Apricot-Lime Glazed Chicken

In 2019 & 2020 Brion & I spent a couple of holidays in the beautiful town of Mérida on the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. Of course there were many places to explore such as the archeological sites like Chichen Itza and Uxmal while we were there. If you would like to see pictures and read about some of our adventures in Mérida, you can find them on the website blogs in February 2019 & January 2020.

When I decided to make this chicken meal today the peninsula’s bright and sunny flavors came back to me remembering the chicken lime soup we had tasted there. In Yucatán, the lime they use for this soup is the region’s native lima ágria.

In Mexico, using lime juice is quite common. People squeeze limes over grilled meats, fruits, vegetables, salads, soups, drinks, and even chips. The lime juice brings out the flavors in food in a way best described as ‘bright’. It’s tangy, refreshing, and brings out the best flavors in the food it’s on.

The apricot-lime glaze, with a touch of hot sauce, makes the perfect combo of sweet, sour, and spicy on these chicken thighs.

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Apricot-Lime Glazed Chicken
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Instructions
  1. Heat grill to medium. In a small bowl, combine preserves, lime juice, hot sauce & red pepper flakes.
  2. Season chicken with 1/2 tsp black pepper & grill, covered, turning occasionally 10-15 minutes. Uncover & continue grilling, basting with sauce until chicken is cooked through, 5-7 minutes more.
  3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. cut each ear of corn into 3-4 pieces. Add corn to pot with 2 tsp salt & simmer until just tender, 3-4 minutes. Drain, transfer to platter & serve with chicken & lime wedges.

Shrimp Orzotto in Creamy Wine Sauce

Cooking with wine is a bit of a misunderstood area. It’s not quite as simple as many people believe it to be with such a wide range of wines available to cook with and a variety of ways in which to use them.

Wine is used in a similar fashion to seasoning. You’re not pouring it in to change the taste of the entire dish, but more to enhance and complement the flavors already there. The alcohol present in wine actually triggers the release of flavor molecules in the sauce, making every ingredient the wine contacts taste even better.

White wines can be wonderful in a whole host of dishes, which is why you’ll often find them in chicken, fish and seafood recipes, as well as vegetarian.  Seafood such as lobster and shellfish are considered full-bodied, so are better partnered with creamier, full-bodied whites like Chardonnay. White wine sauce has been described as ‘a classic sauce for fish’.

A common misconception when cooking with wine is that all alcohol content is burned off during the cooking process. This isn’t completely true. Typically, the majority of the alcohol will evaporate, but in order to eliminate all traces you would need to cook something for a good three hours or more.

It’s not just alcohol content that is evaporated either. All wines contain a small amount of sulphites, a natural result of the winemaking process. These evaporate along with the alcohol, while the flavors are concentrated. The undesirable stuff comes out, the good stuff is enhanced!

This shrimp orzo is nicely complimented with the creamy wine sauce.

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Shrimp Orzotto in Creamy Wine Sauce
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Instructions
  1. In a large bowl pat the shrimps dry with paper towel, & mix them with salt, 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning & crushed red pepper flakes.
  2. Melt 1 tbsp. of butter in a large, non-stick skillet on medium heat. Add shrimp & fry for 1-2 minutes on each side, just until it cooks through.
  3. Meanwhile bring 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth to a boil & cook orzo pasta until all the broth is absorbed & orzo is tender. Set aside.
  4. Remove the shrimps from the skillet & set aside. In the same skillet, add the remaining 1 tbsp. of butter & melt until it just starts to brown. Add onion & garlic and cook until translucent & fragrant.
  5. Once the garlic is cooked, add wine & cook for a couple of minutes. Next add heavy cream & once the liquid is simmering, add salt & 1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning. Add orzo & crumbled gorgonzola cheese.
  6. Add shrimp back into the skillet & reheat. Serve with chopped parsley.

Italian Sausage Lasagna

Whether you prefer a sweet or spicy variety, there’s no denying the delicious versatility of Italian sausage.

The predominant flavor in ‘mild’ Italian sausage is fennel, or actual anise, a licorice like flavor with a little more earthiness. This emulates the style of sausages in Northern Italy, known for milder flavors with a noticeable presence of both fennel and garlic. It will also typically have a small amount of red pepper flakes to open up the flavors.

The ‘hot’ designation means a higher content of pepper flakes, or the addition of cayenne, giving you that spicier flavor that is more common in the southern regions of Italy.

‘Sweet’ is pretty straightforward, little bit of sugar, milder flavors around that, sometimes some mild herbs, typically a lot of basil and such to round it out.

