Greek Dolma or Stuffed Grape Leaves

My mom used to make stuffed grape leaves on special occasions – it really is a time consuming labor of love. She made them with ground lamb, pine nuts, rice, garlic, dill, paprika, and cooked them in a thin tomato sauce. Of course we had lemon and tzatziki sauce on the side. The paprika might seem odd – it’s probably a Hungarian or Turkish influence like in stuffed peppers – but it works if you like paprika; it’s optional. I cut out the mint because my wife isn’t a fan, but you can add mint if you like it; think lamb + mint = yum.



  • 8 oz grape leaves (or 1/2 jar), preserved grape leaves
  • 1/2 lbs ground lamb
  • 1/2 cup white rice, uncooked
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, diced (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp pine nuts
  • 1 Tbsp currents (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp fresh mint, chopped (optional to taste)
  • 1 tsp salt (to taste)
  • 1 tsp black pepper (to taste)
  • 1 tsp paprika (optional to taste)

Tzatziki Sauce

  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded
  • 2 cups plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp diced onion (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp diced garlic
  • 1 lemon squeezed
  • 1 Tbsp dill
  • 1 tsp chopped mint (optional)


  • 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup water


  • Serve with lemon wedges and tzatziki sauce


Tzatziki Sauce

Prepare tzatziki sauce 3-4 hours before meal, and set in refrigerator.

Peel and seed cucumber, then grate it into a bowl. Stir in a pinch of salt, and let it stand for 10 minutes.

Squeeze out water.

In a bowl mix cucumber, yogurt, garlic, onion, dill, lemon, mint.


Start by soaking grape leaves in large bowl of water to separate them and remove the brine.

In a large bowl mix lamb, uncooked rice, olive oil, parsley, onion, pine nuts, currents, mint, salt, pepper, and paprika.

The grape leaves have a smooth side and a ribbed side and they usually have 5 distinct chambers.

Start rolling with leaves rib-side up, then place ~1 tsp of stuffing mixture on the central stem, then pull up the bottom 2 chambers, then pull in the left and right chambers, finish by rolling over the top chamber.

Place several leaves in the bottom of the pot to cover, and spoon in a few tablespoons of tomato sauce on top of that. Then place a layer of dolma on top of that, seem side down. Then a layer of leaves and a layer of sauce. Then a layer of dolma. Then a layer of leaves and a layer of sauce.

Add water to cover, then bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, and cover. Let simmer for about 50 minutes or until rice is cooked – test one or two with a fork after 30 minutes. For more on keeping yourself healthy, you can now check The Monster Cycle store and get a bike to exercise.

When they are finished cooking serve with side of tzatziki sauce and lemon wedges.

Grilled Chicken Curry

Inspiration: yogurt marinated chicken by Sam the Cooking Guy

Makes 4 servings

Time from start to finish: 30 minutes cooking (marinated 3 hours)


  • 8 ounces plain non-fat Greek yogurt
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 tablespoon avocado oil (or extra-virgin olive oil)
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro, set aside 2 tablespoons for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 (about 1 pound) skinless-boneless chicken thighs


Mix everything together except the chicken in a large bowl or zip-lock bag.

Set aside 1/2 cup of the marinade, stir the chicken into the marinade, cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours.

When you’re ready to cook, remove the chicken from the refrigerator, and go light the grill.

Cook chicken on the grill – about 5 minutes per side – until done (internal temperature 165° F or 75° C).

That’s it! You’ll want to spoon the reserved marinade over the chicken before serving.

At this point you could cube the chicken, and serve it with rice or quinoa or couscous. Don’t forget the (grilled) veggies – asparagus or squash or corn.

