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Cheese And Potato Vareniki, With Spinach, Bacon and Tomato


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I have to confess – I cheated when I prepared these Vareniki 😦
Instead of preparing the vareniki/pierogi dough fresh and rolling it into thin sheets before cutting, filling, folding and sealing it, I used 1 lb store-bought fresh pasta sheets and my trusted ravioli/pierogi-mold. Not necessarily because I am lazy (well, sometimes I am), but mainly because my counter space is tiny and making fresh pasta dough and stuffed dumpling always results in a huge mess, with flour everywhere, requiring a lot of time to get the kitchen spick and span again.
(However, I do know how to make the dough fresh. 🙂
I have made it a hundred times and I am therefore not embarrassed to admit to the store-bought sheets and the mold) 🙂
The rest of the dish is as easy and quick as 1-2-3. Cook the pasta, saute everything in butter and done !
Here is the recipe for the filling and the final dish :
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Ingredients and method for filling:

Saute onions in butter until translucent.
Stir in the 2 cup mashed potatoes, grated cheese and yogurt, season with salt and cayenne pepper, mix well. Check/adjust seasoning.
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Ingredients and method for the rest of the dish:

Cut the dough sheets into rounds corresponding to the size of your ravioli/pierogi-cutter.
Top each round of dough with 1 tblsp cheese/potato filling, add ea round to the ravioli/pierogi-mold.
Moisten the dough’s edges with water, fold over, and press together to seal.
Repeat procedure with the remaining dough and filling.
Cook in boiling salted water until the dough is done, about 3 to 4 minutes, depending on the thickest part of the dough.
Remove with a slotted spoon, drain.
Saute 2 oz chopped bacon, 1 tsp garlic paste, julienne of 1/2 onion, 6 oz fresh spinach in 2 oz butter, add 8 oz fresh spinach and 1/3 cup heavy cream, simmer 1 minute, remove from heat, add julienne of one medium size onion, 1 ea seeded and julienned tomato and the freshly cooked vareniki, check/adjust seasoning. to serve, sprinkle with grated pepper-jack.
Serves 4 appetizers or 2 main courses.
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Bon Appétit !   Life is Good !
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Cheese And Potato Vareniki, With Spinach, Bacon and Tomato

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Cheese And Potato Vareniki, With Spinach, Bacon and Tomato

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Cheese And Potato Vareniki, With Spinach, Bacon and Tomato

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Cheese And Potato Vareniki, With Spinach, Bacon and Tomato

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Faux Chicken Biryani


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It looks like biryani.
It tastes like biryani.
It smells like biryani.
Alas, it’s not biryani.
As usual when I cook for Bella and myself, a few days ago I cooked too much jasmin rice. The next day, my usual train of thought at first led me to either one of two leftover dishes – fried rice or congee. But I did not really feel like either one of those, so my next choice was this very easy to prepare “faux biryani”.
While a “real biryani is easy enough to prepare, this one was even easier and of course, with the pre-cooked rice at hand, this was the perfect way to utilize the rice and at the same time get a dish that is wonderful, flavorful and beautiful. Naturally, the texture of the rice was different from the real deal, (not inferior, just different), but nevertheless, the dish was a great success, fully enjoyed by Bella and myself 🙂
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Bon Appétit !   Life is Good !
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P.S.
Usually, one would steep the saffron in ghee, but because of the relatively high-fat content of the chicken skin which will render into the dish, I replaced the ghee with milk.
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Faux Chicken Biryani

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Faux Chicken Biryani

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Faux Chicken Biryani

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Faux Chicken Biryani

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Preparation :
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Steak Salad – Recipe # 1379