In this meal, the layers of lasagna noodles blanket a creamy béchamel sauce and a filling with a savory ‘Italian sausage’ flavor and tender artichokes. Truly a comfort food meal.

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Italian Sausage Lasagna
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Instructions
Filling
  1. Drain artichokes (reserving oil) & slice in halves; set aside. In a heavy skillet, heat artichoke marinade oil; sauté garlic, onions & mushrooms for a few minutes.
  2. Add ground pork, sun-dried tomatoes & spices. Cook over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; add artichokes. Remove from skillet & set aside until ready to assemble lasagna.
Béchamel Sauce
  1. In the skillet, melt butter over low heat. Once the butter is completely melted and bubbling, add the flour & mix well. Cook for a couple of minutes until flour just begins to take on some color.
  2. Slowly start adding the milk, whisking continuously to prevent lumps from forming. Continue to simmer until the sauce begins to thicken, stirring often. Season with a pinch of salt, white pepper & nutmeg.
  3. Set aside until you are ready to use, by pouring the sauce into a glass bowl & covering with a buttered sheet of plastic wrap. Cook lasagna noodles. Grate cheeses.
Assembly
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. In a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking dish, spread 1/2 cup of the béchamel sauce on the bottom. (Set aside 1 cup of the béchamel sauce for the top.) Arrange a single layer of lasagna noodles over sauce; spread some of the filling over noodles, top with a sprinkling of the grated cheeses. (Make sure to reserve a bit of cheese for the topping.) Repeat layers, ending with noodles.
  3. Spread the reserved 1 cup of béchamel sauce over the noodles & top withy the remaining grated cheese. Cover with foil, bake for 35 minutes, remove foil & bake until bubbly & lightly browned on top, about another 15-20 minutes.
  4. Allow to stand 10 minutes before serving.

Roasted Beef Stuffed Cauliflower

You know the saying, ‘what’s old is new again‘ is one that seems to fit cauliflower. What used to be considered a boring vegetable, less colorful and less delicious than its cousin broccoli, is now an ‘it’ vegetable. I mean, its everywhere — cauliflower rice, pizza crust, roasted, in sandwiches, main entrees, etc. etc. The versatility of this humble veggie has boosted its popularity to become big business for growers and grocers.

Whole roasted cauliflower is an unusual presentation. Cauliflower’s inherent earthy sweetness becomes more pronounced as the moisture inside is drawn out.

January is always a good month to get creative with oven meals. I love the idea of a whole roasted cauliflower with cheese sauce drizzled over it. Although, stuffing it with meat is not a new concept, I, myself have not made it this way. So today’s meal is a nicely seasoned ground beef filling baked inside of a whole cauliflower and topped with a Parmesan cheese sauce. The result is real good! 


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Roasted Stuffed Cauliflower with Beef

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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, European

Servings


Ingredients
Beef Stuffing

Parmigiano-Reggiano Sauce

Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, European

Servings


Ingredients
Beef Stuffing

Parmigiano-Reggiano Sauce

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Instructions
Stuffed Cauliflower
  1. In a large bowl, combine ground beef, onion, garlic, tomato paste, tomato, egg, pepper flakes, oregano, basil, sage, pepper & salt until well incorporated. Set aside.

  2. Remove the whole stem from the cauliflower making sure to leave the head fully intact. In a large pot, boil cauliflower for 8-10 minutes until fork tender. Remove from the boiling water & place on paper towels to drain for a few minutes then carefully remove any remaining stem to make space for the filling.

  3. Preheat oven to 400 F. Fill the head of cauliflower with ground beef mixture making sure to press the filling into the head. Place inverted head of cauliflower on a buttered, foil lined baking sheet; cover with another sheet of foil & bake about 30 minutes or until beef is cooked through.

Cheese Sauce
  1. In a saucepan, melt butter add flour, stirring until light brown, about 2 minutes. Stir in milk & allow to thicken, about 5 minutes. Add grated cheese, salt & pepper & mix until fully incorporated & thickened.

  2. Adjust heat to broil. Remove foil from stuffed cauliflower & cover with cheese sauce. Broil about 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Garnish with fresh parsley.

Pork & Pepper Quiche Cups w/ Onion Mushroom Twists

When I think of stuffed peppers, quiche never ever came to mind. I have always enjoyed quiche anytime of day, with or without crust. The idea of using a pepper as your ‘crust’ certainly puts a new twist on the traditional quiche.

