Hollywood Florida and Everglades

October 12, 2011

I was working during half my Florida trip, but at least the family was able to enjoy the beautiful hotel and beach. We had a wonderful room on the 32nd floor directly facing the ocean.

Storm Cleanup Continues

November 13, 2011

After weeks of hard work, most of the tree branch has been removed and hauled to the front of my house. The city hasn’t yet hauled them away, and all my neighbors are adding their seasonal leaves. My street is nearly impassible. So I decided to take a mini-break to give the city a chance to catch up, or at least that’s the reason I’m telling myself why I’m not working this weekend. Instead I will spend this weekend cooking. After all, Man cannot live on fried chicken alone. So, stay tuned for a few highly anticipated recipes over the first part of this week.

By the way, I’ve resigned myself that there no chance that I’ll reach my goal of 100 recipes for 2011. My break in January, trips to France and Florida, and the double whammy of Hurricane Irene and the freak October snowstorm have put me irrecoverably off the pace.

Click on the pictures to zoom. The website is displaying the gallery with tiny images.

Sea World and Universal Studios

October 10, 2011

It’s been more than 10 days since I’ve had a home cooked meal, so I’m looking forward to getting back into the kitchen.  Here are a few pictures from my half-work, half-mini-vacation to Florida.


  1. Sea World has en extremely family-unfriendly policy of refusing to allow you to bring lunch into the park, nor do they have lockers outside the park so that I could store them until lunch time. They inspected my backpack and made me throw away six perfectly delicious sandwiches. Such a blatant money-grab is a real bummer. They aren’t content with the $300/day in entrance fees, they have to squeeze the last $50 out in fast food.


35-Minute Taco Salad

September 13, 2011

I originally made this recipe almost a year ago. I was completely surprised and happily gave the recipe 5-stars. The only down-side was that it made a huge mess. I’ve added some details to the recipe below to help choreograph the preparation and reduced the mess to medium. I also better used my time and reduced the preparation time from 60 minutes down to 35.  Without the avocado I could only give it 4-1/2 stars.

World's Best Taco Salad


  1. I accidentally used a regular, rather than non-stick, skillet. It made cleanup more difficult, but I don’t believe it changed any flavors.
  2. The recipe calls for 90% lean ground beef, but 80% was on sale for $1.79/lb. To prevent the salad from being too greasy, I cooked the onion/chili powder longer on it’s own; then removed it from the skillet while browning the beef. I then used power towels to mop up some of the excess grease, before adding the onion/chili powder back to the skillet.
  3. Unfortunately, Hass avocados are out-of-season, so I decided to skip the green, Florida avocado.

Rating: 4-1/2 stars.
Cost: $9.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 6:00pm. Dinner time at 6:35pm.

Chris Kimball’s original is here. and the dressing recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared the salad today are given below:

Beef Mixture:

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion
2 tablespoons chili powder
4 garlic cloves
1-lb 90% lean ground beef
8-oz can tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 head romaine lettuce
2 tomatoes
1 avocado
4-oz cheddar cheese, or Mexican cheese blend
Tortila chips for serving

  1. Mince onion and peel 4 garlic cloves.
  2. Preheat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in 12” non-stick skillet over medium heat. Saute onion and chili powder for 4 minutes until the onion has softened. Press 4 cloves of garlic directly into skillet and cook for 30 seconds.
  3. Stir in ground beef, breaking into smallish pieces. Cook for 9 minutes until slightly browned. Add tomato sauce and simmer for 2 minutes.
  4. While beef cooks tear romaine lettuce into bit-sized pieces and put on a very large serving platter. Grate cheese; set aside. Also core and cut your two tomatoes into medium-sized dice, and cut your avocado into 1/2” cubes. Set tomatoes and avocado aside separately.
  5. Season beef mixture with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, then set aside to cool slightly while making dressing.

Lime Vinaigrette Dressing:

1 shallot
1 jalapeño chile
1 small garlic clove
5 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from 2-1/2 to 3 limes)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

  1. Peel garlic and shallot, and cut into rough quarters. Add to blender.
  2. Stem jalapeno and remove seeds. Add to blender.
  3. Freshly squeezed lime juice is key for flavor here, so squeeze the limes into measuring cup for more accurate measuring.
  4. Add 5 tablespoons lime juice, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to blender.
  5. Process for 15 seconds.
  6. Roughly chop cilantro and measure 1/2-cup. Add to blender.
  7. With blender running, add oil, and continue to process for 15 more seconds, or until the dressing is smooth and emulsified.

Final Assemly:

  1. Toss 1/2-cup of vinaigrette with torn lettuce until evenly coated.
  2. Place a ring of tortilla chips around the outer edge of serving plate, tucking under the lettuce if necessary. Top with beef. Sprinkle grated cheese, diced tomatoes, and avocado cubes. Drizzle anther 1/4-cup of vinaigrette over top of salad. Pass the remaining dressing separately.
  3. When serving to individual plates I like to first lay down a bed of tortilla chips. It can also be served with salsa or sour cream.

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