Mary and Dave love to cook (and eat too). Inspired by the Japanese TV show Iron Chef, a favorite pastime is to shop for some main ingrediants that are on sale, then find some interesting recipes online to try out. Of course, we're cooks, not chefs. A chef tastes, and knows just what is needed for perfection. We'll never get there, but we have fun trying.

Some of our favorite recipes...


6 large plum tomatos, diced
8 sun-dried tomatos (Principe Borghese' works very nicely), diced
3 large cloves garlic, diced
12 leaves fresh basil, finely chopped
olive oil (your sun-dried tomatos may be in oil already)
salt to taste
balsamic vinegar to taste (I like a lot, Mary not so much)

Toast thin slices of crusty Italian bread and top! Yum.


6 slices round steak sliced very thin and pounded to ¼ inch
½-cup bread crumbs
2 hard boiled eggs, chopped finely
Freshly grated parmesan or Romano cheese
½ cup chopped parsley
2 cloves garlic minced
Salt and pepper
½-cup olive oil
4 cups canned tomatoes or prepared sauce
Red wine

Sprinkle the center of each slice of beef with a mixture of bread crumbs, cheese, egg, parsley, and garlic.
Roll up beef and secure with toothpicks or tie with string.
Brown the rolls in olive oil then transfer to large Dutch oven or covered pot for the oven.
Cover with tomatoes and 1-cup red wine, or sauce and cook in a slow oven at 300 degrees for three hours.
Serve with pasta and green salad, garlic bread and red wine.

Baked Pasta with Sausage and Béchamel Sauce

5 tablespoons Olive Oil
4 cloves of garlic, thickly sliced
1 large onion, chopped
⅛ tsp red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
2  pounds Italian sausage
½ cup red wine
1 cup beef stock
3 cups tomato sauce
2 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
3/4 cup grated pecorino Romano cheese
1½ pound pasta, penne or rigatoni (with ribs)
2 cups skim milk
3 tablespoon sweet butter
3 tablespoon flour
⅛ tsp nutmeg  

In a large frying pan, sauté garlic, bay leaf, pepper flakes in olive oil
Add onions and high heat for 2 min
Reduce to low heat and cook for 5 minutes
Add sausage, breaking into small pieces with back of a wooden spoon, cook until fully browned
Add red wine and cook until reduced by one half
Add tomato sauce and beef stock; bring to boil then simmer for additional 40 min to one hour stirring every 10 minutes Make fresh pasta in machine (should take about 40 minutes)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Cook and drain pasta
Immediately in a large bowl, combine pasta with ladles of sauce
Add Romano, fresh basil, and more sauce (save some sauce for later)
Empty bowl of pasta into rectangular lasagna pan; cover with remaining sauce  

Béchamel sauce
Bring milk to a boil In a saucepan, melt butter; combine with flour to make a thick roux
Slowly add hot milk continuing to whisk.
Cook until it reduces to the consistency of thick paint  
Cover pasta with béchamel sauce
Bake at 350 until browned approx 20 minutes.

Carrera Chili - version 2.4 recipe inspired by the Swicks*

This recipe (tweeked) was used for several years at the Springfield Sertoma Chili Cookoff where we took several People's Choice awards.
The original recipe is on a spreadsheet to allow for any quantity - we typically made about 12 gallons at the cookoff, although we
used a course ground beef for the masses and reserved the round steak for personal use and judging.

In December of 1993 we took our first trip to Trinidad. While driving on a Sunday I spied a local market and ended up buying 300 Habanero peppers for $5. I managed to get the hotel kitchen to dry them for me for another $5. We brought them back and used all 300 in a single gallon of "Super Macho" chili at the cookoff. This was before the hot-food craize really got going and we made quite a show of it.

Hard-core chiliheads make a science of it. The spices are carefully times in a series of "Dumps" to maximize the flavor. I'm a big believer in using the freshest spices you can get.

Makes       1.00     gallons          (about 3 hours minimum from start to finish)

"Dump 0"  Initial ingredient group:
4.3 poundsround steak or similar cut (subtract 5-10% if adding beans or very lean)
  Suet for browning
 Road Kill Armadillo and Rattlesnake meat to taste
2 medium sweet yellow onions
0.5 pound pork sausage or bacon (diced)
5large cloves garlic
16 oz chicken broth
1 cup Lone Star Beer (buy at least one 12 pack for fine tuning)
 "Dump 1"  (add two hours before serving):
18 oz cans green chiles (diced)
1.5 8 oz.cans tomato sauce
"Dump 2"  (add one hour before serving): 
2.8 tablespoons ground cumin (try toasting and grinding fresh cumin seed!)
2.0dried Red Savina habañero or Ghost peppers (more for higher macho factor)
8 Tblsp ground dried red chiles (add earlier if coarsely ground)
1 cupSan Antonio Ambrosia Spring Water
1 tspsalt, or to taste
0.5 tablespoons Mexican oregano
1dirty sock (see below)
 "Dump 3" (add 15 minutes before serving):
2 Tblspground dried red chiles (add earlier if coarsely ground)
0.25 tspof brown sugar
0.25 tsp jalapeno powder or green Tabasco sauce

To prepare chiles, remove seeds, stems, and ribs; chop finely in blender
   (I like to use some ancho or passila chilis for rich flavor and color)
Cut meat into 1/4-1/2" cubes removing grisle (1/2" if lots of cooking time available)
For mass quantities, substitute course ground round or better.
Dice onions into small consistant size; dice garlic
Sautee onions, garlic, bacon, beef (add suet first if meat is very lean)
   Use equal amounts of above in multiple sautee batches
Put oregano in sock, steep in Lone Star Beer for several hours
Remove sock from beer, squeeze out retained brew and add to pot
Add chicken broth, diced green chiles, tomato sauce
Put in cast iron pot or crockpot - simmer one hour - add other spices as timed above
If cooking overnight, add 1st dump at bedtime, 2nd, 3rd dumps timed before serving
Stir frequently, scraping carmelized chili on pot side into center
Before serving, top pot with 2-3 whole dried bright red Anaheim chiles for effect
Serve as-is, or over optional pinto beans, with shredded cheddar
   and Monterrey Jack Cheese if desired.
Side order of buttermilk for the faint hearted
* (George and Maud Swick are both well known World Chili Champs)

more to come