IFBCgiveawayHey peeps…

12 of my favorite awesome bloggers (and I) have all teamed up to share some of our sweet swag from The International Food Blogger’s Conference that we all attended in Seattle a couple of week’s back.

Today I’ll be giving away my LAST box of Krusteaz Italian flatbread mix (plus a few more cool foodie toys and items I’ll throw in with it…yes, that’s a salmon-shaped dark chocolate bar…) PLUS, one secret item (not shown).

Hint…it’s really cool…

IFBC Flash Givaway

HOW TO ENTER: Like this post and leave a comment letting me know what ONE item is this prize pack you want the most (if you win, you’ll get ’em all).

This is a Round Robin giveaway — Hop through my friends’ Facebook pages and blogs to enter to win MORE great giveaways! Now go visit my friend Sarah over at Coder’s Kitchen, she’s giving away another awesome prize! Enter her giveaway and to find out where to head next!

Hurry, these FLASH GIVEAWAYS end in 24 hours!

Each blogger’s post should have a link to the next, so when you get back to me, you know you’ve hit them all!

~ To enter simply like this post and leave a comment here, and/or on our Facebook post.

~Only ONE entry per person. Extra entries will be deleted.

…and of course:

Want to take the hassle out of meal planning? For super-simple, healthy and delicious dinner recipes, check out our FREE weekly meal plans and shopping lists!  Your free membership helps us teach as-risk youth valuable life skills!


*This giveaway is sponsored by SimplySmartDinnerPlans and is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. Giveaway will end on Tuesday, September 30th, 2014 8am EST. One winner will be selected at random and will be announced (and tagged) in another post. Be sure to check back here on 9/30/14 after 8am EST to see if you’ve won. Winner will have 24 hours to respond to notification of win or a new winner will be chosen. Prize will be sent via CANADA POST/US POST, ETC. so you’ll need to provide your mailing address if you win. Please allow 6-8 weeks for delivery. Open to US (or Canadian) residents only, must be 18 years or older to enter.*


Valencian Paella Tomato Soup

Paella Tomato Soup

One of the great items we grabbed from the swag table at last week’s International Food Blogger’s Conference, is Aneto’s Cooking base for Valencian Paella.

Paella is a classic rice dish of Spain. Rice, tomatoes, saffron, chicken, rabbit, duck, garlic, all cooked together…what’s not to love?  It’s certainly a favorite of mine anyway and, for this Southern boy, very reminiscent of the jambalaya of my childhood, though a little less spicy and with a distinct floral aroma from the saffron that’s used to color the rice.

As I didn’t want to come in second fiddle should one of my amazing fellow food bloggers from IFBC decide to actually make paella with this imported (from Spain) paella base, I tried to think of something unique that I could use this flavorful base in.

Then…fate intervened…and my seven-year-old daughter breezed into my office and announced that she would like tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner.

Paella Tomato SoupThis was not a request.

Eureka! What better base to make an awesome tomato soup than that box Aneto’s paella broth?

Plus, it’s super simple, as all of your spices and flavorings are already included in the base.


Now I make a pretty tasty bowl of tomato soup, but the the paella base added who new neighborhoods of flavor…deep, rich and creamy, with a savory, meaty finish exotic with saffron, celery, and rosemary.

Seriously, I’m sure it makes amazing paella as well, but make sure to pick up TWO boxes…and save one for this tomato soup!

Valencian Paella Tomato Soup

2 Tbs. olive oil
12 oz organic, low-sodium tomato paste
1 sm. sweet onion
3-4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 box (33oz) Aneto Valencian Paella Cooking Base, warmed
2 cups of milk (or water), warmed
2-3 Tbs. fresh basil, chiffonade
Finishing salt (optional)


In a large pot, heat oil on medium-low and cook the onions and garlic 3-4 minutes until onions are translucent (do not brown your garlic.)

Stir in tomato paste and let it cook another 3-4 minutes, stirring often.

Want to take the hassle out of meal planning? For super-simple, healthy and delicious dinner recipes, check out our FREE weekly meal plans and shopping lists!  Your free membership helps us teach as-risk youth valuable life skills!

