Tomatillo Salsa

Burgers and Tomatillo Salsa

Burgers are my friend.

I have always loved hamburgers - charred on the outside and juicy on the inside - a good burger is a thing of beauty.

We had things of beauty, tonight.

The actual burger was merely 80/20 ground beef with salt and pepper - grilled almost medium. I don't care what the experts say - I wanna see pink in my burgers.

The real fun was everything on the plate to accompany it.

We started off with fresh spinach sauteed with onion and garlic for the base and we added a tomatillo salsa to the top. We have tomatillo plants out back that are finally starting to produce, and the hot pepper and tomato also came from out back. I see more salsas like this in our future.

Tomatillo Salsa

  • 4 tomatillos, chopped
  • 1 yellow tomato, chopped
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1 Caribbean pepper, minced
  • 3 mini peppers, chopped
  • 1 tbsp mint, minced
  • garlic powder
  • salt
  • pepper
  • tequila

Mix tomatillos, tomato, onion, and peppers. Stir in mint and add garlic powder, salt, and pepper, to taste.

Drizzle with tequila and mix well.

Really quick and easy - with lots of flavor. The Caribbean pepper is hot - like a habanero - so use your discretion. Any hot pepper will work, and since we have at least 8 varieties growing right now, we'll be switching them out.


Tomatillo Salsa


Steak Tips

Steak Tips and Roasted Vegetables

We're still working on the roasted vegetables and tonight, I mixed in a green tomato and some Hatch Valley Salsa into them to give them a bit of a bit of a Southwestern spin. Reasonably awesome, if I do say so, m'self.

The steak tips were grilled with some homemade chili sauce.


Steak Tips



Grilled Vegetable Salad

Grilled Vegetable Salad

Ahhh... the joys of Summer on the east coast... oppressive heat and humidity, thunderstorms, power and cable outages... Just another day in paradise.

The storms have been interesting. High winds and torrential rains for two or three minutes followed by blue skies, followed by more wind and rain. It's actually neat to sit out back and watch it all come down - until the wind starts blowing sideways, that is... Then it's time to head back inside and hope the power stays on. It's amazing how fast muggy can penetrate an otherwise well-insulated home.

Our grill is covered, so we can cook outdoors in any weather - and that definitely came in handy, today - starting early with a clean-out-the-'fridge-salad.

Grilled Vegetable Salad

Corn, broccoli, green onions, yellow zucchini, carrots, mini peppers, and mushrooms...

This was about as simple and basic as anything can be. I doused everything with a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper, and tossed them on the grill. From there, they got chopped and mixed with some fresh herbs from the garden, olive oil, and some balsamic vinegar.

Grilled Vegetable Salad

I sprinkled on a bit more salt and pepper, and it was done. Really easy and really really good!

I mixed some burger with canned diced green chiles and a bit of hot pepper sauce, grilled 'em, and placed them on thick slices of tomato.

Yesterday, I had roasted the first of our beets from the garden, so they went onto the plate, as well.

Grilled Vegetable Salad

The perfect stormy weather summer dinner!




Grilled Tri-Tip

The End of Week Fifty-One

I think retirement has suited me well. Both of us, actually. Neither of us had the drive or ambition to claw our way up the corporate ladder or fight the roadblocks placed in our way. Early in my hotel career, at Department Head level, I was told I wouldn't go any further because I wasn't married. Gee - I wonder what they meant? By 1989, I was done with hotels. 2001 was goodbye to nutrition and dietetics, and 2018 was goodbye to putting little pieces of food on little paper plates or asking if someone found everything they were looking for. It's now been a full year since I retired and my once Type-A personality has quickly moved through the alphabet.

I get a laugh out of folks who say they would be too bored not working. Boredom has never been a word in my vocabulary. Of course, I never lived to go to work. I went to work to live.

