Beautiful Marinated Mozzarella Made Easy – and Inexpensive!

Home marinated mozzarella with sliced grape tomatoes

Home marinated mozzarella with sliced grape tomatoes

I confess. We love appetizers. There’s something great about a small plate of things. You eat a little, you drink some wine. You slow down a little and get ready to truly enjoy the main meal. It’s. . .kinda civilized!

One appetizer I love dearly is marinated cheese. You can marinate most any fresh, firm cheese – I like to marinate fresh Mozzarella. And marinated cheese plays beautifully with so many other things you can put on a plate, like charcuterie, fresh sliced veggies (crudites), citrus segments, citrus zest, lots of fresh herbs – marinated Mozzarella is just a compatible kind of appetizer ingredient.

Good quality fresh mozza, however, is pretty pricey. I quiver at the minute, 8-oz packages selling at our local supermarkets for about 5 bucks. You’d need at least 2 of them to make a decent amount for marinating.

That’s one reason I love CostCo! They don’t just stock good quality olive oil by the jumbo, 5 gallon pack, they also offer great quality fresh, pre-sliced mozzarella logs (sold as 2 1-lb. logs per package, each individually wrapped) that can, with minimal work and a little waiting time, be transformed into gorgeous marinated mozzarella.

Full disclosure, I have zero, zip, nada interest in CostCo, except that I shop there.

Using a log of CostCo mozzarella, preparing a couple of pints of marinated cheese takes about 10 minutes and a little patience. Here’s how:

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When you’re sick, CostCo can help!

Chicken Soup for the Hungry Belly

Chicken Soup for the Hungry Belly

I was sick last week. Cranky, achy, runny nose sick. And man, how I did not want to be sick!

Like many people, I have healing rituals around being sick. For example, wearing my socks to bed to keep my feet warm is a thing. There, now you know.

I also have a powerful, unshakeable belief in the curative powers of chicken soup. Really, it can make you better in so many ways. What!? You don’t believe me?? I’m shocked. OK, here – read all about it on the Internet, the finest source of Truth known to man.

But to make chicken soup, you’ve got to cut up a chicken, poach it a little, drain it, then simmer it for a long time. Or you could use a chicken carcass from a roast chicken that you’ve prepared.

In either case, it’s a bit of work. I would quickly add “Totally Worth It!” but, work.

Not any more, thanks to CostCo. If there’s a CostCo anywhere near you, you’re probably familiar with their lovely rotisserie chickens. At US$4.99, they are a total bargain, and are delicious!

I suspect one of the reasons that CostCo rotisserie chickens are so good is that people eat a lot of them. That means they are constantly cooking up new batches to feed the ravening hordes (and seriously, have you ever been in CostCo when they are having a heavy sampling day??). So their rotisserie chickens are generally fresh and hot, right out of the ovens.

Concerns about “what’s in a CostCo chicken”? You’re totally right to have them. Here’s an interesting recent article from the defiantly counter-culture and often unusual Natural News about that subject. Apparently, responding to consumer demand, CostCo is phasing out chicken with shared-use antibiotics (which makes up perhaps 75-80% of the commercially produced chicken in the US!), so you’ll be getting just fresh clean chicken that is also damn tasty and a serious bargain.

One CostCo chicken makes us, for example:

  • 4 large deli-style chicken sandwiches, just using slices of the breast meat. Oh they are so good. I like them on rye bread, Bonney likes them on multi-grain (heresy!!), but we both like a lil dab of mayonnaise or homemade Salsa Golf.
  • Chicken stir fry for 4 using another 8-10 oz. meat.
  • About 20 oz. of excellent (I know!! I made it myself!) chicken salad, with no preservatives or additives, unless you consider mayonnaise an additive.
chicken soup with herbs and kale

chicken soup with herbs and kale

I made about 3 quarts of chicken soup – so much that I had to freeze some of it. And it was succulent! Light and fresh tasting, with just a hint of tangy umami from the roasted chicken. It was a lot easier to make because the chicken had already been cooked and was ready to pop in the pot!

Here’s how:

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Easy Does It – Roast Pork Loin with Preserved Orange

Roast Pork Loin with Preserved Orange

Roast Pork Loin with Preserved Orange

It’s all well and good to put together large, symphonic dishes. Dishes that take lots of ingredients and lots of finicky prep. Hey, I’m a food blogger – there are more than a few of those on the Calorie Factory site – we are not immune to their lure!!

But some dishes are so perfect, so lush, so. . .prime, with just a bare minimum of work that they call out to be made.

In that spirit, I offer my version of Roast Pork Loin. I’ve made this with preserved oranges, but you could easily use orange marmalade or even fresh oranges and a bit of sweetness (maple syrup? brown sugar perhaps).