Paella Tomato Soup

Slowly add the warmed paella base, then milk or water (to taste) whisking constantly. Increase heat to medium and bring to a low simmer, stirring.

Top with chiffonade basil and pan toasted croutons (optional).

Serve as is, or along side a delicious grilled cheese like this one with extra-sharp cheddar, pan crisped prosciutto, baby greens, and spicy homemade peach & red pepper  jam.

Come back tomorrow for that recipe! :)

Paella Tomato Soup and Sharp Cheddar Melt


Chicken Parmigiana Pizza on fresh baked Krusteaz Flatbread

Chicken Parmigiana Flatbread Pizza

Ah IFBC, how I love thee…the amazing food, hanging out with my fellow obsessive food wonks, tips and classes for being a better blogger and, of course…the swag, baby!

This year I schlepped home a (almost) embarrassing load of freebies and great new ingredients to play with, perfect new dishes, and post recipes for your gastronomic pleasure.

Okay…it’s really for MY gastronomic pleasure, but I really do hope you like them too!

Chicken Parmigiana Flatbread PizzaMy first cooking adventure with some of the swag I scored in Seattle last week at Foodista’s 2014 IFBC (International Food Blogger’s Conference), is using the Krusteaz Flatbread Mix  – Italian herb flavor.

Lightly pre-seasoned with Italian seasonings, Krusteaz makes an EPIC base for your favorite flatbread pizza!

They also make a Garlic & Onion, and a Whole Wheat…I gotta get my hands on some of those!

Here’s what I did with it…

Chicken Parmigiana Flatbread Pizza

Chicken Parmigiana Pizza on fresh baked Krusteaz Flatbread

  • 1 box Krusteaz Italian Herb Flatbread Mix
  • 1/2 homemade* or bottled marinara
  • 1 cup shredded Italian cheese blend (4 oz)
  • 1/2 oven roasted mushroom slices (see recipe below)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 2 oven roasted chicken thighs, with skin
  • Salt & pepper to taste

*The tomato sauce recipe from our Redneck Ratatouille would work nicely for this, and it’s crazy easy to make!


Oven roast chicken, allow to cool, and then de-bone and chop the meat, saving the skin whole.

Chicken Parmigiana Flatbread Pizza

Prep and bake flatbreads per Krusteaz box instructions, until just beginning to brown.

Want to take the hassle out of meal planning? For super-simple, healthy and delicious dinner recipes, check out our FREE weekly meal plans and shopping lists! Your free membership helps us teach at-risk youth valuable life skills!

Heat oven to 475°F. Place flatbreads on ungreased cookie sheet. Spread 2 tablespoons of marinara over each flatbread.

Chicken Parmigiana Flatbread Pizza

Top with chicken skin, chicken meat, and mushrooms.

Chicken Parmigiana Flatbread Pizza

Sprinkle evenly with cheese and parsley.

Chicken Parmigiana Flatbread Pizza

Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and bread is crisp.

Sprinkle evenly with cheese and parsley.

My next recipe with this awesome Krusteaz mix…Philly Steak Sandwiches with Sauteed Greens. I’ll post the recipe soon!


Chef Perry

Oven Roasted Sliced Mushrooms

Now, you can pan fry these, or even use raw sliced mushrooms, but for my money nothing brings out the intense umami of mushrooms like oven roasting.

Chicken Parmigiana Flatbread Pizza

Toss your sliced mushrooms with a splash of olive oil, salt, and black pepper.

9Roast 5-8 minutes at 375F (or until nicely browned on the bottom side), remove from oven, flip each slice – you do want them perfect, right? – and roast another 5-8 minutes.

Shroomy, leathery, umami perfection!


3 ways you can support the MY KITCHEN outreach, without sending us a dime…

Cheering a successful omelet flip!

Cheering a successful omelet flip!

MY KITCHEN is a hands-on learning program; a series of basic nutrition, planning, shopping, and cooking classes for at-risk youth, including children recovering from abuse, and foster-care teens who are preparing to live on their own for the first time.

We have partnered with organizations like Impact Northwest, and Sparks of Hope to offer hands on, “real food” cooking classes for the youth they work with.