Paintings below, including all the paintings displayed in the living room, are by Hans Susser (Soupi)
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Since I got old, occasionally my mind starts wandering aimlessly all over the place, sometimes I’ll get these “WOW” moments, when I realize the obvious………. 🙂 .
Such as this bonbon :
“When I create a dish I have not seen, prepared or eaten previously, it feels nearly the same as when I used to create a beautiful painting”.
I utilized canvas (the serving dish), paints (the ingredients), garnish/final-touch (the varnish) and, most important, a picture of a finished painting in my mind (a picture of a finished dish in my mind).
And there you have it – creativity, skills, and experience, applied to very different mediums 🙂
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(I used to paint in my spare time and was rather successful at selling my art for rather good $$$. Maria used to gold-, silver- and bronze-leaf the raw-wood frames for these paintings, as well as bespoke frames for other artist’s paintings.
For a few years, this provided us with a handsome, additional income, until I started my web business and, later on, this blog). 🙂
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But back to the present time and the dish at hand.
This steak salad recipe makes for a super delicious entrée for lunch or dinner, a light snack or anything else you want it to be (Buffet, anybody?).

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Bon Appétit !   Life is Good !
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P.S.
Instead of the more traditional croutons, I used tarallini  (Small  Taralli , (sometimes marketed as “Italian Love Knots”)

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Preparation :
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Life is Good ! – Sunday Lunch By The Pool – “Grilled Shrimp Brochettes On Honey/Rum-Macerated Fruits”

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Life is Good ! – Sunday Lunch By The Pool – “Grilled Shrimp Brochettes On Honey/Rum-Macerated Fruits”

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Summer has hit our little part of paradise, Florida, over the head with a vengeance.
While the first three weeks of official summer were pure liquid sunshine, with all the flooding and whatever else goes with torrential rain, now the real sunshine has finally arrived.
Alas, as usual, we all complain that it is too hot. When it rains we complain that it is too wet. Outside of summer, we complain it is too cold, and all year-long we complain about the traffic, the tourists and our mothers in law 🙂
One just can’t make us Floridians unconditionally happy, no matter what.
But the one thing that will make us feel good, at least for a while, is a BBQ by the pool.
Good, simple food, a few cold brewskies and good company and the world is fine for a few hours.
As for me, I do have good company in Bella, my brew is iced tea and Madam and I enjoy our time alone by the pool, (of course, the damn water in the pool is too warm this time of the year) 😦
But, the tranquility and peace, some great music from the boom box and wonderful food are all we need for now 🙂 .
How times have changed……..
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Bon Appétit !   Life is Good !
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Life is Good ! – Sunday Lunch By The Pool – “Grilled Shrimp Brochettes On Honey/Rum-Macerated Fruits”

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Honey/Rum-Macerated Fruits

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Life is Good ! – Sunday Lunch By The Pool – “Grilled Shrimp Brochettes On Honey/Rum-Macerated Fruits”

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Preparation :
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Enjoy A Super-Delicious Dish For $ 1.00 !

Chicken Liver Mousse

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No, this was not at a hawker cart in Singapore, nor was it on the side of the road in Manila, it was not in the bush in Zanzibar and certainly not on the beach in Goa. This was in Miami, at “Chez Bella”.
All the ingredients for 4 portions came to about $ 4.00, which, yes, I carefully and meticulously calculated it, comes to about a buck a portion. 🙂
In all my years living in America,  I have realized that the majority of Americans say they don’t like liver or any other dish prepared with offal. However, serve them a slice of “Foie Gras” in a fancy restaurant where they are too shy to ask what they are being served, and all of a sudden you get all ahhh’s and ohhh’s. And it’s usually the same with chicken liver mousse, terrine or pate. Serve it on little canapes, put a cherry or grape on top and all of a sudden it becomes great.
Speaking of chicken liver mousse and parfait. Sadly, most of what’s being served in restaurants these days can at best be described as utter garbage. I know, because I love chicken liver mousse and have tried it a hundred times, in fact, I almost always order it if I come across it on a menu. Low-quality liver, too many distracting ingredients, overseasoned, underseasoned, grainy, broken, too long in the fridge, off-putting color, you name it.
So then, for those of my readers who share the love with me, I give you a recipe which is pretty much foolproof, as long as you use top quality liver.
Of course, you can use this recipe to make any other liver mousse. Pork liver, veal liver, duck liver, game liver. You can also, if you must, add a few additional flavors, as long as you take it easy and don’t overpower the fine taste of the liver. Armaniac, calvados, grand marnier, cognac, diced apples, garlic, herbs, sauteed shallots, orange essence, etc. You can even call it a parfait if you want to, since this recipe provides a mousse so fine, it appears to have been strained through a fine hair sieve.
All in all, a spectacular tasty dish, easy to prepare, cheap economical, and definitely better than most of the stuff you can buy ready-made or in most restaurants.
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Bon Appétit !   Life is Good !
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P.S.
This amount of mousse serves 4 main courses or 8-12 snacks/appetizers
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Chicken Liver Mousse

