#CLEfood: Recipe Testing with Fire Spice Company

In many years of event planning, I connected with many individuals, including plenty of talented chefs. One of those chefs is Chef Douglas Katz of fire food and drink, The Katz Club Diner and Provenance in the Cleveland Museum of Art. A few of my most memorable meals have been at fire — my first Silver Spoon Awards Party committee brunch meeting when we ordered the ENTIRE brunch entree listing, plus our five year anniversary meal — so needless to say that I’ve been a fan of Chef Katz for awhile now.

Chef Katz and his team have been hard at work on their latest creation, the Fire Spice Company, producing a variety of handcrafted spice mixes. Those mixes are freshly toasted at Katz Club Diner, and the recipes they are used in (developed by Chef Katz and his team) are presented in a unique, beautifully designed gift box. Check out all 12 spice blends that will be available on the Fire Spice Company website

Through the magic of Facebook, I learned that Chef Katz was seeking about 55 people to test 11 of the recipes before going into final production. The chance to be a part of something food inspired and taking place in my own kitchen? I jumped at the chance to participate!

Hans and I headed to Katz Club Diner this past Sunday to meet up with Chef Katz, who explained the recipe testing process.

Fire Spice Company line up

He had all eleven recipes lined up on the counter at the diner. Each of the 55 testers would select one of the spice blends and accompanying recipe. The testers would purchase the rest of the ingredients, make the recipe and then fill out a survey including questions to help Chef Katz finalize the recipes for the finish spice blend products.

The hardest part of the entire process was picking out a spice blend. While the BBQ Ribs and the Pho sounded incredible, I gravitated towards the recipe for the Tomato Lamb Masala. I’ve always wanted to try making Indian food, but felt intimated to buy all the spices needed. This approach made it easy to bring this cuisine to my home, and so we left the diner with that blend and recipe.

After a quick Whole Foods run, we had everything we needed:

tomato lamb masala ingredients

My sous chef supervising instead of doing the prep work.

Confession: I’ve never cooked with ginger before — another first! After assembling the needed ingredients, I secured the recipe and got to work:

tomato lamb masala recipe

I swear I have a cookbook holder, but this worked just as well.

After the prep of chopping the onions, jalapenos and ginger (I cheated with the garlic #sorrynotsorry), the creation of the sauce began. The recipe itself was easy to follow and I quickly came to realize that it was a similar approach to making a marinara meat sauce — with plenty of stirring and patience. Both paid off in the long run as the recipe came together — just in time for Monday night dinner with my husband and brother. Per Chef Katz’s recipe suggestion, I served the malasa with brown rice — plus got in a few more veggies with some steamed broccoli.

tomato lamb masala

Hans is not one to get excited about Indian cuisine, and I’m not sure Drew has had it in the past. But considering both got up from the dinner table for seconds, I knew we had a winner on our hands and on the stove. The sauce was rich, hearty and spicy — but not overpowering. It was one of those meals I was so glad to make on a cold winter’s evening as it warmed us all to the bone. The best part: we had plenty of leftovers, which fits in with my recent food prep approach of having plenty in the fridge for the week.

LONG STORY SHORT: I sent back my post-recipe creation survey to Chef Katz today, sharing that I’d happily purchase the spice blend and make it again and again in the future. It’s also been fun to see fellow Clevelanders share their recipe testing adventures on social media. It looks like he and his team have something quite special on their hands with their Fire Spice Company spice blends and recipes. Keep an eye on their Facebook and Instagram feeds as they’ll be headed out to the market and into kitchens all over Greater Cleveland — and beyond — very soon!

p.s.: Chef Katz will be leading a Savoring the Spice Road seminar at Kenyon Institute at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio June 19-25, 2016. Learn more at the Kenyon Institute website.

Disclosure: I received a spice blend sample, a recipe and survey from the Fire Spice Company team. I purchased the rest of the ingredients with my own funds to create this recipe. I decided to share my recipe testing experience on the blog. My thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.

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recipe: mini turkey zucchini meatloaves (#Whole30 compliant!)

If you feel like everyone and their brother, sister and second-cousin-twice-removed is doing the January Whole 30 this month, you’re right. I’ve noticed the same thing. And after a (somewhat secret) stint of three weeks of the eating program back in late October/early November, I jumped back on the bandwagon on January 3rd.

