Vietnamese Spring Rolls

Vietnamese Spring Rolls - rolledThese are fun in the same way that tacos are fun…everyone gets to make what they want with what they want in it.

Julienne a whole bunch of veggies… cucumbers, carrots, red peppers, orange peppers, jalepeno peppers, bean sprouts, whatever you like.

You will also need mint leaves and a head of iceburg lettuce and a couple sauces, rice wrappers, and rice sticks.

Put all the veggies on the table along with the wrappers and bowls of warm water to soak the rice wrappers.

spring rolls ready to serve

When you are ready to eat:

Place the rice wrapper in the bowl for 5-10 seconds on each side.  Place the wrapper on your plate and place some of the cooked rice sticks (rice noodles), then some veggies and fold up the wrapper around your veggies like you would a burrito.







Place a couple of mint leaves on your rolled up spring roll, then roll in a lettuce leaf then dip in a sauce of your choice.

Vietnamese Spring Rolls - rolled




Peanut Sauce

Hot Peanut Sauce

Nuoc Mam

Duck Sauce

Spicy Seasame Cayenne Sauce

(Sauce Recipes coming soon…)


Arancini – Cheese Stuffed Galic Parmesan Rissotto Balls

Mozzarella en Carrozza with dipping saucesArancini – Cheese Stuffed Galic Parmesan Rissotto Balls


First you need to make and cool some risotto –

in a pan warm 3.5 to 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth

in a separate pan – Heat  1/4 cup olive oil and add

several minced garlic cloves

1/2 cup diced yellow onion, stir until onions are soft and translucent

add 2 cups Arborio Rice and stir until roasted – about 4 minutes

then add 1/2 cup white wine (careful the wine will steam when you add it)

once the wine is nearly fully incorporated, add 1/2 cup broth at a time and stir until about incorporated… repeat until rice is soft and all the broth has been incorporated.

turn off heat and add

1t salt

6 T butter

1T of each granulated Garlic and Onion powder

1/2 cup to 3/4 parmesan, pecorino and/or Romano cheese.

Let Cool Completely…

Photo Feb 23, 3 41 07 PMCut cheese into slices or make into balls by rolling (doesn’t work great but it helps…)

Place about 1/4 cup Rissotto in your hand and flatten

Place a nice piece of cheese in your hand over the rice

Close fist and continue to roll into a ball so you have a nice risotto ball with cheese nestled in the middle.


Photo Feb 23, 3 41 23 PM










Place Arancini balls on a plate to set for 5 to 10 minutes

Photo Feb 23, 3 56 20 PM







Heat a few inches of  Vegetable oil in a shallow pan

Roll Arancini balls in a mixture of eggs and milk, butter milk or cream, then lightly dust with bread crumbs

Fry in pan for just a few minutes until golden brown (usually about 4 minutes)

Photo Feb 23, 4 18 22 PM

Mozzarella en Carrozza with dipping sauces

Serve with Tomato Sauce, Pesto, Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto, or Spicy Red Pepper Jam or any other dipping sauce.

Mozzarella en Carrozza

Mozzarella en CarrozzaThese a fabulous Italian gourmet Grilled Cheese Sandwiches.  Add a side sauce of Tomato Sauce or Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto






Slice some homemade mozzarella cheese (or store bought)

Remove the crust of some really nice white Italian bread.

Photo Feb 23, 3 12 32 PM







Place a few chunks of mozzarella between two pieces of de-crusted bread and firmly squeeze the edges together so the cheese is well trapped in an Italian bread pocket!

Dip each “sandwich” in a mixture of eggs and milk, cream or butter milk, then dust completely with breadcrumbs.

Photo Feb 23, 5 10 54 PM







Fry in a shallow pan of REALLY HOT oil until golden brown.

Mozzarella en Carrozza with dipping sauces







Serve with Sun Dried Tomato Pesto, Pesto, or Spicy Red Hot Jam.

Super Soft and Lovely Corn Bread Muffins

I have worked to come up with a really nice corn bread recipe.  I love corn bread muffins but I don’t like when they get too chalky or dry. These are really moist and really yummy.










