SimplySmartDinnerPlans page is back up!

Free weekly dinner plans and shopping lists

SimplySmartDinnerPlansThe new dinner plans page is (finally) up and running again!

I’ve made a few changes in the update…no more passwords, no more “one plan a week.”

All 52 weeks of free, healthy, easy-to-prepare, “real food” dinner plans, with itemized weekly shopping lists.

Classic, Heart Healthy, or Gluten-Free Plans!

The whole year, available to everyone, all the time…

Check it out at SimplySmartDinnerPlans

Be sure to sign up for the Newsletter, too!


~Chef Perry
MY KITCHEN Outreach Program




Deconstructed California Roll

Deconstructed California Roll Salad

Deconstructed California Roll

Okay, let’s face it…some folks love to make sushi. Rolling perfect cylinders with their little bamboo mats, slicing perfect rings with their razor sharp Yanagibas (sushi knifes), and topping them with brightly-colored little garnishes of this and that.

Some of us, however, just love to EAT sushi.

And no sushi is more ubiquitous to the Western sushi-bar than California Roll.

Califoria Roll with Tobiko

California Roll with Tobiko from FISHES restaurant, Cannon Beach, Oregon

First appearing in Los Angeles in the 1960s, the California Roll is a maki-zushi, a kind of sushi roll, usually made inside-out, containing cucumber, crab meat or imitation crab, and avocado.

Though there are many variations of additional ingredients, these are the “mainstay” of the California roll.

As one of the most popular styles of sushi in the US market, the California Roll has been influential in sushi’s global popularity

Ichiro Mashita, a sushi chef, first substituted avocado for toro (fatty tuna) in hope that removing the raw fish would make it more palatable to Western customers, and realized the oily texture of avocado was a perfect substitute for toro. He also made the roll “inside-out” (with the rice on the outside), because Americans didn’t like seeing and chewing the nori on the outside of the roll.

By the 1980s, the California Roll was the single most popular item in the sushi craze that was sweeping across the United States.

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.


This recipe allows for the same flavors and textures of the traditional California roll, without requiring the skills or equipment necessary to create the more familiar rolled presentation, with Furikake seasoning replacing the traditional nori (seaweed sheets).

Furikake seasoning can be found in Asian grocery stores, or can be ordered from our Amazon.com store.


Chef Perry

Deconstructed California Roll Salad

1 batch sushi rice (recipe below), room temp.
2 Tbsp. Furikaki seasoning
1/3 cup sesame seeds
1 small cucumber
8 oz. imitation crab or lobster
1 medium avocado, peeled, pitted, and sliced 1/4-inch thick
Pickled ginger, wasabi, and soy sauce for serving (opt)

Mise en Place

Prepare the rice (recipe below). Peel, seed, and cut cucumber into half-rounds. Break imitation crab into bite-sized portions. Peeled and pit the avocado, and slice 1/4-inch thick.

Prepare the Dish

Divide the cooled rice between two plates, and sprinkle with 1/2 of the Furikaki seasoning and 1/2 of the toasted sesame seeds. Top with crab, cucumber, and avocado, the sprinkle with remaining Furikaki seasoning and sesame seeds.

Serve immediately with pickled ginger, wasabi, and soy sauce (all optional).

Sushi Rice

1 cup sushi or short grain rice
1 cup water
1/4 cup mirin (sweet rice wine)
1 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 Tbsp. kosher salt

Rinse rice in a mixing bowl 2 to 3 times, or until the water is clear.

Place the rice and 1 cup of water into a medium saucepan and place over high heat. Bring to a boil, uncovered. Once it begins to boil, reduce the heat to the lowest setting and cover. Cook for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes.

Combine the rice vinegar, mirin, sugar and salt in a small bowl and heat in the microwave on high for 30 to 45 seconds. Transfer the rice into a large wooden or glass mixing bowl and add the vinegar mixture. Fold thoroughly to combine and coat each grain of rice with the mixture.

Allow to cool to room temperature before using to make sushi or sashimi.

Makes 2 cups






Did you know that you can help support our MY KITCHEN Outreach Program, helping us cook for the hungry, and teaching important cooking skills to at-risk kids…just by signing up for our free weekly meal plans?

It’s true! Even if you never click on a single ad, just by visiting our page to get the latest recipes, download the weekly plans, and watch our latest videos, you help increase our search engine ratings, which brings more people to our page, increasing our ad value and revenue!

That ad revenue is our sole income to provide meals, class gear and materials, marketing and advertising, etc., for the outreach.

Please consider signing up today, and sharing this information with folks you know. They’ll get some great recipes, new cooking tips and tricks, one-on-one Q&A with our chefs, and be helping a great cause at the same time…all for free!

Here’s the sign up link: www.joinmykitchen.com

Thank you!

Chefs Perry, Terry, & Chris


Tips for Making Thanksgiving Extra Special


Our friend Gina at Green Clean by G, shares some great tips in her free monthly e-newsletter.

