Create Warm, Fall Flavors with Ingredients You Have on Hand!

autumn chickenYesterday felt incredibly fall-like to me.  Maybe it was the crunchy leaves under my shoes or the mock ‘pumpkin patches’ being put up on every street corner.  I was craving something warm and soulful, hearty and earthy.  I went to the grocer’s and bought a whole roaster chicken and decided I would use whatever I had in the pantry to spice the little guy up, for dinner. 

The main ingredients in the marinade were tomato paste, red wine (“two-buck chuck” as I’ve heard it referred to), cinnamon, allspice, garlic and chicken broth.  While it was cooking, Mr. Cheese commented that it smelled like we were cooking Thanksgiving dinner.  Did I mention the holidays are coming up way too fast, for my taste?  maple leaves

In addition to plates of sweet and savory chicken with warm and earthy hints of tomato, plum and cinnamon, we shared some simple edamame and made our plans for pumpkin carving.       

Roasted Autumn Chicken

  • 5 pound whole chicken
  • 1/4 cup red wine (we used Charles Shaw 2008 Cabernet)
  • 2/3 cup tomato paste
  • 2/3 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon minced onion
  • 1 pinch garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

How to Make It!

To prep the chicken for cooking, remove the neck and any packaged gizzards from inside.  Rinse the chicken inside and out and pat dry.  To add an extra bit of flavor, you can put onion, celery and carrots or other aromatics inside of the chicken.  I left this one empty.  (gasp!)

Mix the remaining ingredients in a small bowl and coat the chicken thoroughly.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees and cook at about 30 minutes per pound or until no longer pink and liquid runs clear.  Cover with foil once chicken is browned to your liking.  Let rest for about 10 minutes prior to serving.  Serves 4 (Try using the rest for a crazy-good chicken salad the next day!)


Posted in Autumn, chicken, food, herbs & spices, Home, marinades, recipes | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Sausage Fried Rice w/Homemade Soy Sauce

Sausage Fried RiceA couple of months ago, I was way too excited about buying some polish sausage from a friend and ended up with about 8 pounds of the stuff in my freezer.  It is some pretty incredible sausage, but it has taken over our household.  When all else fails and that ever popular question “what’s for dinner?” has no quick answer, sausage is the go-to ingredient for us.       polish sausage

In an effort to lower that inventory, I rounded up some other odds and ends last night and found I had everything I needed to make a delicious fried rice but was completely out of soy sauce.  This can’t be!  How can you make fried rice with no soy sauce?!  Rather than switch gears, I looked it up on-line and found a homemade soy sauce recipe sans soy.  Crazy as it sounds, it tasted spot-on!  The perfect tang of sweet and salty.  Thank you Misshomemade for the recipe, because my Sausage Fried Rice would not have been the same without it.     

Sausage Fried Rice w/Homemade Soy Sauce                                                             soy sauce recipe courtesy of Miss Homemade

  • 2 & 1/2 cups cooked white rice
  • 2 Tablespoons sesame oilSFR Mise en place
  • 1 leek, small chop
  • 1/4 Vidalia onion, small dice
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 1 pound polish sausage, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 Tablespoons homemade soy sauce (recipe here)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar

How to Make It!

Heat a large wok or frying pan over medium-high heat and add the sesame oil.  Once hot, add the vegetables and let cook until softened, about 1-2 minutes.  Add the sausage and cook for another 3-5 minutes or so, until done.  The pieces will be small and the pan should be very hot, so it will not take long to cook.  Meanwhile, scramble the eggs together in a small bowl. 


Push the sausage and veggies toward the sides of the wok or pan, and add the scrambled egg to the center of the pan.  Allow them to cook for a minute, then stir throughout.  Once the egg is about cooked, add the rice and toss to mix. 

The idea is to stir the ingredients in a way that combines them but doesn’t mush the rice.  Give it 2-3 minutes for the rice to heat through, then add the soy sauce and toss to coat.  Finally, toss in the scallions and allow another minute to heat through.  Serves 4 

Posted in food, Home, how-to, international cuisine, leeks, pork, recipes, rice, sausage | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Turkey Roll with Ham, Fontina and Creamy Tarragon Sauce

Turkey Roll with Ham, Fontina and Creamy Tarragon SauceThe weather is turning chilly enough for us to start playing with heartier, more fortifying ingredients.  For some reason, everything in me the other day wanted to make something with turkey.  Not a whole roasted bird or anything ground, but something different.  A play on chicken cordon bleu but without the bleu.  Without the chicken, really. 

