Saturday, January 28, 2017

California Pizza Kitchen - As Good As We Remember

It has been years since we lived close to a California Pizza Kitchen (, whose Thai Chicken Pizza my wife loved. We were delighted to see that one had finally opened at the nearby University Town Center Mall.

A couple of days ago, we decided to give the new one a try. We were rewarded with the fantastic pizzas we remembered. My wife, of course, had the Thai Chicken pizza with grilled chicken breast peanut sauce topped with crisp bean sprouts, julienned carrots, and slivered scallions. I had the California Club pizza with Nueskes applewood smoked bacon (the magic word), roasted chicken and mozzarella, baked and then topped with avocado, wild arugula, fresh-torn basil and Romaine lettuce tossed in lemon-pepper mayo. Since the pizzas were to go, they provided the fresh toppings for the California Club in a separate container.

The pizzas were about $14.25 apiece. Each was large enough for two to provide leftovers for a second dinner.

We'll definitely return.

A Delightful Birthday Dinner at P.F. Chang's

P.F. Chang's and Selva Grill were our daughter's top choices as restaurants for a dinner to celebrate her birthday. We opted for P.F. Chang's ( because we've enjoyed Selva Grill a number of times, but had never tried P.F. Chang's. It was a great choice. The meal was delicious.

Our daughter's main course was Orange Peel Shrimp ($17.50), my wife chose Mongolian Beef ($16.95) and I selected Wok-Fired Filet Mignon ($19.95). All three were excellent.

The side of white rice I was served was blah.

Our daughter's dessert was the small Strawberry Ginger Shortcake ($3.95). My wife had Banana Spring Rolls ($7.25), and I had the small Seasonal Cobbler ($3.95). which was mixed berry and which was served with vanilla ice cream. I had been considering skipping dessert because I felt very full. I'm glad I was too weak to resist the temptation. The cobbler was outstanding, and the other desserts were also delicious.The Banana Spring Rolls were complimentary for a birthday treat. 

For drinks, our daughter had Spiked Lemon Tea ($9.50) and a Mai Tai ($9.50), my wife had Mai Tais, and I had a large glass of 2014 Bodega Pillaboa Rias Baixas AlbariƱo, a semi-sweet Spanish white wine from Rias Baixas, Galicia ($12). The drinks were all very nice

Michael, our server, was good-humored and professional.

It was a great way to celebrate a great daughter's birthday.

I would strongly recommend reservations because the large dining area was full. I made reservations in mid-afternoon, and no table were available between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Keke's Breakfast Cafe - A Great Omelet Experience

A friend of mine and I decided to try lunch today at Keke's Breakfast Cafe (, which has an extensive menu of both breakfast and lunch items. 

I opted for a complex Create Your Own Meat Omelet. The ingredients I chose were bacon, sausage, tomatoes, onions, green peppers, mushrooms, and cheddar cheese. It is very difficult to prepare one of these omelets in a way that allows each of the ingredients to retain their distinct flavors. In this case, the chef met the challenge with distinction. I lovedddddddddddd the omelet. It look great and tasted fantastic. The cost came to $12.99.

My friend chose one of the Stuffed French Toast options and enjoyed it very much.

Our server, Helen was pleasant and professional.

Our local Keke's is located near Sarasota's University Town Center mall and is open from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. It offers breakfast items the entire time it is open.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Cafe Bologna - Terrific, Authentic Cuisine from Emilia-Romagna, Italy

Cafe Bologna in Osprey is a very special restaurant which specializes in the cuisine of Emilia-Romagna and northern Italy. The owners and chefs are Barbara and Claudio, who are both from Bologna in Emilia-Romagna.

There are many regional cuisines in Italy, and they are different from one another and different from Italian-American cuisine. One regional cuisine is from the region of Emilia-Romagna, the Breadbasket of Italy, which is just above Tuscany. Among the region's well-known culinary cities are:
- Parma, with its Parmesan cheese and prosciutto di Parma
- Bologna, famous for Bolognese sauce
- Modena, the source of the finest balsamic vinegars.

As Cafe Bologna's web site ( states, you will not find spaghetti and meatballs or fettucine Alfredo or chicken Parmigiana there. They also do not offer pizza, which originated in southern Italy.

The pastas they serve are traditional pastas from Emilia-Romagna, such as gnocchi, gramigna, tagliatelle, tortelli, and tortellini.

We recently had a terrific meal there with and at the suggestion of wonderful friends. Every dish was superb, and the service was excellent. It was a perfect evening.

We started with an amuse-bouche of sweet-pea soup.

That was followed by an appetizer tower of Prosciutto di Parma, homemade Mozzarella cheese, tomato, olives, and basil for four at $11 per person. (Prosciutto di Parma is one of Italy's best prosciuttos.)