I wanted to make these pepper cups for a supper meal and since there was no pastry involved here, bread sticks seemed like a good accompaniment.

Quiche is like making pizza– there are no limits to what the filling can consist of. For our meal today, I just put together a variety of items I had on hand for both the quiche and bread stick twists. It turned out to be real enjoyable and so easy.

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Pork & Pepper Quiche Cups w/ Onion Mushroom Twists
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Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American, German
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Instructions
Onion-Mushroom Twists
  1. In a skillet, saute mushrooms & onion in butter until tender. Add thyme & salt; cook 1 minute longer or until blended. Remove from heat & cool slightly. Roll pizza dough into a 16 X 8-inch rectangle. Sprinkle cheese on half of the dough, then top cheese with HALF of the mushroom/onion mixture. Fold un-topped half of dough over topped side; slice into 8 strips to form twists.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Carefully lift & twist each strip before placing on baking sheet. Sprinkle with garlic powder & salt to taste. Bake 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.
Pepper Quiche Cups
  1. In a skillet, place ground pork, water, salt, rubbed sage, black pepper, red pepper flakes & ground ginger. Stir-fry until no longer pink. Remove from heat & drain on paper towel. Chop sun-dried tomato pieces & shred cheese.
  2. In a large measuring cup with a spout, place 1/2 & 1/2 milk, salt & pepper. Add eggs & beat well. Remove stems, seeds & membrane from peppers & stand in a roasting dish that will hold them upright & level. Divide cooked pork, remaining mushroom/onion mixture & sun-dried tomatoes.
  3. Top each pepper with some grated cheddar, then carefully pour in the milk/egg mixture. Bake until eggs are set. If you prefer, 'float' a piece of foil over peppers for the first part of the baking time. It will help the cheese not to over bake.

No-Yolk Noodles with Chia Chicken Meatballs

Although rice takes top priority at our house, noodles (pasta) are always a staple nevertheless. Some years ago, we started using the ‘no yolks’ version of egg noodles. 

Like many old world pasta products, there is a history. In 1976, Robert Strom created  NO YOLKS. They would become the world’s first                          no-cholesterol egg noodle. They are made with Durum wheat semolina, corn flour, egg whites and have no problem cooking up firm and fluffy.

In Canada, they are the top selling noodle and come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. In this recipe, I have paired them with my favorite Chia Chicken Meatballs. Does it get more healthy than that?!

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No-Yolk Noodles with Chia Chicken Meatballs
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Meatballs
Sauce
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Meatballs
Sauce
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Instructions
Meatballs
  1. In a small bowl, mix together chia seeds & water; let stand for about 20 minutes. In a large bowl, combine remaining meatball ingredients. When chia gel is ready, add to meat mixture. Using your hands, combine ingredients well. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with foil & lightly coat with baking spray. Scoop into 50 meatballs; place on baking sheet & bake 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven, cool completely if you are choosing to freeze half for a later meal. Set aside the amount you are using for this meal.
Sauce / Noodles
  1. In a saucepan, melt margarine; saute zucchini & green onion until tender. Sprinkle with flour & seasonings. Add milk/broth & cook, stirring until slightly thickened. Meanwhile, cook no-yolk noodles as directed on package in salted boiling water to which 1 Tbsp of olive oil has been added. Drain.
Assembly
  1. In the pot you cooked the noodles, combine noodles with sauce & meatballs. Fold together & serve topped with some parmigano-reggiano if you wish.

Beef Short Ribs & Shrimp

Today, March 21st, our family honors the memory of my father. He passed away at the age of 92, thirteen years ago. As a teenager, I never realized what a special privilege  growing up as a farmer’s daughter really was. Coming home on the school bus and having to do ‘chores’ seemed so boring as opposed to being able to spend after school hours with your friends. As I look back on those times now, it all comes clear as to how treasured and valuable those life lessons were.

To be a successful farmer takes a tremendous amount of strength and courage. I think back to those days with great admiration and appreciation of the special man he was.

Since my Dad enjoyed to eat both beef and seafood, I thought today’s blog recipe should be a nice combo of just that in honor of his memory.

