Sunday, September 13, 2020


 I recently visited Roma Imports in Tucson with my good friend, Les Jackson.
This market, located at 627 S. Vine in Tucson, is packed with the most wonderful selection of Italian meats, cheeses, homemade pastas, pizzas, sauces, olive oils, deli products, homemade bread, and much, much more! I felt transported directly to the heart of Tuscany.  Les and I spent 2 hours going over each and every item. We didn't want to miss a thing. And when we finally finished our shopping we bought take-out to go and had a fabulous Italian lunch. Because of COVID they are no longer serving meals in-store, but Candra, our ever-helpful sales lady said they hope to again soon.

The meat counter at Roma's! And here is Candra with carefully wrapped Proscuitto. She was very knowledgeable of their meats and generous by offering samples of the various salumi's and other meats.
I bought several different types of salumi, proscuitto from Parma and one of my all-time favorites--Mortadella. It also happens to be my friend Steve Vis's favorite, too so I picked some up for him. I had a recipe in mind that Steve made for an elegant dinner party he and his wife, Deb hosted several years ago. The pork he served made a huge impression on me--complex, rich flavors, moist and tender. Steve shared the recipe and the story of how he came to know it. Over 20 years ago he took a cooking class with his good friend, Don Brewer when they were living on Bainbridge Island in Washington state. The class was taught by Judy Keen, 
a local teacher, and she got the recipe from Epicurious. The recipe is still on their website this many years later so I guess I was not the only one who fell in love.

And here is Steve eating upside-down biscotti that he just took out of the oven. Both Steve and Debby are excellent cooks and bakers and they love to entertain! Steve also is a very funny fellow!
And now on to the recipe...


2 Tbsp. whole black peppercorns (I used heaping rounded tablespoons.)
3 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
5 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened (I was generous with the butter, too.)

1 pork loin, about 3 1/2 - 4 lbs.
3 Tbsp. black truffle butter, softened (I did not scrimp here either!)
1/2 lb. thinly sliced Mortadella

4 lb. small Yukon gold potatoes
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. freshly chopped rosemary
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper

For the sauce:
3/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
1 Tbsp. black truffle butter

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. 
Coarsely crush peppercorns and salt with mortar and pestle, then add garlic and mash until a paste forms. Stir in 2 Tbsp. softened butter.
The original Epicurious recipe has a fairly elaborate description of butterflying the pork loin. What I did was simply place the pork on a cutting board and using my sharpest knife cut the pork in half without cutting all the way through so the pork opens like a book.
Using a meat pounder or rolling pin, pound the pork until it is about 1/2 inch thickness. Spread 1 Tbsp. truffle butter over the interior of the pork. Then place half of the mortadella slices onto the pork slightly overlapping pieces. Spread another tablespoon of truffle butter over the mortadella. Top with the remaining mortadella slices and another tablespoon of black truffle butter.  Starting from the long side gently, but tightly roll the pork. You may have to push the mortadella in so it remains inside the roll. Tie with kitchen string. Rub roast all over with the peppercorn garlic butter.

Place fat side up on an oiled rack in a roasting pan. At this point I covered with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for the day. Bring to room temp before roasting.

Roast for 20 minutes at 450 degrees.

While pork is roasting, peel and halve potatoes. Parboil potatoes for about 5 minutes until they start to soften. Drain in a colander and then toss with oil, rosemary, 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt and black pepper. 

Remove pork from oven and reduce oven temp to 325 degrees. Add potatoes to roasting pan, turning them in pan juices to coat, then add pork and roast pork with potatoes until thermometer registers 155 on the pork, about 30-35 more minutes. The Epicurious recipe calls for roasting pork and potatoes for another 45-55 minutes. Check temp on pork at 30 minutes in. If it registers 155-160 it is definitely done. USDA says pork loin should be at least 145 degrees. The sauce really brings this dish together, but you do not want to over cook the pork. Transfer pork to a platter and let rest 15-20 minutes.

Increase oven temp to 450 and remove rack from roasting pan. Spread potatoes out in pan and roast in middle of oven, stirring every 5 minutes until potatoes are golden brown, about 20 minutes more. Transfer to a bowl and keep warm.

Make the sauce:
The recipe calls for skimming off as much fat as possible from pan juices. Pork these days is so lean that the only fat in this dish is from the butter and truffle butter so I did no skimming. Straddle the roasting pan across 2 burners. Since I used my beautiful ceramic roasting pan from Poland I made the sauce in the oven, rather than stove-top. Add the chicken broth and de-glaze pan by boiling over high heat, stirring and scraping up brown bits, about 1 minute. This worked fine in the oven. Stir together water and cornstarch getting out as many lumps as possible and then add to the broth mixture, whisking for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and whisk in one more tablespoon of black truffle butter. 

