thickness of the gravy latter in the second part assembly.  Everything in the fridge until the main event.

The day of the event, I broke out the 10 gallon pot. I had the reserve fat I skimmed the beef broth from the IP and added the fat from the cooled base stock. I had about 1 cup of fat that went into the large pot. After heating up the fat,  I added an additional cup of flour, cooked for several minutes then added 2 more cartons of chicken stock. This thickened up after coming to a boil then I added the contents of the stock pot and adjusted the seasoning. The texture was perfect, like a thin gravy.  To this I added the picked over beef, removing any excess fat and objectionable content. Then the cooked carrots and potatoes. A good stir and we packed up for the Rainbow House.

We served the fine folks at the Rainbow House from crock pots, to keep everything warm with a nice side salad and French baguettes. It was warm and inviting and the staff remembered the stew fondly  from March when we had made it for St. Patrick's day. Mackenzie made some great brownies (especially the salted caramel ones).

Monday, November 20, 2017

Pear Spice Cake with Pecan Praline topping

I was looking for this recipe to share with my sister and I am not sure I ever posted it. The perfect fall/ Thanksgiving dessert.


    • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
    • 1 box spice cake mix (1 pound 2.25 ounces)
    • 3/4 cup canned pear nectar
    • 3 large eggs
    • 2 tablespoons mild-flavored (light) molasses
    • 1/2 cup minced crystallized ginger
    • 2 pears, peeled, cored, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 1 1/2 cups)
    • 3/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
    • 1/4 cup whipping cream
    • 1 1/3 cups pecan halves, toasted


    1. Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Butter 9-inch-diameter springform pan with 2 3/4-inch-high sides. Stir 1/2 cup butter in small saucepan over medium heat until melted and brown, about 3 minutes. Pour into large bowl. Add spice cake mix, canned pear nectar, eggs, molasses and crystallized ginger. Using electric mixer, beat batter 2 minutes. Fold in pears. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake until cake is dark brown and tester inserted into center comes out with some moist crumbs attached, about 1 hour 10 minutes.
    2. Cool cake in pan on rack 15 minutes. Run knife between pan sides and cake to loosen. Release pan sides. Place cake on platter.
    3. Stir golden brown sugar, whipping cream and remaining 1/2 cup butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat until smooth. Boil 3 minutes, stirring often. Stir in pecan halves. Spoon warm topping over warm cake. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

My Favorite Cookies

Its that time of year where everything is pumpkin and Brenda makes a cookie that is no exception. Soft with a cake-like texture loaded with chips and nuts, Ben gets these made for him every year. I force the nut thing as I love them in everything but especially, cookies!

My personal favorite is Chicago Crunch from an old friend of ours. These special chocolate chip cookies have oats and cornflakes that give them their special texture and crunch. I of  course insist on a handfull of walnuts to round out their superior milk dipping

Pumpkin Cookies   

3 sticks of margarine, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 t vanilla
3 cups flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
1 1/2 t baking soda
1 1/2 t cinnamon
1 can pumpkin puree 15 oz
1 pkg chocolate chips
Optional a handfull of walnuts

Cream margarine and sugar, add eggs, vanilla and pumpkin puree. Mix dry ingredients then add to wet. Add chips and nuts. Stir then drop by 1 ounce scoop.
Bake 350 for 12-14 minutesor until lightly browned.

Chicago Crunch
1/2 cup butter and margarine
1 cup sugar and 1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 T milk
2 t vanilla
3 t baking soda
1t salt
3 1/2 cups flour
3/4 c veg oil
1 c corn flakes
1 c quick oats
1 pkg chocolate chips
Handful walnuts

Cream sugars and butter and margarine. Add egg, milk, vanilla. Combine flour and soda and salt. add to creamed mixture alternating with oil. add corn flakes, oats, chips and nuts. stir to combine. Drop by 1 ounce scoop on greased cookie sheet. Bake 350 for 8-12 minutes  depending on how brown you like them. i like them a bit darker. 

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Chicken Dinners

This week, a cold snap hit the Midlands and we were ready to hunker down. After work on Wednesday, I stopped for provisions and picked a up a pack of boneless, skinless chicken breast. About 7 in all.
I had researched a few recipes during the day and asked Brenda if Tiki Masala was good for her after her late shift. I purchased accordingly but I had also found a Tuscan Chicken recipe I could not let pass. My indecision forced me to pick up groceries for both recipes.
Once home, I prepped the small pack of wings I purchased and put them in the toaster over then set out to make Tuscan chicken.
I, of course, got out the Instant Pot since I am still fascinated with its use and adapting regular recipes to its use. The recipe I found was for a skillet version and while the Pot made this quickly without a lot of baby sitting, the time spent was about the same. The chicken however was much more tender from the Pot. 

