Cooking with Suz – Round 2 – Using leftovers

wastenotLeftovers.  A fact of life.  First let me say that I really do hate throwing out food…. it was ingrained in me as a child that to be wasteful is practically a sin!  “Waste not, want not” the old adage goes, so I really do try not to throw stuff out – although sometimes I’ll admit that it just can’t be helped. Anyway, in today’s “Cooking with Suz” I’m going to show you how I recently used up some leftovers and turned them in to something really tasty.  Of course, you can always simply reheat whatever is leftover, but in this case, I had small bits of “this and that” and decided to make it into a Frittata! Not only was this easy, it was quick and really delicious.

The night before, we’d had filet of sole, orzo with spinach and feta, {oh DO click on that link for a very tasty side dish recipe!} and broccoli.  With a cat in the house, you can bet there was no fish leftover {not sure the cat actually got any… it was so good! I bread it with this stuff}, but we did have leftover broccoli and orzo. The next morning I decided to try a frittata with my leftovers.  What’s awesome about a frittata is that you can pretty much use anything (within reason) that you have leftover and turn it into something wonderful.  I used what I had – the beauty of frittatas 🙂 – and so can you.  So, here’s how it went:


First off – (highly important) choose an oven proof skillet!!  I have a set of  perfectly awesome Dacor Hot Dots cookware, given to me a few years ago by my dear friend and neighbor, Susan Banton. What a fabulous gift that I’ve used over and over and will no doubt last literally the rest of my life!!  Thank you, Susan!  So, one could use an all steel skillet like mine, or cast iron would also do.  Whatever you do, do NOT use a skillet with a plastic handle of any kind! Yikes.  All right, enough of that. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Melt a tablespoon (or so) of butter in the bottom of your pan, then add whatever leftovers you may have.  I added the orzo with spinach & feta as well as the broccoli. Sauteeing some onion would also be good…. leftover potatoes – cut up; diced ham or other meat; oh shoot, the possibilities are endless. You want these leftover ingredients good and warm before adding the eggs.

frit 2

Many frittata recipes suggest using 8-12 eggs. Unless you are feeding an army, that’s totally unnecessary! I beat 3 eggs well, added a bit of salt and pepper, and a couple of Tablespoons of milk or half & half, mixing everything well. Over medium heat, pour your egg mixture as evenly as possible over your heated leftovers!


So, it’s not perfect, but there are eggs everywhere so I was happy.  Allow the mixture to begin to cook on the stovetop for about 3 minutes.  Then sprinkle on some grated cheese (I used cheddar and possibly some parmesan) and place the whole thing uncovered into the oven for 15-20 minutes.


Here’s the finished product!!!  It cut into pie-shaped servings easily and tasted awesome!  Try a frittata soon, you won’t be sorry AND you’ll probably use up something you may have even ended up throwing out!  YUM!

Cooking with Suz – Round 1 – Beef Burgundy

Today I’m starting a new “series” on my blog entitled “Cooking with Suz”. I absolutely love to cook, and…. I truly enjoy making food that satisfies my hungry hubby.  I’ll also fully admit that I love to eat everything I cook, and yes, it may be a bit of a downfall of mine, but what good cook will simply prepare food, not really knowing how it tastes? I’m a full believer in tasting as you go, so you can adjust flavors along the way, not waiting till the end of the process and then hoping for the best.  So, that’s my philosophy – “taste as you go”.   Today’s recipe is an old family favorite that I have made literally hundreds of times, Beef Burgundy or, if you want to be fancy and attempt a French accent, “Boeuf Bourguignon”.  Yes, this recipe is modified from the original (I don’t mess around with Pearl Onions, carrots, or bacon), and it does incorporate the use of red wine.  Since it bakes in the oven for nearly two hours, all the alcohol is completely eliminated from the dish, but the incredible rich flavor lives on.  So let’s get started!


First off, you need some beef…. and I do NOT recommend your basic “stew meat” – I always buy top sirloin steak in the “Family Packs” at the store, it’s cheaper in bulk and you can freeze pieces individually and thaw as you need them. Top Sirloin is a cheap(er) steak that is flavorful and still nice and tender, much more so than round steak. Cut up your meat into bite-sized chunks, heat some olive oil or canola oil in your roasting pan (here I’m using my mom’s pan from her 1941 wedding – I love it!). Make sure the oil is hot so that your meat begins browning as soon as it hits the pan. Brown and stir, brown and stir.


