Category Archives for "Recipes and cooking"

Caribbean Potato Soup – With Variations



Sometimes you just want a really great soup … might be a cold night or you just have a “yen” for a warmup – here's an easy recipe with variations for carnivores and non-carnivores …the original was without the meat and I adjusted it.

Ingredients are:

1 medium onion, chopped
2 teaspoons coconut, grapeseed or olive oil
3 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger root
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
5 cups chicken stock (I use 4 so it's thicker)
1/2 lb crumbled and cooked sausage
1/2 cup crumbled and cooked bacon
2 cups cubed peeled sweet potato (yams)
3 cups chopped fresh kale (I use a little more)
1 cup frozen sliced okra
1 cup coconut milk (I use light) – you can also use half & half or heavy cream
1 cup canned diced tomatoes, drained (I use fresh)
1 cup canned kidney beans, rinsed and drained (I use the whole can)
2 tablespoons lime juice

In a Dutch oven, saute onions in oil until tender. Add the garlic, ginger and spices, cook 1 minute longer.
Stir in broth and potato.  Bring to boil, reduce heat and cover and simmer for 5 minutes.
Stir in kale and okra. Return to a boil, cover and simmer 10 minutes long or until potato is tender.
Add the meat, milk, tomatoes, peas and lime juice. Heat through – and enjoy.  Yum!

For the meatless variety.

Ingredients are:

1 medium onion, chopped
2 teaspoons coconut, grapeseed or olive oil
3 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger root
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (I don't use this)
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
5 cups vegetable broth (I use 4 so it's thicker)
2 cups cubed peeled sweet potato (yams)
3 cups chopped fresh kale (I use a little more)
1 cup frozen sliced okra
1 cup coconut milk (I use light)
1 cup canned diced tomatoes, drained (I use fresh)
1 cup canned black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained (I use the whole can)
2 tablespoons lime juice

In a Dutch oven, saute onions in oil until tender. Add the garlic, ginger and spices, cook 1 minute longer.
Stir in broth and potato.  Bring to boil, reduce heat and cover and simmer for 5 minutes.
Stir in kale and okra. Return to a boil, cover and simmer 10 minutes long or until potato is tender.
Add the milk, tomatoes, peas and lime juice. Heat through – and enjoy.  Yum!

The Iced Coffee that SATISFIES


Most of the time I will create a posting here on my own personal blog and then make a facsimile to post on our Empower blog. This time I'm doing the reverse … this one went there first.

Here's the story:
I mostly drink iced coffee so I switched to cold-brew … this is the “recipe” I started with and am in the “evolutionary” stage with the process. I've discovered that the ratio of ground coffee to water in my “extractor” is too high when I follow this so I've revised to 4 oz (weight) of coffee – finely ground in my 12 cup press and fill to the “band” … otherwise I'm getting too strong an extraction.

The place I started was and they have a great “starting place” recipe.

Makes about 2 cups of coffee concentrate
I like to make cold-brew with a medium roast, as I find it tastes more like coffee and less like the roasting process than dark or French roast. Light roasts tend to be too acidic. As with any kind of coffee brewing, it’s best to grind the beans yourself just before using them. The ratio of water to coffee is 1:1 by volume and roughly 4:1 by weight, so feel free to scale the recipe to suit your needs. If you don’t have a French press you can make the coffee in a pitcher and strain it through a fine-mesh strainer, and finally through a coffee filter, as in step 2.
3½ cups finely ground medium roast coffee (see note)
Kosher salt (optional)
1. Stir together coffee and 3½ cups room-temperature water in large French press. Allow raft of ground coffee to form, about 10 minutes, and stir again to incorporate. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 24 hours (an hour shorter or longer is fine).
2. Using French press plunger, press firmly on grinds to separate them from concentrate. Pour coffee concentrate into coffee filter-lined fine-mesh strainer set over large measuring cup. Let sit until concentrate filters through, up to 30 minutes. (You should have about 2 cups of coffee concentrate; concentrate can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days).
3. Combine ½ cup coffee concentrate, ½ cup cold water, and pinch Kosher salt (if using) and pour into glass with ice. Drink.