Prosciutto and Mozzarella

My wife had a Bella Donna Salad with arugula, pears, walnuts, and Parmesan cheese for $17.

My wife and our friends had a special main course of risotto with artichokes finished off inside a wheel of aged Parmesan cheese for $39 each. The restaurant buys huge wheels of aged Parmesan. The date on this wheel was July of 2013.

The Parmesan Wheel with Risotto

My main course was house-made tortelli pasta with Bolognese sauce for $26. Normally, I would not order a dish with Bolognese sauce in a restaurant because it tends not to be very special. However our friends said this was a terrific Bolognese sauce which Barabara spends hours making. It was the best Bolognese sauce I've ever had - by far.

Torttelli alla Bolognese

For dessert, my wife had a Crema Catalana for $9.

I had an apple ciambella cake with vanilla gelato for $12. Barbara said it was her grandmother's recipe.

I followed dessert with an Espresso Corretto - espresso with Sambuca, an anise-flavored liqueur.

Our wine was a Poggiopiano Chianti Classico for $48 per bottle.

The wine menu offers an extensive selection of Italian wines. It only has one from Emilia-Romagna, which is not known for its wines.

Claudio is very affable and very happy to explain the dishes he makes.

Cafe Bologna also has an excellent deli counter.

Una esperienza eccezionale!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Sweet Peppers Filled with Couscous, Prosciutto, Artichoke Hearts, and Other Goodies

In searching for a way to use sweet peppers and leftover couscous, I found this easy recipe, which I is very easy to modify to meet different tastes and desired number of servings. I cut large sweet peppers in half and filled them with a mixture of couscous, chopped prosciutto, and marinated artichoke hearts, Then I topped them with grated Parmesan cheese and roasted them. Other items that you can mix with the couscous are your favorite type of chopped olives, fresh mozzarella, shallots, minced garlic, and pine nuts. 

Preparing this recipe was made even easier by following a suggestion from the author of the web site where I found the recipe 
( Instead of cutting off the tops of the peppers and stuffing them, I sliced them lengthwise.

The original recipe served 12. I easily reduced this one to serve two. Below is the recipe for two. It's very easy to scale.

I recommend reading the complete article on the web site where I found the recipe. Lots of good comments and pics.


- Half a sweet bell pepper for each serving. (Use orange, red, or yellow peppers.)
- Couscous (Like the author on the web site, I used Near East brand couscous. It only takes 5 minutes to prepare. One small box will be enough for many servings.)
- a small amount of chopped prosciutto per serving (I often have open, refrigerated packages of diced prosciutto to add to salads.)
- four quartered and marinated artichoke hearts per serving (I often have open refrigerated jars of Reese marinated artichoke hearts for adding to salads, pastas, etc.)
- a tablespoon of grated Parmesan for each serving.
- Salt and pepper to taste
- a small amount of olive oil for rubbing on peppers


1. Prepare the couscous per package directions. (The web site author used chicken stock instead of water. I normally use water and a couple tablespoons of olive oil.)

2. Cut the peppers lengthwise in half, and remove the ribs and seeds. Baste outside with olive oil.

3. Preheat oven or toaster oven to 400°

4. Mix couscous, prosciutto, artichoke hearts, and other stuffing ingredients. (If using pine nuts, shallots, and/or minced garlic, saute first.)

5. Select baking dish large enough to hold peppers. Put about a half inch of water in the bottom of the dish.

6. Put stuffing into bell peppers, and top with grated Parmesan. Place bell peppers open-side up in baking dish. Loosely cover baking dish with aluminum foil.

7. Place in oven and cook for 40 minutes.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Creamy Lemon Chicken - Nice and Easy

This delicious and easy chicken can be served over potatoes or pasta. I served it once over linguine and once over sliced honey gold baby potatoes sauteed in butter for 10 minutes.We liked both. The originator of the recipe also served it over mashed potatoes.  

I found this recipe at

The original recipe serves four. Since I was cooking for just the two of us, I reduced the amount of chicken in half.

Below is my version of the original recipe.


- 1 chicken breast sliced in half horizontally to create two thin pieces of chicken. The weight of the chicken breast depends on how much chicken you'd like. For starters, you could try a 12-ounce piece.
- salt and pepper
- 3 tbsp flour
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 1/4 cups chicken broth or stock
- 3/4 cup of regular or low-fat cream
- juice of one lemon
- a tbsp of finely chopped parsley


1. Sprinkle each side of each piece of chicken with salt and pepper. Then coat each piece with flour and shake of the excess.
2. Place butter and oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter melts, swirl the oil and butter together.
3. Add chicken and cook the first side until golden. Then turn over and cook until the other side is golden. This took me about 5 minutes per side. Remove chicken to a plate.
4. Reduce heat to medium. Add 1/4 cup of chicken broth; bring to a simmer, and scrape the brown bits on the bottom of the skillet into the liquid. Add remaining chicken broth and cream. Simmer for two minutes until slightly thickened. (The sauce thickens more as it cools during serving.)
5. Stir through  the lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add more lemon juice if you wish.
6. Return chicken to the skillet. (Also pour in any juice on the plate that held the chicken.) Cook for another minute to reheat the chicken and thicken the sauce more.
7. Place chicken on dinner plates with pasta or potatoes. Sprinkle with parsley if desired. Either pour the lemon cream sauce over the chicken or put it in a gravy bowl for diners' choice.