And now, that I don't have to, living has gotten so much better - especially after fifty-one weeks with a personal trainer and losing fifty pounds! Fifty-one weeks. I guess it's like childbirth - you forget the pain when you see the result.

And we can see - and feel - the results. One more week with our trainer, and then a month off. We need a bit of a hiatus.

We also need to see how we'll maintain the weight loss. We're not looking to lose more - just not gain any back - and that will take some discipline. Not something I usually have a lot of...

With all the fresh produce of Summer, we should be okay. Keep it light and keep it healthy. A bit like tonight's dinner - grilled tri-tip and braised cauliflower.

I did a dry rub of chipotle powder, garlic, salt, amd pepper, and when it was mostly done, I poured some BBQ sauce on top and let it brown.

The braised cauliflower started with chopped mushrooms, green onions, garlic, and green beans in a skillet. I then added a can of whole peeled tomatoes - our fresh tomatoes aren't ready, yet - along with a can of water. Then some berbere, cumin, salt, and pepper. Finally, I added the cauliflower, covered the skillet, and let it simmer for 30 minutes.


Grilled Tri-Tip

One more week and we do our final weigh-in - the official weigh-in - and compare it all to Day One.

I'm pretty proud of what we've accomplished.




Potato salad

Potato Salad

We've been watching The Mind of a Chef on Netflix and have been following a couple of fun folks. Having been in the business for so many years, it's easy to relate to a lot of the madness - and to really be happy both of us are retired and get to just watch and no have to deal. It is a really intense business - not for the weak of heart.

One theme that keeps popping up is tradition and authentic - whether It is in how something is made, when it's served, or the ingredients used. For the most part, the chefs involved respect tradition but also understand that food naturally evolves. Immigrants coming to America brought a style of cooking, but they used the ingredients available to them in the new world. A classic hollandaise sauce is made a very specific way, but the butter or the eggs used will change the result. And trying to replicate classic dishes night after night gets old.

I see the dilemma when making things my Mom used to make. I make her potato salad - or, at least, a reasonable facsimile of it. Same with her stew and a few other things. They're pretty much done the way she made them - but they've evolved a bit, just like hers did - she never made the exact same thing the exact same way, either.

So, tonight, I decided to channel Mom and play with her classic potato salad. Amounts are based on how much you're making.

Mom's Potato Salad

  • potatoes (russets, yukon gold, red bliss)
  • pickles
  • hard-cooked eggs
  • celery
  • shredded carrots
  • mayonnaise
  • catsup
  • mustard
  • garlic powder
  • salt
  • pepper

Mix and chill.

She generally used russets - peeled - because that's what we always had in the house. I also think she used some Lawry’s seasoned salt in hers, but it’s not something I generally have….

We had the aioli left over from yesterday, so my first thought was using it in place of the mayonnaise. I had a bottle of chili sauce in the 'fridge, so that went in in place of the ketchup. It had all of the other basic ingredients. The end result was a great salad - not quite mom's, but close enough that someone who had eaten hers would recognize it - and then lament that she really did make the best potato salad and was no longer here to make it.

That's a fitting tribute - and it's honoring tradition.

Potato salad

Fig-Stuffed Meatballs

The End of Week Forty-Eight

We have about a dozen more sessions before we call this to an end. Part of me can't wait. Okay, almost all of me can't wait. Yet, there's a little niggling feeling that it's going to be sad to see it end.

Masochist, party of one, your rack is ready...

We have been doing this three times a week for 48 weeks - and we have seen results. Fifty pounds gone and we both feel better than we have in years. We have exceeded all expectations. I'm totally amazed. We would never have done it without a Trainer three times a week - and it is time to get our lives back, a bit.

Four more weeks.

When we're done, we will have a couple dozen sessions available to use when we want. We're still going to be going to the gym regularly, but I'm thinking maybe we'll use a few sessions to ramp things up a bit over the holidays or jump-start the new year. I know I ain't using them in August. I'll be on Trainer Hiatus.