Following their recipe I used about 4 to 1 of water to extract and use the pink salt grinder for a touch at the top.

My next phase is to have the coffee ground by our local Starbucks when I purchase it and use my new ratio of 4 oz coffee to a filled press pot. I'll keep you posted on results and in the mean time you can go and do your own testing and see how you like it.

Carnitas – Gringo Style

I had a wild idea for cooking a piece of pork shoulder … for those in the know – shoulder comes from one of the front legs of the piggie and weighs in at over twenty pounds when properly dressed and de-boned. Our offering is part of the shoulder and tipped the scales at around 6 pounds or so. I opened it up with what I could only call a “butterfly” cut and started the cooking process on the bbq – grilled on both sides for about 10 minutes per side and added the pink Himalayan salt as it was cooking. I also grilled 6 Pasilla peppers (halved and seeded) and 4 Jalepenos (also halved and seeded).

Into the cast iron Dutch oven went a few tablespoons of coconut oil and then I quartered 3 small onions and added them to the hot oil. 3 apples – quartered and cored were added and the grilled peppers were added next – imagine the layering of the mix of veggies – NO stirring. In went the grill-marked pork and a dozen or so garlic cloves (whole-with most in the center of the meat). The chosen liquid was two bottles of beer (not saying what kind) … and the oven was set to 275F from about 11:30 until about 5:30pm …


About mid-afternoon the mind-bending aromas began to fill the house and it became almost unbearable by about 5 pm – thus my ending the first part of the activity and beginning the second.

There is not a photographic record of the deed and most of the memories will only exist in our minds, but this is the most amazing piece of piggie that has ever graced our plates.

Recipe of the Week- Pasta Again???

This Week is Fresh Pasta

Ok … so for three weeks the recipes have been all about pasta and pasta dishes … I LIKE PASTA … and I like good pasta so bear with me and hang in there.

Our home equipment  includes an electric machine. Now if I were to rethink this thing, I'd probably pass on it and just stick with the hand cranked, Atlas style, counter top pasta cranker … they work just fine.

There is nothing that compares to home-made fresh pasta that you've created with your own hands. Don't argue, don't wonder and don't debate … this is an absolute.

Our List of Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups semolina flour
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
The basics of the recipe is a half and half ratio of ap flour and semolina and a ratio of 6 large eggs to 4 cups of flour total. You could easily cut this in half or use 2 Jumbo eggs for 3 Large eggs.

And the recommendations for the ingredients are also based on my preferences. Buy your flour and semolina from a store that either has a mill in the store or sells the flour in bulk. Try to avoid packaged and processed flour – for one, you don't know how old it might be and for two, you don't know where it has been – or has added.

Next is the salt; buy a box of Kosher salt, I like Diamond Crystal and you can always find Morton in the box in most markets. Ahh, I heard that question from the back row … what difference does the salt make and why can't I just use my thing of table salt? Well, you could, or you could choose better stuff to put inside you. I'll refer to my authority on many food things Alton Brown on salt.

On to the eggs. Given the choice and an unlimited budget I would always buy AA Organic, Vegetarian Feed, Jumbo, Brown Free Range eggs – and I even like the Omega added ones. BUT, most of the time I go to Trader Joe's and buy their Jumbos – almost always fresh and good quality.

Olive oil is or could be the subject of endless writing and discussion. We've gotten in the habit of buying at Trader Joe's and we get the dark green liter bottle that comes with the pour spout.

The Making of the Mess

  1. Sift the flour onto a clean work surface and make a well in the center with your fist.
  2. Break the eggs into the well and add the oil and a pinch of salt to the well.
  3. Gradually mix the egg mixture into the flour using the fingers of one hand, bringing the ingredients together into a firm dough. If the dough feels too dry, add a few drops of water; if it’s too wet, add a little more flour. (You will soon grow accustomed to how the dough should feel after you've made it a few times.)
  4. Knead the pasta until smooth, 2 to 5 minutes. Lightly massage it with a hint of olive oil, pop the dough into a plastic food bag or sheet of plastic wrap, and allow it to rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. This is a critical step.