38These are not classes that focus on a career in the culinary arts, but instead cover the primary skills and techniques required to plan, shop for, and cook healthy, affordable meals at home, using basic cooking equipment that these young people are likely to have available starting out on their own.

Think of it as “Home Ec.” for kids who may have never had a stable home environment to learn these essential skills from.

29We believe that the ability to cook for oneself is a basic skill needed by everyone, and that the confidence and independence that comes along with these skills will transfer into all other areas of these kids lives.

In other words, if they can cook for themselves, they learn that they can do anything else they want to do!

Here are three ways you can help:

The majority of our funding is coming from ad-based revenue from the blog pages and recipes. Even if you never click on our ads, your subscription helps raise the traffic on our site, which in turn helps up rank higher in online searches with people who DO click on ads. (Like this one…)

So, please, if you haven’t yet be sure to visit our sign-up page  via the link above.

2. Visit our Amazon store and links.

We’ve linked many of the products that we use ourselves and like enough to endorse, to our Amazon store, so readers can buy them as well. Categories include: Kitchen Hardware, Books Magazines & Videos, Knives etc., Condiments Spices & Such, Gadgets and Neat Stuff (my  favorite), Outdoor Cooking, and Cooking with Kids.

PLEASE NOTE: If you’re planning on buying ANYTHING from Amazon.com, especially with Christmas coming up, please go to Amazon.com via our store front. If you enter the site through our store, anything you buy on Amazon, regardless if it’s something we’ve listed or not…we get credit for it and will receive a small commission!

3. Share the love!

Encourage friends, family members, co-workers, neighbors, and complete strangers you meet at the sushi bar, to fo all of the above!

#4: (this one’s an extra, just ’cause we like you…)

Please, please, please, share this post on your social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.,) There are link buttons right below this post, so you can share it right now!

If you’re a pinner, please follow our Pinterest page and pin the beautiful photos in our recipes posts, and just generally help us get the word out to anyone and everyone we can.

This is a numbers game, and the higher the numbers we get, the more kids we can help.

Thank you so much!

PS – Okay, okay…some folks have mentioned that they WOULD like to contribute to the program directly.  If that’s the case, we’re certainly not going to turn you away! Donations to the programs can be made via this link.

While we are not, at this time, a 401c3 organization, we are working on it, and we’ll be able to offer charitable-giving receipts soon.

4 - Copy (673x800) - Copy

Members of MY KITCHEN’s First Graduating Class, 2014


Redneck Ratatouille

Ratatouille recipe

Any time one of our meal plan recipes include two of my favorite ingredients, Better than Bullion, and Johnsonville Brats, it’s sure to get a feature spot here on the blog!

Pixar’s Ratatouille is one of my daughter’s favorite movies (aw, heck…I’ll admit it – it’s one of MY favorites too!) and lately she’s been hounding me to watch it again, but this time to have “dinner and a show” by cooking up a batch of real ratatouille to go along with it.

So, last night we hit the produce market and picked up the main ingredients.

You’ll note two things in this recipe: First, a traditional ratatouille uses sliced or cubed eggplant. I don’t like eggplant…and it’s my kitchen…so, no eggplant. What I DO like, however, is meat and potatoes…so I took the liberty of adding some bratwurst and sweet-taters to the dish. Hence, “Redneck Ratatouille.”

Chef’s prerogative.

Oh, and even WITH the meat (the most expensive single ingredient) this dish priced out at just $1.50 per serving. It would be under a buck a plate as a vegetarian dish…if you’re into that sort of thing. :)

Seriously though, savory, delicious, and packed with nutritious veggies, this is one of the best things I’ve eaten in a while. The sweet potatoes were an absolute knock-out!

It was a big hit with the kid, too.


Chef Perry

(By the way, if you’re enjoying this article, you may want to subscribe to our free meal planning newsletter; we’ll send seven amazing dinner recipes and a shopping list to your inbox each week. Plus, you’ll be helping us feed the hungry, and teach nutrition, shopping, and hands-on cooking classes to at-risk teens!)