I bought some dates earlier in the week and we never used them, so, tonight, I decided to do something different with them. Pulling out the pit and stuffing them with cheese is pretty standard, but I took it a step further and wrapped them in seasoned ground beef and grilled them!

I seasoned the beef with a shot of whiskey, a bit of smoked paprika, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper. Adding a bit of liquid to ground meat, be it beef, pork, chicken, lamb, sausage, or whatever, makes for a much more flavorful dish. You can use wine, water, beer, hard liquor, broth... whatever you have. It really makes mixing in spices and such so much easier.

Onto the grill they went, and in no time at all, dinner was served!

Fig-Stuffed Meatballs

Purple potatoes, boiled and then browned, and fresh peas finished the plate.

The meatballs were rather good, if I do say so, m'self! Slightly smoky, and slightly spicy from the meat, and sweet and savory from the dates and cheese. It really was a fun combination of flavors.

On Monday, we're 49ers...


This one's in the bag...





First Ribs of the Season

It was perfect weather, today. 80°F, a slight breeze, and low humidity. I sat out back and read most of the day. It's a rough life I lead...

Before reading, though, I did a little grocery shopping. The impulse buys today were baby back ribs and corn on the cob - perfect almost-summer offerings. And after shopping but before reading, I made potato salad. I made my standard Mom's Potato Salad - it's my favorite and what I grew up with.

Potato Salad

While reading, I put the ribs in the oven with a liberal dousing of Rib Rub - low and slow...

Rib Rub

  • 1/3 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup Penzeys Ozark seasoning
  • 1/4 cup smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp mustard powder
  • 2 tsp black pepper

Mix and store in an airtight container.

I finally put the Kindle down and started the grill. First thing on was the corn. First thing off was the corn, too.

Grilled Corn

I peeled it back, cleaned off the silk, buttered it and added salt and pepper, folded the husks back up and onto a low grill...

Meanwhile, I doused the cooked ribs with Ancho BBQ Sauce and put them on the grill...

BBQ Ribs

Tender, juicy, and fall-off-the-bone flavorful.

Gone are the days of totally pigging out. There are ribs for today and ribs for tomorrow. It sure would be nice for this weather to stick around for a while. I could get used to this really easily.





The End of Week Forty-Five

The end is drawing near and our Trainer is ramping it up. Today, he had us doing every kind of exercise in rapid succession - a literal non-stop 15 minutes of physical movement that had the sweat pouring off me. 15 minutes. A quarter of an hour. It doesn't seem that long until you're doing it. Think of it in terms of how long that minute is when you're waiting for the microwave - and then multiply it out. He took pity on these old men because just about the time I was planning my funeral, it was off to the weights. Bicep curls with free weights is so much easier than high/low planks off a flippin' ball! I'd love to know where he comes up with these things - I think he channels the Marquis de Sade.

After last week's spin fiasco, I decided I needed to go back in and try it on my own. It was a bit more doable when I was pacing myself, but it's never going to be my preferred way to exercise. I'll keep giving it a go, but you will never - ever - see me in a spin class! The eardrum-shattering music and screaming would keep me out even if I was good at it. I am not motivated by noise - and I already have tinnitus. No, thank you.

I really don't get the screaming as motivation concept but I do have a newfound respect for the people in there. That is some difficult stuff.

On to dinner...

It was the perfect day, weather-wise, so grilling a steak seemed to be the perfect dinner choice.

The steak, itself, was pretty basic - a NY strip liberally doused with Penzey's Mitchell Street Steak Seasoning and an extra boost of Berbere.

It sat atop a hash of sorts of brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, onions, and bacon.

First thing I did was peel and cut up a sweet potato and boil it until tender. I drained it and det it aside.

Next, I chopped the bacon and fried it off in a large skillet until it was crispy. I took it out and added thinly-sliced onion and thinly-sliced brussels sprouts to the pan, along with some salt and pepper.