Sift together dry ingredients:

1 Cup Bob’s Red Mill Coarse Ground Corn Meal

1/2 Cup Masa Harina Flour – finely ground

1 cup flour

1/2 t salt

1T Baking Powder

1/4 t Cayenne Pepper (optional. doesn’t add real heat but enhances other flavors)

1/4 cup sugar or honey

Mix Liquids:

1 cup milk

1 T Lemon Juice

(whisk together to make butter milk and thicken)

1/2 cup softened butter (really soft so it mixes with liquids)

1 cup yogurt (or sour cream because I am trying to gain weight)

(whisk together again)

Lastly whisk in 1 T vinegar (I like my coconut vinegar but any will do) and

2 eggs


Fill muffin cups 3/4 full (they will rise but not much….these are yummy and dense but not dry at all)

Bake in preheated 425 degree over for about 20 minutes





Happy Valentine’s Day Fondue

fondue-photo2Well, Biruk has back-to-back soccer games on Valentine’s Day. (Who planned that???) So I planned a (secret) Valentine’s Day for those I love.  Fondue.  I love Fondue so I thought fondue for my loves. Plus my niece Marika dropped by…extra fun! Cheese fondue for dinner and Chocolate fondue for dessert.

Fondue is rather simple but it makes a really fun meal and it wouldn’t be Valentine’s Day for my Valentine if it wasn’t chocolate.

Price Chopper had the biggest, most beautiful red strawberries.  I also got tons of fruit (green apples, red apples, cantelope, pineapple, pear, bananas and the massive strawberries), veggies (blanched asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, raw carrots, raw red peppers) plus nicely cubed fresh bread from the bakery (white french loaf and whole wheat peasant bread), and Dunkin Donuts and Angel Food Cake to cut up and dip.


cheese-fondueCheese Sauce: – It isn’t fondue unless it is Gruyere and Swiss Cheese. Start your cheese sauce by melting a few tablespoons butter, and a a couple tablespoons flour like you are making a rue but not as thick.  Stir in 1/2 pound Gruyere, 1/2 pound swiss, a teaspoon mustard powder, a teaspoon granulated garlic, and one of granulated onion powder. Melting your cheese sauce slowly is the key to nice smooth sauce.  As you cheese gets nice and melty, add milk or light cream until it is the right consistency.

Cut up veggies, green apples and bread cubes.

Place the cheese sauce in a fondue pot or double boiler with some warm water under it.  You want to keep the sauce warm BUT NOT HOT while you are eating and dipping.

Viola! Dinner.

chocolate-fondueChocolate Sauce:

Stir one cup of whipping cream over low or medium heat.  Do not boil your cream.  Just get it warm and stir in chocolate.  If you use really nice unsweetened or bitter chocolate stir in a little sugar too.  As everything starts to melt add a little vanilla (sorry Marley – a lot of vanilla) and mix well until it is nice and creamy.

Put all kind of cut up fruit and cake on the table and your chocolate sauce in the fondue pan or double boiler.

Viola! Dessert!


Happy Valentine’s Day!



Cream of Spinach, Red Peppers, and Garlic Soup

cream-of-spinach-red-peppers-and-garlic-soup-plated-photoCream of Spinach, Red Peppers, and Garlic Soup

This is a variation of the Cream of Broccoli Soup I made on New Year’s Day. Lisa isn’t feeling well and stayed home sick.  I thought about making Chicken Soup but I was afraid it was too close to last night’s French Onion Soup.   So, to help my Lee Lee B feel better I thought about a Garlic Soup.  Lots and lots of fresh garlic will help anyone feel better.  I looked around and garlic soup, while I am sure it would taste FAB, didn’t look very nice in any of the pictures/recipes I found online.  They all ended up looking like a grey soup.  Not very appealing to the eyes, despite what the mouth might say.

The cold day had quickly turned snowy, so off to the market I went with a recipe in hand.  Not a recipe I loved, but something just the same.  I walked into Price Chopper to see a big beautiful display of red peppers on sale and thought they might be just the thing to cheer up a soup that otherwise looked as dreary as the weather outside.  As soon as I was bagging a beautiful red pepper my mind raced to spinch.  Spinach, fresh red peppers and garlic.  Now that would be both tasty and yummy for the eyes… so the deal was set.

Getting it started:

1. Just like with the Cream of Broccoli, and most of my “cream soups” we start off with nice little chicken stock rue: (for pictures of these steps click here)

  • 4 tablespoons butter, unsalted
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1.5 teaspoons Celtic Sea Salt or Kosher Sea Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 1 teaspoon pepper

I simmer these ingredients for 10 minutes or so on really low heat to let the onions get translucent and the flavors marry.

