Category Archives: Recipies

I like to cook. “Recipe” is probably too strong of a word for my “just throw it all in and see what happens” approach to the culinary arts, but sometimes I hit on great ideas.

An Iskander Experiment

A couple weeks ago, we met a friend for Turkish food and I experienced the most amazing and delicious “Iskander”: flavorful, tender lamb and steak overtop crunchy croutons, topped with a savory red sauce, spiked with garlic, and served alongside aromatic rice and a cooling yogurt sauce.

A week later, I found myself in possession of some leftover steak and sausages from a weekend cookout. And so the experiment began. All I have are my Snapchat photos to immortalize this delicious meal! Will 100% make again. In fact, we had it again 2 days later!

Fun fact: Iskander is Turkish for Alexander, as in “the Great.”

My Turkish Iskander Experiment

Ingredients Used

  • Leftover grilled steak and Italian sausage sliced into thin pieces
  • Olive oil and a bit of butter
  • Italian bread- a few slices cut into cubes about the size of large croutons
  • Sundries tomatoes in their oil, from a jar- 2-3 T chopped fine plus a T of their oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced into very thin slices, plus another clove minced
  • Dash of sriracha
  • Fresh tomatoes, chopped
  • Salt, pepper, etc
  • Optional: cooked rice
  • Optional: yogurt or sour cream


Heat a bit of butter and some olive oil together in a sturdy skillet. (Cast iron for the win!) Add the slices of garlic and toast in the oil until they are at least golden brown. Remove to a paper towel lined plate to cool. When you have some downtime, toss the chopped toasted garlic with the sun dried tomatoes and some of the tomatoes’ oil. Season with salt if needed -taste it first. Set aside as garnish.


Add the cubed bread to the flavored oil/butter and sauté until they’re crunchy and golden brown all over. You might need to add more butter and oil to the pan, and season with a little sea salt if you’d like. Remove to plates – we’ll be topping them with the meat in a second.


Throw the minced garlic into the pan with a little olive oil, and sauté it for a minute to release some flavor. Add the thinly sliced meat to the pan to crisp it up and heat it. I added a dollop of sriracha and some Italian seasoning at this point because why not? Once the meat is crisped, divide it among the plates, setting it atop the piles of croutons.


Dice a couple tomatoes and add to the hot pan. Cook for just a minute to release the juices and pick up some of the garlic from the pan. When you’re happy with it, split it among your plates. (You could also use some red spaghetti sauce, but it was nice fresh.)

Finally, top each serving with the sundried tomato and toasted garlic mixture.

At the restaurant, this was served alongside rice and a typical Middle Eastern yogurt/cucumber sauce. I didn’t do that, but it’s a great complement.


I hope you run your own Iskander Experiment next time you’ve got leftover grilled meat. IT’S SO GOOD!

Recipe: Sriracha Maple Pork Chops & Sides

– Lori’s Dinner Experiment #3627

I’m sorry it took me so long to get on the sriracha train. I was dumb. I will happily admit this as I shove another spicy-sweet bite into my mouth. This quick one-pan dinner experiment came together in about 30 minutes, and I couldn’t be happier! 

Serves 2, as written here

Preheat oven to 425. Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet.

Slice a sweet potato into rounds about half inch thick or so. Arrange on one half of sheet. Sprinkle with brown sugar, salt, pepper, fajita or chipotle seasoning, and a drop or two of sriracha sauce (each). Roast 15 min then flip before adding the pork:

Drizzle pork chops with olive oil, salt, pepper, sriracha (just a little), and maple syrup. (Chops should be lightly covered but not dripping.) Add to the sheet pan and return to oven to roast for about 25min.

Look at the beautiful brown crispiness of the potatoes (upper right) and the glazed pork (bottom left)

Meanwhile, trim ends from Brussels sprouts and toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Add to baking sheet – if you’re out of room, roast in separate pan or skillet for 20 minutes. During final minutes of cooking, splash with plum vinegar or lemon juice before returning to oven to finish. If you happen to have chopped, cooked bacon on hand, you could sprinkle the bacon and grated parmesan over the sprouts to take them to the next level. 