Creamy Sauce Spinach Asparagus Mushroom Linguine


Makes 8 servings


  • 16 oz linguine pasta
  • 1/4 lbs (3-4 slices) regular-cut bacon (crisped & diced)
  • 1/2 lbs asparagus (chopped)
  • 1 lbs mushrooms (chopped)
  • 1 cup white onion (diced)
  • 2 clove garlic (minced)
  • 2 tbs olive oil (as needed)
  • 4 cups baby spinach (small leaves)
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • (optional) white wine


Boil large pot of water for linguine. Cook linguine until soft.

While linguine is boiling, in a large sauté pan, cook bacon until crisp.

Remove bacon and set aside; crumble/chop it when it’s cool.

Add garlic, asparagus, mushrooms and onion to the pan with bacon drippings.

Sauté until asparagus is softened. Add a dash of white wine to deglaze and/or a small amount of water to keep moist.

Add cream cheese and milk, stir and cook until cream cheese melts and everything is well blended. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Add spinach and cook and stir until it wilts.

Add crumbled bacon on top.

Drain linguine and serve cream sauce on top.

Oven Baked Spare Ribs

I’ve been making ribs for 5 years now – usually for Memorial Day – and each time they are a little different. The last couple of years I’ve had success with baking them in the oven first then finishing them in a smokey grill. This July 4th (Independence Day) I thought I would share my recipe, and the steps I take to make tender, fall-off-the-bone spare ribs.

Number of people: 4 (some leftovers)
Time from start to finish: 6 hours

Barbecue spare ribs
Baked beans

2 slabs (~6 lbs) of St. Louis cut spare ribs

1/2 tablespoons kosher salt (1/4 teaspoon per pound of ribs)

1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons ground black pepper
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 teaspoons cumin powder

Dry Brine
Wash off the ribs, take off the membrane, and coat them with a thin layer of kosher salt; use about 1/4 teaspoon per pound. While the ribs are brining, mix the rub ingredients together.


After an hour of brining, apply the rub and put the ribs in a 250 F oven uncovered, bone-side down, for 2 hours.

Take the ribs out, brush them with barbecue sauce, wrap them in aluminum foil, and put them back in the oven for another 2 hours.

Now take the ribs out, carefully unwrap them, and check if the bones pull away from the meat. If not, wrap them up, put them in the oven, and come back and check on them again in 15 minutes. When the bones start to slide they’re ready for the Finish.


You can finish them under the broiler in the oven or in a covered grill (outside). If you want to finish them in the oven, paint them with barbecue sauce, lay them in a baking pan, bones down, uncovered, about 6 inches from the broiler for 10 minutes. Take them out and let them rest a minute – check their internal temperature (160 F). If they need more time, put them back under the broiler for 5 minutes and check them again. I would say have them under the broiler no more then 20 minutes.

If you want to finish them with a smoky grill, prepare the grill for indirect heat. When the temperature stabilizes (no flames with charcoal) place wood chips on the coals. Place the ribs on the opposite side the grill from the coals. Smoke the ribs for at least 15 minutes (YMMV). Check internal temperature (160 F) or pull on the bones. If they need more time, put them back on the “cool” side of the grill and close the lid. Check them again in 5 minutes. I would say have them on the grill no more then 20 minutes.

Quick Beef Stew



1 package (15oz) of Hormel Beef Roast Au Jus
12 small potatoes (or 4 cubed regular size potatoes)
1 or 2 stalk celery chopped
15 oz can carrots


Start by boiling the potatoes until almost fork tender.
Add carrots and celery, and continue to boil until carrots and celery are soft.
Turn down heat to simmer and add beef.
Cook stew until beef is good and warm.

Chris’ Kickin’ Chili


1 lbs ground beef
1 lbs ground pork
1 white onion
1 green bell pepper
2 cans of light red kidney beans (15 oz can)
3 cans of tomato sauce (8 oz can)
2 cans of diced tomatoes (14.5 oz can)
2 cups water


Add spices to taste. I add them in diminishing amounts in this order:
chili powder
cumin powder
garlic powder
onion powder
crushed red pepper
black pepper


Dice bell pepper and onion.
Drain and wash kidney beans.
Saute meat in a pan until brown. Add dash of salt and black peppers  as meat cooks.
Combine meat, water, cans of tomato sauce, bell peppers, and onions in large pot. Heat to boil.
Turn down heat to simmer, and add diced tomatoes. Add seasoning to taste.
Let simmer until flavors are blended. Add more water if needed.