One of the caveats was no pasta or rice. I found the great recipe that used cannellini beans instead. Perfect!

Tuscan Chicken and Mushrooms (adapted to Instant Pot)

 2 tbls olive oil
3 chicken breasts, pounded flat with an iron skillet
1 tbls flour, salt and pepper to sprinkle.
8 ounce cremini mushrooms sliced thick
1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes, sliced in strips
1 tbls Italian seasoning mix
2 cloves minced garlic
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 c cream
Shaved Romano cheese

Set the pot to saute on high and dredge the chicken breasts in flour, salt and pepper then brown in olive oil till golden, remove and set aside.
In the Pot still on saute, add the mushrooms and garlic for just a few minutes and scrape the fond from the Pot. Add the broth, tomatoes, seasoning. Place the trivet in the Pot and put the reserved chicken on top. 

Cover the Pot for pressure cooking and set to the Meat setting for only 5 minutes. Let it finish and then release the pressure naturally.
Open the pot once pressure has subsided remove the chicken to serving platter and remove the trivet.  Add the beans and cream, heat in the saute mode till bubbly.  Pour over the plated chicken. Top with shaved Romano. 

After all this excitement and the little time it took, I also prepped the rest of the chicken for Tiki Masala which we ate Saturday night. Not going to lie, it was nice to have a second meal cooked and ready for dinner.  I used the Pot again and my usual Masala recipe elsewhere on the blog here. Just saute the spices in the Pot, add the tomatoes and marinated chicken. This time I set the Pot to 10 minutes high pressure with a quick release. Same great tender chicken.
I used this recipe with  modifications:

 Instant Pot Chicken Tiki Masala

The only thing I would change was to cook those spices in oil before assembling the rest of the ingredients. 

Monday, October 23, 2017

Cooking Under Pressure

I succumbed to the new trend and picked up a Instant Pot pressure cooker at Walmart after doing a fair amount of research.

This all started a few weeks ago during a cold snap and Baker's grocery had some nice looking arm roasts at the meat counter and Brenda, who hardly ever asks for anything for dinner, wanted a pot roast.

Now 2 o'clock in the afternoon is hardly the time to start thinking pot roast in a slow cooker but we picked up a roast and set a path for home. It took hours, and then more hours. I believe we ate that night around 730-8 o'clock.  I was lamenting the fact that if these darn pressure cookers actually  work the way they are promoted, this would not have been an issue. Turns out they do work this way and I prepared a roast this past Sunday in 1 hour ( 2 hours to complete the meal) that was better than the slow cooked one by far.

Since I am new to the Instant Pot game, I have a lot to learn but the roast came together relatively quickly and my skepticism aside, came out fantastic.
Super tender and very flavorful, that being to the recipe I used which include a umami palate of ingredients that normally don't add to my roast. I will now of course.
Here is the link to the recipe I used. Notice this recipe has fish sauce and soy sauce in it. These are essential umami ingredients that add that flavor in the background. Follow these instructions and you will hit pot roast nirvana. 

Eaing Omaha....1000 degrees and Spin Pizza

Brenda and I are reminiscing about our trip to Vegas a year or so ago when we ate at a pizza place called 800 degrees. This place was a cafeteria style ordering and choosing pizza toppings and by the time you went to pay, the pizza was ready. It took about 1 minute or less to cook.

I believe this 1000 degree chain is of the same type as 800 degrees except it took a little longer and was a little bit disorganized. Considering the average age behind the counter, that's not surprising. What was surprising was how good the end product was. A delicious chewy crust with those charred leopard spots and the toppings were great. The place was pretty busy the Friday night we visited and there were few places to sit. Not a huge dining room.

In addition to pizza they also serve wings which we did not try (but want to). I know we bought 2 pieces of pie home and I had some the next day which was not nearly as good as when fresh but tasty none the less. Average prices for a 17 inch pie, we tried the 'Meatza" which had several cuts of meat and sausage. We would go there again I believe for a quick, no nonsense experience. A far cry though from Spin Pizza which we also hit a few weeks ago but they had some brief table service as well as a pretty formal dining room and spirits.  Same type of pizza, same type of quality but the ambiance was much nicer.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Sauerkraut Salad...who knew?