                                    SPECIAL MEMORIES OF OUR WONDERFUL DAD

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Beef Short Ribs & Shrimp
Instructions
  1. In a food processor, puree peeled & cored Asian pear. Add next 8 ingredients & pulse a few seconds to combine. Into a large Ziploc bag pour 2/3 of the marinade; add ribs laying single file so they will marinate evenly. Refrigerate while marinating for at least 2 hours or overnight.
  2. Peel & devein shrimp. Place in another Ziploc bag with remaining marinade. Marinate shrimp about 30 minutes in refrigerator prior to cooking.
  3. At cooking time, thread shrimp on skewers. Barbecue ribs & shrimp on a grill over medium heat or you can broil in the oven if you prefer. Cook to your preferred liking making sure to not overcook shrimp. Place on serving platter & sprinkle with green onions & sesame seeds.
Recipe Notes
  • Using an Asian pear in marinade is a great tenderizer for beef.
  • If you prefer, keep a bit of the marinade for serving over a rice side dish.

Chia Chicken Meatballs with Linguine

Chia — the little seed with the huge nutritional profile. Known as a great source of healthy omega-3 fats and fiber as well as positive health effects such as boosting energy, stabilizing blood sugar, aiding digestion and lowering cholesterol.

In the early eighties, when the terracotta ‘Chia Pet’ figurines were first marketed, I really didn’t pay much attention to them. I just thought they were a cute way to grow a ‘houseplant’ never checking out their true potential.

Chia seeds have a fascinating and long history of use in several cultures. The word chia means ‘strength’ in the Mayan language. The Aztecs, Mayans and Incas, supposedly all used chia as a staple of their diets as well as an energy food.

There seem to be endless ways to use these naturally gluten free little seeds. Just to name a few would be, as an egg substitute, in puddings, as a thickener in soups and gravy, in meatballs, sprouted in salads or for breading fish or chicken.

One of the recipes I have featured in my ebook is Chia Chicken Meatballs  served with a fresh zucchini sauce over linguine pasta.

My husband, Brion is all about anything that promotes good health so this meal works for him. The chia seeds definitely give these little chicken meatballs some extra ‘pizzazz’. Hope you enjoy.

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Chia Chicken Meatballs with Linguine
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Course Main Dish
Servings
Ingredients
Fresh Zucchini Sauce
Course Main Dish
Servings
Ingredients
Fresh Zucchini Sauce
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Instructions
Chia-Chicken Meatballs
  1. In a small bowl, combine chia seeds with water; let stand for about 20 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, use your hands to evenly combine the chia gel with the remaining meatball ingredients. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with foil; coat lightly with baking spray. Scoop meatball mixture into 50 servings onto baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes; remove from oven. Cool half of the meatballs & freeze for another meal.
Fresh Zucchini Sauce
  1. In a saucepan, melt margarine; saute zucchini & green onion until tender. Sprinkle with flour & seasonings. Add milk/broth & cook, stirring until slightly thickened. Fold in baked chicken balls.
Linguine
  1. Cook linguine about 14 minutes in salted boiling water to which 1 Tbsp of olive oil has been added. Drain & combine with meatball/sauce mixture.

Taco Salad in Edible Tortilla Bowls

Summer time is salad time! Taco Salad  is the full meal deal, infinitely customizable, inviting experimentation and creativity. Being so versatile, it can be enjoyed in almost any setting.

This Texas-Mexican inspired salad was very popular in the late 1960’s. It’s name comes from the Texas-Mexican Railway. Pioneers brought Anglo influences to Texas, where the Texas-born Mexicans lived. As a result, the ingredients from their different cultures blended together.           Tex-Mex combines elements of Anglo, Spanish and Mexican.

The taco salad is unique in that it can be served in an edible tortilla bowl. I recall in the food industry, this meal had huge visual appeal for the customer. How could you resist ordering one after seeing it’s impressive presentation? The ingredients in a taco salad can vary according to preference and can be made to fit into any type of cuisine with different seasonings and modifications.

Typically the taco salad includes lettuce, beans, tomatoes, green onion, meat, cheese and sour cream. Other condiments might include guacamole, salsa, garlic and cumin.

The salad featured in today’s blog picture is the beef version but I have included similar recipes for chicken and vegetarian ideas as well. Tortilla bowls are easily made by baking them in the oven. No need to add those calories by deep frying them. I love the full meal salad idea — be it a Chef’s salad, Cobb, Taco you name it! I hope you will enjoy one to this summer.