Here’s one of my favorites for November:


Use That Fine China!
You know that fancy china, pretty table linens or fragrant candle you’ve been saving for a “special occasion”?

Why not treat Thanksgiving (and your guests) as extra special and pull them out? I recently hosted a farm-to-table dinner party where guests enjoyed cooking and eating with me.

Though it would be easy to have said the occasion wasn’t “fancy enough” to use my fine china from my grandmother, I chose to up the ante on the night and my guests all commented on how special they felt to enjoy using my fanciest dishes.

So pull out whatever items you’ve been saving and enjoy them!

Your guests will feel special and so will you!


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Green Clean by G offers housecleaning, organizing, meal preparation and lots more. See a list of their services, here.

All of Gina’s cleaning products are homemade, organic cleansers that are green for the environment, ecologically responsible and both people and pet-friendly, using dōTERRA essential oils from a local small business owner and other non-toxic, chemical-free ingredients.

You can sign up for Green Clean by Gina’s free monthly newsletter, here, and follow them on Facebook as well, for lots more great tips and ideas!


Rigatoni with Bacon & Roasted Mushrooms

Roast Mushroom Bacon Rigatoni

This might be my all-time favorite comfort food. Salty porkiness from the bacon, the deep earthiness of the roasted mushrooms, a little grilled onion, a little garlic, some fresh, slightly bitter parsley, all tossed with that most perfect of carbs…pasta.

If you don’t like this dish…I’m not sure we can be friends. :)

Rigatoni with Bacon & Roasted Mushrooms

1lb apple-smoked bacon
1 lb sliced roasted mushrooms
1 small sweet onion
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 lb rigatoni pasta
Sea salt
1 cup shredded asiago cheese
1 cup fresh Italian parsley
Black pepper to taste

Mise en place

Slice 1lb of bacon, unseparated, in 8-10 “columns”, peel and dice sweet onion.

Roast Mushroom Bacon Rigatoni


Roast Mushroom Bacon RigatoniBake bacon on a foil lines pan at 375F for 12-15 minutes (watch closely) until cooked through and beginning to crisp.

Remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Set aside.

Roast mushrooms according the this post.

Roast Mushroom Bacon Rigatoni

In a large cold skillet, combine  onions and olive oil, and heat to medium.

Saute onions in oil for 3-4 minutes, and chopped garlic and cook until the onions are just beginning to brown (but not the garlic.)

Roast Mushroom Bacon Rigatoni

Reduce heat to med-low, add bacon and mushrooms, and toss to combine.

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 valuable cooking skills to at-risk youth!

Roast Mushroom Bacon Rigatoni

Let cook 5-6 minutes for flavors to combine.

Roast Mushroom Bacon RigatoniMeanwhile, cook pasta in heavily salted water (see our Tips for “Perfect Pasta”) according to package instructions until just al-dente, but still just a bit chewy.

Add your pasta to the skillet with mushrooms, onions, and bacon (because we always finish our pasta in the “sauce”, right?) with a couple of generous ladles of the hot pasta water. Bring to a simmer, and add 3/4 of the cheese stirring, until 90% of the liquid has been reduced and cheese is completely melted and combined.

Roast Mushroom Bacon Rigatoni

Chop the parsley (you want it as fresh chopped as possible), and add to the pasta, tossing to combine. Keep a little parsley back for garnish.

Roast Mushroom Bacon Rigatoni

Plate, give each a couple of healthy grinds of fresh back pepper, and garnish with the remaining cheese and parsley.

Serve immediately with pan-toasted Italian bread and a fresh Caesar salad.

Now, as a responsible chef and food-blogger, I would never…ever…recommend that anyone crack a couple of farm-fresh eggs and place the separated yolks on top of the plated pasta, breaking and combining with the hot dish just before eating to add an unbelievably rich, delicious flavor and textual component to this already-awesome recipe, because the FDA says eating raw eggs might be dangerous, so a suggestion like that would just be…wrong.

So, whatever you do, don’t do that

Roast Mushroom Bacon Rigatoni



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!


Cheese & Wine – The Perfect Pair

Peanut butter and jelly. Soup and salad. Pizza and beer. There are many great pairings in the world of food, but cheese and wine might be the greatest of them all. Check out this infographic from Cabot Creamery Cooperative and see what cheeses perfectly compliment your favorite wines. Trust us, your tastebuds will thank you.

Also be sure to sign up for their newsletter to get other delicious meal ideas and food pairing tips straight to your inbox!

 -Chef Perry

perfect wine and cheese pairings
Presented By Cabot Creamery


Best “Gringo” Taco Meat Ever!

Taco Meat Recipe

This is my favorite “gringo” taco meat recipe…

Now, in all fairness these aren’t “real” Mexican-style tacos (which I love with all of my chubby little heart) but a “next level” upgrade to the weekly suburbanite special that I grew up on. Pretty darn tasty, too!

The big deal about this recipe is that it doesn’t include “taco seasoning” which, in my opinion, just makes everything taste like…well…taco seasoning. If I wanted that, I’d “make a run for the border.”