We have a party for a friend on Friday and the theme is German food.  Brenda is making her German Chocolate cake and we are bringing a blast from our Amana past...Sauerkraut salad.

Now if you have ever eaten family style in the Amana Colonies, they bring out a ton of food. The first course is usually this Kraut Salad, cottage cheese and pickled ham. It brings back so many fond memories of eating there while we worked the shop when the kids were little.

Sauerkraut Salad

1 Quart of Sauerkraut, drained
1 cup sugar (I used less)
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 Red bell pepper diced
1/2 c Salad oil (I used less)

Mix all together and let sit overnight in the fridge. I promise you will love this even if you don't care for kraut.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Grilled Swordfish and Comfort Foods

Still cooking. Some classic lasagna in a non traditional way. I have posted this recipe for Skillet Lasagna before but have since beefed up the flavor profile adding a few key ingredients but still a one pan, easy meal. Cheesy and hearty and makes great leftovers.

I added fennel to the ground beef with some red pepper flakes then bought diced tomatoes with basil, garlic and oregano to round out the sauce a bit. Crushed tomatoes would be better if your not into large chunks of tomato.

Tonight I bought more salmon and swordfish at the market. Brenda chose swordfish so I grilled it again with some hickory chips in a fish basket. It came our great sided with roasted Brussels sprouts. Just a kiss of smoke but still moist and flaky.

Skillet Lasagna from Cook's Country Magazine


1(28-ounce) can diced tomatoes  (Use the Basil, Garlic,  Oregano stuff )               
1tablespoon olive oil
1medium onion, minced
Table salt
3medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
teaspoon red pepper flakes, 1 tsp crushed Fennel, 1 tbl Italian seasoning          
1pound meatloaf mix (or just ground beef or Italian sausage)  
10curly-edged lasagna noodles, broken into 2-inch lengths
1(8-ounce) can tomato sauce
½cup grated Parmesan cheese plus 2 additional tablespoons                
Ground black pepper
1carton  ricotta cheese (see below for prep)  
3tablespoons chopped fresh basil
 I added a package of mozzarella to top also.

Brown the beef and onions, adding the garlic towards the end with the red pepper and fennel and about 1 Tbl Italian seasoning.

Drain then add the broken Lasagna noodles on top. Pour the tomato products in to a measure and make sure to add enough water to make 1 quart. Pour this over the noodles. Cover the pan and allow to simmer for 20-30 minutes till the noodles are soft and most of the liquid has been absorbed.

Prepare the ricotta by adding 1 tbl olive oil, 1 tsp garlic salt, 1/2 tsp pepper and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese. Taste and adjust.  Mix thoroughly and set aside.

Once the noodles are soft, drop the ricotta on top by the spoonful and then cover with the Mozzarella. At this point you can cover and simmer till the cheese melts or place the pan in a hot over (350) till the cheese starts to brown. Top with fresh basil and remaining Parmesan and serve.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Hello, Old Friend...

We made this salad so much we retired it for a bit but I ressurected it tonight for a nice fasting meal.

So fresh and tasty using a few avocados, some boiled shrimp, limes and cilantro with crisoy croutons. The xressing is just a bit of sugar, some good olive oiland salt and pepper.  Yum!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Mister Cellophane

So I am recovering from some surgery and was already pretty much already feeling a bit sorry for myself.  I should have stayed home but...

Saturday was my 45th Class Reunion from South High School class of 1972 and I had made kind of a deal out of it to my friend and fellow classmate, Joe Calabro with whom I became acquainted with through his wife, Sue,  well after we graduated as I did not know him personally in high school.

Sue and I are nurses and she was in charge of the unit where I spent a few days after my heart attack in 1998. She and I also share a few mutual friends.

So after 45 years, I am not sure what to expect. I  was not recognized by any of the class but for one person and that's because we share a common bond in the health field also. 

Joe was popular guy and a lot of folks came over to say hello and reminisce. After a bit he started introducing me as part of the class only to be met with blank looks and cursory greetings. No clue. Was I even there? Who was I in high school? I am not sure I want to know.

The deal was, I knew them all. I knew their younger faces and recognized their aging selves. I remember incidents and conversations but apparently I did not make much of an impression, good or bad.