When it all started wilting, I added the sweet potatoes and broke them up a bit, mixing everything together.

The pan was getting a bit dry, so I added a hefty splash of Gentleman Jack and a drizzle of maple syrup and cooked it all until nicely browned. The bacon was stirred back in and dinner was ready.

Onto the plate it went with the steak sliced on top.

What was nice about this is brussels sprouts are my most favorite vegetable - really - but they're on Victor's list of least-favorite. Victor absolutely loved them and cleaned his plate!

Another week down and we're maintaining the weight and maintaining a good attitude. That's a good thing. I seriously am not going through this, again!



Clean Out The 'Fridge Burgers

It's sunny and warm, outside... perfect weather for throwing burgers on the grill. And the perfect excuse to use up some of the produce in the 'fridge.

Our weekly produce run is reasonably organised - for us. We have our list of staples we always get, and then we roam around and grab things that look good. It's pretty much the way we grocery shop, period. We don't write out menus for the week - I have no idea on Sunday what I'm going to want to eat on Thursday - and, as long as there are the basics in the house, I can pretty much cook what I want.

The downside, of course, is running out of something or overbuying. The upside is we get to be creative.

Like tonight...

There was spinach and arugula in the 'fridge that needed using. We have a goodly amount of salad greens, so these two were destined to be cooked. And a boatload of mini sweet peppers. There are probably 2 dozen in a bag and we can only eat them so fast. Store-bought tomatoes are almost starting to taste almost acceptable, so there's several of them on the counter ripening at any given moment.

The perfect accompaniments for a burger!

I first sautéed the arugula and spinach in a pat of butter and a drizzle of olive oil. salt, pepper, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar finished it off.

That was the first thing on the plate.

Next was a grilled burger - nothing special. Salt and pepper.

On top of the burger went sautéed mini peppers mixed with fried hot peppers. Again, just a pinch of salt and pepper. Spicy sweet.

Along the side was a tomato salad. Chopped tomatoes, basil, olive oil, and a drizzle of strawberry balsamic vinegar. And a pinch of S&P.

Crumbled cotija cheese finished it off.


It was really satisfying. Lots of different tastes and textures - with just the right amount of heat from the peppers.

I can't wait to do something like this with our own tomatoes and peppers!

C'mon, summer!





Spiced Lamb Pita

The End of Week Forty-Four

Another grueling week at the gym. On Wednesday - after burpees and Bosu balance squats and other sweat-producing stuff - our Trainer said the next 15 minutes are going to be a bit intense.

And he was serious.

It was literal non-stop movement from jumping jacks to mountain climbs to push-ups to lord knows what else. Constant up down floor jump squat floor jump down up... It was like being back in boot camp except I am 47 years older. These are the whole body exercises that use every muscle - including the ones you didn't know you had until they start screaming in pain. None of them are difficult on their own; it's the fast-paced combination that totally exhausts me. Surprisingly, I was able to breathe better and it didn't totally kill me... and it was an excellent cardio. It was also the first time in a while that I was sore coming home.

Today, before we started, Victor was talking to the Trainer about the cycles upstairs and what they're good for. He had been on one for the first time on Thursday and kinda liked it. Charles said he'd show us.


Speed Sprint Resistance Standing Sitting Increase Decrease... In less than ten minutes I felt like I was on Day Twenty-One of the Tour de France - and hadn't stopped to pee. Another great cardio - and jello legs. This time I was having trouble catching my breath; I was doing something totally different and just didn't have the rhythm down. He took pity on us and brought us back downstairs for arm work. My formerly non-existent biceps are just a tad sore, right now.

On the other hand, I feel pretty darn good and there's not much he can throw at us that we're not afraid to try. It really is rather amazing what we've accomplished. I really am amazed.

Not to mention that we're eating well and maintaining our weight.


And speaking of amazed, we were both pretty amazed at how good dinner was, tonight. We did something totally different - and it worked!