Next we add a chopped up large yellow onion. Or sweet onion. Or red onion.  Chop up whichever large onion you happen to have and throw into the pan after the meat has browned a bit.  Stir that around nicely.


Now we’ll add some spices. Here I’m showing my thyme and marjoram. I use about a 1/2 teaspoon of thyme and 1 teaspoon of marjoram.  You’ll also want to add some pepper and possibly salt.  Why possibly salt? Well, you also need to use either beef broth at this point, or a bullion cube. If you use beef broth, you’ll need to add some salt. If you use a bullion cube (as I do), it’s usually salty enough – at least for now. I use Knorr bullion cubes (they are large and worth two of the other brands). So it’s not shown, but I put in 1 & 1/2 Knorr beef bullion cubes at this point. Give it a good stir.  Time to then add some water. I’m guessing but about two cups or maybe two and a half cups. If you use beef broth, you’ll need about the same amount 2 to 2 and 1/2 cups.


On now to the “star of the show”, the wine. You’ve probably heard the old adage — don’t use wine to cook with that you wouldn’t drink — and I agree.  Yet, I think it would be shameful to use your best wine to COOK with, so I go for something that is “cheaper” but still tasty.  In this case, I had some Yellow Tail (Australian) Shiraz and used that. I poured in about a cup, more or less.  OH MY… the smell after the wine goes in and starts simmering…. heavenly.


Put the lid on your roasting pan and place the glorious concoction in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes.  Now’s a perfect time to pour yourself a glass, if you are the type that enjoys the juice of the fermented grape, as I do. 🙂


After about 45 minutes, it’s time to check your meat mixture to make sure there is enough liquid for simmering. If it looks rather dry, add more water – or wine – or both.  Also, this is the window of opportunity to add those mushrooms. I stirred in about a cup, or thereabouts of sliced crimini mushrooms. Regular white button mushrooms would be perfectly wonderful too. After stirring well, taste the spoon. You may need some salt. Then pop the lid back on and return to the oven for about one more hour.


In this picture you see the meat and mushrooms after they have baked/simmered another hour. Now is the time to thicken up the mixture a bit and for that we are using either flour and water or cornstarch and water. In the above pic, I’m using my favorite Wondra Flour mixed with water – about 2 tablespoons of flour and 1/4 cup of water – or thereabouts. I love Wondra because it lives up to it’s claim of never clumping or leaving lumps in your gravy! The pan should be over the heat here, because to thicken this, it MUST boil again.


So, here we have it, the meat is SO tender, the mixture has boiled again and has reached the right “gravy-like” consistency. Give it one more taste test at this point, just in case you need a dab more salt or pepper. Of course you won’t eat this by itself…. you need something to put this magical medley of yumminess ON TO! Many people like to put it on top of cooked noodles, or even mashed potatoes.  But at our house, rice is the substance of choice.


So, here it is, the final product, Beef Burgundy on rice with one of hubby’s favorite veggies, Brussels Sprouts. I can honestly say that this is one of our favorite meals. SO tasty!

Hope you’ve enjoyed round one of “Cooking with Suz”!!

Making my own Kefir

I’ve done it!  I’ve successfully started culturing my own kefir!  So here’s a short Q & A on the basics of kefir….

  • What is kefir?  It’s a fermented milk drink full of very healthy probiotics.
  • Why not just eat yogurt if you want healthy probiotics?  Because kefir contains many additional probiotics, not found in yogurt.
  • Why do people want to ingest probiotics anyway?  Probiotics are excellent for immune health and particularly for me, they help keep my digestive system working properly. This is particularly important for folks like me with diverticulosis – we do NOT want diverticulosis turning into diverticulitis!
  • What does it look like?  I’ll post pictures below, but milk kefir looks like somewhat thickened milk.
  • What does it taste like?  I drink my milk kefir plain because I enjoy the slightly tangy taste. It also tastes a tiny bit “yeasty” and you can feel a bit of effervescence in it as well.  Many people like to disguise the flavor by adding fruit and making a smoothie. Since I like it plain, I don’t, but I won’t rule out the possibility for the future!
  • Why do you keep saying “milk kefir”?  Because there is also “water kefir”.  Water kefir is cultured slightly differently – I haven’t tried it yet, but plan to.  It makes a fruity, almost soda-like probiotic beverage.
  • Why did you start making milk kefir? Couldn’t you buy it at the store?  Yes, most stores carry kefir (plain and flavored) in the natural foods section of the store…. I’d heard it was easy to do at home, and so now, just for the price of milk, I’m making my own. Also, I started with milk kefir because it’s the easiest to do!
  • How long does it take?  It takes approximately 24 hours for about 1.5 cups of milk to culture into kefir. It sits out on the kitchen counter the entire time. If your kitchen is warmer it might culture faster, cooler may take a bit longer.