Part of this was my stature in high school. I was a very small fellow and did not have a growth spurt till college. I was young, one of the youngest in the class,  and I spent a lot of time silent, observing and avoiding confrontation, keeping the lowest profile possible. Full self preservation mode.  Not much of a joiner and was not part of any specific group. I had no particular memorable features or skills. Just an average guy in a class of 600 plus kids.

I was Mr. Cellophane and apparently still am...I was invisible and unrecognized and after 45 years, just no one in particular.

It was unsettling.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Roasted Buffalo Shrimp with Blue Cheese Mac and Cheese

Something new. New flavors but easy fix for a weeknight. Creamy blue cheese macaroni paired with  spicy roasted shrimps. Yum.

1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
5 cloves garlic minced
4 bay leaves crushed
1/3 cup buffalo wing sauce
Juice of one lemon
1 t oregano
1 t celery seed
1 t paprika
1 T Worcestshire sauce
1/4 t liquid smoke
1/4 cup butter

4 oz blue cheese
2 oz cream cheese
2 slices processed Swiss
1 cup 1/2 and 1/2
8 ounces elbow macaroni

 preheat oven 425
Combine butter, hot sauce, Worcestshire, celery seed, oregano, paprika and liquid smoke in a small bowl and set aside.
Heat a large skillet with cooking spray and add garlic and crushed bay leaves. Cook till garlic gets some color then add shrimp. Toss for 2-3 minutes then add sauce and coat. Place pan in hot oven 7-10 minutes till shrimp are firm and cooked through

Cook pasta and drain. Return pan to heat and add 1/2 &1/2 and cheeses. Heat till cheeses are melted and sauce thickens.

Serve with shrimps on the side.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Eating Omaha...Charred

We have driven past this place a lot so now its time to try something in the neighborhood. Charred is a burger joint with table service and great burgers at least what we sampled.

The menu features several flavors of burgers and all the fixings using Wagyu beef. So good! And the prices are reasonable. We  started with and order of wings, Buffallo, but there were several flavors to choose from. Not the greatest wings I have had honestly. Just missing something I would have had to fuss with them to make them taste better. 
Brenda ordered a Rooster Chicken sandwich with a Bleu cheese and radish, cucumber slaw finished with a Sriacha Aioli. Tasty. I had a burger with Bleu cheese and caramelized onions. Fries were shared between the two of us and there were plenty.  Not bad prices and fast, attentive service. 2 thumbs up!

Grilling with Weber

Normally I am a gas grill guy. Never fussed with charcoal much but when Mom passed she left 2 Weber Kettles, I took the smaller one and left the other for Ellen.  I started small, some ribs, a little brined chicken and a few burgers. Lamb sliders were a hit for Nick's birthday so I expanded the repertoire. Last week I found swordfish on sale and I had a nice grill basket. I treated the fish steaks to a quick marinade of olive oil and lemon juice with a bit of garlic then out to a hot grill for about 12 minutes total. So tasty.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Chowder after Maine

Before we left for Maine, I bought some white sweet corn but had no time to prepare it. When we came home it was a week old but still ok so I cut it from the cob and used the cobs to make a little chowder base.

I was in a cooking mood and had some large shrimps to add a bit of flavor overall. So here is what I did

5 cobs of corn cut from cob, cobs reserved
1 shallot minced
1 clove garlic minced
2 T butter
2 T flour
1 pound raw shrimp, shells removed and reserved
1 onion whole unpeeled
1 carrot rough chop
2 stalks celery rough chop
1 tsp thyme
1/2 cup heavy cream 
Salt and pepper to taste

Place the naked cobs in a pot with the shrimp shells onion, celery, carrots and thyme. Cover with water and simmer till veggies are tender about 40 minutes. strain and reserve the liquid as this is your base for the chowder. Discard the veggies.

In a fresh pot melt the butter and saute the garlic and shallot. Add the flour and cook a minute then add back the broth (should be about 5-6 cups). 
The soup will thicken a bit. If you want it to have more body, and flour or Wondra to thicken it up.  Add salt and pepper to taste and verify your seasoning. Bring to a slow boil and add 1/2 the raw corn. Allow the corn to cook and then run the imersion blender through to make a creamy soup. Now add the rest of the corn and the shrimps(chopped if they are too large) and allow the shrimp to cook through. Finally, add the cream and serve it up.

The Birthday Boy...

Nick and the rest of the family came to celebrate his birthday, the last few weeks before he starts his new job. He is a big fan of Wheatfield's Strawberry Wedding Cake but I found this recipe on Pintrest to make with a triple berry filling and Marscapone and cream frosting. As Ina says, 'How bad can that be?'. It was a light moist vanilla cake and the filling was just great. Easy to make but tough to keep it from sliding all over!