Brasa & Pisco - Delicious Peruvian Cuisine

My wife and I recently enjoyed a delicious dinner at Brasa & Pisco ( a Peruvian restaurant at Lockwood Ridge and University.

My wife started with an appetizer of wontons filled with slow-cooked pork and served with a Huacatay, a Peruvian herb sauce, for $8. My appetizer was beef fritters filled with beef and picadillo, egg, and olives, with a side of dipping sauce, for $9. Both were very tasty.

Her main course was Bisteco a lo Pobre - New York strip steak with fried egg, sweet plantains, homemade fries, and a side of chimichurri sauce, for $25.

Bisteco a lo Pobre

My main course was Tacu Tacu a lo Brasa, a multilayered stack with tacu tacu at the bottom, covered by sweet plantains,  grilled beef in aji panca marinade, then egg, then topped by Peruvian onion slaw, and with a side of chimichurri sauce, for $24. Tacu tacu are basically Peruvian bean and rice fritters. Both dishes were very tasty.

Tacu Tacu a lo Brasa

Her drink was was a piscojita, which had Trader Vic's 151 rum, fresh mint, fresh lime, and pisco - a Peruvian brandy - for $11. She enjoyed it, but will probably try Sangria next time. 

I had a glass of Avalon Cabernet Sauvignon for $9. It was decent.

The wine list had only five whites and five reds. However, this cuisine is not overly conducive to pairing with wine.

Our server, Courtney, was excellent.

The atmosphere seemed on the cold side to me.

Yo! Sushi! - More Than Just Sushi

During the time we lived in Japan, we enjoyed many types of Japanese cuisine, including comfort foods at mom & pop restaurants and at festival food stands. Some of those delicious dishes are hard to find at Japanese restaurants in the U.S.. However, I've discovered Yo! Sushi (, a British-origin chain restaurant that sells both sushi and many Japanese comfort dishes.

I've recently dined at the one in Sarasota's University Town Center mall twice - once with my wife for dinner and once with a friend for lunch. The three of us enjoyed the food. It's not the same as having these dishes in Japan, but it's the next best thing.

They offer about 80 different dishes, including 18 vegan and 26 vegetarian dishes. They also have seven desserts and Japanese drinks. The dishes range in price from $3.00 to $7.00. Some of the more expensive ones are on sale for $3.50 until January 27.

They also sell the popular Japanese ramune soft drink in a variety of flavors. This bottled drink is also known as "marble soda" because you press down on a marble in the cap to open the bottle.

Examples of the dishes they offer in addition to sushi are: spring rolls, gyoza (pot stickers), chicken katsu, chicken katsu curry, shrimp tempura ramen, chicken yakisoba, shrimp yakisoba, spicy seafood udon, miso soup unlimited, and spring rolls.

There are two ways to get the dishes you want - either the traditional way from a server or off of a constantly moving conveyor belt. You can also do a combination of the two.

So if you have a craving for Japanese comfort food or want to try it, I suggest you give Yo! Sushi a shot.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Limited Life Time Warranties for Home Repairs

When items in your home need repair, it can be worth your while to determine if they are covered by limited lifetime warranties. It can save you money and/or make it easier to find replacement parts. I have had good experiences with five different companies - Schlage (door locks), Blum (cabinet door hinges), Paramount (pool circulation systems), Moen (faucets), and Delta (faucets). In most cases, the parts and shipping were free. In one case, I paid a small amount for shipping. 

In order to be covered, you have to be the original owner. You may have to provide proof.

Schlage has provided me with two door and lock sets, Blum with a number of hinges, Paramount with a pool pop-up, Moen with faucet cartridges, and Delta with an aerator. In all cases, the service people at these companies were very knowledgeable and helpful.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Easy-to-Peel Hard-Boiled Eggs

I used to get very frustrated with hard-boiled eggs that were hard to peel. Then I found this solution in an AOL article on suggestions for using salt. I've used it many times, and it works beautifully. I normally cook three or four eggs when we have them for breakfast.


Put eggs in a saucepan.

Fill saucepan with enough water to cover eggs.

Place one teaspoon of salt in water.

Put cover on saucepan.