If you’re not familiar with Whole 30, here’s the basic idea: plenty of whole foods, and no grains, gluten, dairy, alcohol and a few other things I’m not missing nearly as much.  That said, I truly believe there are two main keys to Whole 30 success:

1) SUPPORT. I’m a member of two Whole 30 “support” groups on Facebook — the Harness Cycle‘s 31-day {JANUARY RESET} and a Cleveland Whole 30 Support Group (which has members from an array of states). Being able to post in a group of like minded folks that you’re insanely craving chocolate mid-work-day-stress to get encouragement to put away the Malley’s — plus plenty of ideas for other ways to embrace the foods you CAN eat — goes a long way.

2) FOOD PREP. One of my favorite Sunday afternoon pastimes include slow cooking proteins, roasting various vegetables and playing around with new recipes. This Sunday was no different, making a whole chicken in the pot crock, preparing 16 pounds of spaghetti squash I found at Whole Foods on sale and being inspired by my latest Door To Door Organics delivery. The organic ground turkey, zucchini, onion and garlic staring back at me longed to get creative, break out my muffin pan and prepare myself with a Whole 30 complaint protein offering that I could eat anytime of day — plus sneak a few veggies in at the same time.


Mini Turkey Zucchini Meatloaves

Makes 12 mini meatloaves


  • 1 pound of ground turkey
  • 1 zucchini, finely diced
  • 1 egg, yolk and whites
  • 1/3 small white onion, minced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. paprika


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients without over-mixing.

Lightly grease a twelve portion, medium-size-muffin muffin pan with olive oil or ghee/clarified butter. Distribute the mixture between all twelve spots of the pan evenly. Smooth out the tops of each mini meatloaf with a spoon.

Bake mini meatloaves for about 25 or so minutes, until the internal temperature is 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove from oven, loosen the meatloaves from the pan’s sides and let cool for 5-10 minutes.

Eat immediately (great with a variety of sauces and sides) or store in air tight container for future meals.

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recipe: Pasta “Fellini” (inspired by Little Italy’s La Dolce Vita)

After our big anniversary night out at Dinner Lab and far too many weekends away from my kitchen during the month of September, I felt like continuing our celebration via a meal at home this past Saturday evening.

I swung by Heinen’s after a solid class at Ride + Workout that morning and splurged a few of our favorite things: a Delmonico steak for Hans, a piece of wild caught salmon for me, and the ingredients for one of Hans’ favorite pasta dishes.

Inspired by a meal we had a Little Italy’s La Dolce Vita many anniversaries dinners ago, I recreated the sauce my redhead still talks about — a blend of tomatoes, pancetta, gorgonzola & parmesan. I did my best to recreate their “Fellini” sauce – at least I’m pretty sure that’s the name that the La Dolce Vita team actually calls it. For our (and this blog’s) purposes, it stuck — much like this sauce does to the right noodle.

pasta a la fellini la dolce vita

Pasta “Fellini”

For 2 large servings or 4 smaller servings for sides

  • 1 cup of dry short cut pasta* (your many options here, thanks to Wikipedia)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup pancetta, diced
  • 2/3 pint of grape tomatoes, halved
  • Pinch of salt (to start, season to taste later)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of pepper
  • 1/4 cup of cream (milk if you’re in a pinch)
  • ¼ cup of gorgonzola, plus extra for sprinkling
  • ¼ cup of parmesan, plus extra for sprinkling

Heat a pot of water to boil. Add pasta to water when at rolling boil. Cook pasta to right before it gets al dente (you’ll finish cooking it in the sauce, so reserve some of the pasta water, just in case.)

In a large sauté pan set to medium-high, heat the olive oil. Add garlic, dropping the temperature to medium. Sauté for one minute.

Add pancetta, cooking for 2 minutes before adding the grape tomatoes, salt (go easy as there’s salt in the meat), and pepper. Sauté on medium-low until tomatoes start to break down, about 5-10 minutes. Add cream and stir, deglazing all that flavor off the bottom of the pan.

Heat the sauce to boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Add the cooked pasta and stir. Simmer until pasta has soaked up the sauce, about 5 minutes. (If it needs a bit more moisture to finish melding flavors, add a very small about of pasta water now.) Stir in gorgonzola and parmesan. Turn off heat and allow cheese to melt into sauce/pasta combo.

Serve, sprinkling pasta with remaining cheese and enjoy.

*For my gluten free friends — this dish is easily made GF by the subbing of your favorite gluten free pasta!

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