Remove pork from oven after 25 min and let rest on plate, covered. Remove sprouts before they overbake. Leave sweet potatoes until they’re darkly browned on both sides.

Lessons I learned from this experiment:

  • A little sriracha goes a long way, but if you’re careful, it’s not going to light you on fire. This is good for my heat-averse husband.
  • Don’t over-roast the Brussels sprouts. They really don’t need more than 20 minutes.
  • It’s hard to over-roast a sweet potato. They need a lot of heat over a pretty long time to be done.  I could have given them 30 minutes in the oven alone, plus 20 with the pork and brussels sprouts, and probably been happy.

Perfect Skillet Nachos

I love making a particular type of pork roast that leaves me with a couple pounds of succulent pork for sandwiches, quesadillas, and eating straight. (Plus I make a batch of beef stew* in the pot once I remove the pork- it’s mind-blowingly good!)

Making skillet nachos takes this way beyond “next level” to “the best couch movie night supper you’ve ever put in your mouth.”

Please try the pork recipe too – you could use any non-smokey shredded meat here (including chicken) but I can’t tell you enough how much we love this pork roast.

Balsamic Beer Braised Pork Roast from She Wears Many Hats (a local gal!)

Two adjustments to the pork recipe: I sear the roast in a bit of bacon drippings instead of oil, and I deglaze the pot with some cream sherry or bourbon before pouring in the braising mixture. I also think this recipe works best with a non-bitter, non-hoppy medium brown beer. A Belgian double or triple would be quite nice.

Ok, now for the nachos!

Perfect Skillet Nachos

Serves 4

  • 12″ Cast iron skillet— if you don’t have one, use anything heavy that will really hold heat and is both oven and stovetop safe
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 T butter
  • 1-2 cups pulled pork or other shredded meat
  • Tortilla chips – maybe half a bag?
  • 2-3 cups shredded cheese (we used a blend of yellow cheddar and a block of cheddar/gruyere from Trader Joe’s)
  • Jar of corn salsa, preferably Trader Joe’s (it has a nice sweetness)
  • 1 can of Rotel tomatoes
  • Salt, pepper, and fajita seasoning (to taste)
  • 1 avocado sliced OR guacamole
  • Sour cream
  • Optional: salsa, hot sauce, etc

Heat butter in cast iron skillet on stovetop over medium and sauté onion (with a little salt and pepper) till lightly browned. Set onion aside and remove skillet from heat.

Preheat oven to 425

Create two layers in the skillet, each in this order: 1/3 of the chips, 1 Cup cheese, 1 Cup pork (break it up and scatter), ½ cup or so corn salsa, and half of the onions. Sprinkle with a little fajita seasoning or a bit of pepper, if desired.

Make 2 layers like that, then pour the can of Rotel over the top of the second layer.

Top with remaining chips and cheese and sprinkle with fajita seasoning. Make sure there’s a layer of cheese on top to get melty.

Place skillet in oven for 15-20 min. You want it to heat and melt all the way through without burning.

Broil on high for 1-2 min at end to brown the cheese, if needed.

Top each quadrant with avocado (or guacamole) and a dollop of sour cream. Dig in!!


Making the pork recipe? Prep ahead to make beef stew in the same pot as soon as you remove the pork. You can set it aside when done to eat the next day. The pork drippings add a depth and richness to the stew that’s unbeatable.

I do mine this way:

Remove the pork, leave all pan drippings. Return pot to stovetop over medium heat and leave oven on 350.

Toss beef cubes with 1-2T flour, salt, pepper, and favorite steak seasoning (or thyme). When pot is hot, brown beef cubes but don’t cook through. Deglaze pan with a liquid you like- I usually use either wine or sherry, about a quarter cup.

Chop onion, celery, carrots (and optional potato) and add to pot. Stir well to pull up bits on bottom of pan.

Add 4 cups beef stock and stir.

Stir in 1+ cup of pearl barley (optional) or add egg noodles about halfway through cooking (see below).

Season well with thyme, salt, pepper, etc.