My impulse-buy the other day at the grocery store was a pound of ground lamb. We didn't really need any meats or poultry since I'm working on getting things out of the freezer, but... you know how it is... I had no plans for it, so I did a quick Chef Google search and found a recipe for a spiced lamb burger on What was fun, was the lamb is seasoned, stuffed into a pita, and then grilled! Even better was I had all of the ingredients - except the pita.

I went to my Shaya cookbook and Alon had a recipe for pita. What was interesting, is he uses the same dough for his pizza as he does his pita - and his dough is a 2-day rise similar to mine. And I just happened to have a pound of dough in the freezer.

I made pitas.

Fresh Pita

They're actually really easy to make, but they're also really easy to buy. If you want to make it, just do a google search for instructions.

The lamb filling was excellent! Super easy and really flavorful. And it cooked perfectly on the grill in less than ten minutes. You'll note that Blanche got her own lamb burger sans onions and spices. Yes, she's spoiled.

Spiced Lamb Pita

Spiced Lamb Pitas

  • 12 oz ground lamb
  • 1 small onion, very finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp cup olive oil, plus more for grilling
  • 2 large pita breads with pockets

Mix lamb, onion, parsley, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, salt, pepper, and oil in a large bowl. Cover and chill at least 1 hour.

Prepare grill for medium heat and oil grate. Working one at a time, open each pita pocket by cutting along seam, halfway around perimeter. Spoon filling into pitas, spreading to edges. Close, pressing on filling to seal.

Grill pitas until filling is cooked through and bread is crisp, about 5 minutes per side.

Serve with tzatziki sauce.

I made a quick tzatziki with yogurt, cucumber, garlic, green onion, dill, and lemon juice.

Spiced Lamb Pita

They were crispy, pleasantly greasy, bursting with flavor, and the tzatziki really worked well with it.

I think the possibilities, here, are endless... You could go any nationality or ethnic group and have a lot of fun playing with flavors. I'm thinking ground pork with Mexican spices topped with guacamole... Or an Italian-theme...

I took the rest of the dough and wrapped it around hot Italian sausages. They're in the 'fridge for dinner tomorrow night.

Fun summertime fare.


Carolina salad

Carolina BBQ Salads

The warm weather of the past few days spoiled me. I am not pleased that it hasn't even reached 60°F, today. I am totally ready for 78°F and no humidity. Sadly, it ain't happening, today. [It's actually not going to happen a lot here in the mid-Atlantic states - but I can dream...]

What is happening, though, is salads for dinner. I took a lovely piece of tri-tip roast out of the freezer, doused it with Carolina Gold BBQ Sauce, and set it to cook on the grill.

The salads, themselves, were just a mishmash of things in the 'fridge - roasted beets, tomatoes, hard-cooked eggs, watermelon radishes, lettuce, green onions, fried hot peppers, French brie... - but the salad dressing was something decidedly different.

I took some of the Buttermilk Ranch Dressing I made the other day and added some of the Carolina Gold BBQ Sauce to it. It's a spin on a couple of recipes we did at work years ago - Carolina BBQ Chicken Salad, and Carolina Crunch.

Carolina Gold BBQ Sauce

Mixing the BBQ Sauce with the Buttermilk Ranch really took it all to a higher level - mustardy, smoky, spicy, creamy... The perfect BBQ dressing.

Just about any BBQ sauce can be turned into a salad dressing by mixing it into mayonnaise, sour cream, yogurt... even oil and vinegar. It's nice, because you can make as much as you need and not have a ton left over to become a science experiment on the 'fridge door.

Just for fun, I also made croutons from a couple slices of the bread I made the other day. Cubed, toasted, and then drizzles with a bit of olive oil and dusted with garlic powder and grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

The 10-Day forecast is looking promising... maybe some meals out back by the end of next week...

I'm ready.