What we came up with was a huge turkey breast, butterflied and tenderized, then rolled with super-thin sliced ham and oh-so-melt-in-your-mouth fontina cheese.  Once baked, then smothered in creamy tarragon sauce, it was apparent that this was exactly what the doctor ordered.  The saltiness from the ham met with the creaminess of fontina cheese and the warm, slight hint of anise from the tarragon.  A definite keeper for chilly autumn nights.   

Turkey Roll with Ham, Fontina and Creamy Tarragon Sauce

  • 1 large turkey breast, butterflied
  • 1/4 pound thin-sliced deli ham
  • 6 ounces fontina cheese, sliced thin
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper

How to Make It!

With a meat tenderizer, even out any parts of the turkey breast that is thicker than the rest.  Rub olive oil on the inside of the breast and season with salt and pepper.  Top with thin slices of fontina cheese, then ham, then tightly roll and set down on seam side.  Rub olive oil on the outside of the roll and season with salt and pepper.  Cook in the oven at 350 degrees on the middle rack for about 35 to 45 minutes or until no longer pink and liquid runs clear.  Let rest for 10 minutes prior to cutting.  Serves 2 to 4

Creamy Tarragon Sauce

  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup white cooking wine
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves, chopped
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 8 ounces heavy cream
  • 1 Tablespoon unsweetened butter

How to Make It!

In a small sauce pan, heat the white wine vinegar and white wine together over medium heat.  Add the shallots and tarragon leaves and bring to a low bubble, and allow to reduce by 1/2.  Add the heavy cream and lower heat to medium-low.  A few minutes prior to serving, add the butter and allow it to melt, gently stirring to combine. 



Posted in Home, recipes, sauces, tarragon, turkey | 2 Comments

My Intro to Bulgogi & Kimbap

Tilapia & KimbapThe deli in my office building changed ownership a couple of months ago.  Now, phrases like “we sold out” and “it’s unbelievable!” are increasingly heard around the building.  Recently I went to the deli for turkey on wheat and got back on the elevator with an amazing array of tilapia soaked in miso and sake then grilled, along with a generous portion of pretty little slices of kimbap, or Korean sushi.  

Who knew the corporate crunch would educate me in the world of Korean cooking?  That smack in the middle of working on benefits and the most recent Worker’s Comp case, I could step downstairs and into a world of freshly made culinary awe?  Mr. New Deli Owner, that’s who!  They changed the menu, brightened up the place, began taking American Express (thank you) and business is booming! 

Before eating my lunch, I took the requisite picture and dove in.  The tilapia was out of this world, but the absolute star of the show was the kimbap.  I did research and learned that while kimbap looks like sushi, it isn’t.  The main difference I noted, is that no vinegar is used in the rice.  Instead, it has a warm and toasty taste of sesame oil with just a hint of salt.  Unlike sushi, when making kimbap you are working with all cooked ingredients which often include leftovers such as beef, crab, egg, chicken, carrot, cucumber, spinach, cheese, etc.  The sky is really the limit with this dish, but keep it simple and clean with just a few ingredients, like 3 or 4, with contrasting tastes and textures. 

I knew I wanted to use bulgogi, which is marinated, stir-fried beef used in korean barbecue.  That, along with scrambled egg, steamed julienned carrots, and pickled radish would be our test ingredients for our first shot at homemade kimbap.  We stumped the crew at the local grocer’s when we asked them for pickled radish.  You would have thought we asked for the dancing squirrel, which might have been easier for them to find.  We didn’t want to ask yet another person, so we gave up and used thin-sliced garlic-dill pickle.  (Maybe the next post you read here should be How to Pickle Your Radish – or At least Where to Store Them:  A Lesson for Grocers).   

The flavor combination was perfect.  Sweet, with just a hint of kiwi from the bulgogi marinade, but tempered by the sesame oil in the rice and the tart and sourness of the pickle.  The carrots added slight texture to round out the bite, making this dish a quick favorite in the Cheese Abode. 

Bulgogi or Marinated Beef

  • 1 pound rib eye, sliced very thinmise en place
  • 1/2 Vidalia onion, small dice
  • 1 kiwi, peeled and chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 4 Tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons fresh garlic, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup green onions, chopped

How to Make It!

The recipe I originally used said to put most of the ingredients in a food processor and blend until liquified, then add the green onion and marinate.  NO NEED.  There is no logical reason I see for doing that.  My suggestion is to mix the sugar, sesame oil, soy sauce and rice vinegar together in a bowl, add the remaining ingredients and refrigerate overnight.  Remove the meat and grill over medium-high heat or cook in a pre-heated pan, on the stove-top.      