Bring pot to simmer on stovetop then cover and return to oven to finish cooking. I usually check after 45 minutes to see if the beef is tender and the vegetables are cooked. If you’re doing egg noodles, wait about 20 minutes before adding them.

Cooking the stew in the oven keeps the beef really tender, and makes use of the oven heat you just spent making the pork. 😉

Accidental Culinary Adventures

This is how I cook: I open up the refrigerator or pantry and say, “What’s here?” If there are enough building blocks to create a meal along the lines of something I’ve cooked before and enjoyed, problem solved.

This approach leads to occasional accidental delights (but mostly just decent supper food). Here are two that happened in my kitchen in the past month. See if you’re similarly inspired to experiment. 😉

Chicken Orzo-tore

I’ve been making chicken cacciatore since I started cooking (a few days after I got married), but I learned the recipe by watching my dad make it countless times for supper. It was easy, relatively quick, and cheap – all qualities that my dad prized in his culinary endeavors

Recipe: Dad’s Chicken Cacciatore

But the other day, as I eyed a small bag of orzo pasta I’d picked up at Trader Joe’s, I had an epiphany: What If I swapped out the rice I usually serve alongside cacciatore, and used the orzo instead?

The verdict: Delicious! I cooked the orzo pasta on the side and then throw the cooked orzo into the pot of cacciatore once it came out of the oven. However, I’m wondering if I should have cooked the orzo straight into the cacciatore so it would pick up more of those flavors. Dunno. May try that next time.

Post Pork-Roast Beef Stew

So last month, I made the most incredible pork roast thanks to this recipe from an Upstate cook:

Balsamic Beer-Braised Pork Roast, from She Wears Many Hats

Photo by She Wears Many Hats, where I found the recipe. Just LOOK at that pork!
Photo by She Wears Many Hats, where I found the recipe. Just LOOK at that pork!

It’s an amazing recipe. So easy; so incredibly flavorful.

I make two changes from her recipe. The first, I use rendered bacon fat (cook a couple pieces, pull out the bacon, use it for something else) to sear the pork roast in the first step. The additional smokiness of a high quality bacon adds incomparable depth of flavor. Goes without saying that you need to be using a good bacon here; I keep Trader Joe’s applewood smoked bacon in the frig at all times.

Second, once the pork roast had been seared but before adding the cooking liquid (beer et al), I deglaze the pan with some bourbon or sherry. Sometimes a little of both, in succession. Scrape up the brown bits and let the meat soak up some of the alcohol before continuing. Again, it’s a layer of flavor that makes a difference in the end.

When you’re done (follow the recipe), you have pork that just falls apart and shreds with no effort at all. It’s incredible as pulled pork sandwiches; you need no additional BBQ sauce.

But then…. there’s more magic to be had in the pot! You’ll need your favorite beef stew recipe – look it up on the Internet and pick up some cheap “stew beef” at the store on your next grocery run, along with carrots, potatoes, onion, celery, a box of beef broth, and either rice or big noodles or barley or whatever.

Let the drippings cool until the fat congeals on top. Stop being squeamish; this is part of life when cooking with meat. Scrape off and discard as much of the solid fat as you can, leaving behind the beer-broth and bits of pork from the earlier recipe.

Heat what’s left on medium in your Dutch oven till it’s going pretty hard and throw in all your chopped vegetables. If you did too good a job of removing fat, you might need to add a wee bit of olive oil or butter here.  Meanwhile, brown your beef chunks in a skillet on the side and throw them in with the vegetables once they get brown on all sides. (The extra work is worth it – I promise.)  Add your broth and seasonings, and throw the whole pot into the oven for an hour or more, till the potatoes are completely done and the beef is tender.

If you’re going to add rice or noodles it might be easier to cook those on the stovetop and then add them at the end.

The result: Your beef stew will have this magical depth of flavor, a savory-ness that I can’t ever get when I just “make beef stew,” no matter what seasonings I add. The leftovers from the pork bring so many good flavors to the party, but nothing clashes with the traditional beef stew vibe.