Ottoman Feast

I wanted Middle Eastern food so here’s the menu I came up with: Shish Kabob with Tzatziki Sauce, Baba Ganoush and Tabbouleh. Chopping and prep takes a while, but the results are awesome.


Shish Kabob Marinade
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon garlic powder

top-round beef
green peppers
(sautéed mushrooms on the side)

Baba Ganoush
1 large eggplant
1/4 cup tahini
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 pinch ground cumin
salt, to taste
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup kalamata olives

1 cup bulghur wheat or couscous
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1/4 cup good olive oil
3 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup minced scallions, white and green parts (1 bunch)
1 cup chopped fresh mint leaves (1 bunch)
1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley (1 bunch)
1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and medium-diced
2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Tzatziki Sauce
1 medium peeled or unpeeled cucumber
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (from 6-oz container)
2 tablespoons chopped onion
2 teaspoons chopped fresh mint (optional)


Shish Kabobs

shish-kabobThese are the easiest to make. Cut top-round beef into 2 inch cubes. For the Shish Kabob Marinade, mix ingredients together, let kabob meat marinate for at least 2 hours.

My pattern was green pepper, meat, onion, meat, green pepper. I got 4 pieces of meat on one skewer.

I cooked them on the grill for about 10 minutes – flipping them over at 5 minutes – then I put the whole lot in the oven at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

Baba Ganoush

baba-ganoushIt is tricky to cook eggplant just right so that it is soft, fully cooked, and not spongy. I had to play with it a little to get the right consistency. After cooking in a 375 degree oven for about 15 minutes I put the uncooked pieces into the microwave to soften them up.

Remove eggplant from the oven, let cool slightly, and peel off and discard the skin. Place the eggplant flesh in a bowl. Using a fork, mash the eggplant to a paste.

Add the 1/4 cup tahini, the garlic, the 1/4 cup lemon juice and the cumin and mix well. Season with salt, then taste and add more tahini and/or lemon juice, if needed.

I think I used 3/4 cup of tahini and quite a bit of salt to balance out the lemon. In the end it came out a little chunky, but it tasted fresh and good.


tabboulehThis recipe is the most time consuming: I cut the green onion, parsley and mint with kitchen sheers.

Place the bulghur in a large bowl, pour in the boiling water, and add the lemon juice, olive oil, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Stir, then allow to stand at room temperature for about 1 hour.

Add the scallions, mint, parsley, cucumber, tomatoes, 2 teaspoons salt, and the pepper; mix well. Season, to taste, and serve or cover and refrigerate. The flavor will improve if the tabbouleh sits for a few hours.

This recipe taught me a new technique to make fine-chopped cucumber: cut cucumber in half, quarter halves length wise, cut out the seed patches, slice the pieces length wise (2 or 3 slices), then chop the slices (perpendicular) into small pieces.

Tzatziki Sauce

Mix ingredients together and season to taste. I added celery salt and dill and dash of sugar (the celery salt was too spicy).

Chicken Cacciatore


2 cups all-purpose flour for coating
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 pounds chicken tendors, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup white wine
2 cups fresh mushrooms, quartered
salt and pepper to taste

Combine the flour, salt and pepper in a plastic bag. Shake the chicken pieces in flour until coated. Heat the oil in a large skillet (one that has a cover/lid). Fry the chicken pieces until they are browned on both sides. Remove from skillet.

Chicken Cacciatore

Add the onion, garlic and bell pepper to the skillet and saute until the onion is slightly browned. Return the chicken to the skillet and add the tomatoes, oregano and wine. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes over medium low heat.

