The Nearly Meatless Philly Cheese “Steak” Sandwich


Here I go again guys, making stuff that tastes yummy like meat does without the problems. I did use a small amount of Proscuitto, but it could be easily omitted. Without that addition, I would probably add a little Smoked Paprika or Smoked Tofu to add that element back in.

So what we have here is a mackin’ sandwich that I hope you will add to your “make it, and make it often” list of go-to meals. It tastes best with a Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer, the beer choice of hipsters and bohemians alike!

It’s super simple, relying on awesome ingredients.

Hen of the Woods Organic Mushrooms sauteed in olive oil with crushed red pepper, red leeks  and a smattering of Proscuitto. Melt some good quality Smoked Gouda on top and slide onto a bakery roll and top with onions from the Porchtime Pickled Eggs from your fridge :), a smear of organic mayo, salt and pepper and you have more than brotherly love! Make sure to warm up the buns in the cast iron pan to get them a tad greasy with olive oil. mmmmmmm.

Fry Pan Pizza


If you’ve watched Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, you may remember that he exclaimed in horror “Pizza for breakfast?!”.

Of course, he was referring to the mass-produced, cardboard tasting, salt-laden abomination of “pizza” that is sold to countless millions. What he wasn’t referring to was a fresh, handmade, organic, veggie-topped pie-of-heaven with a Greek fried egg on the side that we had for breakfast!

Well, you know me, I just have to fry stuff I guess!. No really, making a pizza in a frying pan is an awesome idea especially if it is too hot to turn on the oven, your oven is broken (you know who you are!) or, like me, you are starving and just can’t wait for all the rigour-ra-moll that goes with making a pizza from scratch at home.

Luckily, I made a batch of pizza dough yesterday and was ahead of the game. I took a fist-sized ball of the dough and rolled it out quite thin and chopped up my toppings while the ever trusty cast iron pan got sizzling hot.

For the toppings I used: Swiss Chard (of course!), green onion , red bell pepper, garlic and crushed red pepper, all of which got the usual treatment in the cast iron pan.

Now for the fun part, I took out the toppings and set aside and got the pan really hot. I added a little oil and then carefully added my rolled out dough. That thing poufed right up and just sizzled away to crispy goodness. I flipped it over and “baked” the other side while I added my toppings and a little grated Jack  and Cotija cheeses.

After it was nice and crispy on the other side, I took it out of the pan and then quickly fried a few Greek style eggs.

I cut this true “pan” pizza in two and served with the eggs. It was really just a fancy version of toast and eggs, or shall I say a “luscious” version? Yeah, it was all that. Oooh, I just realized that it would be a yummy and unusual base for a Benedict, using a biscuit cutter to make smaller rounds before frying. Oh my.

yes, I took bites before taking the pic. sorry, but I was sooo hungry!

(Oh, and I also topped it with some pepperoncini, but I put those on lots of stuff. I’m addicted, and plan on making my own later in the summer!)

In Case of Clouds, Add Mimosa


Brunch is one of my favorite meals ever. You can eat to your heart’s content and have plenty of time to burn it off later, plus it’s the perfect excuse to start drinking early on a Sunday. My Mimosa of choice is Louise d’Estree Brut 3/4 full glass with the rest Villa Italia Blood Orange Soda, both from Trader Joe’s.  I like it because it’s not too sweet and the color is beautiful.

I was feeling pretty creative this morning and took my time preparing this yummy brunch.

My good stuff on hand: Dried Shitakes, Organic Jumbo Eggs, Bread from the local bakery Frank’s, Swiss Chard, Dill, Basil and Leeks (all from my garden), Goat Cheese, Hot house tomatoes (i usually don’t buy tomatoes, but they were on sale), Balsamic, Olive Oil and just a splash of Fish Sauce.

First, I frizzled my leeks in olive oil and used them to top a pretty tomato slice and a slice of goat cheese on the plate. I then added fresh ground pepper and topped with a little chopped dill.

