Short ribs are always a favorite!  I don’t often repeat a recipe or concept, but I do love these braised with a rich dark beer.  Unfortunately, beer typically has a gluten base.  To reproduce the flavors, I started by breaking down the flavors the beer would impart.  Coffee, chocolate, bitter…  Okay!  That’s not hard at all.

To begin, I used some ground Midnight Blend, Classic Italian Roast from The Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie.  I picked up a bag on Sunday, while doing a bit of a day trip to the island.

Next, I added some of my favorite Mayan Cocoa from World Spice, some ground urfa peppers for a hint of heat, then cinnamon, salt and freshly ground black pepper.  What a wonderful smelling rub!  Don’t be stingy!

After searing, I added yellow onion, orange peel and bay leaf, deglazing with spiced rum.  Than, stock, to bring up the liquid and a healthy drizzle of real maple syrup to balance all those beautiful bitter flavors from the coffee, orange peel and unsweetened cocoa.  Into the oven!  Yeah, I do realize how much my neighbors hate me; smelling so many lovely dishes…

I served my bitter bones with polenta; dotted with minced seeded jalapeno and finished with creamy chevre and a squeeze of fresh lime to wake everything up.




Take a stroll down a different path.  Skip traditional dull Winter recipes…

Spice up tonight with Vietnamese Sweet Coconut Pork.  One of the pretty blends I bought on my recent foray to Savory Spice Shop at Alderwood, is an enticing Vietnamese Sweet Lemon Curry.  Joy in a jar!!

Turmeric, lemongrass, cumin, black pepper, paprika, coriander, garlic, cardamom, sugar, salt and a myriad of this and that inspired this dish.  I got the meal started by, using the blend as a rub on pork tenderloin.  Once browned in pure sesame oil, the little piggy popped happily into the oven to finish.  Meanwhile, I sauteed yellow pepper, seeded jalapeno, onion, fresh ginger and garlic in natural coconut oil.

When the tenderloins were close, they were moved to a plate and the cast iron pan returned to the stove top where I added a round of silver rum to deglaze.  With that bubbling merrily, it was time for some stock and juice from half of a large fresh lime.  A good shake more of the Lemon Curry added layers of additional flavors.  Just as the sauce was finished reducing I added a handful of sweet flake coconut.

Serve over a bed of steamed rice.  The pic above features Basmati, since I seem to have an abundance currently.  Jasmine or another of your favorites are excellent ideas.

Happy Holidays to all!!


Alspice…Black Pepper…Cinnamon…Clove…Fenugreek…Nutmeg…Ginger, a lively group of ‘friends’ hailing from Lebanon that I picked up at Seattle’s Spanish Table recently.  They made the perfect addition to my pre-Christmas ‘exotic culinary adventures’.

This is a cozy meal using roast lamb, butternut squash, spinach, onion, cilantro, a teaspoon of tomato paste, toasted pine nuts, chicken stock and plenty of Lebanese Seven Spice.  I served it over brown rice that I steamed with some bits of orange rind.  Quick and easy.  Now back to wrapping those Christmas gifts!




It was probably a steer, but it didn’t seem overly important at the time.  Long story, short, I got a hella deal on a smallish whole New York.  Perfect for home!  I cleaned it up and cut ten beautiful thick steaks.  Ummmmmhmmmmmm!

As to the Toy Shop, I discovered a new, to me, spice shop at the entrance to Alderwood mall.  I’m not much of a mall shopper, but thought it might be amusing to wander amongst the suburban Christmas shoppers for an afternoon.  Yeah, I know I’m fairly strange… LOL

To a Chef, an unexplored spice shop is the ultimate ‘Toy’ experience!  “Savory Spice Shop” was all kinds of fun!  So many pretty jars of tantalizing smells, tastes and colors!!

My basket of goodies included some lovely fresh, moist, crushed Urfa peppers.  These delights hail from Turkey.  They are a beautiful nearly black color.  The heat isn’t massive; more the sneak up on you, variety.  A wonderful ingredient to cook with!  I simply rubbed a couple of steaks down with the Urfa and some salt.

To make the dish pictured, allow the steaks to come up to room temperature, then sear them in a hot cast iron skillet and place them in a 400 degree oven.  When they are close to the desired temp, remove them to a plate to rest.  Use the pan to make a beautiful mushroom sauce.

My steaks were fairly lean, so I added a touch more olive oil and sauteed minced onion and sliced crimini mushrooms.  Other mushrooms would be excellent, too.  When my mushrooms were close to done, I added some minced garlic, browned that a bit and deglazed with some red wine.  Once that reduced I added chicken stock, a teaspoon of organic tomato paste, fresh dried oregano and salt.  You can reduce this quickly, if you have time to watch it, or slowly, if you are busy with other tasks.  Once it has reduced down to a fairly thick consistency, remove from the heat and begin ‘mounting’ with unsalted butter, stirring in each pat before adding another, until you have a glossy sauce.  The butter, not only makes the sauce pretty, it is also mellowing the acid of the wine and heat from the peppers.  This allows the full flavor of the meat and peppers to balance.