I’m committed now to always making the pork recipe before I make a regular beef stew. I’m not sure I can go back to the old way…. 😉

A+ Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie

Yes, you want to make this recipe.  (No Jedi mind tricks needed. You should be persuaded simply by the title.)  The recipe may look long, but it’s actually pretty simple.

Pecan pie is a Southern specialty, but I find most recipes sickeningly sweet. This one has always been my favorite because it somehow cuts through the sweetness. This year, I decided to adapt it with chocolate and bourbon at my husband’s request, and I don’t think I can ever go back.  The dark chocolate, bourbon, and salt really pull back the sweetness of the Karo, and replacing some of the Karo with a high-quality honey with a mild flavor added a nice depth.

These pies are way better the second day, if you like a stronger taste of bourbon. If not, reduce the bourbon a little and/or eat the pies on the day you make them.

I never make my own pie crusts, but I make an exception here. You should too. The tutorial I cite below will give you the confidence to try, and this crust recipe is the perfect texture for a pie with this much sugar. I don’t think the thinner frozen pre-made crusts would compete.

Full disclosure: Base recipe can be found here, and my friend Mel suggested replacing half of the water in the crust with vodka. I don’t know why that works, but I suspect it allows the water to chill below its usual temperature – always a good thing for crust construction.

Crust tutorial: I found this post very helpful at “Eating from the Ground Up” for making a perfect crust via KitchenAid mixer.  Chilling the bowl & ingredients and freezing the crusts during and after rolling & placing into the pie plates worked perfectly. My crusts were not at all soggy. I do recommend leaving the crust out for a bit before rolling, because the huge amount of butter is solid and hard as a rock otherwise. (Though I persevered via marble rolling pin, a lot of determination, and the pressure of already being behind schedule.)

Adapted from Robert Del Grande

Yield: 3
 nine-inch pies. You might squeeze this into 2 if you have huge pie plates. Crust definitely makes 3.

Pie Dough

About 4 cups all-purpose flour 
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 pound cold butter, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup chilled water + vodka (equal portions of each)

Pecan Pie Filling
8 whole eggs
4 egg yolks
2 Tablespoons vanilla
1/3cup bourbon (a good one)
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt (regular) + large granule sea salt for garnish
4 Tablespoons melted butter
2 1/2 cups light corn syrup
1/2cup honey (a quality one, not too heavy in flavor)
3 cups pecan pieces
2-3 cups chopped, very dark, very good quality chocolate

For the pie crust:
In a mixing bowl (or on a work surface), combine the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and butter. With your fingers or the beater, cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.  Add the chilled water/vodka to the flour mixture and work until a rough dough is formed. Do not over work the dough: bits of butter should still be visible.  
Turn the dough onto a floured work surface. Flatten and fold the dough several times to create layers in the dough (if working by hand). Divide the dough into 3 sections, form disks, and wrap in Saran-Wrap if not immediately rolling crusts. (I let mine chill a while.)

(Follow the tutorial I noted above throughout this process.)  
Roll each chunk into a circle with a diameter well in excess of that of the pie plate and approximately 1/4-inch thick. Fit the dough circles into the pie plates and form an edge. Chill very well in freezer until pies are ready to fill and bake.

For the Pecan Pie Filling,
Pre-heat an oven to 375°F.

in a mixing bowl, combine the eggs and egg yolks and whisk until smooth. Add the vanilla, bourbon, brown sugar, salt and melted butter and whisk until well blended. Slowly blend in the corn syrup and honey and mix well.

Divide the pecan pieces and chocolate pieces between the three chilled pie shells. Divide the filling between the three pies. Sprinkle lightly with large-grain sea salt, if desired. 
Place the pies on baking sheets and bake at 375°F for 15 minutes. Lower the heat to 300°F and bake until the pies have set and the center puff up a little, approximately 45 to 60 minutes.

Accidentally awesome pasta

 Accidentally made the best pasta ever. Here’s the mojo I followed:

On a rimmed baking sheet in a 425 degree oven, I roasted a few garlic gloves, half an onion I found in the frig, a pepper, and about a dozen cherry tomatoes from the farmers market. Drizzle with olive oil before roasting for about 25 min. The tomatoes will burst and char while the other veggies soften and caramelize. 