Next, I sauteed the Chard quickly with a little garlic and put it to the side. The Shitakes I had soaked so I drained them and dry fried them with the Basil, adding the dash of fish sauce to deglaze the pan. Toasted Bread was then added to the plate and here’s where I got creative. One slice I  dressed with a quick little dressing I made with the Oil/Balsamic/more dill/dried herbs and then topped with the cooked chard. The other slice I left dry and mounded the mushrooms on top. I meant to poach the eggs, but kinda forgot and did the Greek Fried Egg like I mostly do. I topped each bread slice with an egg and sprinkled on a little more chopped dill and basil.

the first flavor layer on the bread base and my pretty tomato stack

The beauty behind the presentation is this: My hubby likes goat cheese, but doesn’t like a lot of it. Having the little stack of tomato and cheese on the plate made it so we each could add as much as we liked as a condiment to the eggs. Plus, it was funner to have it presented in a pretty way. I have to say while both versions were excellent, my favorite was the Swiss Chard one with plenty of the tomato/goat cheese stack added.

Shawns "overhard" version. Def would be prettier with poached, but still yummy!

No, we did not have the ubiquitous pile of potatoes on the side like you get in so many restaurants. No butter was harmed (or used!) in the making of this brunch and it really was not heavy at all, just fresh, elegant and delish.

On to the rest of the Mimosas and a great Sunday!

Buddha Approved!

Greens Gumbo for a Gray Day


My garden is absolutely exploding with greens right now. I’ve given them away to neighbors, friends and my daughter, I’ve incorporated them into every recipe I can and I am still swimming in them! My fear is they will be wasted when they bolt (go to seed) and I hate wasting food, so today Shawn and I are making a Greens Gumbo which will be a bastardized version of a Paul Prudhomme Gumbo recipe. To go with the soup, we are also making a really yummy Biscuit Muffin also from Chef Paul. I’m really hoping that we can use up a good mess of the Collards, Mustard, Rainbow Chard and Lacitano Kale in this tasty and rich soup.

Looking at that basket of produce, can you see why I haven’t ordered my FMB today? My garden is really paying off now! Shawn was able to use all the carrots and all but just a few of the greens in the soup today. I will admit that my only contribution was to go down and collect this basket of goodies for him, then he was on his own. Remember I said I’ve been distracted? Well, today I had a hair up my ass to work on sanding that deck. I probably could have finished the whole thing except for the forecast of rain made it not a good idea to paint or seal anything, but I did get alot done!

Shawn and I are both big proponents of using what you have on hand and not running to the store unless you absolutely have to. Gumbo usually calls for Gumbo File, Paprika,Okra, which helps to thicken it and Cajun cooking’s trinity calls for a red pepper. Of course we did not have any of this stuff. The paprika we had is the Spanish smoked variety.

Lo and behold, he still managed to make an absolutely delish Gumbo that was thick and seasoned beautifully. I will post the actual recipe for you soon. I’ll have to quiz him in detail to figure out everything he did. For certain, he started with a beautiful and rich Roux.

I ended up making the biscuit muffins, although we were so hungry the smell of them baking almost made me swoon!

They are super easy to make. These Southern Biscuit Muffins were easily modified using buttermilk instead of milk (which of course we were out of) and were perfect with the gumbo. I pigged out on about four of these bad boys.

The batter came out quite a bit thicker because of the buttermilk and they were not as pretty as the last time I made them, but oh so tasty! There is a little sugar in them which gives them a bit of a crystalized texture on the crust and the slight sweetness complimented the spicy Gumbo.

This is definitely the fullest I have been in days….mmmmmmm

The Vegetable Broth Tutorial


Brace yourselves, people. Today’s post may be a bit lengthy:

  1. I have a cold, so I plan on sitting on my keaster all day
  2. I’m just heating up the last of my freezer broth so I need to make more
  3. I enjoy making broth, so it’s easy to write about

If you have read my post “Yay for FMB Day” then you already know a little bit about my broth making. Upon reading it, you might say”The girl’s got skills!” , or “man what a cheapo!” or “waaay too much time on her hands”, but in my opinion it’s just healthy and smart to use up vegetable trim to make nutritious and handy stock.

Up until a few years ago, before the vegetarian /flexitarian urge took over, I used to make stock from chicken carcasses or beef bones. My husband had learned years ago about browning the bones first and them simmering for several hours. We almost always used up leftover meat and bones for stock. Since then, it’s all changed.

I only started making veggie stock about a year ago, when we moved from Little Italy to Mission Hills. Living in Little Italy, we went out to eat quite a bit and my husband did most of the home cooking. Since taking up home vegetable gardening here in San Diego’s most perfect gardening habitat, I have begun to branch out into the endless possibilities of Vegetable Broth.