  • 1 pound prepared bulgogikimbap prep
  • 2 cups white rice, cooked
  • 4 sheets roasted seaweed
  • 1/3 cup sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup carrots, julienned and steamed
  • 1/4 cup garlic-dill pickle, julienned
  • 2 eggs, scrambled

How to Make It!

Set up your mise en place, to make assembly easier.  Some sites, as well as my sushi post, suggest using plastic gloves dabbed with a touch of mayonnaise to prevent the rice from sticking to your fingers.  This go-around, I went sans gloves and dabbed my fingers in sesame oil, which did the trick. 

Lay a sushi mat down, and put a sheet of seaweed on top, shiny side down.  Spread rice on the seaweed, starting about 1/4 to 1/3 way down from the top.  Begin to set the ingredients down, starting with the bulgogi, in a straight line horizontally.  Continue adding ingredients, one at a time and right next to each other, about 1/4 of the way up from the bottom.  Leaving a margin at the top and the bottom, allows for a tightly rolled kimbap, without it bursting at the seam.  Once all ingredients are added, begin to roll the kimbap in the way you would a sleeping bag, using the sushi mat to assist in rolling it tightly.  Pull toward you, then roll – pull toward you, then roll, etc. 


kimbapWith a very sharp knife, slice the kimbap into 1/2 inch pieces and serve.  Mr. Cheese and I write the ends off as useless and scarf them down while preparing our plates.  Be careful when making these, as they will likely get eaten up just as quick as you can assemble them.  Serves 2-4


Posted in beef, food, how-to, korean cuisine, recipes, tilapia | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Brownies & Strawberry Preserves

Delicious!!I recently took a cue from this guy and used  Hammy’s 2 quarts of fresh strawberries to make homemade preserves.  Either I am really, really good at cooking or preserves are very easy to make.  Hammy even said partway through the cooking process “if this works, you are quitting your job and we are going into business!”  While the preserve making went just fine, I am happy to announce that I remain gainfully employed. 

Once I figured out how to make preserves, I knew we would want to incorporate them with some sort of chocolate.  Feeling super tired one night, but still wanting to make the  recipe, I spontaneously grabbed a box of brownie and cookie dough mix off the shelf, at the local grocer’s.  I guess the idea was to drop dollops of cookie dough mix into the brownie batter, then bake.  Since I am not a baker, Hammy and I agreed this would have to be the official Strawberry Preserve Delivery Method for us.  We would make the mix, stir in strips or whatnot of preserve into the finished product, prior to baking, and viola!  The end result was a rich, perfect balance between fudgy brownie, cookie dough and sweet, fresh strawberry.  

Brownies & Strawberry Preserves

  • 2 quarts of fresh strawberries
  • 4 cups of sugarstrawberry
  • 1 packet of fruit pectin (or 3 ounces) 
  • 1 box brownie mix plus eggs and oil or whatever the brownies call for.  OR, if you are a fabulous baker, make them from scratch.

How to Make It!

Rinse the strawberries and pat dry with clean paper towels, then ‘hull’ or cut out the green top from each strawberry.  Put them in a blender or food processor (the berries, not the green tops) and puree, but still leave a little bit chunky. 

Put the pureed strawberries in a pot over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.  Add the sugar and stir gently but constantly, until it is completely dissolved.  Following directions on the pectin wrapper (some are in powder form and need mixing with water, while some come in liquid form), add the liquid pectin to the strawberries and stir constantly, allowing to boil for another 60-90 seconds.  Remove from the heat and ‘skim’ or take off any bubbled foamy material from the top of the preserves. 

At this point, I poured the strawberries into a big, beautiful white Corning Ware container and let them chill on the counter for a while.  Once the brownies were prepared, I drizzled the preserves throughout the mix and baked them at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes.  Then, the Hammy and I ate all of the brownies.  And they were good.  

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Curried Carribean Chicken w/ Mango Salsa

Curried Carribean Chicken w/Mango SalsaMost of us have a membership to those super-warehouse stores that sell cheese, butter and the like in 10 pound blocks.  Mr. Cheese cannot exit our local big box without spending a couple hundred dollars and last week was no exception.  I came home from the office to find a box of 6 ginormous mangoes.  My mind started racing “mango shakes, mango preserves, uh, roasted….mango?”  Pressure.  What the hell was I going to do with 6 huge mangoes?   

I figured it out real quick when I began to cut into them and realized the pit was not part of the solution, at all.  While these guys looked big, the amount of edible meat that resulted was just enough to make a tasty mango salsa.  Paired with a curried Caribbean chicken recipe I’ve been wanting to try, it seems Mr. Cheese brought home just the right amount of mangoes to do the job. 