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Chicken Liver Mousse

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Chicken Liver Mousse

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Preparation :
To read instructions, hover over pictures
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Grilled Veal Breast, Sauteed Potatoes, Chimichurri

Grilled Veal Breast, Sautéed Potatoes And Chimichurri

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Sliced veal breast is a cut I use often at home, mainly for these three reasons:
1.- It’s cheap. 1 lb costs around $2.50.
2.- It tastes great.
3.- I love the texture.
Since veal breast is not a very tender part of an animal to begin with, most folks would braise it for a couple of hours to reach the tenderness they are accustomed to. While this will produce a great dish if properly done, it will lose most of that special veal flavor that some of us cherish. But if you prefer to grill or saute the veal breast, you must make sure that you do it right, otherwise, it will end up being dry and tough.
However, if you sear the meat at high heat, then cook it VERY ! slowly for the rest of the cooking process, you will be rewarded with a very fine piece of veal, full of flavor, juicy and tender. The veal breast slices I used for this dish cooked on each side for about 35 minutes until they were medium-well, then I let them rest another 10 minutes before cutting into them. They were perfect and an absolute delight 🙂
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Bon Appétit !   Life is Good !
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Grilled Veal Breast, Sautéed Potatoes, And Chimichurri

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Grilled Veal Breast, Sautéed Potatoes, And Chimichurri

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Grilled Veal Breast, Sautéed Potatoes, And Chimichurri

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Preparation :
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Stir Fried Chicken And Vegetables

Stir Fried Chicken And Vegetables

Does stir fried chicken ever get old? Not in my book, for sure 🙂
Its beauty lays in large part in its versatility.
Not only can it be served with or without sauce, but there is no limit to the number of variations with which you can prepare the sauce. If you choose to prep it with sauce, you can include hoisin sauce, soy sauce, fermented bean sauce, oyster sauce, chili sauce, yuzu-soy sauce, kecap manis, etc, etc. You can serve it over stir fried noodles, fried noodles, steamed rice, fried rice, steamed buns; with a myriad of different vegetables, mushrooms and even potatoes (in some part of China potatoes are rather common).
When I cook stir fried chicken at home (or most other stir fries, for that matter), it rarely has the same ingredients twice – if ever.
But, all stir fries (and any other dish) I prepare at my home have one thing in common – I put a lot of love in them, therefore they all are delicious 🙂
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Bon Appétit !   Life is Good !
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Stir Fried Chicken And Vegetables

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Stir Fried Chicken And Vegetables

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Preparation :
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Gravlax

Gravlax

I have prepared gravlax a thousand times over the years, starting at the beginning of the 70’s when I worked in  Torekov/Sweden  for the first time, and usually, it comes out perfect, or at least close to perfect. It is one of those dishes which actually require an effort to mess it up. So every time I prepare it, I am sure that the outcome Is a predictable “10” on a scale from 0 to 10. But then came this baby !!!
I had to increase the scale by another point to accommodate its level of excellence. It was so off the chart, in taste, texture, and color. Just a perfect “11” 🙂
It was probably a combination of the quality of the fish, the freshness, the amount and quality of the dill, the ratio of the ingredients of the brine and finally, the time I left the salmon in the brine to cure. Whatever it was, this gravlax is the one all future gravlax will be judged by.
But, I can not give you the EXACT amount of time or ingredients, only approximates. Like with most savory cooking, recipe-measurements and times can only serve as guidelines. Usually, there are too many variables to cook EXACTLY by a recipe. (I am sure you have often heard folks say “I followed the recipe to the dot, but it did not turn out to be like in the picture or in the book or the video?- well, that’s the reason why – too many variables. It is also the reason why a professional chef “interprets” a recipe because, with his/her experience over many years, he/she has learned to factor-in these variables and make the necessary adjustments accordingly.
To quote myself – “Cooking is easy – if you know how to do it !” 🙂
So here now is the recipe I used for this specific gravlax. Again, there are a million and one recipes out there. Every Scandinavian cook, housewife and home cook guards at least one gravlax recipe they swear by, and most of them are pretty awesome, just slightly different from each other.
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2 lbs raw salmon, skin on
2 cup kosher salt
1 cup granulated sugar
2 jigger vodka
1/2 cup sliced dill leaves plus 1/4 cup
1/2 cup red beet juice
2 tblsp dijon mustard
1 tblsp fresh-cracked>
black pepper
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Dill/Mustard Sauce
(Traditional condiment for gravlax)
Good quality mustard, white wine vinegar, kosher salt, neutral tasting oil, sugar, fresh dill leaves, pepper(optional), mix all ingredients well.
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Bon Appétit !   Life is Good !
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Gravlax

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Gravlax

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Gravlax

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add the salmon and onions (for a prettier presentation / restaurant presentation) put the egg and capers together with the onions on top of the salmon, however, the way I did it here will keep the capers and egg from rolling off when you eat the sandwich)

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Preparation :
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Crappy Weather Food – Beef, Beans And Other Stuff

Meanwhile, in Florida…….

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Hurricane season has finally arrived in Florida, and boy, has it ARRIVED 😦
While God has spared us a hurricane so far, we had constant rainstorms for the past two weeks, resulting in extensive flooding, turning many streets into rivers and parking lots into lakes.
Hearty food is the partial answer to that misery, making up for the fact that outside grilling and outside cooking in general, is suspended for the moment.
This beef stew with potatoes, tomatoes, onions, garbanzos, white beans, red beans and black beans is the perfect food to enjoy while looking out the window, watching the world drowning in rain and misery 😦
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Bon Appétit !   Life is Good !
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Crappy Weather Food – Beef, Beans And Other Stuff

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Crappy Weather Food – Beef, Beans And Other Stuff

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Crappy Weather Food – Beef, Beans And Other Stuff

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Crappy Weather Food – Beef, Beans And Other Stuff

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Preparation :
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Another Day, Another Wonderful Salad (Plus A Great Grilled Chicken Breast)

Grilled Chicken Breast With Red Beet/Broccoli Salad And Chimichurri

Grilled Chicken Breast With Red Beet/Broccoli Salad And Chimichurri

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In my ongoing (and admittedly, so far not very successful) quest for a more healthful lifestyle, I do eat a lot more vegetables and salads.
Unfortunately, most of the time when I choose a healthy dish for one meal, I offset the good effect with a not so healthy dish for the following meal. But, I keep trying………
Today’s lunch was a rather salubrious choice, grilled lean meat, accompanied by a delicious vegetable salad with olive oil dressing and, for a bit of extra zing, a few pickled chilies and a herb-laden chimichurri.
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Bon Appétit !   Life is Good !
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Grilled Chicken Breast With Red Beet/Broccoli Salad And Chimichurri

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Grilled Chicken Breast With Red Beet/Broccoli Salad And Chimichurri

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Red Beet/Broccoli Salad

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Preparation :
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