Remember that giant rainstorm a couple months back? Silly question, sorry! Well, that’s when I really got creative with broth and started playing around with flavor profiles. The house we live in has no heat and is pretty drafty, (and I wouldn’t trade it!) so making broth helped warm up the house and us so I experimented quite a bit. Since then, I almost always have several quarts in the freezer and a container of fresh on hand. I do like to have a seasoned, rich broth version and a light, basic version handy.

I started out following a basic broth recipe from one of my favorite books “The Culinary Institute of America: Vegetables”, and then expanded and really totally changed how I was making broth.

There can be a lot of waste when you are prepping veggies, and I have learned to keep my “Trim Bowl” handy on the counter when I prep. Here is just a sampling of trim I’ve used:

  • Carrot peel, ends and trim
  • Green onion root ends, tops
  • Bell pepper stems and seeds
  • Leftover/getting wilty herbs such as Cilantro, Dill and Flat Leaf Parsley
  • Leafy parts of the center of a Celery bunch, and trim
  • Trim from Chard/Collards/Mustard Greens
  • Beet Tops (very little)
  • Ginger trim
  • Lemongrass tops
  • Artichoke stem peel
  • Lettuce trim
  • Mushroom stems
  • Cauliflower trim (very little)
  • Turnip greens and trim
  • Leek tops
  • Kohlrabi greens
  • Green Garlic trim

The only hard part about this method is getting your partner to keep trim for the bowl! I hate looking in the garbage and seeing great trim I could have used. Ideally, of course, we would be composting veggie trim and even the cooked vegetables from making broth. It’s on my to-do list, I promise!

For my most basic, unseasoned broth I put whatever trim I have, usually about 3 to 4 cups in all,  and a quartered up onion with a little peel left on in my soup pot and cover generously with water.  I bring it up to a good steady simmer and let it cook for about an hour, more or less.  I then strain the broth thought a mesh sieve and allow to cool. If we aren’t using it right away, I may freeze in ice cube trays or other containers. This basic broth is great to have on hand if you need liquid without too much competing flavor to add to a recipe or use as a base for another soup. You can use it instead of water for making rice to add nutrients or to thin a cooked soup that has thickened too much.

Here’s an example of broth with a whole lot of Chinese Celery in it, Green Onion trim, Leek trim, Pepper trim and the top of an onion.

For a basic, lightly seasoned broth I follow the steps above adding bay leaf, peppercorns, a garlic clove or two and various herbs to the broth.  This makes a great base for pasta sauces, gravy, and Rissoto.  Of course you can use for making rice as well. You can also use this as a base for making Miso soup. Heat your strained broth until simmering, add a pinch of Bonito flake, 3 or 4 pieces of seaweed, and a very finely sliced green onion or green garlic and let simmer for about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and add a tablespoon or so of Miso. Stir with a wire whisk to make sure the Miso dissolves completely and serve. You can add some finely cubed Tofu if you like. Never cook the Miso, however. It kills the beneficial, live cultures in Miso.

For a richer broth, add another step. After straining your cooked vegetables out of the broth , return the broth to the stove and simmer until the volume is reduced by about 1/3 to 1/2. Then cool and store. This version is great to use in dishes that call for chicken broth .

Now for a fun one! I love to make a vegetarian version of a favorite Vietnamese Soup called “Pho” (fuh) which is usually made with a very rich beef broth. It is handy to make this one when you have plenty of Asian type vegetable trim around. I use lemongrass, ginger root, Chinese chives and bok choy trim etc.  For seasoning, you need an extra onion (over and above whatever trim onion you have) 5 or 6 whole Star Anise, 10 or so Sichuan Peppecorns,  A cinnamon stick, about a tablespoon of sugar and a splash of Fish Sauce. Strain and then simmer again over low heat until the broth is very rich, about another hour. Salt to taste if using right away and serve with cooked rice vermicelli noodles, Thai basil, fresh bean sprouts, lime juice and a little Hoisin sauce.  This version is soothing and tasty just to sip plain as well.

I could go on and on about this topic, but I think that is enough for now. Just remember that there is no right or wrong way to make broth and experimenting with it can be fun. And, it is so much quicker to make than a meat broth. If you don’t have stock on hand, you can easily start a batch while you are preparing something else. It will be done before you know it and be ready to use.  If you don’t have enough trim, just break up a couple of carrots, celery and quarter an onion and there you go!

Thanks for reading and commenting!