Cooking For Axl

What I would do for Axl Rose. In the kitchen, I mean.


January 9, 2014
by deborah

Warm the house up with Brisket!

I know the entire country is buried under snow right now, and I have no right to complain about how cold it is here in Phoenix, but it IS!  Cold, I mean.  Oh sure, it warms up during the day to a perfect 66 degrees under cloudless blue skies, but in the shade, well, you can get a shiver.  And let’s not forget night-time, when it reaches down to the 40′s.  That’s sweater weather right there, let me tell you.  To make us even more uncomfortable, our heater broke on the 30th of December and wasn’t fixed until the second of January because of the holiday.  We survived, of course, with blankets and a fire in the fireplace (even on no-burn days.  Sue me.)  I also thought a hunk of meat that required a long, slow roast would at least warm up the kitchen so I could venture in there for longer than it took to make a hot toddy before scurrying back to my nest of blankets and dogs.  It worked, too.  So here’s a great recipe for a long cold day that’s sure to warm up your tummy as well as parts of your house.

Beef Brisket, Texas Style


Beef Brisket
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A long slow roast of a flat cut brisket makes a perfect Texas Barbeque
Recipe type: Main Dish
Cuisine: American
Serves: 2

  • 1 flat cut brisket
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt
  • 1 tablespoon coarse ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon garlic granules or powder
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 bay leaf, crushed
  • 1½ cups beef broth or water

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Mix all spices together and press into the meat on all sides
  3. Roast uncovered 1 hour
  4. Remove roast from oven.
  5. Reduce temperature to 300
  6. Pour broth into roasting pan
  7. Cover tightly with tin foil
  8. Roast 3 hours longer
  9. Remove roast from oven
  10. Allow to rest 15 to 20 minutes
  11. Cut across the grain for sandwiches or with the grain to shred



sausage soup

December 22, 2013
by deborah

Feed your holiday visitors Sausage & Escarole Soup

Are you inundated with visitors this holiday season?  Of course you are!  Everybody is!  For those of us in Phoenix, we tend to get a lot of visitors around this time of year since it’s the only place in the country that’s not buried in snow.  We do our holiday shopping in t-shirts and sandals.  We have to open a window when baking cookies because it gets too hot in the kitchen.  We decorate cactus and pretend it’s a douglas fir.  We suffer through the hell of summer just so we can lord it over the rest of the nation with bloody marys on the patio Christmas morning.   Who wouldn’t want to bask in the winter sun during the day and sit by a cute little fire in the chiminea when the sun goes down?   Our frozen relatives, that’s who!

Over many years of frequent visitors, announced and surprise, here are a few tips to keep them fed without you becoming a short order cook.  You’re welcome.

  • Get a fully cooked ham and keep it in the fridge.  A loaf or two of bread on the countertop and a few varieties of mustard will fill in a lot of gaps between meals and your guests won’t feel uncomfortable helping themselves to a ham sandwich when you’re not around.  The ham can also be a filling for omelets, served along a fried egg or incorporated into soups.
  • A few varieties of deli salads on hand to go with the sandwiches would be a nice touch too.
  • A bowl of fruit on the table is handy and everyone can help themselves to a healthy snack.
  • Yogurt cups in the fridge are great for breakfast or snacks.
  • Donuts!
  • A big container of home-made soup in the fridge next to the ham and you have meals for everyone, all day and night.

When I know I’m going to have house guests, I do all of the above.  This year, I made Sausage and Escarole Soup.  This is the soup to feed the masses.  It can be stretched farther than your Aunt Minnie’s yoga pants and still satisfy the hearty eaters.  It can be made vegan, vegetarian or with meat.  It’s very forgiving, and delicious.   Try it!