It’s super easy and remarkably good – the meat is so tender you can cut it with a spoon. It takes a while to cook, but virtually all the time is just oven time, so you can fix whatever sides you like while the meat finishes cooking.

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Everybody loves Cauliflower! OK, not everybody – but you’ll love *this* cauliflower

Who wouldn't love this cute little cauliflower head?

Who wouldn’t love this cute little cauliflower head?

Cauliflower is a tricksie beast.

Some of us love it – some of us (shudder) even eat it raw. With relish. We like it roasted, we like it boiled, we like it sauteed. Some of us are indifferent to cauliflower’s taste, but eat it because the truth is, cauliflower is a nutritional powerhouse.

But some of us Don’t Like Cauliflower. There is nothing that can be done to this mild-mannered crucifer to make it lovable and delicious to us – even its tempting nutritional characteristics are not enough.

Until now.

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Super hot, super easy, super delicious – quick pickled peppers

Hot peppers with lemon

Hot peppers with lemon

Are you a hot pepper fanatic or can you do without? Me, I love hot foods. Hot peppers? Bring ’em!! The hotter the better.

While I love hot peppers, I am not fond of concentrated hot pepper resins. Sure, they are searingly hot, but there is *so* much more to hot peppers than simple pucker-your-lips-up-and-weep-like-a-baby heat.

Although, as you can see from this video, for some folks, it’s the heat. And – just maybe – the teeniest hint of masochism, or possibly, exhibitionism. . .

But there’s more than pain to hot peppers. Much more. There’s flavor, rich, deep and intense. And, even better, there’s aroma, smoky, fruity, and complex.

Me, I prefer to get my heat the old fashioned way – from a real hot pepper, not from a laboratory attempting to cash in on the current hot pepper craze by weaponizing our condiments.

In August, I packed fresh, ultra-hot, beautiful Naga Jolokia peppers (Ghost Peppers) with a fragrant blend of fresh bay, peppercorn, juniper berry, lemon zest, whole coriander, allspice berry, yellow mustard seed and whole cinnamon. Sea salt and cider vinegar finished off the mix.

Last night, with our son, daughter in law and grandson in attendance, I opened one of the jars of hot peppers and found – these (see bottom of post!). Read the rest of this entry »

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A Way of Thinking about Cooking – Stories, Ideas, and Recipes

I don’t recommend a lot of cookbooks on my site, but I feel you must know about this one – it’s a beautiful gem by Tamar Adler, journalist, Slow Food person, personal chef, and a real successor – in my view – to the mantle of the late MFK Fisher.

Her book is subtitled “Cooking with Economy and Grace”. I’ve learned more from it than any 10 other cookbooks. I recommend you check it out – here’s a link to the hardback edition, there are other editions and e-book versions available.

Here’s the link: – check it out!


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You’re so cheeky! Tacos con carne mejillas – respect for your ingredients

A few sprigs of cilantro garnish your taco

A few sprigs of cilantro garnish your taco

Today, cooking is often filled with one-upmanship. Better – or more unusual – spicings. Less common, more technical or just plain cooler preparation methods. Exotic ingredients. Recipes that read like a novel.

Know what I mean?

And that’s. . .OK! I love seeing all the different things brilliant, creative chefs come up with to transform simple ingredients into astonishing dishes.

But sometimes, just cooking a great ingredient simply, with a lot of respect and maybe even a little love,  is all you need to do to create an amazing dish. So it was with my beef cheeks.

I had about 2 lbs. of beautiful beef cheek – a bit of ultra lean muscle from a grass fed organically raised cow.  Beef cheeks are a pretty unusual cut for your average American supermarket, so I didn’t try to get them there. I found them at our local Farmers’ Market, straight from a happy, grass-fed mostly-organic cow. You can also find them – or order them – at most butcher shops.

When confronted by an unusual ingredient or a cut that’s not often used, chefs often succumb to the urge to tart things up a bit. With beef cheeks, you can marinate them. Dry rub and refrigerate them overnight in plastic wrap. Or without plastic wrap. Create an exotic sauce with multiple dried peppers that’s also a marinade. Cook them sous vide with a ton of spices and aromatics. Sear them, slice them, poach them – the methods are endless.

All these things – don’t get me wrong – are good and some of them are very good indeed. When great chefs get creative, they can fashion extraordinary dishes from simple ingredients.

But I wanted to go for a simple preparation method as well. Something that wasn’t fussy, but that was as good as anything you could get by fussing.