Curried Caribbean Chicken                                                                                           adapted from the New England Cookbook by Brooke Dojny

  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 3 Tablespoons white wine vinegar (we use Virginia Vinegar Works)
  • 1/4 cup diced scallionsBowl of Mango Cubes
  • 2 Tablespoons cashews, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons curry powder
  • 2 Tablespoons ginger, fresh grated
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

How to Make It!

In a large bowl, mix all ingredients except the chicken.  Add the chicken and put all in a large freezer bag and marinade in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.  Remove the chicken and cook on the grill, about 6-8 minutes per side, until no longer pink.  Serves 4 to 6 

Mango Salsa

  • 3 large mangoes, diced (unless you eat copious amounts of this stuff, then use 6)
  • 2 large tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 Vidalia onion, minced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon jalapeno pepper, minced (no seeds or stems)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, to taste

How to Make It!

I admit, I had never cut into a mango before making this salsa, and now I know why.  The mango pit seems to have cornered the market and doesn’t leave much room for the meat, itself.  Once you’re done wrestling with the mango and get all the meat you can, mix all ingredients – gently – in a large bowl and allow to sit in the refrigerator for an hour or so, to let the flavors blend.  Serves 8


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MUFAs, PUFAs, and EFAs, Oh My!

'sassy' prepPardon my lack of posting but I have been less than enthusiastic about food lately, because I am eating less of it.  Yeah, that’s right.  I bought the book.  Not because I am vain, but strictly because I no longer wish to suck in my belly so I can hide the 6-month preggo look.  No, I am not pregnant (ahem, THANK YOU, JESUS!) but tell that to my ever-so-bloaty-belly.  The goal is to be rid of the Buddha Belly. 

According to people who know my plight, it is due to the ‘female thing’, or stress.  They see what I eat and know I work out, yet I will gain weight where another normal person might lose a few pounds.  And it seems it’s all in the belly.  I was down to under 1000 calories a day to try to curb the issue but no.  Nothing doing.  Starvation or eating correctly, working out consistently or slacking around, various legal pharmeceuticals ifyouknowhatimean.  I have tried everything in the past month, to no avail.  

That being said, I finally pulled out the book.  The Flat Belly Diet from the Editors of Prevention.  Yes, it works.  Today is day seven and I feel fabulous.  Mr. Cheese pleaded for me to get on the scale last night and while I agree that a good portion of the 8 pounds I lost in a week’s time is likely water weight, my stomach is definitely smaller and I am feeling more energetic. 

The book explains the difference between good fats and bad fats and encourages readers to enjoy their favorite ‘MUFAs’, or monounsaturated fatty acids.  These can be found in different categories such as olives, oils, nuts & seeds, and yes – dark chocolate.  Sounds like this eating plan is right up my alley.  The book goes on to talk more about the difference between good fats and bad fats, including saturated fat and essential fatty acids.  All this talk of fat is sure making me hungry.

Now I am not one for diets.  Never have been.  I grew up in an italian-style ‘clean your plate’ household, where dessert would not be had until every crumb was eaten.  Thank goodness the folks at Prevention did their research and put together some tasty dishes in the book, so you aren’t deprived.  Ginger Shrimp Wrap with Snow Peas, Ricotta Calzone with Marinara, and even Peanut Butter and Banana on an English Muffin, for breakfast.  That’s good stuff. 

My very favorite recipe from the book is also the most simple – Sassy Water.  Granted, the name is a little cheesy (but so is this blog).  I cringed at the thought of drinking this water, but one sip and I was hooked.  I imagine it is something that would be served at the end of a long, blissful day at a spa, or frankly what should be served after a colonoscopy.  Whoever said plain water is the ‘nectar of the Gods’, clearly has never tasted this beverage.  Thin-sliced lemons, cucumber, ginger and mint leaves resting together overnight in a pitcher, then strained.  Light.  Refreshing.  Perfect.    

Posted in avocado, chocolate, Cookbooks, healthy, how-to, reviews | 2 Comments

Grilled Pomegranate Chicken

pomegranate chixRarely do I cook with pomegranates or their juice, but this recipe reeled me right in.  Though the ingredient list is fairly short, the finished product is huge on flavor when you combine chicken that has marinated overnight in pomegranate-cranberry juice, caramelize that coating on the grill, and add in sautéed Vidalia onions and walnuts. 

Adapted from the magazine Everyday with Racheal Ray, this inexpensive and easy dish may quickly become a family favorite! 