Cut string off the pork and serve with sauce and potatoes.
I have more recipes to share using 
Roma Imports beautiful products.
Deli counter at Roma Imports. 
By noon when we arrived bread nearly gone!

Until next time, live, love, laugh and COOK!


Sunday, August 30, 2020



My first choice was to smoke these giant, thick-cut, bone-in pork chops, but with temps exceeding 100 degrees I decided to grill them instead. But first I brined them for about 8 hours to ensure a tender, very juicy end result. It's easy to over-cook, and therefore, dry out pork, but brining guarantees a perfectly moist chop. Brining is easy. I wanted to keep my brine very simple, but you can add herbs, garlic, onion, maple syrup in place of sugar or any other similar ingredients. The key is equal parts sugar and salt. Here are the basic brine ingredients:

Brine Ingredients:

1/4 cup Kosher salt

1/4 cup sugar

2 cups water

2 cups ice cubes


In a large saucepan combine salt, sugar and 2 cups water. Stir over medium heat until sugar and salt dissolve. Remove from heat and cool. If you are in a hurry, pop it into the fridge to cool down faster. Place the pork chops in a large zip-lock bag. Add the cooled brine plus 2 cups of ice cubes. Place the bagged chops in a 9x13" pan and put back into the fridge for at least 8 hours. Turn the bag every half or so to ensure that the chops get brined evenly. Remove chops from brine. Rinse. Pat dry. Brush both sides of chops with olive oil. Since I wasn't smoking the chops I still wanted a smoky flavor so made a dry rub and generously rubbed both sides of the pork with the rub.


3 Tbsp. smoky paprika

1 tsp. each: garlic powder, onion powder, ground cumin and ground dry mustard

1 tsp. coarsely ground pepper

1/2 tsp. ground chipotle pepper

After you have rubbed the chops let them sit on the counter for 1/2 hour before grilling. Grill chops about 5 minutes per side. Internal temp should read 145 degrees. Let them stand for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

Unfortunately I didn't get a photo of the served meal, but the Blueberry Gastrique adds a beautiful elegance to the meal...and enhances the rich, smokiness of these pork chops.


A gastrique is a French sauce that is made by combining sweet and sour, usually sugar and vinegar. Here is what I put together.

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

1 cup blueberries

1 Tbsp. wild blueberry preserves


Bring all ingredients to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until desired thickness. You don't want it to be liquid, but conversely you do not want a thick, goopy sauce either. I prefer a pourable liquid that can be spread on the plate with the back of a spoon making a swoosh. Either strain through a fine-mesh strainer pushing the gastrique through the strainer with the back of a spoon or serve chunky. I prefer a smooth, silken texture so strain it.





Sunday, August 23, 2020


 OK...true confession: I am officially on a diet. I joined Weight Watchers 3 weeks ago and am starting to lose some of the extra poundage I put on living through the last 6 months of Coronavirus. It's a very reasonable diet and I do not feel too deprived, but certainly am not making luscious sauces or extravagant desserts at the moment. One cool feature of the WW app is they have tons of recipes. I found this one on their site.


The inherent sweetness of carrots melds perfectly
with the spice of Sriracha and peppery fresh ginger. 


1 lb. carrots, peeled and cut into chunks

1/4 cup reduced calorie mayonnaise

1 tsp. Sriracha sauce, more or less depending on how hot you like it (WW calls for 1 Tbsp.)

A few drops of toasted sesame oil

1 Tbsp. minced garlic

2 Tbsp. minced ginger root (WW calls for 2 tsp.)

1 tsp. rice wine vinegar

1 tsp. salt 

A few scallions green parts only; more for garnishing


Place carrots in saucepan and cover with salted water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat and cook until carrots are very tender. Drain. Chill. 

Combine cooked carrots with remaining ingredients in a blender or food processor. Process until completely smooth and blended. Serve garnished with scallions. So easy! And so delicious and good for you!

I served the Spicy Carrot Dip with a tray of veggies and an assortment of crackers. 

Zinnias are edible, but fairly bitter. OK for a garnish, but would not advise eating them!






Wednesday, August 12, 2020


It's hot in southern Arizona. In fact, this July was the hottest on record for the last 20 years. 17 days were at or above 100 degrees! I was curious where the phrase Dog Days came from and this is what I discovered:

"The phrase is actually a reference to the fact that, during this time, the Sun occupies the same region of the sky as Sirius, the brightest star visible from any part of Earth and part of the constellation Canis Major, the Greater  Dog."