Feed your holiday visitors Sausage & Escarole Soup
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Feed the Masses with Sausage & Escarole Soup. It can be stretched into infinity and still tastes great!
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound loose ground italian sausage
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 potato, cubed
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 1 32 oz box chicken broth
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 15 oz can cannellini beans, rinsed
  • 1 head escarole, washed and chopped, stems removed
  • parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup cream or half and half (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon butter (optional)

  1. Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium high heat.
  2. Brown the sausage in the oil, breaking up large chunks, until no longer pink.
  3. While sausage is browning, microwave the cubed potatoes with scant teaspoon of oil for 3 minutes.
  4. Add the onions and garlic, cook until onions are soft and shiny.
  5. Deglaze the pan with ½ cup white wine, stir to remove any browned bits off the bottom.
  6. Reduce heat, add the potato, beans, escarole and chicken broth.
  7. Simmer 15 minutes, or until the potato is soft and the escarole has wilted.
  8. Season with salt and pepper.
  9. Serve with parmesan cheese.
  10. Creamy Variation:
  11. After potatoes are soft, add the cream and butter, stir until butter is melted
  12. Vegan/vegetarian Variation:
  13. Omit sausage and substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth
  14. Feed More People:
  15. Add 1 or more cans of the beans, another potato, and/or more escarole
  16. More substitutions:
  17. Can’t find Escarole? Use greens such as kale, mustard, or spinach. The kale and mustard will take longer to cook as they are tougher. Removing the stems will help cut the cooking time down.
  18. No Potato? Use a couple peeled carrots instead.
  19. Substitute the cannellini beans with great northern (white) beans or other soft white bean.


Chicken and Dumplings2

October 13, 2013
by deborah

Wardrobe Malfunction

Remember when I promised that what happens in the kitchen will stay on the video?  Since then, a lot has gone on in my kitchen that made it to video and I think I’ve done pretty well with that.  I’ve filmed and posted epic kitchen fails, mishaps, injuries and food catching on fire.  I’ve caught my friends pick food up from the floor and eat it.  I’ve seen what my dogs do when my back is turned (the big one helps herself to whatever’s on the counter.  The little one catches the scraps tha fly off the spoon.)  No cuss word is edited out nor do I pretend something went well if it didn’t.  All in all, when the camera is rolling, I’m in it like live TV.  But, this time I had trouble deciding whether to post this video.    I didn’t realize I was having a wardrobe malfunction until well into the process and by then it was either scrap the whole thing or just acknowledge it and move on.  I chose the latter.  Because nothing says ‘real life’ like a pair of underwear dangling out of the leg of your pants while you’re making dinner.


Chicken and Dumplings
Leftover roast chicken is incorporated into a tasty, hearty weeknight stew
Recipe type: Stew
Serves: 4

  • Remainder of one roasted chicken
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and sliced medium thickness
  • 3 ribs of celery, trimmed and sliced medium thickness
  • 6 to 8 cups chicken stock, vegetable stock or water
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 cups flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup milk

  1. Place the roast chicken in the top of a steamer over 3 cups of water.
  2. Cover and steam for 10 minutes or until the meat is soft and pliable
  3. While chicken is steaming, put butter in a large stock pot and heat to medium high.
  4. Saute onions, carrots and celery in the butter until the celery is fragrant.
  5. While vegetables are cooking, remove the chicken from the steamer and set aside.
  6. Once the celery begins to get soft, pour the water from the steamer into the large pot.
  7. Season with salt and pepper
  8. Add six cups of chicken stock, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 20-25 minutes, or until the carrots can be pierced easily with a fork.
  9. While the vegetables are cooking, debone the chicken. Discard the bones and any gristle, fat or skin. Set the chicken pieces aside.
  10. Make the dumplings by combining the flour, baking powder, butter, salt, sugar and milk in a large bowl.
  11. Mix together until a soft dough forms. Add more liquid if needed.
  12. Turn out the dough to a floured work surface and gently form a ball.
  13. Pinch off golf-ball sized pieces and gently roll. Set aside.
  14. When the carrots are soft, add the chicken to the pot.
  15. Add more chicken broth if needed to fully cover the chicken and vegetables.
  16. Turn up the heat to medium high until boiling.
  17. Drop the dumplings in the boiling stew and cover.
  18. Cook for 10 minutes or until the dumplings are cooked all the way through.
  19. (Test by opening a dumpling with 2 forks. It should look like bread inside.)
  20. Ladle into bowls
  21. Garnish with parsley if desired

Chicken and Dumplings2

chicken with fennel

October 5, 2013
by deborah

Chicken with Fennel

Aside from turning my oven into a smoke machine, this post is about as boring as it gets.  The chicken pieces looked the same coming out of the oven as they did when they went in.  The wine was more attractive than the dish, really.  I was far too tired to make any witticisms (not that I’m all that, but I do try to be entertaining.)  Nothing extraordinary happened.  All I can say is at least we ate, which lately hasn’t been a priority for either of us.