First, the pasta will be much more elastic after resting. Second, this resting step allows the flour to absorb the egg and oil (and/or water) you have added to the well and will eliminate the gritty feeling from raw dough. I've also seen recipes where the dough ball is put in the refrigerator for up to overnight.

Let's Get Cranking

  1. Start to feed the blob of pasta dough through the widest setting of a pasta machine. As the sheet of dough comes out of the machine, fold it into thirds and then feed it through the rollers again, still on the widest setting. Pass the dough through this setting a total of 4 or 5 times. This effectively kneads the dough, ensuring the resulting pasta is silky smooth.
  2. Pass the pasta through the machine again, starting at the widest setting and gradually reducing the settings, one pass at a time, until the pasta achieves the required thickness. The pasta sheet will become very long—if you are having trouble keeping the dough from folding onto itself or are making ravioli, cut the sheet of dough in half and feed each half through separately. Generally the second-from-last setting is best for tagliatelle and the last setting is best for ravioli and any other shapes that are to be filled.
  3. After the pasta has reached the requisite thickness, hang it over a broom handle or the back of a chair to dry a little—this will make cutting it easier in humid weather, as it will not be so sticky. Or, if you’re in a hurry, you can dust the pasta with a little flour and place it on clean kitchen towels and let it rest for just a short spell.
  4. Shape the pasta by hand (see instructions below) or pass the pasta through the chosen cutters (tagliolini, tagliatelle, etc.) and then drape the cut pasta over the broom handle or chair back again to dry just a little, until ready to cook. You can, of course, again toss the cut pasta lightly in flour (preferably semolina flour) and lay out in loose bundles on a tray lined with a clean kitchen towel. Use as soon as possible before it sticks together.

Cook the pasta

Note: Cooking times for fresh and dried pasta vary according to the size and quality of the pasta. The only way to check is to taste it. However, the basic method of cooking remains the same.

  1. Throw the pasta into a large saucepan of boiling, salted water (remember that Kosher salt thing? use 2 tablespoons or more per quart of water). You will need about 4 quarts water and 5-6 tablespoons of salt for every 13 to 18 ounces of fresh or dried pasta. It is the large volume of water that will prevent the pasta from sticking together.
  2. Stir the pasta only once or twice—if you have enough water in the pan and you stir the pasta as it goes in, it shouldn't stick.
  3. DO NOT COVER the pot or the water will boil over. Quickly bring the pasta back to a rolling boil, stir, and boil until al dente, or firm to the bite, about 2 minutes. The pasta should not have a hard center or be soggy and floppy. If following a specified cooking time, calculate it from the moment the pasta starts to boil again and have a colander ready for draining.
  4. Drain the pasta, holding back 2 to 3 tablespoons of the cooking water. Return the pasta to the pan (the dissolved starch in the water helps the sauce cling to the pasta). Dress the pasta straight away with the sauce directly in the pan. (The Italian way is ALWAYS to toss the cooked, hot pasta with the sauce before serving.) Serve the hot pasta immediately with your favorite sauce. Even a copious drizzle of olive oil or melted butter—cooked just to the point of taking on a slightly nutty, toasty brown tinge—and a smattering of fresh herbs constitutes a sauce when the pasta is as tender and tasty as this.
Go … make … eat …. enjoy.


Recipe of The Week – Carbonara

Cooking Carbonara– the Best Ways to Cook a Good Pasta Dish

Among the most loved pasta dishes in the world is Spaghetti Carbonara. With the sweet aroma of the cheeses and the meat rising form the dish, it can be quite a favored dish that can simply satisfy the cravings you have. However, if there is one problem that has to be dealt with in the dish, it is the fact that it can be something that is quite complicated to cook. Actually, the truth is that this Pasta Dish is one of the easiest meals to cook in a hurry.

The Preparation and Ingredients

It comes to most people that Carbonara is technically a spaghetti dish cooked in white sauce. Perhaps the difference may be found in color, but the fact is the actual process of cooking is also somewhat different.