Grilled Pomegranate Chickenpomegranate

  • 2 cups cranberry-pomegranate juice
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic, fresh minced
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 Tablespoons parsley, fresh chopped
  • 1 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • pinch of black pepper
  • 1 Vidalia onion, halved and super-thin sliced
  • 1 & 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs

How to Make It!

In a large bowl, combine the juice, garlic, cinnamon, parsley, olive oil, salt and black pepper.  Mix thoroughly.  Reserve 1/4 cup of the marinade and refrigerate. 

Put the chicken thighs into a large freezer bag and pour the remaining marinade over the chicken.  Add the sliced onion, seal the bag and move the ingredients around to evenly coat the chicken.  Refrigerate for at least a day, preferably overnight. 

Get the grill going, pour your favorite drink and forget about mowing the lawn.  Place the chicken on the grill, to cook.  Meanwhile, strain the onions from the marinade.  In a saute pan over medium heat, cook the onions until slightly browned – adding the walnuts about 2-3 minutes into cooking.  Add the reserved marinade to the onions and walnuts, to deglaze the pan, and let reduce for a couple of minutes.  Pour over chicken and serve.  We enjoyed this without the suggested rice in Rachael’s recipe.  Serves 4 



Posted in chicken, Grilling, Home, pomegranate, recipes | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sit Back, Kick Your Feet Up & Enjoy a Gin Ricky

gin rickyThe gin ricky is our ‘go-to’ drink of the summer.  While we have found different versions, the Mr. Cheese and I prefer ours on the slushy side and one of my favorite things about the ricky, is that no sweeteners are involved.  When combined, the few ingredients seem to create a hint of coconut even though there is no coconut involved.  Legend has it the gin ricky was named after lobbyist ‘Colonel Joe’ Ricky after he’d had a couple of the drinks at Shoemaker’s in Washington, DC.   Whatever the origin, the Chalet de la Cheese is ohsohappy to have discovered this delicious beverage.  It took some fun and delicious, hot summer evenings of experimenting to get the right recipe for our taste buds, but we did it and the recipe below, hits the spot!

Gin Ricky

  • 1 cup crushed ice
  • 4 ounces gin (we use Seagram’s extra dry)
  • 1 & 1/2 ounces of lime juice
  • 8 ounces club soda
  • lime slices

How to Make It!

Put all ingredients, save the lime slices, in a blender and pulse to make a slushy.  Pour into your glass of choice, give a squirt of lime juice and add a lime slice.  Put the remaining mix in the freezer, for refills.  Go do a dance in the backyard and enjoy summer!   



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(Not Quite) Quiche with Bacon, Leeks & Sun-dried Tomatoes

viola!I have a confession.  I cannot make a Quiche.  At least in the formal, French sense of the dish, which includes cream and such.  I am unable to produce an edible product following the traditional methods.  My end result looks like curdly baby dribble.  Appetizing, no? 

Rather than give up, Mr. Cheese suggested we simply take our no-fail Spinach Pie recipe and change-up the ingredients a bit.  In an effort to make the dish healthier, we swapped some of the whole eggs for egg whites.  What we got was a mouth-watering combination of flavors, suspended in perfectly cooked eggs.  This will surely be our new ‘go-to’ dinner, for a while. 

(Not Quite) Quiche with Bacon, Leeks & Sun-dried Tomatoes

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 leeks, light green and white parts, thin sliced
  • 1/4 Vidalia onion, halved and very thin sliced
  • 8 eggs
  • 8 egg whitesdinner
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 Tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 cup mushrooms, diced
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked and chopped
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 9-inch pie crust
  • 1 egg yolk + 1 Tablespoon water

How to Make It!

In a small saute pan, heat some olive oil over medium heat and cook the leeks and onion until tender.  Set aside.  In another small pan, heat the remaining oil and saute the mushrooms until reduced and tender. 

In a large bowl, combine all of the eggs and egg whites, milk, nutmeg and salt and pepper.  Stir to mix thoroughly.  Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a small bowl, add 1 Tablespoon water to an egg yolk and stir to combine.  Brush this onto the outside of the pie crust, to give it a browned, shiny finish. 

Distribute the bacon, leeks, onion, mushrooms and tomatoes evenly in the pie crust, then pour the egg mixture on top.  Bake for about 25-35 minutes, until set.  I would like to say it serves 4, but if you are a hearty eater, like Mr. Cheese and myself, you and your better half may eat the entire thing.  So let’s say it serves 2. 

Posted in Breakfast, eggs, food, recipes | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment