Tomato, Basil and Mozzarella Appetizer

Here is an easy and great tasting appetizer that uses only fresh ingredients. Great for a summer time snack.

These cherry tomatoes and basil leaves are from our garden. The cheese is mini mozzarella balls. They are from a little Italian market down the street from us.

Simply put a tomato on a tooth pick, followed by a basal leaf, and then the mozzarella ball. After you make more than you think you will need, because they are so good, drizzle them with a good olive oil and a few drops of good quality balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with some Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.

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Eat the appetizer in one bite so all the flavors explode in your mouth, just be careful not to poke the back of your throat with the tooth pick.



Turkey Burger and Broccoli Slaw

My in-laws were coming over to help finish up the bathroom remodeling and I wanted to make something for dinner that was different from anything I have ever made for them. (This has become a personal challenge.) So off to the kitchen I went to see what I could do.

So we had some ground turkey meat in the fridge. Lately, my wife has been eating more poultry because she doesn’t want too much beef. So tonight was going to be turkey burgers. Now what to do about a side dish. I found some broccoli stems left over from a chicken and pasta dish I had made earlier in the week. There was also carrots and red onions. Looks like we were making a vegetable slaw.


  • Burgers
    • 2 lbs ground turkey
    • 2 Tbsp garlic, minced
    • 3 Tbsp Italian seasoning
    • 2 Tbsp salt
    • 1.5 Tbsp fresh cracked pepper
    • Onion buns
    • 4 slices smoked Gouda
    • Lettuce
    • 4 large slices of roasted red peppers (same recipe as my earlier post on March 30, 2013)
  • Slaw
    • 1/2 lb Broccoli stems, thinly sliced
    • 3 medium Carrots, grated
    • 1/2 medium Red onions, finely diced
    • 3/4 cup Mayo
    • 1 tsp Lemon juice

I took the ground turkey and mixed it the garlic, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Be careful not to over-mix as this can dry out the turkey.

I then portioned the burgers into 8 oz patties, making sure to form them into disks. I pushed in the center so that when it cooks it would prevent the meat from turning too much into a ball. I wrapped them with plastic wrap and placed them in the fridge.

Now to prep the slaw. In a bowl I mixed together the mayo, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Mix in the broccoli, carrots, and red onions. Cover and place in the fridge.

When it was close to eating time, I pulled out all the ingredients and prepped my workstation.

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Ingredients prepped next to the grill. It was night, so it was dark out.

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Grilling the turkey burgers and roasted red peppers.

  • Grill the burgers, about 8 minutes per side. Make sure the internal temperature reaches 165F.
  • Place on the roasted red pepper and smoked Gouda.
  • Place the roasted red peppers on the grill to put a slight char on them.
  • Place lettuce on the onions buns and top with the burger, roasted red pepper and smoked Gouda.
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Make the burger. No condiments necessary.

Served with the broccoli slaw, this burger was a big hit.

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Stuffed Chicken Breast

Chicken can get boring, sometimes doing something completely different can add some variety.

You can stuff chicken breasts with any of your favorite ingredients.

Fresh roasted red peppers offer a great flavor to this particular dish.


  • 4 chicken breast, about 5 oz each
  • 8 large slices of roasted red peppers (From recipe posted March 30, 2013.)
  • 2 tbsp garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup Mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 10 Basil leaves chiffonade
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs, seasoned


  • Take the chicken breast and butterfly it. To do that, cut it in half horizontally. Do not cut all the way through. Leave at least on end attached.

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  • Season the chicken breast with salt and pepper.
  • Add the garlic to the chicken breasts.
  • Layer in the roasted red peppers, basil and mozzarella.

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  • Fold the chicken back together, like a sandwich.
  • Carefully coat both sides of the chicken with the seasoned breadcrumbs.

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  • Preheat a heavy bottom pan on medium low heat with oil. I used a Mediterranean oil, which was a mixture of olive oil and canola oil.
  • Cook the chicken on medium low heat until golden brown.
    • Because the chicken was thinly cut, each side should only take 4-6 minutes.

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  • Flip the chicken over and cook the other side to a golden brown.

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  • Serve with some of your favorite pasta. Here I tossed the pasta with garlic, Parmesan cheese, cream and black pepper.

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Greek Pasta Salad

A refreshing summer salad is something that is light and full of flavor. This is a perfect for picnics or as a side dish with grilled chicken or beef. Or as my wife likes, make this a meal on its own.


  • 1.5 lbs campanelle pasta
  • 1/2 cup red onion finely diced
  • 3 celery stalks finely diced
  • 1 lb of cherry tomatoes sliced in half
  • 1/4 cup pepperoncini thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp diced garlic
  • 4 tbsp olive oil (make sure it is high quality)
  • 3 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 4 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 6-8 sprigs of fresh oregano, stem removed and finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Crumbled feta


  • Cook the pasta until al dente.
  • Shock in cold water, if needed use some ice.

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  • Mix the oil, mayonnaise, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and oregano together in a bowl.
  • Add in red onion, celery and pepperoncini. Mix well.
  • Add in tomatoes and mix until coated.

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  • Add pasta to oil mixture. Stir until everything is coated.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste.

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  • Serve with fresh feta crumbled on top.


Potato Salad

My father-in-law loves this potato salad. Sometimes I think he would eat this only as a meal.

  • Ingredient list:
    • 10 lbs red potatoes, chopped into small squares
    • 1 large red onion, diced
    • 4 celery stalks, diced
    • 2 small carrots, diced
    • 1 3/4 cup of mayonnaise
    • 2 tbsp of yellow mustard
    • 3 tbsp salt
    • 1 tbsp pepper
  • Place potatoes in boiling water until fork tender, about 15 minutes.

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  • Remove the potatoes from the stove and place them in an ice bath for about 10 minutes.
  • In a separate bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients and mix until combined.

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  • Add in the potatoes and mix gently to combine. Try not to mash the potatoes.

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  • Place in the refrigerator to cool.
  • Stir often.

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Goes great with any lunch or BBQ, or as in the case of my family, all on its own.

How To Dice An Onion

My wife had trouble on how to dice an onion when we first met, and here is a trick I taught her to make it easier for her to work with onions.

The trick is to leave the root connected.

To dice an onion:

  • First cut the onion in half, do not cut off the root.
  • Peel off the outer skin.

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  • Lay the onion on the flat side.
  • Cut sections perpendicular to the root.
    • Be sure to NOT cut through the root.

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  • Now cut perpendicular to your previous cuts.

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You now have diced onions.

Checca with linguini

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A wonderfully light and refreshing sauce for pasta is Checca. My wife and I love to make this often, especially since most of the ingredients come right from our own garden.

Checca is another one of those great recipes where you can make it ahead of time and have available on one of those long work days.

  • 1/2 lb cherry tomatoes cut in half
  • 2 tbsp chopped garlic
  • 1/4 cup basil chiffonade
  • 1/2 olive oil
  • vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp pepper
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Chopped tomatoes and basil

  • Mix the tomatoes, garlic and basil together.
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Tomatoes, Basil and Garlic

  •   Mix into the dried ingredients the oils, salt and pepper.

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  • Place in a pot and simmer on med-low heat for 3-5 minutes.

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  • Serve over your favorite pasta.

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  • Or store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Chicken, Broccoli and Rigatoni

For a quick meal at night we usually will do Chicken and Broccoli.

  • Boil pasta until al dente.
  • Drain and shock with cold water.
  • Set aside.

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  • Season a cup of flour with salt and pepper.

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  • Chicken breast
    • Cut into 1 inch pieces
    • Season with:
      • Garlic Powder, about 1 tbsp
      • Salt
      • Pepper

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  • Oil
    • 3/4 cup vegetable oil heated in a heavy bottom pan to approximately to 350F.
  • Set up your station so you can quickly batch fry the chicken.

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  • How to test if the oil is ready?
    • Place 1 piece of floured chicken in the oil, if it sizzles, the oil is hot enough. If not, then let the oil heat up further.

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  • Take the chicken and dredge each piece in the seasoned flour mixture.
  • Place the floured chicken in the hot oil. Make sure not to crowd the pan.
  • Cook until the flour is a light golden brown on each side.

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  • Remove from the pan and place on a paper towel to remove excess oil.
  • Continue until all the chicken has been cooked.

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  • Broccoli
    • Cut up broccoli into 1 inch pieces.
    • Saute the broccoli in large pan with 1 tbsp of olive oil, until softened.
  • Deglaze pan with 1 cup 1/2-and-1/2.

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  • Add and mix in the chicken and bring sauce to a boil. The flour on the chicken will help thicken the sauce.
  • Add 4-6 ounces of parmigiano reggiano cheese, stir into the mixture.

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  • Add pasta.
  • Cook for an extra 2 minutes to heat the pasta.

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  • Sprinkle with a little more cheese.
  • Dinner is ready.


Leg of Lamb with Mint Pesto

My wife’s family has been helping us repair our bathroom. So for a thank you dinner one evening we decided to cook up some lamb and potatoes. A unique twist to an Irish fare.

  • Lamb
    • 4 lbs lamb legs deboned and butterflied to an 1 1/2 in thickness.
    • Combine in a bowl:
      • 10-12 garlic cloves thinly sliced
      • 1/2 cup rosemary leaves thinly sliced
      • 1 1/3 cup olive oil
      • 4 lemons halved and squeezed
    • Put lamb in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
    • Place in the fridge overnight.
  • Potatoes
    • 5 lbs of small yellow new potatoes.
    • Parboil the night before.
    • Shock the potatoes in an ice-bath.
    • Place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
    • Place in the fridge overnight.

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  • Mint pesto for lamb.
    • In a blender combine the following:
      • 12 garlic cloves
      • 4 oz of pine nuts
      • 4 oz parmigiano reggiano
      • 1 cup basil leaves
      • 3 cups mint leaves
      • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
    • Pulse a few times to start breaking up the ingredients.
    • Run the blender to make a paste, add to thin out the mixture:
      • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
      • salt and pepper to taste

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    • Heat the grill to medium high.
    • Place lamb on the grill with the fat side down.
    • Close the lid for 10-15 minutes.

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    • Flip the meat over.
    • Close the lid and let cook for another 10-15 minutes.
    • The lamb will need to be 130 F for medium rare.
    • Take lamb and place on a cutting board.
    • Cover with foil let the meat rest for 10-15 minutes.

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  • Potatoes
    • 2 bunches of scallions cut into 1-2 in strips.
      • Saute for 2-3 minutes
    • Add 2 tbsp chopped garlic
    • Add to deglaze the pot:
      • 1/2 cup white wine
      • 1/2 cup water
    • Add potatoes and cover the pot.
    • Turn down the heat and simmer for about 10-15 minutes.
  • Vegetables
    • Saute
      • 1 head of broccoli
      • 1 cup of cherry tomatoes
      • 1/4 cup lemon juice
      • 1 tbsp garlic, chopped
      • salt and pepper to taste

The final plate with the sliced lamb with the pesto sauce placed over it along with the potatoes and vegetables.

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