World Spice’s Mayan Cocoa always makes me think of sacrifices.  Not MINE, thank you very much!  Chocolate…sacrifice… Nope!  I feel the Mayans of old sacrificed enough.  It’s covered.

I ran across a small package of this delectable combo while cleaning out my spice cupboard.  Dreary December evenings call for interesting dishes with bold exotic elements.  With a bite of this crazy good dish in your mouth, you will simply no longer care what the weather is doing outside!

Mayan Cocoa is a blend of deep chocolate, mellow chile, true cinnamon and allspice from World Market in Seattle.  If you aren’t nearby, they definitely ship all their lovely wares.  Check out the website.  If you’re in town, wander down there.  The heavenly smell of the shop, alone, is worth the parking and hills.

Mayan Cocoa Encrusted Pork Tenderloin

Pork tenderloin, trimmed of waste.  Cut into portions.  Each one will serve 2-3 guests

Mayan Cocoa


Oil for searing the pork.  I like coconut oil for this, but olive is always a great choice

Chicken stock


Fresh lime

Simply rub the portions with the cocoa and salt liberally.  When your oil is heated, add the pork.  Brown lightly on all sides then put the pan into the oven at 350 degrees.  It will take roughly 15 minutes to finish cooking.  Since the tenderloin size can vary, you will want to keep a close eye on them.  Over cooked pork is so dry and flavorless.

When it’s close to done, remove from the oven and place the pork on a plate to rest while you make the sauce.  Now place the pan on the stove top.  Bring the temperature up, if it has cooled down.  Add a round of rum, preferably a spice rum with vanilla notes.  If you are using gas, this will flame up.  Stir to deglaze any bits from the pan, add stock and a squeeze of fresh lime.  Reduce most of the way.  Season.

While the sauce is finishing, slice the pork into rounds and plate.  The cocoa will have added a touch of pink to the cooked meat.  Don’t be alarmed.   Drizzle with the sauce immediately and serve.

I accompanied my dish with a combo of sweet potato and yam sauteed with onion and seeded jalapeno.

This splendid meal is free of Gluten, Dairy, Soy, Corn, Nuts and Eggs.


Snow, rain, cold…or sunshine and ocean breezes…?  Rushing about, dodging frantic Christmas shoppers or sipping this lovely margarita on a Mexican beach with sand between your toes?

If you’re planning a trip to your own version of Winter Wonderland, with food allergies and sensitivities you need to be thinking about a lot more then what brand of sunscreen to pack.

I love to travel.  Dining out is a favorite hobby.  As a Chef, I also especially enjoy the opportunity to cook when I am in exotic locales.  The ingredients indigenous to each region tempt me like a siren song.

To achieve my need to cook, I always rent a house or condo, so I have a kitchen.  With my ever present food allergies to consider, this makes it safer for me to travel.  Surprises still lurk in the most unlikely places, when you are in a foreign country, though.  You  need to do your homework.

I was thrilled to discover that the restaurants in Puerto Vallarta are actually grasping the significance of food allergies.  Some menus even stated, in large print, to discuss these with your server.  A trip to Isla Mujeres , four years ago, would have been a dining disaster if we hadn’t had my friend, Maria, a native Spanish speaker, along.

When dining out in a foreign country, you must know how to say the words in their native tongue.  Never expect to find that your server, even though he may have enough English to take your order, will be able to understand what you are trying to explain regarding these ingredients, you must avoid, without your ability to communicate in his language.

This recent trip did teach me some new problems, though.  Mexico does not have the same standards regarding food additives.  Even cooking at home, we encountered one that caused both of us some serious discomfort.  According to the link I have included, Mexican beef suppliers are voluntarily discontinuing the usage of Clenbuterol.  I wish that were as true as the report states.  Immediately, after ingesting some grilled New York steaks, we were both showing all the signs linked to this additive, so I started doing some serious research to determine what we had gotten a hold of.  Considering we had purchased the meat from a store owned by a large US corporation, this is especially troubling.

To avoid the oils we are allergic to, we generally try to only order foods that can’t possibly be contaminated.  Ceviche style dishes are our favorite.  Some of the beach side restaurants are producing absolutely stunning arrays of this culinary treat.  Unfortunately, we discovered, they also like to dust them with MSG and additives to preserve freshness.  Without the chemical analysis, I wasn’t able to determine exactly what they were using, but we certainly knew it was happening, despite requests to the contrary.

If all else fails, the margaritas and daiquiri’s are ‘safe’!  The beauty above was a very tasty ‘Cadillac’ prepared at the table by our favorite server, Freddie, at The Blue Shrimp Restaurant.  Afternoons were made for siestas, right?  Enjoy!