Ratatouille ingredients

Chef Perry’s Redneck Ratatouille
8 Servings

  • 1 pkg (5 count) Johnsonville Beer Brats
  • 3 small zucchini
  • 3 small yellow squash squash
  • 3 small sweet potatoes
  • 2 tsp. Better Than Bullion Vegetable Base
  • 4 Roma tomatoes
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt & black pepper
  • 2 small yellow onion
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 sm. can organic tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram leaves
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 loaf of Italian bread (opt)

Mise en Place

Cut zukes, tomatoes, and yellow squash in 1/2-inch rounds. Peel sweet potatoes and onions and slice in 1/2-inch rounds. Core the bell pepper and cut in 2in squares.

Ratatouille recipe

Tomato sauce: In a small pot, combine tomato paste, vegetable base, vinegar, marjoram, thyme, and 2 cups of water. Bring to a simmer, stirring, and then remove from heat and set aside.

Prepare the Dish

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Ratatouille with sausage

Bring 2 inches of water to a high simmer in a large skillet, and poach the bratwurst about 5 minutes (you want them not-quite-done in the middle) allowing the water to cook off. Remove brats from pan and set aside.

Blanching sweet potatoesAdd water to 3 inches, and 1 tsp of salt, and bring to a simmer in the same large skillet, deglazing the pan of any browned bits from the brats. Add sweet potato slices (add water to cover, of need be) and blanch on a low simmer, 2-3 minutes (should still be very firm). Drain potato slices and shock in cold water until cool.

Put the cooled sweet potato slices, zucchini, squash, bell pepper, and tomatoes in a large mixing bowl, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Toss gently to combine.

How to make Ratatouille

Do the same to the onion slices on a separate plate, but don’t toss (you want them whole.)

Sliced bratwurstBrush a large baking dish with plenty of olive oil, and slice the cooked brats on a bias, about 1/2 inch thick.

Now you have a decision to make…

If you just want a delicious, more traditionally presented ratatouille (ie: less work), combine all of the veggies and the brats in a large oven-safe pan, top with sauce, stir, and follow the cooking instructions, below.

If you want a fancier presentation (like in the movie) stack one piece of each ingredient in the pan, in any order, then repeat (in whatever order you used), until you run out of ingredients. Don’t add the brat slices to every stack, as you’ll run out sooner…about every 3rd stack is right.

If you have extra odds and ends, and you will, just stuff ’em in along the sides.

Ratatouille recipe like the movie

Roast until the vegetables are soft and pliable, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to rest 10 minutes before serving (this is a good time to warm the bread in the oven!)

Ratatouille recipe

Taste to check the seasoning (mainly salt level), and then transfer to a serving platter or individual bowl.

Remember: Anyone can cook!

Ratatouille recipe


Picky eater…or pushover parent?

Picky Eater

Okay, so this post is going to stray a bit from our normal conversations about meal plans and recipes, but I have a little rant that I need to get off of my chest.

Lord…I’m so tired of parents complaining about what their kids WILL and WON’T eat…

“My three-year old son won’t eat anything but peanut-butter and jelly…”

Really? Does he have a job? Does he get a paycheck?

Is he driving to the store and buying his own peanut butter and jelly?


Then how is he getting it?

Oh, YOU’RE buying it…YOU’RE putting it in the cupboard…and I’ll bet YOU’RE even making the sandwich when he’s caved you in with tears and begging (which, by the way, he knows EXACTLY how long will take…because YOU’VE trained him to know.)

Grow up.

One of you is 40, one of you is 4….figure it out.

Now, of course, there are children with physical, emotional, and learning challenges that can have issues that fall outside of the typical power-struggle scenario. Understand that I’m not directing this at those kids or their parents.  You live in a day-to-day world that I have not experienced nor could begin to speak to (but please feel free to share your insights!)

However, let me go on for the rest of us…

You don’t want him to live on PB&J? Don’t buy it! You want him to eat the soup…don’t give him anything else. If he doesn’t eat it in 24 hours, throw it out and make another, identical bowl of soup.

Repeat every 24 hours until you WIN.