Remove roasting pan. I deglazed with a bit of sherry. (You could use wine or broth instead. Just be mindful of the overall sweet-sour balance in the recipe.) 

Put pasta water on to boil. I used rigatoni. I think penne or shells would have been great too. 

Dice the roasted onion. Peel the roasted cloves and see if any garlic survived. (Keep it.) Remove the skin from the pepper and dice the flesh. 

I then sliced two leftover grilled Italian sausage links and added those to the pile of prepped veggies on the baking sheet. 

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet. Add olive oil or butter. Throw some fresh garlic into the pan (diced) along with a couple pieces of the onion and any roasted garlic you rescued. 

Once that got going, I put in the juice and pulp from an overripe tomato and let that cook down a bit. By now the pasta water was ready so I started cooking that. 

Add 1/4 cup cream sherry and 2T balsamic vinegar to pan, simmer. Add punch of red pepper, fresh ground pepper, flaky salt, and Italian seasoning. 

Add all the vegetables from the baking sheet, scraping in the toasty bits. Add the sliced cooked sausage. (If I were making this with uncooked meat, I would have started that in the pan first.)

And the winner: add a small round of soft goat cheese, around 3oz. Mine was flavored with Italian herbs and balsamic. Stir through the pan until the cheese melts and a thick sauce forms. 

I then added a couple handfuls of fresh baby spinach leaves and let those wilt slightly as the cheese melted and the sauce formed. 

When the noodles are done (I did this just before they were al dente), strain noodles straight into the pan with the sauce. You don’t want much cooking water but you do need a little. I scoop mine with a slotted pasta server so I get piping hot noodles and a little extra water.  Keep stirring noodles into the sauce as you add them. 

Serve with a sprinkling of parmasean and some fresh basil if you have it. 


Lazy Man’s Lasagna [Recipe]

I got a couple requests for my lasagna recipe, so here it is. You’re going to be disappointed if you’re expecting something fancy – however, I can promise that this version is affordable, easy, and taste-tested (and found “delicious”).

Also – this recipe looks really long but trust me – it isn’t.  You can carry the shopping list in your head, and the assembly directions are here for people who don’t know how to make lasagna with uncooked noodles…. once you do the process, it’s quite simple.

Lazy Man’s Lasagna
by LJR
Makes at least 15 servings (in my pan);
prep time 30min;
cook time 3 hours + let stand 30-60min before serving

As with all my recipes, measurements are merely an approximation, and you should follow your (good) instincts.  Also, I make this in a large metal roasting pan with tall sides similar to this one (though mine isn’t nearly that high quality).

For the sauce:
– 3 cans of spaghetti sauce – the “cheap kind” is fine, the Hunt’s (etc) $1 cans of sauce near the more expensive glass jar sauces. Mix up the flavors and pick 3 you like
– 3 cans of diced tomatoes (major brand or store brand, whatever), I like to use the ones with some diced garlic & onion added, or basil/garlic/oregano.  Plan to use 1 can in the sauce and 2 cans on top of the lasagna.
-1 lb good quality ground sausage, either “regular” or ground Italian sausage if you can find it out of its casings (Publix often carries it)
-1-2 T minced garlic (this is lazy man’s lasagna so use the jar stuff)
-2 T of either red wine or sherry
-dried Italian seasoning, salt, pepper — I use a mix of basil, oregano, and marjoram for this recipe, and use it liberally. Like 1T of each of the herbs, plus 1 tsp salt and pepper
water (see prep instructions)

For the cheese:
-3 small containers or 1 large+1 small ricotta cheese. I recommend having at least 2/3 of the cheese be whole milk ricotta, unless you’re insisting on eating this entire pan of lasagna yourself and therefore need to cut out the milk fat that provides a good consistency to the layers. But why would you make lasagna and not share it?
-1 “normal sized” package shredded mozzarella cheese
-1 can shredded parmesan — divided (half into the cheese mixture, half to sprinkle while building lasagna) – we like the parmesan+asiago blend
-2 eggs
-1 T salt
-1 T nutmeg (don’t skip this!)
-1 T garlic powder
-1 tsp ground pepper (fresh is best)
-1 T each of basil, oregano, and marjoram
-1 small box frozen chopped spinach (optional) – it adds a lot of nutritional value and most people won’t realize it’s there — thaw the spinach block in the sink or microwave & squeeze to drain out as much water as you can