Chicken with fennel is a delicious, quick dish that has a lot of company appeal to it if you suddenly find yourself in need of a ‘nice’ dish to serve up.  Fennel may not be on your list of regular vegetables at the grocery, but it’s a nice change and it’s not so exotic that your family will look at it with suspicion.  It pairs particularly well with oranges, which are a nice complement to the chicken too.  If you don’t use all of it in this dish, slice it thin, add some fresh orange slices and some green onion for a pretty salad later in the week or for lunch.



Chicken with Fennel
Chicken is baked with fennel, onions and white wine for a company ready dish that is quick enough for weekdays too.
Recipe type: Main Dish

  • Six pieces of chicken, any type, skin on
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • One bulb of fennel, fronds removed and set aside, and sliced into rings
  • One large onion, sliced pole to pole
  • One large garlic clove, minced
  • ¾ cup white wine
  • One tablespoon dried fennel seeds, crushed slightly
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • zest of one orange

  1. Heat oil in a large saute pan. When hot, add the chicken and brown on all sides. Remove from pan and place in a baking dish.
  2. Add garlic to the oil in the pan, turning the heat down if needed.
  3. When garlic is fragrant, add the sliced onion and fennel bulb and stems.
  4. Saute the vegetables until the onion begins to soften.
  5. Add the wine and simmer to reduce slightly.
  6. Add the fennel seeds, red pepper and orange zest.
  7. Stir together and heat through.
  8. Pour all the vegetables and wine over the chicken.
  9. Bake in a 350 oven for 30 minutes or until chicken has reached an internal temperature of 160.
  10. Garnish with orange slices and chopped fennel fronds.


Pork Chops in Mustard Cream Sauce

September 20, 2013
by deborah

Pork Chops in a Flash

Man, oh man.  Sometimes the days rush by so fast I can barely catch my breath much less something to eat.  It’s been one of those months.  My meal preparation has been primarily throwing some cheese and bread on a plate, washing it down with copious amounts of wine and tossing the dishes in the trash (’cause they’re paper, don’tcha know.)  I did manage to make a complete meal the other day with pork chops Paul brought home from the grocery.  Now that I am thinking about it, I can’t recall him ever purchasing actual food.  He usually stops and gets all the stuff I won’t buy like chips, goldfish crackers, cookies and ice cream.  Bringing home a pork chop must have been a very desperate move on his part.  It worked, too, because I saw the meat in the refrigerator and figured I better do something with it or risk throwing it out or being thrown out.

So, on to the chops.  They were your standard issue pork chops in the family size package.  It was a bit of overkill for just the two of us, and once again I realize he was probably hoping I’d cook them all just so there would be something he could eat for a few days while I blasted from one work-related committment to another.  I had two purple artichokes in the fridge that needed to be cooked so I stuffed them into the top of my steamer while I made pork chops in a wine and mustard cream sauce.   Some rice on the side made a meal and we ate together like normal people.

Pork Chops in a Flash
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Seared pork chops covered with a cream sauce made with white wine, mustard and shallots
Recipe type: Main Dish
Serves: 3-4

  • 4 to 6 pork chops or medallions
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, sliced thin
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1 cup half and half

  1. Season both sides of chops with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large saute pan until very hot. Sear the pork chops two or three at a time, 4 minutes on each side, until internal temperature reaches 150 degrees.
  3. Remove pork chops from pan, set on a plate, cover with foil and keep warm in the oven.
  4. Turn heat down to medium, saute the shallot and garlic in the oil left in the pan.
  5. When shallot and garlic are soft and translucent, add the wine to deglaze.
  6. Simmer the wine until it has reduced by half.
  7. Add the mustard and stir until incorporated.
  8. Turn the heat to low, add the half and half. Simmer gently until slightly thickened.
  9. Remove the chops from the oven, arrange on a plate.
  10. Pour the sauce over the chops. Garnish with fresh parsley if desired.