Pepper Stuffed Steak

The End of Week Thirty-Seven

We are ounces away from a fifty-pound weight loss! Un-Flippin'-Believable! Never in my wildest dreams did I see myself 50 pounds lighter. Okay - not entirely true. Only in my wildest dreams did I see it. I never really thought it would - or could - be a reality.

And it's within reach!

It has not been easy - yet, it's getting easier - even as the workouts get more difficult. It's all still learning.

More than anything, I need to really work on my breathing. We were walking back and forth across the gym doing lunges while simultaneously lifting dumbbells straight out - think of a kneeling bird stretching its wings and lowering them over-and-over - and I just could not catch my breath. It was pure torture. Our trainer kept telling me to breathe and I kept thinking I'm going to die and my suits are all to big for me. I suppose I could be buried in a tshirt and jeans - I don't even have shorts that fit, right now...

One does need to plan these things...

And... one needs to commit. None of this would have happened if we hadn't committed to doing it - and actually doing the long-term work instead of trying for a quick fix. It is a lifestyle change, and as much as I miss those nightly ooey-gooey desserts, I'm loving fresh fruit - and really can't wait for stone-fruits to come into season!

It is a trade-off - and one that we're happily making.

It's time for a celebratory steak!

Once upon a time, I'd be grilling two of these huge ol' things. Today, it's one - split between us. Still more than enough food - and I often marvel at how much we have cut back while still eating a lot.

The concept for the steak came from the NY Times. It's a grilled strip steak stuffed with a medium-hot chunky pepper sauce. I didn't have the peppers in the recipe, but I did have a couple of bell peppers and some of our smokin' hot roasted peppers from our garden.

Pepper-Stuffed Steak

  • 2 bell peppers, roasted, peeled, and chopped
  • 2 roasted hot peppers, chopped (more or less, to taste)
  • 1 tbsp neutral oil
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1/2 cup beef stock
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 pinch oregano
  • 2 (10-ounce) top sirloin or New York strip steaks, 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick, with excess fat cut away
  • garlic powder, salt, and pepper, for steak

In small saucepan, add oil and flour to make a roux. Add the beef stock, garlic, and oregano and cook until thickened. Stir in the chopped peppers. Set aside to cool.

Cut a pocket in the steak making sure not to cut through. Rub with a bit of oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.

Spoon about half of pepper mixture into steaks and secure with toothpick. Reserve remaining for topping.

Grill to desired doneness.

Heat reserved pepper sauce and spoon over steaks.

The potatoes were a concoction I got from the BBC food section. It's a fun site - and anyone can access! I peruse a lot of the BBC/British food sites and am getting quite adept at metric conversions and British terminology. Like delving into La Cucina Italiana - in Italian - it's a great way to connect with different cultures. And if you think our politics are screwed up, try following Brexit in the British papers!

Mary's recipe calls for parmesan. I used a great Piave. It was perfection! I also made like a third of this recipe but still used a lot of cheese.

Mary Berry's Fennel and Potato Gratin


  • 50g/1¾oz butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 3 large bulbs fennel
  • 3 onions
  • 600g/1lb 6oz large potatoes, peeled
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 50g/1¾oz parmesan cheese, grated (or vegetarian equivalent)


Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/ (180 fan). Butter the serving dish.

Trim the tops from the fennel and cut each bulb in half through the root, then cut each half lengthways into three wedges. Cut the onions into six wedges too in a similar way.

Cut the potatoes into wedges the same size as the fennel wedges.

Boil the fennel and onions in a large pan of salted water for about five minutes, then add the potatoes and boil for a further five minutes, or until the potatoes and fennel are just tender. Drain well.

Put the 50g/1¾oz butter and the garlic in the same large pan set over a low heat until just melted. Return the potatoes and fennel to the butter, toss until coated then tip into the ovenproof dish. Sprinkle with the parmesan. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until piping hot.

On to week thirty-eight!