  • A pound of spaghetti noodles
  • ¼ cup or 250 ml of heavy cream
  • 1 can of evaporated milk
  • 1 can of cream of mushroom
  • Bacon or ham (around half a pound)
  • 1 tsp of virgin olive oil
  • Italian parsley (chopped into pieces of around 2 tablespoons)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Garlic and onion (chopped or minced)
  • ¾ cup parmesan cheese or if possible, pecorino Romano cheese.

Cooking Procedure:

  • Fill up a large pot with water and add around a handful of salt. Taste-wise, the water inside the pot should be similar to the taste of saltwater. Cover it and heat it up until the water is boiling hot. This is necessary as the pot of water will be used to cook the boodles in. Al dente is a term used in cooking spaghetti noodles, which means that it must be tender yet firm when bitten.
  • Dice bacon or ham is them cooked and sauté in a sauce pan for at least 10 to 15 minutes. Drain any excess oil from the ingredient by drying or draining it off on paper towels.
  • Sauté the garlic and onion and add the bacon or ham. Add the milk and the cream of mushroom soup to the pan.
  • Cream is mixed with parmesan cheese and then added to the pan. Bring to a boil the mixture and season with the spices. If the mixture seems a little thick or tastes salty, it would be best to add more milk or perhaps a cup of water. Simmer until it thickens again.
  • Place pasta on a plate and drizzle the mixture of finished sauce on top. Place the remaining bacon or ham on top together with the chopped parsley.

The freshest ingredients must be used at all times as this gives rise for better flavor. While milk and cream of mushroom ingredients are considerably processed ingredients, it is always best to try to find a substitute. If not, choose those products that technically promote organic ingredients in its production as well. Also, Olive Oil is considered as one of the best ingredients that raises the flavor of the dish, and there is no substitute for this.

Do not be limited by availability of items on the list, be creative and substitute things you have. Take this recipe to a new level and enjoy with family and friends …. go and cook … frequently!


Don’s Favorite Mac and Cheese Recipe

Don's Mac ‘n Cheese

Wow, didja ever think that a scoop of pasta and some cheese would ever create this much agita and conflict. I know that in our house we have a huge difference in tastes and likes, at least as far as this wonderful dish.

The Basic Ingredients

Pasta – 1/2 lb (that's half a box or package of your favorite shape – I like smaller sized pieces and suggest shells, elbows or radiatore)
Butter – 2 Tbsp (a little more or a little less is ok, but use butter and not margarine or some other substitute – not all fats are created equally)
Liquid [Milk/Cream/Half and Half] – 6-8 oz (use what you have in the fridge – if you don't have any then buy the half and half – AND NOT THE FAT FREE STUFF – this is about eating the fat and not putting chemicals in the pot)
Cheese – 8 oz shredded or chopped – choose something that will gently melt (you can buy a package of shredded cheddar in your local grocer or a block and do the shredding yourself – make sure any cheese you buy is made from cow/sheep/goat milk and not chemicals – pass on the low fat or no fat stuff)
Meat – 4 oz bacon or meat balls or cooked hamburger or salami or lobster or anything you like (this is the optional add-on – I like something to add the texture to the dish)
Seasonings  – your choice of spices and salsas – (I use some garlic and pepper and often add hot sauce)

Cook the pasta in boiling and salted water (2 quarts of water per half pound of pasta and 1 Tbsp Kosher salt per quart of water) for the time that the package recommends and drain.

Using the same pot return to the stove and add the butter and liquid (low heat recommended here) and all your seasonings and meat. When this mixture just begins to foam add the cheese. Stir to keep from sticking, lumping or burning and when you have a cheesy mixture (about five minutes or less) add the pasta and stir.

Serve with a sprinkling of parsley and or parmigiana and or romano and or your favorite crunchy top. This is enough for two for a meal or four for a side.