Check out the recipe on  Berry Marscapone Layer Cake.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

A Sweet Little Maine Trip

My intentions were honorable but my planning was poor. We headed to Maine to sample the local culture and abundance of seafood. We wasted some time trying to figure out what to do but sometimes there was just nothing to do. We spent a lot of time driving, saw some sights, ate some of the local cuisine ( turns out the 'lobster roll' is a bit over rated.)

We tried to hit the high points, followed advice of friends and locals. Some things panned out like the Lighthouse tour by boat, some things did not like a visit to Peaks Island. Not much to do there but we walked 17k steps that day as we did not 'reserve' a golf cart for the visit (who knew?)  and when one became available, we were ready to go back to the mainland, exhausted. Our average activity was about 15k per day so none of our heavy eating habits really took hold of our waistline.

The highlights of the tour were the lighthouses and the lobsters for sure. We sampled some local brew and distilleries. Met some family for dinner and lots of locals eager to share tales of their great state. The kindness of strangers was evident almost everywhere we went. A lovely lady loaned Brenda her L.L.Bean jacket on a chilly lighthouse cruise, and people were generally friendly and accommodating. It was cool, very cool, some days just hitting above 60 and one day finally getting to 80. We welcomed the cool weather and while I was comfortable, Brenda was uncomfortable at times. Dressing in layers was key.

We drove a lot probably close to 700 miles over the course of a few days. Never made it as far as Bar Harbor but we felt like we spent a lot of time in the car. The coastal highway was kind of a bust as it showed little of the coast and slowed down a lot though all the little port towns. All in all, if I did it again, I would spend less days or perhaps fly into Bangor which is more centrally located.

We loved the botanical gardens at Booth Bay and hiked some trails on the warmest day there. 
We ate at a lot of wharf based diners stacked with lobster traps and lobster boats loading and unloading.

We loved all the lighthouses and craggy rocks and marveled at the expensive coastal homes. 

All in all we had a great time, learned a few lessons about vacationing in the states and planning ahead. The star of he show was the lobster. I vowed to eat one everyday and pretty much ate 2 all but one day. Mission accomplished. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Pain de Mie...bread in a Pullman Pan

So father's day was full of surprises. Mackenzie, Nick and Ben gave me far too much, gift wise. I am forever grateful for their thoughtfulness.  Mackenzie gave me her Canon Rebel camera so my food photos would look better. Ben supplied a 50mm lens and Nick gave me bread pans that I stopped by and examined at a kitchen store, Pryde's  in KC. He found them cheaper on line (thank goodness) and yesterday I tried my had at making sandwich bread.

I eat a lot more bread than I think, trying to balance my carbs against the insulin and other drugs I take to manage my diabetes. I am always looking for something new or old as the case may be. Nick gifted me two of these Pullman Loaf pans and they make a fantastic fresh sandwich loaves.

As you can see it is quite square and uniform in shape and cuts like a dream. The pan is heavy duty, non stick and made in America. with the slide on lid, the loaf  compacts slightly as its is baking adding a denser texture to hold up to fillings. It does not crust up as much as I thought it might so appears a little anemic despite the longer cooking time I gave it to see if it would add additional color. The taste was spot on and texture was fantastic for toasting or just eating. It is 4 inches square so most deli cheeses fit perfectly and will make a lovely grilled cheese. I have a 9 inch and 13 inch pan now and plan to use them frequently if I can instead of paying $2.98 a loaf at the store. I love making bread anyway.  I have not acquired my new camera as of this printing so that's still my iphone camera.

So the recipe came in several versions depending on the size pan you own. I used a King Arthur flour version I found on line easily and had most of the stuff at home already. I did use a bit of butter to grease the pan and lid and it slid out with no effort at all.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Another Bittersweet Weekend....

We just had so much to do this weekend.

Finally we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel as far as Mom's house is concerned. We sold it, thanks to my sister, and are in the final stages of liquidating what remains of the contents. Bittersweet to be sure. I repaired the toilet downstairs (nothing sweet about that), picked over the remains of the stuff destined for the garage sale and repaired the serger for Mackenzie and 2 of my personal machines are back in working order after I thought I might have lost them.