Bring water to a boil.

As soon as water is boiling, remove pan from heat, but keep cover on pan.

Let covered pan sit for 12 minutes.

Remove cover and eggs, and serve. (Eggs will still be very hot, so you may have to wait a couple of minutes before peeling.)

Easy Baked Potatoes

My wife taught me how to make baked potatoes. I've tried it several times, and the potatoes turn out just the way we like them. It works fine for two potatoes, but cooking time might have to be adjusted for more potatoes.


Two baking potatoes, like Russet potatoes
Toppings, like sour cream, butter, green onions


1. Using a dinner fork, puncture potatoes:
- once at each end (one puncure with a 4-tined fork = 4 holes.)
- twice lengthwise on each side
- three times laterally on the top and bottom

2. Microwave on high for 5 minutes.

3. Preheat oven or toaster oven to 450° and bake for 15 minutes.

4. Serve, slice open, and apply favorite toppings.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Easy Sauteed Chicken, Celery, and Onion

This easy chicken skillet dish is my own creation, influenced by the Giada de Laurentiis Chicken Piccata I previously posted. It serves two. I created it to use some leftover celery and chicken broth.


- 3/4 lb of boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 sweet onion, diced
- 4 stalks celery, rinsed, trimmed and pealed, with leaves reserved
- chop celery leaves
- 2 tbsp capers
- salt and pepper to taste


1. Put butter and olive oil in a large skillet and heat on medium high.

2. When oil is sizzling, add chicken and onions. If you like soft celery, add celery now. Otherwise, wait 'til next step. Cook for 3 minutes until chicken is browned.

3. Turn chicken. If you did not add celery in previous step, add now. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 3 minutes.

4. Add broth, juice, and capers. Simmer for 5 minutes.

5. Dish skilled contents into bowls and garnish with celery leaves.

Easy Chicken Piccata

Piccata or Picatta dishes are of Italian origin. In Italy, the usually involve veal or seafood. In the U.S., chicken is popular.

This easy and delicious recipe is a Giada de Laurentiis recipe that I found on The original recipe serves four. I made some adjustments to make two servings rather than four. Below is my adjusted version.


- Two thin boneless, skinless chicken breasts. (You can butterfly slice one thick breast if you don't have two thin ones.)
- sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper
- All-purpose flour for dredging. I put two tablespoons on a plate.
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup lemon juice
- 1/2 cup chicken stock (I used broth.)
- 1/4 cup brined capers, rinsed
- 1/3 cup parsley, chopped


Combine the lemon juice, chicken stock, and capers in a small bowl.

Season chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge chicken in flour and shake off excess.

In a large skillet over medium high heat, melt 2 of the 3 tablespoons butter with the olive oil. When butter and oil start to sizzle, add the chicken and cook for 3 minutes. When chicken is browned, flip the chicken and cook for 3 more minutes.

Add the mixture of lemon juice, chicken stock, and capers to the pan. If there are any brown bits on the bottom of the pan, scrape them and stir them into the sauce. Simmer for 5 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the pan. Put the remaining tablespoon of butter into the pan and whisk it into the sauce. Pour the sauce over the chicken, and garnish with parsley.

Super-Easy and Delicious Pork Loin

Pork loin and pork tenderloin are two very different cuts of pork from different parts of the animal. The tenderloin is very narrow in diameter, about 2 inches in diameter; and the loin is wide - about 4 - 5 inches in diameter. I have cooked pork tenderloin many times, but not pork loin. In searching the Internet, I found a tenderloin recipe that sounded really easy, and decided to try it on pork loin. The results were terrific - juicy, moist, and delicious.

I found the original rccipe on ( I made a couple of changes to the original recipe. I:
- used a shallow roasting pan rather than a baking dish,
- used a 24-ounce piece of meat rather than 2 pounds, and
- calculated the cooking time on a per-pound basis rather than giving a 2-pound time. 
The recipe below is my version. It should make three to four servings, although the two of us managed to devour the whole piece.

(The way I ended up with a 24-oz piece of meat was that Publix had a sale and the pork loins on sale were very large. I bought a 6-pound loin and cut it into four equal lengths. I froze the three pieces I didn't use.)


1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tbsp Dijon honey mustard
salt & ground black pepper to taste
24 oz. piece of pork loin


1. Cut excess fat off the pork loin.

2. Whisk together the olive oil, soy sauce, garlic, mustard, salt and pepper in a bowl. Place the meat in a resealable plastic bag and pour in the marinade. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least an hour prior to cooking.

3. Preheat oven to 350°.

4. Place the meat in a shallow roasting pan and pour the marinade over the meat.

5. Cook in the oven for 20-30 minutes per pound, until the pork is no longer pink in the center. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center should read 145°. I cooked the 24-oz. loin for 45 minutes.