French Onion Soup - Perfect for a cold winter night

French onion soup, winter soups, winter dinners, Patrick Warneka

I made French onion soup a few days ago.    I am not going to post a recipe because while I was searching online, I found that most of the recipes were almost identical.  I'm going to cheat on this one and give the link to the one I used.   I really think that if you know you way around a kitchen, you know what you want to add and subtract from this recipe to make it all yours.


Fish tacos - the easiest ones you will ever make!

Very simple meals, Fish tacos, Quick family meals

I totally get that fish tacos might be considered a summer dish.  And honestly, I think it is.  But let me just state these two points.  1) when you crave them there is nothing that will satisfy your cravings until you have them. 2) If you try them now you can perfect them to taste and be ready to go when the warm weather hits.

These are the easiest fish tacos you will ever make. All prep work can be done in 25 minutes, so it is a great dish if you have many mouths to feed and not a lot of time.  Here are the very simple steps to making this dish.

 I recommend  the square fish patties sold in stores.  We found a fantastic brand in Whole foods that is firm, not all filler, not salty and will not break the bank.   Try get the fish patty and not the fish sticks.  I think you will appreciate less breading once you cut them up.


1 bag of square fish patties
1  pre-cut bag coleslaw and coleslaw sauce usually found in your produce section.
1-2 jalapenos. (In the summer I grill a pablano + 1 jalapeno )
1 bag of sweet corn ( In summer I grill 2 ears of corn)
1 pack of tortillas ( soft)

Steps  (20-25 minutes)

 * Leave the tortillas, in their bag, on the counter to bring to room temperature.

 * Mince the jalapenos and ( start with one to check the heat factor) and stir them into the coleslaw and add the coleslaw sauce.
   Note: The longer this sits the better it gets. I try to make it hours before, but It is still excellent if you make it minutes before serving.

 * Cook the Fish patties in the oven as directed. It is usually about 400 degrees for about 15-18 minutes.

 * While the fish is cooking, heat the corn on top of the stove.

 * Once the corn is cooked, drain the liquid and leave in pot with heat off.

 Serve taco bar style

* Serve fish patties  ( for kids) Cut fish patties into 3-4 equal parts ( 3 cuts straight across). For adults, serve whole and let them cut up when ready.
*Serve one bowl of corn
* Serve  one bowl of Coleslaw
* Serve tortillas


Butternut squash soup

I bet I could stop my post right there. Butternut squash soup. I bet half of you know how this will end and the other half thinks they know how it will end. In the Northern states, the seasonal change from warm to cold makes you do crazy things. Things like buy that thick Irish cable knit sweater. one that is so warm you could wear it in between water polo matches, if you played in the Arctic league. But when you live in the civilized world with heating in every building, you just want wear it. but every year you get it out thinking " this is the year I wear it." Butternut squash recipes come out of the woodwork in fall. side dishes, main dishes even drinks! Well, I am not immune to this marketing squash tsunami that crashes like waves before my eyes. I decided to make Butternut squash soup, from scratch. I hunted the stores and for what turned out to be the second squash shipment of the day. I felt, what am I missing? they don't replace the milk twice a day. I pureed the squash in the food processor, i chopped the onions, added the chicken stock, spices and cooked it. Sadly to say, I was not impressed. It was orange, which was kinda of different, but so-so tasting. I added some black pepper and salt to find it much better. I had seen photos of it served with sour cream on top. I don't normally cook with it but had some 'lite' sour cream in the fridge. BOOM! that was it! the cream added exactly what was missing. I loved it. By know half of you are shaking your heads, and the other half is still trying to picture squash being served as a soup. trust me, you have to try it at least once. even better then you should make it. It is very simple to make and hit the spot on this cold November day.



I wanted to try making ratatouille. I found a quick, easy recipe and took a crack at it today. It was fun to make and I think it tasted pretty good. the one problem I found is that once you eat that many vegetables in a dish, you can almost hear your taste buds screaming for something to balance it out, like say..... Ice cream for desert. Here is a photo of the final dish.


Some basic ingredients for my cooking style.

I hate buying a certain spice or widget to use in a new dish only to find out I never end up using it again.  What a waste!   My goal of " Real Simple Meals" is a collection of spices and utensils that you can use in many ways and get different results.  I like to think of it this way,  My cooking is Flavored for spice lovers and it looks presentable at the table too!

So let's backtrack a little and show you some ingredients that I tend to use over and over again. Not always together, sometimes with other common items. Hopefully, you will see the end results is an array of spicy dishes that look good, are generally healthy and look pleasing on the plate-  a good way to win points with friends and loved ones.

The following are photos of spices a lot of my dishes have in them. Being a photographer, I figure a photo is worth 1,000 words. Here is 7,000.

McCormick red pepper Flakes - good staple items to have around.
Red Pepper Flakes are perfect to add before you cook or when it is ready to serve.  Adds nice flavor.

Honey- good staple items to have around.
Honey- better than sugar and adds sweetness

JB's Meat rub.
A great meat rub.  a great seasoning for vegetables too!

    El Diablo mustard  Not for the faint of heart!.
The Best mustard Around! 4 different flavors each one outstanding. Write this name down.

Mae Ploy sweet chilli sauce.
Mae Ploy- Sorry it is half used, I love this on chicken and shrimp

Cole&Mason Pepper mill
Cole & Mason Pepper Mill.  Pricey but well worth it in the long run. 5 different settings!