To complete the rue, add:

1/4 cup flour and stir until clumpy and well mixed

then add:

4 cups salt-free, NO-MSG, or low-sodium chicken stock (or veggie stock to make vegetarian version)

Boil this mixture and bring back down to a simmer. Stir fairly often and let it thicken some. It might not thicken like a traditional flour and milk rue but you will notice it will get thicker in 10 minutes or so.


  • Peel 3 full bulbs of garlic – don’t be afraid, just do it…. (what, you chicken??)
  • Cut each clove in half and lightly toast in the toaster over or oven at 400 degrees until they just turn golden brown.

Dice and Saute: (cook low and star-veggies-photoslow)

  •  a glug or two of olive oil in a pan on low heat
  • a pinch of good salt
  • 1 bag of spinach – (thaw if using frozen or lightly steam and remove water from fresh)
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 stock of celery, small with lots of leaves
  • The garlic – roasted above – and now cooled and chopped.veggies-saute-photo

 To this mixture add:

  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 teaspon spanish hot paprika

Pafter-immersion-blending-photouree! Happy to be using immersion blender I got for Christmas!! If you don’t have one then use a food processor to puree the veggies – not to mush, just nice and small.




  • 1.5 cups Greek Yogurtfinished-soup-photo
  • 2 cups light cream
  • 2 tablespoons cream cheese, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup grated pecorino/ramano/parmesan cheese or other strong hard cheese.
  • 2 Tablespoons White Wine Cooking Sherry (or white wine you have around)
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
  • 1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar

Mix well.  Once I add milk products I try not to boil it but get it close and keep stirring.

simmer for about 60 minutes, stirring often. Many recipies call for very little simmer time. I like to let things like soup and chili simmer several times for a while to really let the flavors marry together. Many times soups and chilis tasted better the second day so I decided to try letting things simmer longer and in most cases it now tastes as good on the first serving!

orzo-photoAdd about 15 minutes before serving:

  • 2 cups Cooked Orzo


I served this will french bread roasted with garlic and parmesan cheese.

Cut a bagette and top with drizzeled butter, oregano, basic, parmesan cheese, and more cut roasted garlic.  Bake until golden and serve hot!



Cook On!

French Onion Soup and Roast Beef Sandwiches

As a foreign exchange student in France for my Junior Year of high school I learned one thing very quickly; If a food has “French” in it, it is either not French or we make it much different than the French.

French Fries… actually from Belgium / French Dressing… they call it American Sauce and use it on Fish not Salad / French Toast doesn’t have maple syrup as the French think Maple Syrup is gross.

french-onion-soup-serving-suggestion-photoOne exception may be French Onion Soup which we decided was the “key element” for dinner tonight and added the Roast Beef Sandwiches as a compliment to the soup.

Because the French traditionally get a baguette of lovely bread each day and the bread is stale by the next day, they keep the old bread.  It is called “Lost Bread” and many things can be done with it, including French Onion Soup.

My first French host mother insisted that real French Onion Soup is served with the onions strained out.  We love onions though, so this recipe combines both styles into one yummy!! soup.

French Onion Soup Recipe

french-onion-soup-onipons-cookingStep 1. Cut up 6 small-to-medium yellow onions.  Leave the pieces pretty big at this point.

Step 2. Melt 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil and 4 Tablespoons butter in a soup stock pan.  Add the onions, salt, pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon thyme powder and 1/2 teaspoon dried or fresh crushed thyme. Cook on low heat for 20-30 minutes mixing and stirring frequently so they don’t burn.

french-onion-soup-onion-straining-photoStep 3. Remove the onions to a large strainer and let them strain over the stock pan to save all the oil, butter and onion juice. SAVE ONIONS to the side.



french-onion-soup-photoStep 4. De-glaze the pan with 1 1/2 cups cold cooking sherry (de-glazing is getting all the nice brown flavor chunks off the bottom of the pan and mixed in nicely, cold liquid works best to list the flavor off the pan bottom.)



Step 5. Add 8 cups beef stock (or veggie stock), 2 teaspoons onion powder, 2 teaspoons garlic powder and bring to a boil.

Schopped-onions-phototep 6. Place about 1/2 the cooked onions in a food french-onion-finished-stock-photoprocessor and chop into small pieces. Stir back into soup stock and bring to boil.  Reduce to simmer until ready to serve.



stock-freezers-bag-photoStep 7. If you make your own broth, keep a bag of veggie scraps in the freezer, place the excess onions into your veggie scraps freezer bag.



french-onion-soup-serving-suggestion-photoStep 8. Place a few scoops in a soup dish, add “lost bread” or homemade bread croutons, and top with baby Swiss cheese or Gruyere cheese or a combo.  Broil at 450 until cheese is nicely melted.