September 8, 2013
by deborah
1 Comment

The Great Vacation Wine Tour

Bar after party








I have not been cooking much.  I have, however, been keeping myself entertained with a variety of projects and events.  One of those events actually gets underway in May and culminates in a big, end of summer blowout we call “The Great Vacation Wine Tour.”  It is a little like telling your grade school classmates what you did on your summer vacation.  Only with wine.  I thought it would be fun to tell you how to host one for yourself and your friends.  So, here goes -

In late spring, before the summer begins and people start heading off for vacation, send out a message to your friends using Evite or post an event on Facebook.  Tell them that in the late summer (choose a date now – don’t wait) you will be hosting a wine tasting and ask that where ever they head for vacation (even if it’s a stay-cation) to bring back a bottle of wine that represents how they spent their summer.  Encourage your friends to post their plans.  It may take some prompting from you throughout the summer, but as they begin to read the other posts they’ll participate in the discussion with their own vacation ideas.  We throw this event open to practically everybody we know and send out about 100 invites.   You don’t have to invite the world, of course.  Just as many as you feel comfortable.  I can say with all honesty that after 15 bottles it’s basically a free-for-all.

About a month before the party date, update your event page or email with the details for the party.  Time, location, style, etc.  We make it a very relaxed event with a pot luck dinner, swimming in the pool (remember that in Arizona it’s still over 100 degrees in September) and casual dress.  We also insist that everyone pack an overnight bag and leave it in their car so that they are prepared if they can’t drive home.  There will be a LOT of wine consumed.  Nobody needs to take the risk.

Prepare for the party by purchasing a poster board and marker.  Hang this someplace prominent in whatever room you’ll be using for the event.  As your guests arrive they write down their name, where their wine came from and what type wine it is.  Have plenty of water on ice so your guests have something besides wine to drink.  No need for any other beverages unless you want to offer soft drinks to the non-imbibers.

Now, you must resist the urge to give everyone a nice, pretty, full size wine glass.  This will only lead to trouble, so put the pretty glasses away.  Everyone gets a shot glass to drink from.  No, really.  This is the only time I will recommend you use plastic glasses for wine, but you’ll thank me later.  Buy a sleeve of them at the party store.  You’ll need at least two per person.

As your guests arrive, have a place to keep the white wine chilled (a cooler or something filled with ice is ideal) and put the reds together on a table or sideboard.  After you have four or five bottles collected, start the tasting.  Don’t worry if all your friends haven’t arrived yet.  They’ll catch up soon enough and you’ll have wine flowing pretty much all evening.  If you want to,  offer small glasses of sparkling wine to everyone just to give them something to hold on to until the tasting starts.

Going in more-or-less order down the poster, have your guests present the wine he or she brought and say a few words on why they chose it.  They can then pour a sample into each persons shot glass so everyone gets a taste.  Take a moment to enjoy the wine, then move on to the next bottle.  In the beginning, there may not be as many tasters as there is wine, but shortly that will reverse and you’ll have more tasters than you will have wine in each bottle.    Resist the urge to ‘finish off’ the bottle but definitely if someone wants another taste go for it.

Those who truly brought something they want to share will make sure to be there early.  Get to those wines first even if you have to skip a little.  A lot of your guests will bring wine but won’t necessarily want to showcase it.  Leave those for a little later in the evening.  At some point the wine consumption will shorten attention spans and all anyone will want to do is chat, flirt, dance and drink.  (You can bring out the wine glasses now.  Use plastic.  Trust me.)

The stories you hear will range from the exotic (we had wine from Germany, Italy, Greece and Argentina,) the practical (California, Oregon and local Arizona made,) to the hilarious.  One girl stated that since she went to Costco every week the entire summer she brought the Costco bargain brand, and one friend said she didn’t go anywhere this summer and then not only produced pictures of her standing in a bucket of grapes, she lifted up her floor length dress to reveal ‘wine stained’ feet!   Two friends brought apple pie flavored moonshine from Walmart (definitely not wine) so they teamed up on the spot and improvised  a story about how they spent all summer squeezing apples to make a home brew.  For my contribution, I told my guests about my trip to Malibu and how our ‘search’ for Axl Rose’s house was abandoned as soon as we saw a winery at the base of the canyon on Highway 1.  I decided that since the winery was at the foot of Axl’s street he must go there a lot, therefore we were all going to taste “Axl’s” wine.