MY KITCHEN Outreach ProgramBy the way, if you’re enjoying this recipe, please subscribe to our free newsletter! We’ll send seven amazing dinner recipes and a shopping list to your inbox each Friday.

Plus, you’ll be helping us teach nutrition, shopping, and hands-on cooking classes to at-risk kids, in our MY KITCHEN Outreach Program.


The child will not starve. When his hunger overpowers his will, and it will, he WILL eat. I’ve seen what the bodies of children who are really starving will force them to eat when they have nothing else. Believe me, the soup will go down.

How long that takes is solely dependent on how long you train him to “hold out” to win Because it’s not all about the food. It’s not even mostly about the food…it’s mostly about control.

Who’s in Control?

As a stay-at-home, work-from-home dad, I’ve battled this as well. I won’t let my daughter play with my shotgun, even if she cries and begs, and won’t got to sleep…because that’s my job…to ensure that she does the things she needs to do for her heath and safely, REGARDLESS of whether or not her 7 y/o brain agrees…and I’m not going to let her chose to eat nothing but crap, for the same reasons.

If that means she’s “not going to like me” for a little while, or she’s not fun to be around for a day or two, I’ll just have to live with that, because I’m the ADULT. The sooner she learns to obey, regardless of her “feelings” or “likes”, the less chance it will escalate in the future.

Be the adult…he’ll be happier (and healthier) in the long run…and maybe you won’t be back here whining about far more serious problems in ten years.

Be the adult.

“I made my son eat his cucumbers when he was little, actually puked and hasn’t been able to eat them since!”

Yes, there will always be exceptions with certain foods. Gracie really dislikes cooked zukes, so I cut her some slack (and usually serve her share raw, which she loves). HOWEVER..that’s an exception being made for a child who enjoys widely varied and nutritious eating, with a few specific dislikes.

You’re fighting for the hill here, not every pebble on it. One or two items on the “yuck list” (once they’ve been tried a few times) is perfectly acceptable.

By all means, if you’re child has a real aversion to one or two foods, give ’em a break…if they only want Lucky Charms three times a day, then there’s a problem.

You have to be careful with some kids and food/control issues. This can start one down the path of eating disorders. I tried this tactic with my daughter and after almost 2 days saw the handwriting on the wall. Today she’s a healthy 19 year old who eats a varied and healthy diet.

So…you taught her that if she holds out for less than two days…you’ll quit?

Personally, I would say that a three-year-old who won’t eat anything but PB&J already HAS am eating disorder…Also, while it’s great that a 19 y/o is eating a varied and healthy diet (and it really is great, and a rare thing, lol)…at the same time the vast majority of brain development and neural pathway structure happens in our first five years of life, decreasing exponentially during the years following.

I’d rather that my kid’s brain not be formed on the building blocks of nothing but Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, and Koolaid.

Let’s be honest (those of us who are parents) it’s far easier to please and keep a kid quiet by shoveling into their mouths the foods that they really like to eat..and they really like to eat them because we fed them those of course with some exceptions.

It’s also a control issue with kids…compare the U.S. children’s behavior with eating with the French..there are some major differences…France does not divert to Mac n Cheese and Chicken Fingers as kid’s food..why? they do not subscribe to a children’s menu, their kids eat adult food from day one… (Thank you, Peter B., for those insights!)

And frankly, we (my wife and I) fight it, and the associated guilt, here too.

My daughter is very aware of what the “Golden Arches” mean, and how good the French Fries are. Again, it’s not about never eating questionable foods (’cause if I was saying THAT. I’d have to wear a t-shirt that says HYPOCRITE is big red letters, lol) it’s like most things, about moderation and control.

Once in a while, as a special treat, and interjected into an otherwise healthy diet, a small order of clown-food isn’t the end of the world.

But if you’re doing it 3-4 nights a week…you’re diggin’ your kid’s grave right there in the Happy Meal line…

-Chef Perry



Delicata squash – simple and amazing!

Easy & Amazing Delicata Squash

Here’s a simple side dish to add to your meal plan.


Photo Courtesy of wildgardenseed.com

Found this lovely at the farmer’s market and it was too pretty to pass up…delicata squash.