Step 9. EAT!!!!


This made enough for four generous portions, plus I canned 5 – 8oz. single servings with the leftover.


Tomato Soup from scratch, grilled cheese, and salad

tomato-soup-plated-photoWell it is another day with temperatures in the single digits so I want something warm and cozy for dinner.  My daughter Marley suggested Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and Salad.

Grilled Cheese is so easy that even my father can make it – maybe. Salad is simple too, so this post will focus on the homemade Tomato Soup.  The last time I made tomato soup it tasted exactly like tomato sauce and my family had a great time teasing me about it for years.

I love to cook and I take plenty of chances in the kitchen and most turn out yummy, a few are forgetable and then a few standout as awful.  My first try at tomato soup was SO BAD that I had to throw it out and run to my local Stewart’s Shop for canned soup so dinner could be rescued.  I am hoping that tonight’s tomato soup may help me live down the ridicule I face from my wife and kids anytime someone mentions tomato soup! ;*) (Who knows, we still tease my mom about the Plattsburgh Airport and that was 35 years ago – inside story – if you are interested, see inside story details below)**

To show my confidence in my ability to bounce back from defeat I decided not only to make enough tomato soup for dinner tonight, but enough to can twelve (12) eight ounce jars so my wife and kids could have single servings to take to work and school for lunch.


In a large pot mix:

  • 4 Tablespoons Butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 2 @ 28 ounces Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1 @ 28 ounces Tomato Sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons Garlic Powder
  • 2 Tablespoons Onion Powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cayenne Powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground Thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 1 teaspoon Coarse Black Pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground Garlic
  • 32 ounces low-sodium (or homemade) stock (chicken or veggie stock – I prefer veggie when given the option)

Give this all a good whisking to make sure all the spices are well mixed.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce heat and simmer on low heat, stirring occassionally for at least an hour. I let mine simmer for about three hours.

tomato-soup-photoThen, just about 15 minutes before serving, add 2 cups milk, light cream, or heavy cream based on preference.  I used light cream.



canned-soup-photoThis made enough soup for each of the four of us to have a generous portion and I had enough left over to have 12 – 8oz single serving jars which I have canned and put away for lunches as mentioned above.



** As they were driving past the Plattsburgh Airport my mom woke my sleeping sisters to point it out thinking it would be of interest.  It was not. From that day forward anytime someone pointed something out that wasn’t very interesting they said “Well, it is better than the Plattsbugh Airport.”) (That story is about as exciting as the Plattsburgh Airport)



Ketchup – 3 days of catch up

Well, I knew I wouldn’t be able to make or blog about dinner everynight, but I was hopeful not to get behind and let this fade away into the great kitchen in the sky.

Friday night, joined my sister’s extended family at one of our favorite restaurants, Harvest and Hearth. This is one of our favorite places to go because the indoor pizza oven creates a nice warm, cozy atmosphere on a cold winter evening.

As usual we had a great meal and great company.  We were there to celebrate our Niece’s 20th birthday and return to college in India.  (Miss her already…)

I grew up in Niskayuna, NY as as such I am a huge fan of Homestyle Pizza. To compare Homestyle Pizza and Harvest and Hearth Pizza is like comparing two completely different food products.  I spent three years working in Nice, France at an Amusement Park – Zygo Parc and pizza is a HUGE deal in Nice.  Here too the pizza is a very different product.

One of my favorite travel foods is pizza and I have eaten at probably hundreds, if not thousands, of pizza places and rarely do two places taste anything alike.

We make a lot of pizza at home and I will certainly blog about our fun making homemade pizza when we do.

What is your favorite pizza joint and why?

Day 1 – January 1, 2013 – Cream of Broccoli Soup

broc-soup-finishedI wake up thinking about food.  Because today is a holiday and the family is home my schedule is different than most days.  Usually I get up, make some coffee and sit for a few minutes enjoying the newspapers and a couple cups of coffee.

As a website designer and marketing consultant, I work from home. With my wife at work and kids at school I take advantage of the quiet house to get some work done.  Usually by about 11am or noon I am ready for a break in the action and take my “lunch break” by going to the supermarket, bank, and running my “out errands.”  That get’s me back home with at least a couple of hours to work before the kids get home and I lose my nice quiet office.