This event is a much-anticipated end-of-summer soire and one of our favorite parties to host.  Last night we had about 30 attendees, corked over 50 bottles of wine, hosted four overnight guests and had an extended coffee-and-donut breakfast in the cabana this morning.  I hope you try it, and if you do, let me know how it turns out, ‘k?


poblano pepper

July 24, 2013
by deborah
1 Comment

Does Axl Eat Breakfast?

Here’s a puzzler for you.  Does Axl Rose eat breakfast?  I’ve heard he is a night owl and this is offered up as an explanation for the late start times for his concerts.  What I want to know is, when he gets up does he have breakfast and coffee?  Is he an eggs n’bacon man?  A donut lover?  Does he sleep right through the morning and wake up to a roast beef sandwich?  Is he at least up in time for brunch?  There’s a reason I ask these important questions, you know.   Because if I was cooking for Axl IRL (in real life) and had to consistently serve him beautifully cooked omelette or waffles or pancakes, I’d be fired.  Breakfast is not my best meal of the day.  I can’t keep the eggs from sticking to the pan.  My waffles are either undercooked or too crispy.   I always undercook the bacon.  I like to eat breakfast, but I’d rather somebody else cook it.  My own breakfasts more often than not consist of yogurt and fruit.  I can’t even make coffee consistently every day without forgetting one step or another.

The other morning I had an idea that I had high hopes for.  A roasted poblano pepper stuffed with chorizo, potatoes and cheese, topped with a fried egg.  It was ambitious, I must admit.  Roasting a fresh pepper, stuffing it, putting an egg on it.  The process is simple but still… I can mess up even the simplest of breakfasts.   I did it, and I think it turned out all right.  Delicious, in fact.  So, basically, no matter what time Axl eats breakfast, this is what I’d serve him.





Does Axl Eat Breakfast?
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A poblano pepper stuffed with breakfast!
Recipe type: Breakfast
Cuisine: Mexican
Serves: 2

  • 2 large green poblano peppers
  • 1 potato, diced
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • ¼ yellow onion, diced
  • ½ lb fresh chorizo
  • ½ cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tomato, chopped (optional)
  • Fresh Cilantro for garnish (optional)

  1. Roast the poblano peppers by cutting a slit down the center and across the top, creating two flaps large enough to remove the seeds without splitting the pepper in half. Place the peppers under the broiler, turning occasionally, until the skin is blistered and blackened. Remove the peppers and immediately seal in a plastic bag for 5 to 10 minutes. After the peppers have been steamed, peel off the blackened skin and discard. Set Aside.
  2. In a medium bowl add the diced potato and olive oil. Toss to coat. Microwave for 2 to 3 minutes, until fork tender. Set aside.
  3. In a large saute pan add the chorizo and onion. Stir and cook until the onion is translucent. Add the cooked potatoes and oil. Stir and cook until the chorizo is fully cooked and the potatoes begin to get crispy on the edges. Remove from heat.
  4. Place the cooked peppers on a square of foil. Carefully open the peppers and stuff with the chorizo mixture. Top with grated cheese. Place in the still warm oven until cheese has melted. Remove from oven and place on individual plates.
  5. Fry the eggs and top the peppers with a fried egg.
  6. Garnish with chopped tomato and cilantro.

Shrimp Stir Fry and Cauliflower Rice

July 17, 2013
by deborah

When Life Hands You Vegetables, Make Stir Fry!

Have you ever had a flimsy plastic tray of random  broccoli chunks, ‘baby’ carrots and other vegetables lurking in your refrigerator slowly going bad because you didn’t know what to do with it?  I can see it now – the ten broccoli florets getting soft because really, who likes raw broccoli?   The four sugar snap peas that were hiding under the broccoli and didn’t get eaten (because they go first, don’t they?)  The carrots, tomatoes and celery sticks all jumbled together and popping out of the tray every time you push it aside to reach for something else.  I know.  I’ve been there.  In fact, I was there last night.  My tray had broccoli, some sugar snap peas, carrots and grape tomatoes rolling around going bad while a full head of cauliflower got pushed to the back of the very bottom shelf where I couldn’t see it.  Four wilted spring onions and half a white onion were in the vegetable crisper, looking sad and forlorn.  It was a sorry veggie mess, I tell you.  Sticking to my committment not to waste a morsel of good food, I needed to do something fast.  Stir fry seemed to be the best option given the random assortment of vegetables.