My preferences are something created and made from a package of pasta and real cheese. I prefer different pasta shapes – there are a few in the cupboard. And I like to start with real cheese and real milk/cream or half and half. So I've evolved a recipe that works for me and is a semi-simple stove top method to get me from sitting and back to sitting in a short period of time. After all, the really great stuff is baked and that can, and does, take from a half hour up to two or more hours to do the magic. My stove top method began as an Alton Brown recipe from Food Network  and, while good and tasty, uses some ingredients I chose to eliminate. What follows is my version and some tips to assist you in making yours better or making yours more aligned with your tastes.

The alternative is the thing my wife likes and is also a one pot dish that takes around 10 minutes to accomplish. My objection to this is that it is not cheese, but cheeze that makes the cheezie sauce and not the cheesy sauce I like.

Some Tips

  1. Read the packages on things you buy to make sure they don't include chemicals.
  2. Buy shredded or grated cheese without added fillers or stabilizers (sometimes added to prevent clumping).
  3. Always use real milk products (the other stuff has those terrible chemicals).

Eat good things and enjoy.

Recipe of the Week

Barbecue'd Pork Ribs

I've decided to make Thursday a weekly recipe day – and for the “maiden voyage” I'm choosing our bbq'd pork ribs – Silver style.

The Cut

Over the years we have eaten at least two tons of pork – in various configurations and cooking styles. I can't even begin to imagine how much of that was in rib form and how much of that was “the good stuff” St Louis cut. And, yes, I'm very particular about my pork ribs … don't care much for baby backs – I want to eat the  whole side of the pig – so it will always be St Louis cut for me.

The “Done-ness”

In case you didn't know, I enjoy watching bbq and grilling competitions (if you don't know the difference, then let me know and some day I'll make that an article). As a rule there are great variations between how ribs should be done, and this depends on where they are being served – home, restaurant or competition. And the cooking techniques also vary with these. For competition the meat must be a bit firm to allow for the “bite” and the “perfect” rib-come-away-clean effect. For restaurants the challenge is to have hot, juicy and delicious when their customer  comes in and orders, so they tend to do what I call a “cook and cool” and heat per order style. Now, at home, we cook to eat. And we like that almost fall apart done “thing” and all bones come clean.

The Home Technique

Start by buying ribs – we tend to find the St. Louis Style Spareribs and they come in a factory sealed package – buy enough to have a half of a slab for each person (and I like to have an extra slab for the leftovers).

Rub – this is an entire series of postings and I'm not going to do more than say this: if you have your own pork rub, then use it. Otherwise go to the store and buy a good quality pork dry rub – (spend some money and don't buy the same brand that lines the shelf). Or if you want to find a recipe from another cooking site and see if you like it, then do that. You will want to have about a half cup per slab of ribs. Ask me if you want our rub mix.

Remove the membrane on the back of the ribs – take a teaspoon and start at a corner and just tear it off, this will aid in the rub getting into the meat. Cut your slabs in half.

Place two long strips of Saran wrap on the counter with about 1 inch overlapping – make them long enough to cover the ribs. Sprinkle the rub liberally on the meat and wrap in plastic wrap. Leave in your refrigerator overnight. You might also want to put the “package” in a suitable plastic container or wrap with heavy duty foil – might get messy if you don't.

The Cooking

Heat your grill – if you have gas, then turn it on for 15 minutes at full heat. If you use wood or charcoal or briquettes, the make sure you buy the material WITHOUT added chemicals – use a fire starter chimney or an electric starter.

– DO NOT EVER USE “SO CALLED” CHARCOAL LIGHTER FLUID – this is poison and is not good for either you or your meat.

Put each slab half on the hot grill for as long as it takes to get grill marks – your grill will have room for 2 or more slab halfs and this part is to give some color and flavor. Do not lose any of the drippings after you've completed this – take each slab half and put into a “turkey roasting bag” for the next step. Add 8 ounces of grocery store bbq sauce (if you make your own that you can use that). Seal the roasting bag with the provided twist-tie and carefully wrap the package in heavy duty aluminum foil. Place this package in a roasting pan and then into your oven at 275 degrees (F) for six to eight hours.

Make the rest of the meal – carefully drain the juice from the roasting bag and serve on the side. ENJOY!!!!!