By 9am I have usually had a few texts wife my wife Lisa about what she might like for dinner.  Often she is “distracted by her work and can’t focus on food” or doesn’t have any great ideas.  In the “Iron Chef” tradition I often ask her for the “mystery ingredient” she would like in the meal or ask her to decide on anything she doesn’t want.

I tried to think today about which meal I wanted to be “first” in my attempt to blog dinner for an entire year, but quickly realized this isn’t about “showing off” just about “blogging what we’re eating.”

Today is a chilly day with a beautiful blanket of snow on the ground.  The family is home and transitioning from Christmas back to our real life.  I thought soup would be a good meal for tonight and I love the smell wafting through the house during the day.  PLUS, I got an immersion blender for Christmas and I am anxious to put it to use.

I am going to start with this recipie:

A few major differences between what I plan to do versus the Emeril recipe. He suggest nutmeg and I am a little sick of nutmeg in savory dishes so I am opting for a spice combination of garlic,thyme,celery leaf, and Spanish smoked paprika.

I will make the crutons in the Emeril recipie with french bread and Emerils spices.  I use his recipe almost exactly and it makes amazing croutons.  Serve with fresh bread from the Price Chopper Bakery and you have a warm meal that fills your home with wonderful smells as it cooks and your bellies with a warm yummy meal for a cool winter day!

Off to the market to get what I need….

Getting it started:

1. I start my “cream soups” off with a nice little chicken stock rue:

  • 4 tablespoons butter, unsalted
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1.5 teaspoons Celtic Sea Salt or Kosher Sea Salt
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon pepper

I simmer these ingredients for 10 minutes or so on really low heat to let the onions get translucent and the flavors marry.  When it is done, I add:

  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 teaspoon celery leaf

I let these simmer together for a bit so they smell nice and seem well blended.

To complete the rue, add:

1/4 cup flour and stir until clumpy and well mixed

then add:

3.5 cups salt-free chicken stock – I usually make my own…okay about 50% of the time… I have found Basic Foods has great super low salt stock and Price Chopper carries Swanson Unsalted Cooking Stock for about $3.50 for 26oz which is what you need for this recipie.  I am not salt-free but I prefer to use my good salts to the MSG added by most manufacturers.  The Swanson’s unsalted Chicken stock has 130 mg of sodium per serving compared with 700mg-900mg in most commercial chicken stocks.

Boil this mixture and bring back down to a simmer.  Stir fairly often and let it thicken some.  It might not thicken like a traditional flour and milk rue but you will notice it will get thicker in 10 minutes or so.


  • 2 of the three crowns ( or 2/3rds) of the broccoli, chopped getting mostly the flourets.  Cook this for about 10 minutes.

broc soup 1 boc-soup2

Puree! HURRAY!!! I get to use my new immersion blender!! If you don’t have one then use a food processor to puree this whole deal.


  • 1.5 cups Greek Yogurt
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons cream cheese, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup grated pecorino/ramano/parmesan cheese or other strong hard cheese.
  • 1.5 teaspoons garlic powder (I think this helps “mask” that I use yougurt and not cream or sour cream called for in most recipies
  • optionally add: 1/2 teaspoon paprika or smoked paprika or cayenne powder. I used Spanish Smoked Hot Paprika for this adventure.

simmer for about 60 minutes, stirring often.  Many recipies call for very little simmer time.  I like to let things like soup and chili simmer several times for a while to really let the flavors marry together.  Many times soups and chilis tasted better the second day so I decided to try letting things simmer longer and in most cases it now tastes as good on the first serving!

add cheese:

I add different cheeses dirfferent times I make soups like this one.  The stronger and harder the cheese the better.  French Gruyere Cheese is good, more parmesan, pecorino, romano if you like.  And some cheddar. Use what you like.  For tonight I am going to use:

  • 1.5 cups grated sharp cheddar
  • 1/2 cup Fontinella, shredded
  • 1/4 cup Swiss

Simmer for at least thirty minutes so cheese is fully incorporated.  Add more cheese, cream, or spices to taste.


Add the last florets of broccoli about 15 minutes before serving.  It will be cooked but someone crisp and not soggy.

I’ll let you know what the family thinks… (added after dinner) They loved it!! (Phew. It would have been a wicked bummer if the first meal was bad!)

Cook On!