Apr 232012

For the 16th anniversary of Sutter Home Build a Better Burger Contest and Cook-Off®, the search forAmerica’s best burger, judges are looking for entries to include a maximum of 16 ingredients. And here is the winner back in 1990. It still sounds like a 5-star burger today!

Napa Valley Basil-Smoked Burgers
Makes 6


2/3 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons prepared basil pesto


2 pounds ground sirloin

1/4 cup Zinfandel

1/4 cup minced fresh basil

1/4 cup minced red onion

1/4 cup fresh Italian bread crumbs

8 sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil, finely chopped

2 teaspoons garlic salt

Vegetable oil, for brushing on the grill rack

8 large fresh basil sprigs, moistened with water

6 large seeded sandwich rolls, split

6 slices Monterey Jack cheese

6 red leaf lettuce leaves

6 (1/4-inch-thick) large tomato slices

6 paper-thin red onion slices, separated into rings

6 fresh basil sprigs

Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill with a cover, or preheat a gas grill to medium-high.

Combine the mayonnaise and pesto in a small bowl and mix well. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

To make the patties, combine the sirloin, Zinfandel, basil, onion, bread crumbs, sun-dried tomatoes and garlic salt in a large bowl. Handling the meat as little as possible, mix well. Divide the mixture into 6 equal portions and form them into patties to fit the rolls.

When the grill is ready, brush the rack with vegetable oil. Toss basil sprigs directly onto the fire. Place patties on the rack; cover and cook 5 to 7 minutes on each side. During the last few minutes of cooking, place rolls, cut side down, on the outer edges of the rack to toast lightly. Top each patty with a cheese slice. Cook 1 minute.

Spread the mayonnaise over the cut sides of the rolls. On each roll bottom, place a lettuce leaf, a patty, a tomato slice, an onion slice and a basil sprig. Add the roll tops and serve.

With 16 ingredients, this burger took the grand prize in 1990


For dessert try the Take Your Breath Away Chocolate Pie

Apr 132012

Tuna can be an excellent substitute for red meat on the grill. Look for tuna steaks cut about 1 inch thick. You can wrap each steak up in aluminum foil with your choice of: butter or olive oil, soy sauce or teriyaki marinade, green onions, ginger, or pineapple slices, and some salt and pepper. In less than 15 minutes you have a delicious, healthy main dish. Try grilling summer squash, pineapple chunks, or Vadalia onions to have on the side. Add a salad and you have an amazingly delicious, healthy meal. It’s so easy; I hope you’ll enjoy this gourmet side of grilling like we have.

Mar 052012

This is one of my favorite brie recipes! It is so simple. It can keep for a week so you can and should make it ahead of time. It only takes a few minutes in the oven the night you plan to eat it. I like it with the pears the best. Let me know what you think.The photographer wanted to remove “the burnt” items from the photo but we feel “It’s the best part!”


  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup chopped macadamia nuts or pecans
  • 1 tablespoon brandy
  • 1 (14-ounce) round brie
  • Apple wedges, for serving
  • Pear wedges, for serving
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Crackers, for serving


In a small bowl stir together the sugar, nuts, and brandy. Cover and chill for at least 24 hours or up to 1 week.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.

Place the brie on an ovenproof platter or pie plate. Bake for 4 or 5 minutes or until the brie is slightly softened. Spread the sugar mixture in an even layer on top of the warm brie and bake for 2 to 3 minutes longer, or until the sugar melts. Brush the fruit wedges with lemon juice and arrange them around 1 side of the brie. Place crackers around the other side.

Another delicious easy Brie recipe The Baked Brie with Cranberries Sandwich is a perfect dinner for a cold winter evening. What can be more comforting than warm Brie and cranberries?

Jan 162012

This easy dessert had them licking the bowl during cooking club. I do mean the bowl not just the spoon  😆 . It is one of the quickest and easiest desserts you will ever make. It is a classy dessert that the beginner cook could easily serve. It is the perfect dessert to impress at a dinner party. You don’t have to tell anyone that it was a quick and easy recipe.