I introduced Mackenzie to my mom's 1950's Singer which still clicks and clacks away and I made many a garment on that machine as did my mom. Now the legacy has passed to Mackenzie who has become an avid hobby sewer and realizes the satisfaction of owning garments no one else can buy. Creating your own style....priceless. 

We went to church several times for a dear friend that passed (Memory Eternal Effie!) and begrudgingly skipped church on Sunday so we could just catch up with our own domestic mess. I am sure the neighbors were glad I waited till 830 before firing up the lawn mower. 

Saturday before the Mercy meal, we stripped the church of the icons we had put up last year as we have to be out of our current location by the 30th of June. Once again nomads on the move, I am not entirely sure the church will survive this time. I am asking the question, internally,  of what went wrong? Why don't we have a church built yet? I am wondering if it is our love of money that affects all things as the innumerable delays since the purchase of property at 180th street snowballed into a need to increase the investment, rezoning and election years. But at what price? While the maneuvering  paid off, it appears it might have cost us the very church we love so dearly.  Too early to say  but not too early to think about it. I feel like I let someone gamble my winnings and the payoff is still years away. Haven't we waited years already?

I feel bad that I did not stand during the meeting and make an impassioned plea to remain independent rather than join another local church, regardless of the cost,  where we are in great danger of losing our identity all together or at least become invisible to the community while we have to pay insane rental prices to them. And for what? A few services is costing us how much? Crazy.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Pickled Avocados....who knew?

1/2  cup white balsamic vinegar
2/3  cup water
1/2 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp peppercorns
1/2 tsp dried crushed red pepper
4 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1 firm ripe, Fresh California Avocado, (quite firm, squeeze the avocado gently in the palm of your hand; you want only the slightest bit of "give")
1 (2-inch) sprig rosemary
1 very thin slice fresh lemon, halved


  1. Combine the vinegar, water, salt and honey in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve salt. Remove from heat and cool completely.
  2. Place peppercorns, crushed red pepper and garlic in a pint-size jar.
  3. Cut avocado in half, lengthwise. Remove seed and peel, keeping halves intact. Cut into ½-inch wide slices, width wise. Place avocado slices into prepared jar and cover with cooled brine. Tuck rosemary sprig and lemon slice into jar. Cover jar tightly and refrigerate for at least 6 hours.
  4. When ready to serve, remove avocados from brine and enjoy.

Image result for avocado pickles
We made these earlier this week and to my great surprise they are quite good, really good. My brine is quite a bit darker than this photo as I used white balsamic which isn't white at all.  But the flavor is great and savory with the creamy avocado, delicious.

This recipe is from the California Avocado Commission, 

Monday, May 15, 2017

Eating KC ..Graduation Weekend

Nicholas earned his Doctorate in Nurse Anesthesia and we are so darned proud of him,  we drove to KC to spend a weekend celebrating. We found a great little AirB&B and camped there a few days with in walking distance of some key areas of Kansas City, the Plaza and Westport.

Friday was a late hooding ceremony where Nick was apparently the star of a promo video for KU. So cool. Afterwards we headed back for pizza and snacks and champagne.

Saturday we were up early to hit commencement then headed to Westport on foot to visit Prydes Kitchen supply then take in lunch at Harry`s. A few cocktails and a burger or two later we hoofed it back to our Loft for a rest before hitting the Plaza before dinner at Brio`s. A nice Olive Garden type Italian joint with a little better food but I missed the endless salad.

Mackenzie did the driving so we hit IKEA on Sunday after a quick stop at Donutology.
The donuts were custom made and a bottle of cold milk hit the spot. On to IKEA then out of town and back in Omaha by 3. I was exhausted. 

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Panzanella Salad

Fasting time again and I just am not ready to go back to the same ol stuff. I still have shrimps left in the freezer and the loaf of bread we bought for croutons gave me a plan. A quick trip to the store for a few missing ingredients and dinner was in hand. I peeled the shrimp after a quick defrost. Cubed the bread to prep for croutons. Bought some tomato, olives and artichokes. Everything else was on hand and ready to go.

Since Brenda likes her croutons fresh and crunchy, I prepped the salad in parts. First the wedged tomatoes, salted over a colander to drain some of the moisture away. I saved the juice for the dressing.

Then I made the croutons by frying them in oil and butter with seasonings till golden brown.  i set them aside and placed the shrimps sprinkling them with paprika and some of the crouton seasonings. Once cooked, I set them aside.

