Strati de Jardin, (Garden Layers), aka “Layered Veggie Thingy”

Finished Veggie Dish

On the afternoon of a predicted winter advisory I did what everyone else in the Midwest seems to do when there is a threat of bad weather … run to the grocery to buy stuff I don’t need, but could need if things get really bad. Among the items I purchased, an assortment of pasta, cheeses and a 3 1/2 pound bottom round roast.  Perhaps it was that nice big chunk of red meat that guilted me into doing something with vegetables.

I remembered seeing a recipe recently that had layered some baked vegetables with roasted beefsteak tomatoes on top. Now the odds of me finding some homegrown beefsteak tomatoes in February at my present location were about as likely as me picking some winning lottery numbers, but it got me thinking. So I set out to procure enough vegetables to create  Poppy’s “Layered Veggie Thingy”. The sweet onions were on sale, grabbed some … potatoes seemed hearty, tossed in a bag of golden potatoes … zucchini and yellow squash looked a little pathetic, but I snatched 2 of each anyway … eggplant, no brainer, as close to meat as you can get in the veggie world … and while I couldn’t score any beefsteak tomatoes, I grabbed the biggest tomatoes I could find in February at the local grocery. Knowing my family as I do,  a 100% pure veggie main dish might be a hard sell, so I added a package of fresh Mozzarella cheese to the collection. Continue reading “Strati de Jardin, (Garden Layers), aka “Layered Veggie Thingy””

Poppy’s Steak Bites

Not my prettiest photo, but here are some steak bites with roasted cauliflower and roasted sweet onions.
Not my prettiest photo, but here are some steak bites served with roasted cauliflower and roasted sweet onions.

Know someone who loves to eat steak but can’t be bothered with cutting it up or cutting around the bones and fat?  Steak bites are the answer.

“Why steak bites rather than whole steaks, Poppy”?

Several good reasons; steak bites are bite-sized (duh), and easy to eat. There is less waste, everyone can help themselves to as much or as little steak as they want. In our family 3 good sized steaks can feed 4-5 people when served with sides. Maybe Poppy spoils his family or perhaps he is the lazy one. Continue reading “Poppy’s Steak Bites”

Poppy’s Potato-Cheddar-Sausage Soup

It was a dark and stormy night. Cop cars suddenly converged on a house just a few doors down from me. Moments later though the mist I could see them leading a ghostly figure away in handcuffs. Apparently this person had failed to provide hot, hearty soup for their family.

Yes, some weather is so miserable that’s it’s actually a crime not to make a batch of creamy, comforting, delicious soup … don’t be that person. Poppy is here to help!

 Poppy's Potato-Cheddar-Sausage Soup

Introducing Poppy’s “Potato-Cheddar-Sausage Soup”.

In Poppy’s not-so-humble opinion, a good potato soup should be creamy yet have some chunky goodness to it. Start by peeling and dicing 6 medium to large Yukon Gold potatoes into ¼” cubes. Drop the potato cubes into 48 ozs. of low sodium chicken broth. If you’re ambitious and want to make your own broth, go for it, but that’s a topic for another day. Crank up the heat and cover your stockpot. Continue reading “Poppy’s Potato-Cheddar-Sausage Soup”

Poppy’s Favorite Flatbread Pizza


Once a scrambled egg walked into a pizza parlor. He asked the waiter if he could have something to drink. The waiter said “Sorry, we don’t serve breakfast.”

… rimshot! (sorry, couldn’t resist)

Ahh, the joys of making a flatbread pizza … talk about a blank canvas, the options are limitless and it’s almost impossible to mess up!

This is one of Poppy’s favorites and in the universe of pizzas, it’s one of the healthier ones … start with a good flatbread (duh). Our local grocery carries some that are made just for pizza. Continue reading “Poppy’s Favorite Flatbread Pizza”

Spicy Tortellini Soup


Did Lynyrd Skynyrd get tired of people yelling out … “Free Bird“?

Does Tony Bennett ever think … for crying out loud people, I actually sing songs other than “I Left My Heart in San Francisco“?

This is my families most requested soup … to the point I sometimes say, “Sorry, I’m making something else tonight”. And the most humbling thing … it’s not a Poppy original (and I am very proud of my humility)! I found this years ago on, they featured this soup from the Café Aroma in Edwardsville, Illinois. This is Poppy’s version, slightly modified from the original. Continue reading “Spicy Tortellini Soup”

Math vs. Cooking …

It’s said that there are 3 kinds of people in the world, those who understand math and those who don’t!

At this point you have probably figured out what kind I am.

I don’t hate math … OK, actually I do.

It seems so constraining. There is only one right answer in math … I have a problem with that. Life is not that simple. Life is filled with wonderful options. It’s not black and white, it’s filled with an endless palette of colors. It’s filled with an amazing array of smells, textures, sounds and yes, tastes.

You may be asking … “What does that have to do with cooking, Poppy”?

As far as I’m concerned, recipes are merely suggestions, not mathematical formulas.  Recipes should be idea starters, don’t feel like you have to follow them exactly. Anything I post … please bend, fold, spindle and mutilate as you see fit!

Explore, experiment, expand your horizons (and always avoid alliteration).

Want to add a little jalapeño to that dessert … go for it!

Anchovies in that pasta sauce … absolutely,  just wait until your family is raving about it before you tell them the ingredients.

In Poppy’s humble opinion, cooking is an art, not a science. Have fun with it. What’s the worst that can happen? … and keep a frozen pizza handy for those occasions  😉

Orecchiette Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes and Spinach


An old Italian man lived alone in Jersey. It was spring and he wanted to plant his annual tomato garden, but it was very hard work for the aging man, as the ground had compacted over winter. His only son, Vincent, who used to help him, was in prison. The old man wrote a letter to his son and described his predicament:

Dear Vincent,

I am feeling sad because it looks like I won’t be able to plant my tomato garden this year. I’m just getting too old to be digging up a garden plot. If only you were here my troubles would be over. I know you would dig the plot for me, like in the old days.

Love, Papa

A few days later he received a letter from his son:

Dear Papa,

Don’t dig up that garden. That’s where the bodies are buried.

Love, Vinnie

At 7:00 a.m. the next morning, FBI agents and local police arrived at the old man’s house and dug up the entire garden area without finding any bodies. They apologized to the old man and left.

That same day, the old man received another letter from his son:

Dear Papa,

Go ahead and plant the tomatoes now. That’s the best I could do under the circumstances.

Love, Vinnie

Aaah, the things we will do for a good tomato … but lets get cooking!

This dish will delight at least 3 of your senses, it looks great, smells wonderful and tastes delicious. I guess if you ate it with your fingers we could add one more sense to the list (let me know how that works out for you).

Orecchiette pasta originates in the sunny southern province of Puglia, Italy and translated means, “Little Ears”). Traditionally made by curling bits of pasta dough over one’s thumb, the little cup-like shape is great for holding sauces and veggies. It’s slightly chewy texture is the perfect complement to the intense flavors of the roasted tomatoes. Continue reading “Orecchiette Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes and Spinach”