A quick survey of the freezer produced a bag of frozen jumbo shrimp.  Easy to thaw, quick to cook.  After rooting around the pantry I found a container of mandarin oranges too.  Dinner was taking shape!  The cauliflower was going to be a stand in for rice, so I could use that all up as well.  Now, I do have to say something here.  I read a lot of recipes.  A LOT.  And the ones I detest are the ones where the author is crowing about this great new meal she ‘discovered’ by combining the remnants of the refrigerator into a casserole dish.  That is not a recipe, it’s a Hail Mary.    When I post about how to use up leftovers, I am hoping that the lesson here is about creativity and using what you have.  Anyway, I just suddenly felt the need to clarify my motivation.  Sorry for the interruption.

OK, the ‘rice’.  I learned about cauliflower rice while on the HCG diet.  It’s simply a head of cauliflower processed in the chopper until it resembles rice and then cooked. (And thanks to my neighbor Karen, who sat off camera and reminded me that I neglected to tell anyone you had to chop it up first.)   After the diet was over I experimented with the preparation and came up with what I think is not only acceptable, but preferrable to starchy, carb laden, white rice.  Try it, and decide for yourself.

I want to mention one of the products I used in the recipe also.  Walden Farms has a line of sugar, carb, gluten, fat and calorie free sauces and condiments.  I have no idea how they manage that, but the products taste pretty good and are a good base to build on.  I’m not too keen on the fact that they use Splenda (an artificial sweetener) but otherwise like the fact that I can cut a lot of unnecessary calories out of my meals.   I jazz up the asian dressing with some sherry and then thicken it slightly with ultra gel.  If I were making the sauce from scratch I’d use soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, ginger, a little hoison sauce and ultra gel or cornstarch.  Again, your call.

So, one last thing.  I had a dream about Axl last night.  I was following him around a party while carrying a sofa.  We never sat on the sofa, but I had to stop a lot and eventually he walked off with my girlfriend (who is very pretty AND single.)  So I’m either feeling rather burdened by something or stuck my toe over the border of crazytown. You decide.


When Life Hands You Vegetables, Make Stir Fry!
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Need to use up that veggie tray from your last party? Make Stir Fry! Shrimp, mandarin oranges and random vegetables served over cauliflower ‘rice’ will make that tray go away!
Recipe type: Main Dish
Serves: 3

  • 1 head of Cauliflower
  • 2 cups Assorted Vegetables – Carrots, Cauliflower, Onion, Snap Peas
  • 1 lb Shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 can or container of Mandarin Oranges in light syrup
  • 1 tbs Sesame Oil
  • 1 tbs Olive Oil
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • ½ cup Walden Farms Asian Dressing
  • 1 tbs Sherry
  • 1 tsp Corn Starch or Ultra Gel
  • Red Pepper Flakes
  • 4 green onions, chopped

  1. Cut cauliflower into florets, then pulse in the food processor until the pieces resemble rice. Set aside
  2. Cut all vegetables (except snap peas) into roughly one inch pieces
  3. In a medium bowl, pour the oranges and syrup over the shrimp and set aside.
  4. Heat a wok or large slope sided pan to medium high heat.
  5. Add 1 tbs sesame oil
  6. When oil is hot, add the vegetables and stir frequently until they are just tender.
  7. While vegetables are cooking, heat a nonstick skillet to medium heat.
  8. Add 1 tbs olive oil
  9. When oil is hot, add 3 cups or more of Cauliflower, stir frequently until the cauliflower turns a light golden color.
  10. Season generously with black pepper.
  11. In a small bowl, mix asian dressing, sherry, cornstarch or ultra gel and red pepper flakes to taste..
  12. When the vegetables are cooked, add the shrimp, oranges and shallot. Stir frequently until shrimp turns a uniform pink.
  13. Add sauce and stir until incorporated
  14. Serve over cooked cauliflower


July 3, 2013
by deborah
1 Comment

I’m cooking. Sort of.