I added my tomatoes, chunks of cucumbers, red onions, olives, feta cheese to a large bowl. Shrimp went in next. I made a quick dressing of the tomato  juice, a lemon squeezed, a bit of tarragon vinegar, a scant teaspoon of dijon mustard and olive oil. I added a pinch of sugar and a few grinds of pepper but no salt yet.

I dressed the salad letting it sit at room temp till Brenda got home. Lots of great juice, I checked the seasoning for salt, added what was needed. I placed a handful of croutons in bowls, spooned the salad over and let them soak up all that great liquid. Great eats!

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Eating Omaha....Local Beer, Patio and Kitchen

Friday night just got a whole lot better at this spot in Millard. We ventured out with old friends Randy and Ronda after Brenda got a surprise reprieve from her late Friday shift. I had Root Beer but the rest enjoyed a regular local brew and we had sandwiches, pretzels and onion rings from the menu. It all looked so good and what we had was great. Nice patio, nice space and great service. The root beer went down smoothly too!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Eating Omaha... Blackstone Meatball

Today we met Ellen and Mark at Mom's house and cleared out more stuff. We caught up on a lot of things, found more photos and threw out a bunch of stuff none of us wanted. As the day wore on we decided to make dinner plans in Midtown. The Blackstone district is the new Omaha "it" spot. Seen and be seen. So much fun people watching, gabbing and drinking craft cocktails at Night Owl after dinner. Met some work friends too.

So, Meatballs is a craft bar/eatery and serves only....meatballs. Mark and I had a flight of 5 while the girls had a bowl of 3 meatballs atop grilled veggies. A choice of 5 flavored meatballs and 5 sauces are offered on a variety of vehicles including veggies, pasta or grits and more. All the flavors were great, some better than others like the Rueben meatball special topped with Thousand Island. The Chicken meatball with Alfredo sauce was tasty as well. Least favorite was the Vegan and Pesto(mushroom, white bean) but still wasn't bad.

We had quick service, were invited to sit as long as we pleased and skipped dessert. A very busy place indeed. After paying the bill,  about $50 incl tip each,  we strolled across the street running into Rich and Julie et all, along the way.

We ducked into Night Owls for another cocktail, people watching and conversation before making the long ride home. Great evening out in a nice section of town with a lively crowd,  mostly younger, for a nice Friday night diversion.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Eating this Post Lenten Week

So far I have had lamb, Greek chicken, lamb and more lamb. Okay,  I am getting a little tired of lamb and after lunch today I have only one serving left to consume. It is really goo though and I will probably prepare it ( sous vide) this way from now on.  Greek chicken is brined breasts, sliced hot off the grill and bathed in lemon juice, oregano and olive oil. Very tasty.

So far this week, the only thing I have had off the ranch is a burger at Hardee's after a trip to Menards last night and yes, Hardee hamburgers are very good. Very good indeed.

We (I) have consumed a loaf of tsoureki as toast. I cannot get enough of this. Its like a pastry more than a bread and toasted it is divine food of the gods.  The mahlab adds a distinct pleasant flavor that you really cannot put your finger on but when I have a slice to my favorite Syrian physician, he nearly teared up as it reminded him of home. How is that for authentic?  One of my workmates thought the chunk of lamb I gave him was tenderloin, it's that tender.  I know I am a whackadoo when I have to share everything I bring with my work mates. They probably think I am crazy and acquiesce out of kindness.

As my tummy settles down I will be racking up some ribs later this weekend or Huli Huli Chicken. I just found a recipe that looks so tempting.

Huli Huli Chicken 

Huli means 'turn' in Hawaii and with the sugar in this marinade it is a good idea to keep turning the chicken to avoid burning it.

The recipe is enough for about three chickens, split in half.  You can use chicken pieces if that’s what you have. Marinate your chicken for at least a half-hour.
                               1/3 cup ketchup
                               1/3 cup soy sauce
                               1/4 cup brown sugar
                               1/4 cup honey
                               1/4 cup sherry
                               1-2 Tbsp. sesame oil
                               1-2-more pieces ginger root, crushed
                               3 cloves garlic, crushed
                               Worcestershire sauce to taste
                               Sriracha or Asian chili paste (or red pepper flakes) to taste
                               Squeeze a lemon in if you've got one
Brush the chicken with the remaining marinade while cooking over a grill. And don't forget to huli the chicken.

I stole this recipe from

Let youo know Monday on how this comes out if I get a chance to make it. Looking for something to take to KC for Nick's graduation anyway....maybe it be this?