Basic ingredients- good staple items to have around.
Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce-  Once again almost out. Got to restock this staple item.


Perfect Vegetable Dish

Grilled summer veggies  -
This is one of my favorite dishes to make.  Grilled vegetables - local, fresh, perfect.  
Summer squash
Red Bell Pepper
Fresh Ground Black pepper
Balsamic Vinegar
Olive Oil ( for cooking)

Chop all the veggies
Place on a cast iron skillet for grilling
add olive oil,   stir around
add Ground pepper
add Garlic ( optional)
add about 1/8 of a cup (sprinkle) of Balsamic Vinegar over raw veggies

place on grill turning every 5-10 mins until the heat has peaked.

Cook for 5 minutes longer.  remove and let sit.

Perfect every time.


Skewers of Summer Veggies

Very easy to make and even easier to cook. When you put the vegetables you like on a skewer. the Skewer makes it easy to move the veggies around the grill off of the hot spots or flare ups. They encourage you to cut all the veggies about the same size so the cook time is consistent, and as an added bonus, it makes all the dinner plates look much more appetizing to you, your family and friends. add a little seasoning and you are done!
VEry easy 

Grilled Tuna Steak with Veggies


Grilled Chicken Sandwhich

Grilled Chicken, real simple meals

Thank you for checking out my food blog.  I had some drastic changes in my life lately. And with my supportive, beautiful wife I know we will get through the changes. Cause what is life anyway?  a bunch of changes in a row!  I will post new dishes when I can, but please don't go too far. I have the last 2 years of weekend meals photographed sitting in a file. I just need to attach a recipe to them for you.

Real Simple Meals... like the domain says.. keeping that theme going here is the latest.

So On Sunday you Grilled Chicken and veggies.  Here is the second simple dish to come from all that effort you put in a few days ago.

Grilled Chicken-Cheddar-Jalapeno Sandwich

Grilled Chicken breast
1/4  green bell pepper
1/2 jalapeno pepper
4 slices ( per sandwich) quality Cheddar cheese
2 slices of bread per sandwich
1 tsp of butter or oil for skillet/ pan

Slice the grilled chicken breast in half along the equator or thin strips so that the chicken sits flat on the toasted bread. 

Slice up 1 HALF ( 1/2) of a  Jalapeno into little rings.  Figure 3 thin rings per sandwich at the most.
Slice thin slices of the green pepper (2-3) per
Slice the Cheddar thin so that 4 fit on the top of the sandwich with room to melt

The Sandwich looks like this before cooking

I used a Cast iron skillet to cook mine this time.  If you have the right amount of oil on them they don't smoke indoors.

Heat up the skillet and add a little oil or butter and wait til it starts to brown slightly.
Place the sandwich in the pan with the veggies on the top side of the chicken breast.
Heat should be at  4-5 ( 75%) at most.
reduce heat to 50%
Keep an eye on it. it only take a  few minutes cook time to brown the bottom.
place the bread on top and carefully....carefully flip the sandwich with a spatula on the bottom and your fingers on top.

let grill on the other side for a few minutes at the 50% heat level.

Carefully tilt bread up to see progress of the flipped side.
When to you liking, remove and plate.

This is what it should look like.
Real Simple  Grilled Chicken Sandwich


Grilled Veggies and Chicken Salad

Here is an easy lunch option. I love to make this or some version of it. If you like it, enjoy! if you want to tweak it to your liking please feel free to do so.  This is my Grilled Vegetables and Chicken Salad.

When we grill on a Sunday evening, we throw a few Chicken Breasts and skewered veggies on with that night's dinner.
 On the weekdays following, chop the veggies to as size you want in your salad.
 Don't let it sit overnight because the vegitables are still moist and will sog your crisp salad.
 Take one chicken breast and slice it the long way, then into quarter to half inch pieces. The Chicken can sit with your salad over night if you are taking this to work the next day.
The smokey veggies add a nice flavor and the Chicken helps to fill you so you are not snacking later in the day.  I've  included some photos just not sure which one I like more.  Since I am getting a feel for this, Please comment below as to which photo works better for you. 


Grilled Summer Vegitable skewers

Summer is Chicago is sometimes like catching a bus, You have a general idea of when it will arrive but you can't count on it until it is sitting in front of you. It is mid August, 2013. usually it is SO HOT in town, that you can't find clothing that keeps you comfortable standing on the street sidewalk did not help things. this year, we have 70's and after a spring of rain, a lot of farmers are finding a solid amount of produce. Perfect! I can grill and, well..... Not be grilled doing it. Here is my latest from today. Squash, Zucchini,Green and red peppers,baby peppers with Yellow Onions......and Pineapple! It has that perfect light color, the sweet, yummy summer taste we are all looking for and just maybe it will get Squash and Zucchini past the lips of the non believers. So this is my Grilled summer veggies: depending on the amount of people are actually eating... 1 yellow squash and 1 green zucchini if you have more friends, add more of these. 1 yellow onion 1 green pepper 1 red pepper 1 cored pineapple Chop all veggies to fit on the skewer poke the water soaked skewers through the onion first add veggies in a creative color pattern to finish the skewer. Add a little olive oil followed by any spice you want. Hot pepper, herb garlic, thyme and rosemary. You cant go wrong, just flavor as you choose to. I will include photos of spices needed