So, I’m done with the HCG diet, down to a solid 126 and pretty pleased overall.  I was afraid I’d shoot right back up once I was off both the appetite suppressant and the hormones, but just like the brochure said, my body will adjust to it’s “new normal.”    Even so, I’ve been a little afraid of eating anything not on my original “approved list.”   After a month of suffering – plus a marginally large outlay of cash – I don’t want to ruin my hard-earned success.    I’ve been pretty careful about what I’m eating.  Plus, we’ve had a lot of activity at the house lately, and I have not done a whole lot of cooking.  Besides, Axl’s been on an extended stay in New York City before going to Toronto for a few concerts.  He’s eating just fine right now.

First of all, for those of you who live outside of Phoenix – it’s been hot here.  Unbelievably, insufferably, hot.  This past weekend we hit 121 degrees.  That is not a record, believe it or not, but it is hotter than I can recall since the early 80′s.  We sent out an APB to every person we knew and told them to come over and get in the pool.  No party, no festivity, no occasion.  Just get in the water.  This is survival, folks.   We supplied as much liquid refreshment as we had available; people brought random food items with them (a bunch of grapes, a handful of kale, six pounds of Italian sausage) and we suffered through it.   We floated, we drank, we kept each others heads above water.  Naps were taken, dogs fell in the pool, bathing suits were discarded. ( Nothing like banding together as if it were the last hours on earth.)  By dusk Sunday evening, the worst was over and everyone was safe to go back home.  We made it through.

My kitchen was relatively unscathed during the weekend’s activities, but we had a lot of food left over.  Both Paul and I brought home bags of cherries which went largely uneaten.  A dozen or so cucumbers were still hanging around as was a big bag of lemons.  A friend brought over the remainders of her CSA box, and inside were two lemon cucumbers.  I had never seen or heard of them, but I instantly knew what I would do with them.  Pickles!

I’ve recently learned how to preserve foods and when I get a bounty of vegetables I am trying to keep them from going to waste before we can eat everything.   Over the past couple of days, I’ve been preserving as much of the foods as possible so nothing goes to waste.  I found recipes on the internet and in magazines, but do not want to post them here as canning is a science that can go very wrong if done improperly.  Since I am famous for tinkering with ingredients I have no desire to publish something that may end up giving someone botulism.  (Interestingly, I have no issues giving my friends the final canned product. )

Here’s what I’ve done so far:

Boozy Cherries – Pitted sweet cherries are cooked briefly in a mixture of maple syrup, whiskey, orange peels, cinnamon sticks and vanilla, then poured into jars and canned in a water bath.










Garlic Dill Pickles – Persian cucumbers and lemon cucumbers are sliced and packed in jars.  To each jar I added a tablespoon of mustard seed, one crushed garlic clove and one wee dried chili pepper.  Vinegar, salt, sugar,  dill and celery seed are boiled until sugar is dissolved, then poured into the jars.  Canned in a water bath.










Preserved Lemon and rosemary – Lemon ends are trimmed and then quartered.  Seeds are removed and  then begin smushing them in jars with salt sprinkled on each layer.  Stuff fresh rosemary sprigs in the jar and add lemon juice if needed to cover all the citrus.  Refrigerate and add more lemon juice if necessary.







June 15, 2013
by deborah

HCG Diet and What I learned

I’m done with the Phase 2 portion of the HCG diet, and have moved on to three weeks of a little more lenient eating plan.  Still no sugar or carbs and very little fat, but my options have increased dramatically and I can now eat 1200 calories per day instead of 500.  For those of you who are considering this type of diet, here are a few tips to help you live  through the 28 days of 500 calories.

Purchase the nicest fruits, meats and vegetables you can find.  A mealy apple will ruin your whole day when you are so limited.

Three and one half ounces of meat is only five bites.  If you drop one and the dog eats it, your spouse may have to restrain you from doing harm to yourself. (You won’t have enough energy to chase the dog, so he is safe.)