Thank you Google! 

So, on to another cold soup!


This soup is rich and creamy, but served icy cold also very refreshing. I found the recipe in my Paleo cookbook, but altered a bit by using more avocado and chicken stock instead of water. 


2 avocado

2 large cucumbers, peeled and chopped

1/2 cup chicken stock

1/4 cup olive oil, extra for garnishing

2 tbsp. chopped fresh mint, more for garnishing

1-inch piece ginger root, peeled and minced

1 clove garlic, chopped

1/2 lemon, juiced

1/2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar

1/2 tsp. sea salt

Fresh mint and olive oil for garnishing


Peel and pit the avocados. Place all other ingredients including one avocado in a blender and blend until completely smooth. Chill. Serve with slices of avocado, mint and a drizzle of olive oil. Easy Squeezey!


I got a smoker for my birthday and am really looking forward to perfecting the fine art of smoking. According to Bobby Flay, smoking really is more of an 'art' than 'science'. We christened the smoker by smoking a pork loin stuffed with panchetta, provolone, lots of basil pesto, fresh basil, spinach and arugala, and then wrapped the whole thing in a pound of bacon. This recipe was very similar to the Porchetta I made a while back, but this time smoked, instead of grilled. Since the smoker has 2 racks I also dry-rubbed some chicken thighs and smoked them, too. 

This is a Weber Rocky Mountain Bullet, vertical water smoker. I chose it for the relatively small size, and reasonable price (compared to Traeger or The Green Egg). It has two racks so is ample large enough for my purpose.

And here is our first smoking endeavor. Moist, tender and juicy pork loin served with steamed asparagus and creamy mushroom risotto.





Saturday, July 25, 2020


You might not believe that lettuce, having such mild flavor, would be a tasty enough vegetable to make soup, but it is! Of course we generally think of lettuce as a salad ingredient, not something to cook. Several years ago over a memorable evening of fine food, wine, and fabulous conversation, my good friend Peter Wells introduced me to Lettuce Soup. I cannot believe it has taken me this long to make it, but am glad I did! Very few ingredients make this soup easy to put together. The parsley helps to keep it green and gives it a little punch. Because of COVID-19 I have not seen Pete or his beautiful wife, Leslie in months, but later in this blog I will give you an update on what he's been up to.    
I found this recipe online, developed by NYC
Chef Daniel Gritzer.
I was not familiar with him, but he has a
very interesting background. Check him out: 

As is often the case, I made a couple little tweaks to the recipe.
2 Tbsp. butter, He calls for unsalted. I used salted
1 medium onion, diced. I rough chopped about 1 cup of onion.
4 medium garlic cloves, about 2 Tbsp. sliced
2 cups homemade chicken stock*
Lettuce** Chef Gritzer calls for 8 ounces (225 g). I used 4 cups of chopped Romaine Lettuce
1/4 cup (One small handful) loosely packed parsley
A couple drops of fresh lemon juice to brighten the soup.

In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat until foamy. Add onion, garlic and a pinch of Kosher Salt (my addition), stirring until softened; about 3 minutes. Add chicken stock. Bring back to simmer, and cook until veg are very tender; about 10 minutes. Add lettuce and parsley and cook until wilted and softened; a couple more minutes. I turned off heat and let it sit, covered, until cook enough to blend.
Working in batches, thoroughly blend the soup until it is very smooth. If it is too thick (mine was perfect), add more chicken stock. Season with salt, pepper (I used white pepper.) and just a touch of lemon juice. The idea here is to jazz the flavor, not turn the soup tart. Garnish as you like. Gritzer garnished with radish and pea shoots, which sounds wonderful. I think finely diced shrimp sauted in garlic would also be nice, but the possibilities are endless. I garnished with crispy chopped bacon over a dollop of Greek style yogurt. If I had some cherry tomatoes I would have added them for a deconstructed BLT!

*In these times of "staying at home" it seems I am making chicken stock every week so putting a soup like this together literally takes just a few minutes! Store bought stock would also work.

**A note from Chef Gritzer regarding choice of Lettuce. He says the recipe works with many varieties of lettuce, including romaine, Bibb, oak leaf, arugula, and cress. He does not recommend iceberg because of its extreme lack of flavor. You can substitute shallots or leeks for the onions.

I love cooking with herbs and never in my life have been without an herb garden. Here is my small, but robust field of parsley!