 

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Taco Salad
Taco Salad doesn't have to be 'old school' and boring --- customizing it to your personal tastes makes a huge difference.
Instructions
Tortilla Bowls
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Warm tortillas slightly until pliable. Spray or butter both sides of tortilla lightly, then drape over oven proof bowls, pinching sides to form bowl shape. Bake 5-7 minutes, watching carefully as not to burn. Remove from oven & cool on wire rack.
Beef Taco Meat
  1. In a skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion & cook until softened, about 5 minutes.Stir in chili powder & garlic & cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add ground beef & cook, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon, until almost cooked through but still slightly pink, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomato sauce, broth, vinegar & sugar; simmer until slightly thickened but still saucy, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat & season with salt & pepper.
Chicken Taco Meat
  1. Place chicken breasts between 2 sheets of plastic wrap & pound to flatten to uniform thickness, about 1/2-inch. In a small dish, combine spices. Sprinkle over chicken breasts. In a skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken breasts to pan & cook until juices run clear & the center is no longer pink. Remove from pan & allow to rest 5 minutes. Slice into bite size strips.
Salad Dressing
  1. In a small bowl, whisk dressing ingredients.
  2. To assemble salads: In a large bowl, combine romaine, beans, green onions, cilantro, olives, jalapeno peppers. Toss with salad dressing. Place tortilla bowls on serving plates. Divide salad among bowls. Top with taco meat choice; sprinkle with tomatoes & cheese. Top with avocado slices if desired.
Recipe Notes
  • Sour cream & salsa are also nice as extra condiments or in place of the salad dressing.
  • If you prefer a Vegetarian Taco Salad, just eliminate the meat part, equally as good.
  • Be adventurous, customize to your preference so you get the most enjoyment out of 'your' salad.

Portobello Mushroom Burgers

For as long as I can remember, I personally have had a love affair with the ‘Big Sur’ coastline in California, USA. The spectacular beauty of this rugged 145 km (90 mile) coastline, with the natural drama playing out between land and sea is breathtaking.

Over the years many of our vacations have either been in this area or it has made a fabulous ending to a long flight coming back from Europe, before returning home to Canada.

One of the special memories I have from this vicinity was the quaint little European-style village of Carmel-by-the-Sea, located about 190 km (120 miles) from San Francisco.

Some 30 years ago, actor Clint Eastwood, was elected mayor of Carmel for a two-year term. During that time he opened a restaurant/bar there called the ‘Hogs Breath Inn’. You had to enter it through a long , cobblestone alley corridor. The outdoor patio was nestled between the restaurant and the bar. A massive wall mural and numerous stone fireplaces all added tremendously to the wonderful ambiance. It was here that I first tasted a Portobello Mushroom Burger. 

Every time Brion and I have returned to Carmel, we have made a point of eating lunch at the Hogs Breath Inn, just so I could taste that burger again. The Portobello mushroom seemed to have been marinated and then grilled on a barbecue. On top of it were some battered onion rings, lettuce and tomato. All of this came in a grilled Ciabatta bun with pickles and a side dish of your choice.

Of course, never having been someone who could just leave it at that, I had to see if I could push this idea just a bit further. Along came some more recipes for the ‘Stuffed Burger Series’. If you like these ingredients, I think you will really enjoy them.

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Portobello Mushroom Burgers
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Instructions
Seafood-Avocado Filling
  1. Remove brown gills from the undersides of mushrooms using a spoon; discard gills. Remove stems, reserve for another use if desired. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat; add leek & garlic, & saute until tender. Remove from heat; cool.
  2. Gently combine mashed avocado with next 7 ingredients in a medium bowl; stir into cooled leek mixture.
  3. Dip round side of mushroom caps into Italian dressing; drain slightly. Arrange rounded sides down in a foil baking dish. Sprinkle parmesan cheese evenly into mushroom caps; then top evenly with seafood/avocado mixture, pressing filling to compact slightly. (Can be made 6 hours ahead. Cover & refrigerate if making in advance.)
  4. Preheat oven or barbecue to 350 F. Combine Asiago & mozzarella cheese; sprinkle mushrooms with cheese mixture. Place foil baking dish with mushrooms in oven or on barbecue. Bake until tender & filling begins to brown, about 35 minutes. If necessary, cover loosely with aluminum foil so tops don't burn. Serve on slightly grilled Ciabatta buns. Serves 6
Spinach-Cheese Filling
  1. Remove brown gills & stems from mushrooms. Dip round side of mushroom caps in Italian dressing; arrange, rounded side down, in a foil baking pan. Preheat oven or barbecue grill to 400 F.
  2. Place spinach in a microwave safe bowl, sprinkle with a few drops of water & microwave on high for one minute. Chop cooked spinach; mix with cheddar & cottage cheese, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes, salt & pepper. Spread spinach mixture onto prepared mushroom caps.
  3. Bake in oven or on barbecue until mushrooms are tender, about 12 minutes. Nice served on slightly grilled wholewheat buns. Serves 4