Buy all your allowed foods before starting the diet or you will find yourself eating wilted celery sticks because you are ravenous and didn’t plan ahead.  Take some time to make salads and sauces so you have them available and ready.

Crystal Light packets in lemon can be used to sweeten up the apple slices, the orange flavor can be used to make an oriental chicken and the berry flavor can be blended up with the strawberries to make a smoothie.

The Walden Farms products are pretty good and can be used as a base for sauces.

Be kind to yourself during this month.  Get a pedicure, float in the pool, read a trashy novel.  Anything to give yourself a nice treat that doesn’t include food.

Eating out on this diet is a challenge in restaurants, but in Mexican restaurants it’s impossible.

I used more milk in my coffee than was allowed.  The benefits outweighed the negatives.

Black coffee with some sugar free hazelnut syrup and poured over crushed ice was a lifesaver.

If you don’t have a good non-stick skillet, invest in one.  Same for a steamer.

I can achieve the same results using a little chicken broth and a non stick pan without needing oils or butter.

I’m allergic to Stevia.

I didn’t suffer the DT’s after quitting alcohol cold turkey.   That was a relief.

When faced with a cooking challenge, I can deliver!

If your weight loss goal is minimal, some people will criticize your efforts.  I heard this a lot:  “you’re a size 8?  I would KILL to look like you.”  I thought this a lot: ” I would kill myself if I looked like YOU.”

You will be hungry.  No getting around it.  But the hunger is manageable and only slightly annoying.  The crystal light drink mixes helped most often when my need to snack hit.  Usually in the late afternoons.

It took me 2 weeks to realize ‘unlimited lettuce’ meant I could have a mixed green salad at every meal.   It sure amped up my plate both in visual appeal and volume.

Make sure you eat all the perishables in your refrigerator on your load days, or you will be watching the cheese, yogurt, bread and milk die a slow, lonely death.

Don’t leave meals up to chance.  If you attend lots of breakfast or lunch meetings, bring backup or you’ll be forced to pick the lettuce and tomato off a sandwich for your meal.  Celery sticks and a small piece of cooked chicken will save you from certain death.  Go ahead and eat your apple in restaurants; they don’t care.

Unflavored gelatin is a good binding agent for ground beef.   Keeps it moist, too.  It works well as a thickener too, just soften a little in some cold water for five minutes and then mix into sauces.

Restaurants, as a whole, were unable to manage a meal with the unique dietary restrictions.  Or just couldn’t be bothered.  I spent most of my limited restaurant mealtime picking out forbidden vegetables from salads (shredded carrots, croutons), asking for items not normally served (red wine vinegar).  There was just no creativity when flavoring foods for me.  I ate a lot of plain grilled burger patties and chicken breasts.

My cooking is a lot better than most restaurants, no question.  It was before, and it is doubly so for unique meals.

I miss exercising.  Didn’t think I’d ever say that, but it’s true.

You WILL eat food dropped on the floor if you don’t have a replacement. (And the dog didn’t see it.)

So, would I do this again?  I’m not sure.  I didn’t lose as much as I anticipated, but I am pretty happy with the results as a whole.  I’m on phase 3 now, and will continue to slowly lose weight until I stabilize at my ideal.  If I don’t get back into an exercise program I can easily see my weight climb back up – phase 3 is not too much different than what I was eating prior to the HCG program, so the added physical activity will be a must.    A number of people mentioned that they would go on this diet if I was the one preparing the meals for them.  I’d love to do that for someone, or a group of people all at once (easier for me to make meals in quantity) to help them achieve their weight loss goals.  Hit me up, maybe we can work something out!

Here are a few more meals I made with the ingredients I was allowed to have.

Stuffed Poblano Chili









Roasted Poblano Chili stuffed with spiced beef and a sauce of adobo chilis and tomatoes.

Mexican Shrimp Cocktail & Radish Salad









Mexican style shrimp cocktail and an orange and radish salad

Ginger orange chicken over cauliflower rice









Ginger Orange Chicken over Cauliflower ‘rice’

Roasted Onion









Roasted Onion topped with a buffalo mayonnaise made with Walden Farms Mayo

Side Salad









Side Salad with Walden Farms Dressing

Poached Fish









Lemon poached fish with cucumber and tomato salad