Here's another soup I made recently that was perfect on a hot summers day.

I made this Classic Tomato Soup, and served it hot, a few years ago for my husband's birthday lunch. Go to:
It was quite a day of feasting so you will find the other indulgences we ate on his special day!

After 30 years in education, as both teacher and administrator, Pete has retired. ...But not for long! Being idle is not in Pete's nature. He recently took on the job of Executive Director at this fabulous and important organization in Tucson.
TROT is a nonprofit that uses Equine therapies for those with special needs and physical disabilities. It has been around since 1974. Check out their website:


Tuesday, July 28th is my birthday! Impossible to celebrate without 
my dear sister top of mind. Here is a photo of me and my twin sister, 
Cathy, who passed away September 7, 2007. 
We loved planning meals, parties, creating recipes and menus 
and that is what we are doing here. 
She is on the left and I am on the right. 
Photo Circa 2004!! We sure did a lot of cooking together!


Thursday, July 16, 2020


I served with Asian Carrots and an Asian influenced hamburger.
My good friend, Debby Vis, served this Coconut Rice at a dinner party she had a while back. It is just as the name says; perfect combination of sweet and salty. I cannot remember where she got the recipe. You can easily cut the recipe in half, but why would you want to?? It reheats beautifully and is quite addicting!

1/2 cup sweetened, shredded coconut
1 1/2 cups Jasmine rice, rinsed and drained
1 (14 oz.) can unsweetened coconut milk, full fat, not light
1 1/4 cups water (which can be measured using the coconut milk can-exactly 1 1/4 cups!)
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp. Kosher salt

In a dry skillet toast the coconut over medium-high heat, stirring until lightly browned; about 4 to 5 minutes. Because of the high sugar content it "catches" quickly so watch to ensure you don't go from light brown to burned. Transfer to a bowl to cool. Do not leave in the pan as it may overcook. You can do this ahead of time and even the day before. The toasted coconut stores well on the counter in a glass container with tight lid.

In a saucepan combine rice, coconut milk, water, sugar and salt and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to barely a simmer, cover and cook until liquid is absorbed and rice is done; about 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Re-cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl, top with toasted coconut. So easy and such an incredibly wonderful combination of sweet, salty, crunchy and creamy. You will not want to stop eating it!

I served with hamburger patties that I marinated in a little soy sauce, Teriyaki, dried ginger, and garlic powder. Press about 2 Tbsp. per burger of sesame seeds into the meat, both sides. Grill to your preferred doneness. They are super juicy!

And finally served the dinner with Julienned Carrots cooked down with: 3 Tbsp. soy sauce, 3 Tbsp. Teriyaki sauce, 3 Tbsp. honey, 5 pieces candied ginger, sliced thinly, juice and zest of one clementine. Gently simmer, covered, on low heat for about 20 minutes. Remove cover and increase heat for the last 10 minutes to thicken the sauce. This also burns quickly. I made this a second time while also cooking some chicken on the grill and returned to the kitchen to find blackened carrots! Not so good!


Here's the funny story behind this pizza pie. My full-size oven is on the blink and because of Coronavirus I have hesitated to get a repair person in to check it out. I finally made an appointment and learned that the technician had Coronavirus so put the service off for another few weeks. I had been unable to buy yeast at the store, but finally found some with pizza in mind. My husband Jerry and I have been craving pizza so I put a meaty, cheesy pizza together. When I went to place the pizza pan in my little oven it did not fit. Fortunately I have a nice, big gas grill and the pan just barely fit in it. 

Here's the best news...the tech has fully recovered and will be down next week to fix my oven!
The pizza had a slightly smokey
taste like it just came from a pizza oven!
Click on this link to find the recipe for both red pizza sauce and Giada DeLaurentis's dough recipe. Keep scrolling all the way down to find the dough!

I would be lying if I said I like a Portobello Pizza as well as a real pizza, but they are a fairly good substitute if you are watching calories, which I always am! I grilled these, as well, on a piece of aluminum foil so the mushroom would not stick to the grill. Simply remove the stem from the Portobello, rinse and dry the mushroom thoroughly. Add a couple tablespoons of red sauce in bottom of the mushroom. Next add your favorite toppings-green pepper, onion, meat, alternating with parmesan and mozzarella cheeses. Add another tablespoon of sauce and then top with more cheese. Either bake in the oven at 400 degrees until mushroom is cooked and toppings are bubbly; about 15-20 minutes, or grill over high heat for about same time.