They call it a squash, but it eats nothing like a squash (and I like squash , too), but more like a cross between a sweet potato and those thick fried Nigerian yam slices I love so much.

Delicata are a lot smaller than most winter squash, so they don’t take up as much room in the produce bag (or on the kitchen counter.)

Plus, they’re really easy to clean!

I roasted mine on a metal pan (lined with foil). Apparently you have to use metal if you want the cut sides to brown, which only happens on the side touching the pan, which is why we flip them halfway through.

That brown, nutty caramelization creates deep, rich flavor much like the savor brown “skin” that forms on a cut and roasted sweet potato. In fact, after my next trip to the market (where I will, of course, be buying more delicata) I plan to slice it into long planks and see how it turns out as “oven roasted fries.”

If you like sweet-potato fries as much as I do, I think you’ll want to try that too!

I swear, this is one of the best things I’ve ever eaten, and it’s so crazy easy to make, you could teach a monkey to do it!

Pretty sure I’m going to need to pick up some seeds for the garden, as well.

It’s almost not even a “recipe”…but here’s how to cook delicata squash:

Preheat oven to 425F.  Slice squash in half, lengthwise


Scoop out the “stuff”, and slice into half rings

Toss with oil and lotsa salt, and place on a foil-lined pan. Roast 10 minutes, flip and roast another ten. Serve


Want to take the hassle out of meal planning? For super-simple, healthy and delicious dinner recipes, check out our FREE weekly meal plans and shopping lists!

Oh, and if you have leftovers (1 1/2 delicata squash was more than enough for four adults and one child), it might be ever better the next morning, cubed, sauteed in a little oil and butter, and tossed with some farm-fresh eggs and a slice of smoked Gouda.


It was lovely!

So get out there to your market and bring home a couple of these beauties…you’ll be glad you did!

-Chef Perry


How to make the best steak sandwich ever…


This recipe isn’t included in our free meal plans, but it’s too awesome not to share…

I love it when the various bits of the flotsam and jetsam that bob randomly about  in my head occasionally drift together into something useful.

Here’s an example:

The Flotsam

Sparks-of-HopeSeveral weeks ago, we had the privilege of teaching some classes and hosting some special dinners for the awesome kids at the Sparks of Hope summer camps.

The regular meals were provided by the kitchen staff of the camp (best camp food I’ve ever had, btw), and one night, they grilled steaks.

Now, I’ll be perfectly honest, when the guy manning the giant bin-o-steaks asked me if I wanted medium-well, or well done, I had to fight not to shudder visibly, or possibly burst into tears, over such an atrocity being committed to a lovely bit of beef. But I was polite, I took one of the little brown hockey pucks and shuffled dispiritedly back to my table, where I sat and stared at it with an overwhelming sense on underwhelmation. (Yes, I made that word up…)

But, I had to be polite, right?

I had to set a good example for the kids, right?

So, I tried it…and instantly suffered one of the “paradigm shifts” that everyone is always yapping on about.

The steak was obviously well done, solidly brown all the way through, but it was also juicy, tender, and full of flavor…a condition I would have bet my favorite saute pan was not possible in an “overcooked” steak like the one I was eating.

Seriously, it was really, REALLY good!

Obviously, there was a secret here that I had to weasel from someone.

Chef Cris and I tracked the grill-master down, and he was kind enough to share his trick…we didn’t have to pull a knife or ‘nuthing…but I’m not going to tell you what it is quite yet (don’t panic, all will be revealed in the recipe…)

The Jetsam

At our new country digs, the nearest “grocery” stores are about 10 miles from our farm, and we pass them nearly every day. coming and going.

All on the same crossroad, sit a Fred Meyer, a Safeway, and a Dollar Tree.

Now I do most of my shopping at the local produce co-op about a mile further down Main Street, but I often pick up the rest of my odds and ends at one of these three. Dollar Store, in particular, is a great source for a lot of the gear and disposables we us in our MY KITCHEN classes.

Outside of the Dollar Tree hangs a big banner, proudly announcing “Rib Eye Steaks, $1 each!

Dollar Store Rib Eye SteaksThis banner has been bothering me for some time.