So here we go, let’s make some kefir!  First off, the photo below shows the kefir “grains”. They are not acutally made of grain, just for the record.  They are a culture of bacteria and yeast. I got mine from a company called Cultures for Health and they came to me in dehydrated form. I rehydrated them in milk over a period of about 3 days.  The kefir grains grow, the more kefir you make, so pretty soon you have MORE than you probably need – or you can start culturing more milk at a time.


In the next photo, you can see the cultured milk that is now kefir on the left.  I’m about to strain those precious kefir grains out of the kefir, so I can start another batch. The jars are pint size, although they look more like quart size in the pic. The strainer is made of plastic, including the mesh. Apparently you should never touch your culture with metal of any kind.


Below, you can see that I’ve begun the straining process, carefully saving the kefir grains for the next batch.


Here is the strained kefir, in a clean jar, covered with a plastic lid, ready to go into the fridge.  I think it tastes better cool or cold, so I don’t normally drink the room temperature stuff.  Although one could if one desired to!


And here we have the next batch beginning.  The kefir grains have been added to milk to begin the culturing process. I use a paper coffee filter over the top, secured with a rubber band.  This way the kefir can “breathe”. The instructions made it clear that the top needs to be left open while culturing.


I’m pretty excited about this little project.  It’s good for me, and saves me money, and the kefir grains supposedly last a year (or longer) if cared for properly.  When I feel like I’ve got enough for a few days, I can put my kefir grains “to sleep” in the fridge in some milk for up to two weeks. I’m still in the process of learning to make cultured and fermented foods, so there will probably be more on this subject as the year progresses!

Just a reminder — my 2016 book reviews are now at the top of the blog, under the heading “BOOKS 2016”. 🙂



Yummy Breakfast Scramble

This morning I decided to try to use up some stuff in the fridge by making a breakfast scramble.  Sometimes I make omelettes (Greek omelette with Feta is one of my favorites), but I wanted to try something different today.  It turned out SO doggone delicious that I snapped a photo of what little was left on my plate and decided it was worthy of a blog post!

breakfast scramble

So, here’s how I put it together.  I had some onion and green pepper in the fridge that I wanted to use, so I chopped those up fairly fine.  I sauteed them in a little olive oil – because raw onion and green pepper are simply not too tasty in a breakfast egg dish!  When they were softened, I threw in half a chopped up tomato – not to cook it, basically just to warm it up.  While that was happening, I whisked together three eggs and about a tablespoon of milk. In my large non-stick skillet, I melted half a tablespoon (or as they might say in England, a “knob”) of butter. When the butter was melted, I sprinkled on half a bag of organic baby spinach – I’m guessing it was about two cups or so. I waited a minute or so until the spinach was starting to wilt, and then I threw the sauteed onion, green pepper, and tomato on top of it.  On top of all that, I poured the eggs.  It didn’t take long for the eggs to begin to set up a bit, and I used a silicone scraper to move the eggs around in the pan gently. When they were nearly done all the way through, I dropped on the MAGIC ingredient – some cubes of cut up Brie cheese (minus the rinds!).  I distributed the Brie bits on top of the eggy-veggie-goodness and at a low temp, allowed the Brie to melt.  OH MY WORD was this ever delicious! Normally I use cheddar cheese in my omelettes or egg dishes, but this Brie…. – holy moly – the Brie gave the whole thing such a lovely texture and flavor!!!!  I seasoned it with S & P, and hubby did what he always does, gobbled his down with plenty of salsa on the side.  It was served with a side of sourdough toast, and thoroughly enjoyed by us both! 🙂