Monday, April 17, 2017

Tsoureki by Xeno

I made this traditional Greek Easter bread this year again but this time the recipe from My Greek Dish was a proven winner. It turned really dark baking because of the sugar in the dough and came out of the oven weighing nearly nothing. Make sure you hit the 190-195 mark before removing. It proved to be light and very tasty, great for toasting but it toasted really fast so be careful but it tasted good even a little burnt. I used the real deal spices, mahlab and masticha. Trust me and hunt these down. Here in Omaha, a trip to the Mediterranean market (84th and Blondo) is in order as they will surely have them. 
I did not put anise seed or extract as some people find the taste off putting but the Greeks love it. Does not matter to me one way or the other. The texture of the bread is sublime, soft, stringy even crumb. I made these 2 huge loafs from one recipe, enough to share with really good friends. If we ever see Matt and Lori again, I will have to make this for them.

Rather than re write the recipe follow the link to the great article. Yum.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Sous Vide Lamb Kebabs

I have been salivating over this for weeks as Lent has winded down and the devil distracted my thoughts with lust for food. Well, Pascha in the Greek church means lamb and who could blame him. This year I wanted the most succulent treat I could imagine and I got out the trusty Sous Vide oven and went to town on a boneless leg.  after 12 hours in the sous vide bath at 130 degrees, I drained the meat, added a few onions and hit the grill. Grilled on high for just long enough to crust the meat with a mahogany color, it was literally falling apart as I took it off the burners.

Very hot grill

So here is how it's done. You'll thank me.

1 leg of lamb cubed
1 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon of salt
1 tablespoon paprika
Good glug  of olive oil
Seal the sous vide bag cook at 130 for about 12 hours

Remove meat and drain juices. Place in large bowl and toss with 1 tablespoons of oregano, salt and pepper to taste, a few tablespoons of olive oil and a few chunky onions. Heat grill to very hot (600) and drop meat and veggies into a grilling basket. Toss frequently, move away from flames until desired color is achieved. Using tongs, remove to a clean bowl. So tender and yummy.

Yes I know it's nine in the morning.

PS...the reviews are in. Mackenzie says not to lose the recipe or technique. I have to agree, best lamb ever.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

No posts since February.....

Around Mother's Day 2016, all my ladies...

I just noticed that I have not posted anything since February.  For whatever reason, deep in Great Lent, there are many things I do not do this time of year. One of them is cook anything special. We had some great meals but all are meatless and a little boring frankly. Not the season of the year where it is important. I did made a fantastic vegan (?) Seafood Gumbo for Pre-Sanctified one Wednesday but that recipe is already on the blog. .

Been dealing with some tummy issues lately so I have seriously cut back on the spiciness in our dishes, even black pepper. Coffee is dealing me fits, chocolate almost anything really.  I am sure this too shall pass but it really affects my appetite and by default my cooking.

My Mom passed away early in March. She had some chronic illnesses that did not seem to affect her travels too much but eventually caught up with her and she passed peacefully at home. Expected but unexpected we dealt with everything we could and now my sister and I are trying to put the house to rest and put it on the market, going through each room and sifting through years of accumulation of stuff and memories. So far a few Saturdays have proven fruitful but we have a ways to go.

Prepping for Holy week and Pascha this year but without the boys coming home, I have little desire to put on our usual meat festival. I will make some lamb but I am thinking its just us and Mackenzie this year.  We'll see what happens as a few on Mackenzie's friends are thinking of coming over and we are always happy to have them.  Hopefully I will be feeling a little better by then and resume the thing I do love and do the best.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Oscar Night Treat

We visited J Coco this weekend and had a great birthday meal with Ben. Fried stuffed olives were on the menu and we all loved them.  So much so that for Oscar Night we made some for appetizers.

Fried Stuffed Olives
Large pitted green olives
Boursin cheese (I made my own)
1 egg beaten
Plain bread crumbs

I stuffed the pitted olives with the Boursin style cheese. I made 3 stations, flour, egg then breadcrumbs. Coat with flour, dip in the egg and then roll in bread crumbs. Let them dry on a rack before cooking.  In a small sauce pan heat about 1/2 inch of vegetable oil to 375 then fry the olives in small batches till golden, about 45 seconds. Drain on paper towels and serve hot. Delicious.

Home made Boursin

2 ounces cream cheese
1 T sour cream
3/4 t garlic powder and onion powder
3/4 t dried thyme leaves

Mash all together and load into a small piping bag to fill the olives.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...