Like an itch between the shoulder blades that only becomes harder to ignore the harder you try to ignore it. Rib-eyes? At Dollar Tree? For a dollar? It became something of a sick obsession for me, I had to see them for myself.

I had to cook one of these “Dollar Tree Steaks” and find out what they were all about.

What I found was a 3.5oz, one-half inch thick frozen cross section of a rib-eye steak, each packaged individually, and each bearing a disconcerting resemblance to a Dr. Scholls sneaker insert.


Unfortunately, it’s been my experience that steaks this thin are nearly impossible to cook properly. To get the proteins to caramelize on the outside, you have to cook them far too long for the thickness, and then they toughen up, so…your options are tasteless and tender, or a delicious flap of shoe-leather.

I was disappointed, but not dissuaded. I threw a few of the frozen cow planks into my basket, and headed for the door.

Once home, I tossed them into the freezer, and promptly forgot about them.


So, the swirling tide that brought the various bits of this post (and recipe) all together was another sick obsession of mine…Pinterest. One of my favorite “pinners” posted a recipe and a to-die-for picture of a rib-eye sandwich with fried onions.

I wanted it…I’m telling you…I wanted it bad.

And then it clicked…the Dollar Tree ribeye steaks (purchased the week before) were still in my freezer. Their shape and thickness practically begged for the addition of a toasted hoagie roll. Plus, I had a fresh bag of sweet onion…and the grill-masters secret ingredient, already in the kitchen.

I swear, on the eyes of my children (which I always thought was kinda a creepy idea, even for The Godfather), I swear to you that this was, hands down, THE BEST steak sandwich I’ve ever eaten!

Here you go…thank you camp grill-master, thank you Dollar Tree, you came together and made something beautiful here…

Dollar Tree Steak Sandwich with Fried Sweet Onions
Serves 4

  • 4 – 3.5oz “Dollar Tree” rib eye steak, thawed.
  • 1 cup Italian salad dressing (I like Newman’s)
  • Grape-seed oil
  • 2 small sweet onions, sliced thin
  • Dash of salt
  • A-1 steak sauce (optional)

Newman Italian Dressings RecipesThe night before (this is it…the secret!) place the thawed steaks in a gallon zip bag, add Italian dressing, seal and squoosh the bag around with your hands until all the steaks are well coated. Put the bag in the fridge until dinnertime the next night, flipping it a couple of times in between.

In a small, nonstick pan, heat a teaspoon or so of oil over medium high heat, and add the peeled and sliced onions with a dash of salt.

Flip or stir the onions every couple of minutes until they begin to get golden brown. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a cast iron skillet*, heat a couple of more teaspoons of oil over medium-high heat. Remove the steaks from the bag and pat them dry. (Wet meat don’t brown.)

Fry the steaks in oil – no additional seasoning necessary – until browned on both sides, adding a little extra oil to the pan, if needed. Remove steaks from heat, tent loosely with foil, and let rest 10 minutes. Meanwhile, dump your fried onions in the steak skillet, and re-fry them for a minute, letting them caramelize in all those fantastic steak juices.

Split and toast your hoagie rolls (a must, always.) Give the bottom halves of the rolls a very thin coating of steak sauce (optional) and place a steak on each.

Top with 1/4 of the grilled onions, finish the plate with a chilled tossed salad, and serve!

(By the way, if you’re enjoying this article, you may want to subscribe to our free newsletter; we’ll send seven amazing dinner recipes and a shopping list to your inbox each Friday. Plus, you’ll be helping us feed the hungry and teach nutrition, shopping, and hands-on cooking classes to at-risk teens!)

Not only does the overnight marinating in Italian dressing tenderize the meat (keeping it juicy, but not tasting at all like Italian dressing,) but the acids and sugars help the steak caramelize faster, and add an amazing depth of delicious “steak-house-steak” flavor.

And…it’s dirt cheap! I’m guesstimating around $1.50 a serving, not including the salad.

Now, before the math nerds all wet their high-waters in a frenzy to point out that $1 for a 3.5oz steak equals just over four bucks a pound…I realize that.