If I go to the trouble of buying good, fresh meat, I want to taste meat!

5 More Terrific Taco Tips:

  • Always warm crispy taco shells (or tortilla chips) in a 250F oven for 5-10 minutes. Warming them releases the natural oils, making them crispier and tastier.
  • To jack the flavor up even more, skip the lettuce and cilantro, and buy a bag of “Fiesta” or “Southwestern” salad blend. Mix it up according to directions, and use it as you would plain lettuce in your tacos.
  • If you haven’t tried “Crema” (Mexican sour cream) you should, it’s bolder and more tangy than the regular stuff.
  • Like the taco shells, four or corn tortillas are MUCH better when warmed. Heat them in the dry pan, over medium heat until they just start to brown on the bottom. Flip and repeat. When the tortilla starts to puff up, remove and place inside a  folded towel. If cooking in advance, or in large numbers, wrap 10-12 of the warmed tortillas in foil, and place in a 150F oven to stay warm.
  • Lastly (and this is my favorite) I always mix beef and pork 50/50. Pork has tons of flavor, but is very dry on it’s own. Beef adds a richness, and the necessary fat. Together…amazing! This goes for meatballs, and meatloaf, as well!

I like these best the old-fashioned way: crispy taco shell, sour cream, shredded mexi-cheese, chopped cilantro, diced tomatoes and avocado. My wife and daughter prefect flour “soft” tacos, and once in a while I get a hankerin’ for some fresh corn tortillas from the local Hispanic market.


-Chef Perry

Taco Meat Recipe

Best “Gringo” Taco Meat Ever!

1 white onion, diced
1 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 cup hot water
1 lb. 80/20 ground beef
1 lb. ground pork
1 Tbs. ground cumin
1 Tbs. seasoned salt (to taste)
2 tsp. ground black pepper

Mise en Place:

Dice onions, heat water, combine all spices.

Prepare the Dish:

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat until just starting to brown, add hot water and simmer until all the water had cooked away (about 10 minutes).

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.


Add the ground beef and ground pork, in chunks, cooking until it begins to brown. Using a spatula, or flat-edge wooden spoon, begin chopping the meat. Add the spices, and continue chopping until the meat is evenly browned and broken in to pieces no larger than 1/2 inch round.

Stir, cover skillet, and remove from heat. Allow to rest 5 minutes, stir, and rest another 5 minutes.

Great for soft tacos, crispy tacos, burrito or enchilada filling, nachos, and taco salad!

PS – Of you’ve never had a “real” Mexico-style taco. Turn off your computer, right now and run (don’t walk) to your nearest taco truck. Typically, what you’ll find are two layers of warm corn tortillas, slow cooked or grilled meat (chopped or shredded), diced white onions, cilantro, and the eaters choice of any number of delicious spicy hot sauces!

If God made anything better…He kept it for Himself!

Real Mexican Tacos

Something lovely from MY favorite taco truck…


National Cheese Day! – Texas Grilled Cheese with Honey Ham and Mango Hot Mustard

Texas Grilled Cheese with Honey Ham and Mango Hot Mustard

It’s National Cheese Day!

How ’bout THIS baby…

Cabot Vintage White Cheddar, shredded
El Diablo Mustards Mango Hot & Spicy Mustard
2 slices of honey ham
2 slices of Texas Toast

God Bless America, and pass the cream soda!

Chef Perry


Win a trip for 2 to New Orleans & Dinner at Emerils!


Okay, I teased you a couple of weeks back with a four-night trip for two to New Orleans, airfare, rental car, posh hotel, and dinner for two at a couple of high-end restaurants, including Emerils!

So, here’s the deal…as an advertiser on AM 860 KPAM Radio, we are participating in their current Eliminator Radio Game…win $86 just for being the eighth caller, and be entered for a chance to win one of 44 possible prize packages, including our trip to New Orleans!

kpam logoListen to AM 860 KPAM Radio from Monday, June 2nd to Friday, June 20th between the hours of 5am and 6pm for your “Cue to Call”.

CALL 503-225-0860. Once you are chosen to go on-the-air, you will be asked to take one prize off “The Eliminator” Board.


Being chosen to come on-air will result in you winning $86 cash and qualifying for the “Grand Prize” party on June 26th, where you’ll have a 1 in 44 chance of randomly winning the final prize on “The Eliminator” board.

If we’re the last prize standing, and your name get’s drawn from the 44 callers, not only do you get the $86, but you win the four-night trip for two to New Orleans!

Help get the word out on our amazing recipes, easy dinner plans, awesome outreach programs, and get in the running for a trip to The Big Easy, Baby!

Listen to KPAM for the “Cue to Call”


If you do happen to win the prize package, AND you’ve been a SimplySmartDinnerPlans member with a sign up date prior to the winner notification…Chef Terry, Chef Chris, and myself will personally come to your home and prepare a 10-course “Creole Tasting Dinner” for you and up to a dozen of your closest friends…for FREE, just to give you a little taste of what’s to come!

Good Luck,

-Chef Perry