Add the mushrooms and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 10 more minutes.


Chicken Puff Pastry With Asparagus

Number of people: 5
Time from start to finish: 1.5 hours

Chicken Puff Pastry

1 Rotisserie chicken, about 2 cups deboned
1 8 oz container of cream cheese (room temperature)
2 stalks of celery
1 small white onion
2 sheets of puff pastry
1 egg white
2 tbsp butter
2 pounds asparagus

Lay out 2 sheets of puff pastry to defrost on a lightly floured cookie sheet or counter (takes about 40 minutes). Diced celery and onions, then sauté in a small skillet with the butter until the celery is soft. Debone the chicken (you could also use leftover chicken, or fried chicken) and cut into bite size pieces.

Heat oven to 400⁰ F. In a medium sized bowl, mix the chicken, cream cheese, softened onions and celery until well incorporated. Unroll and stretch out 1 sheet of puff pastry on a cookie sheet that has be lightly sprayed with non-stick spray until the pastry covers most of the pan. Starting in the middle, place the chicken mixture on top of the puff pastry sheet and, with a spoon, spread out the mixture until the chicken covers all but about 1/2 inch of the sheet.

Place the second sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured surface (I used a second cookie sheet) and stretch or roll it to almost the same size as the first sheet. Once stretched, place the second sheet on top of the first sheet and chicken mixture. With a pastry brush, use the egg whites to lightly moisten the edges of the puff pastry. Once all the edges have been moistened, crimp and fold the edges up so that the pastry makes a sealed pocket (it will look like a pillow). You can use a fork around the sides to help the pastry join together like you would with a pie crust. Brush the top of puff pastry lightly with the egg whites. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the puff pastry is golden brown.

For the asparagus, I cut off about an inch off the bottom to remove the woody/dry part. I then steamed the asparagus in a large skillet with about an inch of salted boiling water for about 10 minutes or until desired tenderness and added 2 tbsp. of butter.

Grilled Salmon

Number of people: 6
Time from start to finish: 40 minutes

Grilled Salmon
Jasmine Rice
Roasted Green Bean and Broccoli

2 lbs frozen salmon
2 cups Jasmine Rice, rinsed (see tip below)
4 cups of water
1.5 lbs fresh green beans
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
12 oz frozen broccoli

Let the salmon defrost either in the refrigerator, or in a bowl of cold water if individually wrapped. Once the salmon is defrosted, brush both sides with olive oil then season with salt, pepper, dill (fresh is better if you have it), and lemon juice. My husband then grilled the salmon on aluminum  foil until the salmon started to flake when touched with a fork.

I use a rice cooker to cook my rice, to me, Jasmine rice tastes better this way. I use a fine mesh strainer and run cool water over the rice 1 cup at a time until the water runs clear to cut down on the starchiness of it. I then add 4 cups of water, and then cook until the water is absorbed and the rice is tender.

I wash then green beans, then snap off then ends. Once they are ready, I place them on a foil or parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Toss the green beans with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of salt (I prefer kosher), and 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper. Bake at 425 for about 10 minutes, then toss the green beans, and return to the oven for another 5 minutes or until they are tender.

Green beans tend to shrink when you cook them. My husband and I decided that we just did not have enough vegetables, so I steamed some frozen broccoli to make up the difference.


When purchasing Jasmine rice, be sure to check the section of your store that stocks the regular rice (usually near the pasta) AND the section that stocks International foods for prices. Usually I find the Jasmine rice is $1 to $2 a pound cheaper in the International foods section.

Also, I have found that Jasmine rice cooked in a rice cooker tastes very different than if cooked in a pot on the stove. I’m not exactly sure why this is, maybe it has something to do with the material of the pots, or maybe it’s that the rice cooker seems to steam the rice more so than boil the rice. To me it just taste a LOT better when cooked in a rice cooker.