$4 a pound is still a pretty freaking good deal for rib-eye, PLUS good luck finding a butcher who will sell you a 3.5oz cut of steak, especially one cut thin like this for sandwiches (and, NO…that nasty “steak-um” stuff doesn’t count!)

So, yeah…I’ll be heading back to Dollar Tree in the near future. I’m thinking we need a steak-roulade experiment…

Chef Perry

*Next time I’m going to try this recipe on the grill chimney, I’m guessing it’s going to be even better!


Big Changes at SimplySmartDinnerPlans!

Free weekly meal plans

Dear SimplySmartDinnerPlans Friend:

Please read this whole message. I promise it’s NOT a sales pitch…though it might start out sounding like one, lol.

I want to let you know about a major shift that’s happening with our SimplySmartDinnerPlans.

After almost three years of sending folks simple, delicious, healthy dinner recipes for each night of the week, along with itemized grocery shopping lists to make store trips quicker, easier, and more affordable…we’re changing some things up.

We love what we do, and the positive feedback we get from our customers on a weekly basis tells us that we’re on the right track!


We’ve come to realize that, in our current economic times, even a $10/month commitment is a stretch for some folks, and people are becoming more and more leery about having their credit card information stored somewhere online. As Chef Terry, Chef Chris, and I continue to grow our outreach programs to feed the hungry, mentor at-risk youth, and teach young people how to cook healthy and affordably, we’re struggling more and more with the idea of charging people, even this small amount, for a basic life-skill that we passionately believe that everyone needs and deserves.

So…and please don’t think we’ve gone crazy…effectively immediately, the weekly meal plans and shopping lists will be FREE.

Yes, you read that right. No more monthly subscription fees, no credit cards, no PayPal required. The weekly plans and shopping lists, as well as the usual access to blog posts, recipes, and Q&A will be completely free of charge!

The Plan…

Our plan is that, with this new offer, we’ll not only be able to help folks feed their families healthier meals (without adding an additional burden to their budget), but that we’ll attract enough followers and visits to the blog to begin building a lucrative ad income, and attract corporate sponsors to help support our own families, and continuing outreach programs like our MY KITCHEN classes.

This is where YOU come in…

To make this work, we’re going to need YOUR help!

Please take this opportunity to let your friends, family, and co-workers know about who we are, and what we do. If you’re on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or other social media groups, please let them know that they can sign up for SimplySmartDinnerPlans at no cost or risk, effective immediately. I’ve added a very brief form letter, below, that you can copy and personalize, or post as-is, to spread the word, if that helps.

To sign up at no cost (ever), just go to THIS LINK , and choose which menu you would like. You can check out the meal plan options at the Meal Plans tab at the top of the website, as well.

Obviously, you can cancel this no-risk subscription at any time, with one simple email.

What this means…

You will see an occasional ad or banner on the main page of the blog, or imbedded into a post or recipe. You will NOT be receiving 3rd party ads, offers, or SPAM of any kind via email, nor will your contact information EVER be shared with any other company. Any advertisements that you choose to click on, or visit, will be totally up to you, and require your action to do so (for you web-savvies – this means there will never be an auto-redirect to an advertiser’s website…ever.)

Thanks for reading, and please let me know if you have ANY questions. As always, we will be available at any time via Facebook, email or text, to answer any meal plan or cooking questions you might have.

Thank you everyone, we’re very excited about this new phase of SimplySmartDinnerPlans, and we’d love to have YOU be a part of it!

Chef Perry

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _


Dear Friend’s Name,

Hey…I just wanted to let you know about this fantastic meal-planning deal. I’ve been a subscriber to SimplySmartDinnerPlans for a while now, and I love their healthy, easy-to-prepare dinner recipes and shopping lists.  It makes planning the week’s meals SO much easier!

Well, they just announced that, starting today, their weekly meal-plans will be free!

To join SimplySmartDinnerPlans at no cost, just go to THIS LINK  , and choose which menu you would like. You can check out the meal plan options at the Meal Plans tab at the top of the website, as well.

They include Classic, Heart-Healthy (& diabetic friendly), and Gluten Free plan options!

Have fun!

Your Name