These 100+ degree days call for a cold cup of soup. This one is very celery-forward so if celery is not your favorite veg you probably want to skip this recipe.

14 stalks celery, divided 10 and 4
1 quart chicken stock
1/4 onion, rough chopped
Salt/Pepper to taste
Optional: Greek style yogurt or sour cream for serving

Roughly chop 10 stalks of celery and bring to boil with the onion in the chicken stock. Cover and reduce heat to simmer and cook for another 3 hours.  Taste for seasoning. Cool completely and blend until very smooth. Finely dice the last 4 stalks of celery and return to the blended soup. Cook until the celery is just barley tender. Serve with yogurt.

I continue to make fruit parfaits with fresh fruit and yogurt. Here is one made with cooked strawberries, which were left over from the Red/White/Blue cheesecake I made for 4th of July! Here is the original recipe, which I made 2 years ago in Ireland:

I also used Mango puree in the parfait, which was left over from the Decadent Mango Pie I made recently--

Some refer to me as the "Left-Over Queen"! I do not like to waste food!




Thursday, July 2, 2020


I still had a few mangoes in the fridge so decided to make this rich and delicious pie.
I found the recipe online ( and tweaked it just a little bit. I used less sugar in the graham cracker crust, more mango puree in the pie, and less sugar in the whipped cream topping. These mangoes were super ripe so extremely flavorful and sweet.


12 full sheets Graham Crackers
1/4 cup sugar
6 Tbsp. butter

Preparation for the crust:
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Add 6 Tbsp. butter into the 9 inch pie plate you will bake the pie in. Put in the oven while it is heating to melt the butter.

Add the Graham Crackers to a large zip-lock bag. Smash them into fine crumbs using a heavy rolling pin.
That marble rolling pin was my Mom's;
a very special gift from my Dad to her one Christmas.
She cherished it. I do, too.
Add 1/4 cup sugar right into the bag and mix thoroughly. When butter is melted add the crumb/sugar mixture and mix in the pie plate.
Once thoroughly mixed with the butter, firmly press the crumbs into the bottom and sides of the 9 inch pie plate. This made a fairly thick crust so a 10" pie plate would have worked even better. Plus once I made the pie filling I had a little filling left over so next time will use a slightly bigger pie plate. Bake the crust for 8-10 minutes until lightly golden brown. Cool completely on a wire rack or can even be made a day or two in advance and kept in refrigerator until ready to fill. Reduce oven temp to 325 degrees.

4 egg yolks
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
1 cup mango puree
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
Big pinch of salt (The original recipe did not call for salt, but I figured with all this sweetness we needed a little balance.)

Preparation for the mango pie filling:
To make the mango puree, peel and chop mango and blend in blender, mini-max or use a hand blender until the mango is very creamy with no lumps.

In a large bowl beat egg yolks, using an electric mixer, on high speed until they are thick and a creamy, pale yellow; 3-4 minutes.
This is the color you want the egg yolks to be.
Add sweetened condensed milk and beat an additional 2 minutes. Add mango puree, lime juice and salt and mix until well combined. Pour mango mixture evenly into the fully cooked and cooled Graham Cracker crust.
Pie ready to go into the oven.
Bake 25-30 minutes until center of mango mixture is just set. If the crust begins to get too brown, cover the edges with foil.
I 'tested' the pie to see if a knife came out clean as it would in a custard. It did not, but the pie sets up beautifully as it cools. Place on a rack and cool completely, then cover and put in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

2 cups cold heavy cream
2 Tbsp. sugar

1 cup toasted coconut

Preparation for the topping:
You can toast the coconut several days before serving the pie. Keep in a tightly covered glass container on the counter. TO TOAST THE COCONUT:  I use the oven-top method. Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet to medium high. Add the coconut and let it brown, stirring often until desired toastiness. Coconut catches quickly so watch closely and stir often for 3-5 minutes.
I like to place the bowl and beaters for whipping cream in the freezer before beginning. The cold utensils help the cream whip faster. Place 2 cups cream and sugar and whip at high speed until stiff peaks form. Spread the whipped cream over the pie and top with about a cup of toasted coconut.

My husband, Jerry enjoying a slice of Creamy Mango Pie!
This pie is ridiculously good and fairly easy to make, especially if you do in steps. The mango puree, Graham Cracker crust and toasted coconut can all be made in advance. Once you have topped with whipped cream and toasted coconut, place a few tooth picks into the pie and cover with plastic wrap to store in fridge until ready to serve. That way the plastic wrap does not stick to the topping.
As you may notice, this pie has already been dipped into!