8 oz Mascarpone Cheese
1/2 cup of powdered sugar
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
1 tablespoon honey
Fresh Strawberries (use as many or a few as you would like)

Mascarpone is just a sweetened Italian cream cheese. It’s a little denser of a product, and it has a silkier, smoother finish. Just like you would whip cream, you’re going to use a stand-up mixer. Add Mascarpone cheese and turn mixer on the lowest setting. Add half a cup of powdered sugar and one tablespoon of vanilla extract . Stop the mixer and with the spatula to scrape down the sides and make sure everything gets smooth and incorporated. And that’s it, mascarpone already is a pretty dense product so you really don’t have to give it much whipping. Mix for a few seconds more and then spoon out just a little dollop right in the middle of the bowl and I use some fresh strawberries right over the top and I just drizzle a little bit of honey. You can taste every strawberry. Feel free to substitute other berries.

Jan 162012

Recipe courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis

Prep Time: 10 min
Inactive Prep Time: 10 min
Cook Time: 15 min

Level: Easy

Serves: 6 servings


36 slices (1/2-inch thick) baguette bread, about 1 loaf
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
8 ounces Gorgonzola, sliced
3 tablespoons honey


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Arrange the sliced baguette on a baking sheet. Brush with olive oil. Bake until the bread is pale golden and crisp, about 5 minutes. Arrange the cheese on the toasts and bake until the cheese is melted, about 3 minutes. Drizzle the toasts with honey. Place on a serving platter and serve immediately.

Jan 032012

Pasta and Chicken are always a favorite at my house, and this dish is no exception. The fresh tastes of the tomatoes and basil come through. Using a store bought chicken broth makes this recipe ideal for the beginner cook; however, for an even better flavor, you might try making your own broth by simmering a whole chicken.

CQ- Chicken Penne Al-fresco

4 Garlic cloves, peeled
2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes
3 cups uncooked mezze penne pasta
3 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup dry white wine such as Chardonnay
1/2 tsp each salt and coarsely ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves, divided
1 oz Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1/4 cup packed)
2 cups diced grilled chicken breasts
Additional grated fresh Parmesan cheese and coarsely ground black pepper (optional)

Spray baker with olive oil spritzer. Slice or press garlic into baker  Add tomatoes. Cover; microwave on HIGH 4-5 minutes or until tomatoes begin to burst, stirring after 2 minutes. Crush tomatoes. Add pasta, broth, wine, salt and black pepper.
Return baker to microwave; cover and microwave on HIGH 16-18 minutes or until pasta is tender, stirring after 10 minutes. Meanwhile, coarsely chop basil. Reserve 2 tbsp for garnish. Grate cheese.
Carefully remove baker from microwave and remove lid, lifting away from you. Add remaining basil, cheese and chicken to baker ; mix well. Garnish with reserved 2 tbsp basil, additional Parmesan cheese and black pepper, if desired.

Yield: 8 servings

Nutrients per serving: Light (about 1 cup): Calories 240, Total Fat 2.5 g, Saturated Fat .5 g, Cholesterol 25 mg, Carbohydrate 35 g, Protein 17 g, Sodium 450 mg, Fiber 2 g

Cook’s Tips: An additional 3/4 cup chicken broth can be substituted for the wine, if desired.

Any tube-shaped pasta requiring 9-11 minutes cook time, such as penne or rigatoni, can be substituted for the mezze penne pasta.

To grill chicken in a Grill Pan, season 2 chicken breasts, about 6 oz each, with salt and black pepper. Heat Grill Pan over medium-high heat 5 minutes. Spray pan with oil. Cook chicken 4-6 minutes or until grill marks appear. Turn chicken over; cook 4-6 minutes or until center of chicken is no longer pink and Digital Pocket Thermometer registers 170°F.

Another favorite chicken recipe of mine is Chicken Bourguignon with White Wine