Here’s what I came up with – a method that blends utter simplicity and foolproof cookery with a few reasonable seasonings for a rich, totally delicious  dish that will disappear so fast it’ll make your head spin. Read on for recipe and a bonus recipe too. Here at Calorie Factory, we aim to please! Read the rest of this entry »

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What to do with all those bits of leftover cheese? Why, make Fromage Fort, of course!

Tidbits from the cheese drawer

Tidbits from the cheese drawer

I confess to being a bit of a hoarder. I have a large book collection that seems to grow larger all the time, even though I do have a Kindle e-reader. I have pots and pans galore because – pots and pans!

And I am a compulsive and inveterate collector of cheeses.

It’s nearly impossible for me to walk by a well-stocked cheese shop – or the well stocked cheese section of my favorite supermarkets – without buying something. Really – I mean, c’mon!! They’re just waiting for me, glistening and shimmering on the shelves.

And I know I want them.

If you’re French, you may well buy a nice fresh baguette each day, or perhaps every other day. You eat the baguette and all is well. Me, I buy a nice fresh baguette every few days and then eat some of it. Not all, but some.

This leaves a perfectly good baguette in the bread drawer, where it rapidly turns into a baguette-shaped brick.

Lately, I’ve been telling my wife – “Bread crumbs!! There is nothing like fresh ground bread crumbs.” Wordlessly, she points to the multiple containers of breadcrumbs already in the pantry. OK, so I do get a little bit carried away – but I’m in rescue mode!

You can imagine how cool it was to find that – like the bread crumb stratagem – there is a rescue – a delicious rescue – for the many bits and pieces of leftover cheese that are too nice to throw away.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Carpe Pepper! Tuscan Peposo – The Other Beef Stew

Peposo – A Fiery Love Story

Peposo simmering in the pot

Peposo simmering in the pot


I love simple dishes. Many simple dishes come to us from medieval times – though they may sometimes use ingredients that are no longer easy to find, most dishes in the 12th century used bread, meat, fish, veggies – just as we do today, only differently, because – half a millennium and more!! And they were often quite simple, particularly if they were dishes of the people.

People learned clever ways to make inexpensive cuts of meat tender and delicious and ways to use spices to enhance that flavor.

One of my favorite old dishes is peposo – Tuscan pepper stew. Peposo is sometimes called Tuscany’s answer to chili. It’s a rich, savory stew that emphasizes simplicity of preparation and long slow cooking. This particular dish also emphasizes lots and lots and lots of black pepper, both cracked and ground.  Sometimes, it is said, pepper was used so liberally to disguise a cut of meat that may have gone off a bit.

That’s not what we’re doing here.

The dish originated in the 13th century and is documented as having fed the laborers working to create tiles – an incredible-for-the-time 4,000,000 terracotta tiles – for the dome, or Duomo, of the Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral in Florence (1420-1436).

Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral - the Duomo

Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral – the Duomo – Home of “The Original” Peposa

These workers were not wealthy, and used a cheap cut of meat that – I *think* – is today known as the shank. I didn’t have a shank when I made this dish, so I cut up a piece of chuck roast and it worked beautifully. I think any cut of beef like the shank or beef short ribs, boned, or skirt steak, or shin, would work just beautifully in this dish. It is definitely fun to experiment!

The first time I made Peposo, I followed the recipe closely and was pretty sure I was going to fry everybody’s esophagus. Except, of course, mine, as I am immune (gasp, wheeze!).

I was delighted to find that the large quantities of black pepper called for in the recipe just melted into the dish, which ended up peppery but not overly so, and entirely delicious.

So, of course, I tried using a bit more pepper – particularly the cracked pepper – and it was wonderful.

I’ve made a few other modifications to this dish so check out the recipe below – this is a different kind of beef stew and I think you’ll like it. The Italian workers certainly did!!
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Crawling on the Floor of the Ocean, Tasting Delicious – Dungeness Crab!

Crab Nuggets

Crab Nuggets

We are fortunate enough to live by the shores of Puget Sound. It’s a beautiful place to live – we’re grateful to be in the Pacific Northwest and one of the chief reasons we love our little bay so much is because it’s filled with sweet, delicious Dungeness crab.

Dungeness crabs crawl about on the floor of the ocean eating the muck from the bottom and transmuting it into sweet, utterly delicious flesh. It’s just remarkable!

We generally haul in anywhere from 100-200 gorgeous Dungeness crabs over the course of a season. Then it’s Picking Time – we gather round, drink wine, and pick crab meat for freezing.

The secret to freezing crab meat properly, so it tastes wonderful a few months later, when it’s Fall or even Winter and you’re craving the taste of fresh crab, is to first chill it thoroughly in a Ziplock bag. Then, once it’s partly frozen, remove it from the Ziplock and vacuum seal it with a Seal a Meal or similar.

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