The rest:
-2 boxes lasagna noodles
-1 package shredded mozzarella or blend of Italian cheeses
-more Italian herbs for the top

GROCERY LIST:  3 cans of sauce, 3 cans of tomatoes, 3 small tubs of ricotta (or 1big+1small), 2 “normal sized” packs of shredded cheeses, 2 boxes of noodles, 2 eggs (but you already have eggs at home, right?), 1 can of grated or shredded parmesan+asiago cheese, 1 box frozen chopped spinach, 1 lb sausage (preferably sweet Italian)


— Make the sauce:
Cook sausage until brown, adding garlic just before the end. Once fully brown, deglaze the pan with the wine or sherry, scraping bottom to pull up browned bits. Pour in the 3 cans of tomato sauce and 1 can of diced tomatoes; then add all the seasonings. Stir but you don’t need to get it hot. In fact, DON’T get the sauce hot!  Lastly, fill one of the cans with water and add to the sauce. We need extra liquid for the noodles…..  Set aside but leave a big ladle handy.

— Make the cheese mixture:
I use my KitchenAid mixer for this:  Beat the ricotta cheese until it smooths out a little. Add everything else listed in that section (remember to reserve half of the grated parmesan) and mix until combined thoroughly. Check for salt content before adding salt, since some cheeses are saltier than others. It shouldn’t taste “salty” but it shouldn’t be bland either.  Set aside with a big spatula handy for dolloping and spreading.

— Build the lasagna:
It’s all about the layers. You’ll make two, plus a top, in this order:

  • thin layer of sauce (on bottom of pan) – I use about 1.5 cups in my pan
  • layer of noodles – they should overlap slightly but not too much; break noodles as needed to cover whole surface
  • thin layer of sauce
  • sprinkle half of the remaining opened package of parmesan cheese
  • use spatula to “dollop” & gently spread out half of the cheese mixture
  • repeat that entire process to make layer 2, including the thin layer of sauce as the first item
  • you’re probably running out of sauce but put another layer of red sauce onto the top of layer #2
  • layer of noodles
  • any remaining sauce + the two cans of diced tomatoes AND THEIR JUICE — pour on top & spread to cover top layer of noodles
  • spread the 2nd package of mozzarella cheese on top
  • spread half the 2nd package of shredded parmesan on top
  • top with a generous handful of Italian herbs & some fresh cracked pepper

Ready to bake!!


Line bottom rack with a sheet of foil to catch drips. This lasagna will boil (to cook the noodles).  Cover the lasagna with a layer of foil – I recommend spraying the inside of the foil with PAM so the cheese doesn’t stick.

If you have time to slow bake, I think it tastes better. I’ll give those directions here but if you’re in a hurry, you can set oven to 400 and cook this in about half the time.

Slow bake:  Preheat oven to 350 before inserting lasagna, but reduce heat to 225 once it goes in.
Bake for 2 hours on 225.
Raise oven temp to 375 and bake for another 45-60 min to make sure noodles are cooked.
Remove foil and either bake until brown OR turn on the broiler to brown the cheese faster.

Is it done? Well, if the noodles offer no resistance, then they’re done. It’s going to look really juicy but ….

Remove lasagna from oven, set the foil on top to lightly cover, and let rest for AT LEAST 30 min.  A full hour is better.  That’s what ensures the lasagna will hold together when you cut it; otherwise you get soup. 🙂  When you insert a knife to cut, it’ll be a little juicy but hold together.

Make ahead:  The lasagna can be assembled in advance. Wrap top with Saran before foil. Can refrigerate for 24 hours or freeze and bake later. Cold lasagna won’t really affect the slow-bake directions I give, but frozen lasagna will probably take a little longer overall. (Remember to remove Saran Wrap before baking!!)