Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Incredible Egg Slicer

When I was little I always wanted to help my mom in the kitchen and one of the kitchen tools that fascinated me was the egg slicer. Of course the first time I borrowed it from her kitchen, I broke it while trying to put some Play Dough through it. So she showed me all the handy ways this was meant to be used. With Easter just around the corner, this handy dandy little tool can slice peeled hard-boiled eggs into even slices - especially great for all those leftover Easter Eggs. It also works well slicing mushrooms. There are so many shapes and sizes of these wonderful tools, but I like the one from KitchenAid the best. It lasts longest, and as quickly as I go through them, this is the one with the best value. It comes in three colors: red, white or black.

You don’t have to wait until Easter to try these tasty salads. Yum, I am making one as soon as I get home.

Zesty Egg Salad For Two

The perfect amount for a lunch for two.


3 hard-cooked eggs
3 Tbs. mayonnaise
1 Tbs. prepared mustard
1/8 Tbs. salt
1/8 Tbs. pepper
1/8 Tbs. lemon juice
1 Tbs. minced green onion


In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, mustard, salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Stir in eggs with a fork, chopping them into bite-sized pieces. Add green onion.

Makes two servings.

Lemon Dill Egg Salad

With a few more ingredients, this egg salad is truly delicious.


6 hard cooked eggs, chopped
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 strips bacon, crisply cooked and crumbled
1/2 c. red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 tsp. lemon pepper
1 tsp. dried dill weed
3/4 C. reduced fat ranch salad dressing


Toss all ingredients together and chill for at least 1 hour. Good with sliced tomatoes and lettuce leaves on a French roll.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Glory of Caffeine

I am not a highly caffeinated person. I do not need a cup of coffee in the morning nor do I ingest cans of pop during the day. In fact, I rarely crave the jolt and am usually quite content with plain and simple water. But today, caffeine is my savior. I was fading fast at my desk at work, going into food coma after an unbelievably satisfying curried lunch of Indian food, when my illustrious co-blogger Caley offered me some of her Chocolate Tea. (She recently joined the Adagio Tea of the Month Club and gets these fancy new teas in the mail, which she generously shares!)

Now you may be perplexed by the idea of chocolate tea. For a chocoholic such as myself, the smell was intriguingly rich with the distinct aroma of brewing chocolate-flavored tea. The flavor is subtle, yet strong and can get bitter if the leaves are left too long in the pot. But for me this was the perfect pick-me-up: chocolate-flavored caffeine.

If you've never ventured into the world of tea, it can certainly be a bit overwhelming. Black, white, green, herbal - there are lots of options to choose from. Check out our article on The Truth About Tea for a full breakdown of the different types. Not all tea is caffeinated, so don't be intimidated by the manic nature of my post - feel free to stick to the herbal varieties where over-caffeination is not a risk.

Also, check out these teas that you can make at home:
Sugar-Free/Caffeine-Free Hot Spiced Tea Mix
Honey Apple Tea
Relaxing Tea Blend
Chai Tea
Spicy Green Tea

Monday, February 26, 2007

Cookie Monster's Little Helper

I have a confession to make. Most of my adult life I’ve been addicted to fatty and salty foods. Cakes, cookies and candy were not on my radar. But something happened after I started having children. I started to crave chocolate on a daily basis. Of course, recent research has found that chocolate in small quantities is actually good for your heart and helps lift your mood.

Health benefits aside though, I really love a good cookie, especially the kind that comes straight from my oven and contains chocolate chips. And being somewhat of a control freak, I’ve spent years and tons of time trying to get every cookie the perfect shape.

Then one day, a miracle happened. I was given the Crate & Barrel Cookie Dough Scoop. This modern metal marvel is basically a smaller version of the good old fashioned ice cream scoop. But instead of the average ½ cup measurement of the ice cream scoop, this little baby makes perfect cookies in ½ to 1 tablespoon sizes. Now all my cookies are perfectly shaped and baked to perfection. What more could a Cookie Monster want, except some really great cookie recipes? Not all of them require a cookie scoop, but all of them are delicious.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Texas Holdem and Sticky Fingers- A Big NoNo

I don't know about the rest of you but this week has been too long and thank god it is finally Friday! No offense to my job (because I do love it!) but I can't wait to get out of the office and head home to greet some friends and fire up a game of Texas Holdem Poker.

Usually it is the same group that gets together and plays every other weekend and we all try to switch it up when it comes to who is hosting it and tonight is my night. Whenever it's my night to host I like to be that "person" who not only can set up a poker table and count out chips but who also entertains the guest with fun food to munch on.

Usually the men out weight the women when it comes to playing poker so I keep that in mind when it comes to what kind of snacks I want to serve. So just a few minutes ago I was browsing on Recipe4Living for some creative dips and found one for Buffalo Chicken Dip. I think this would be perfect to make tonight- when you think about it, men (and some women who don't care about getting their face and hands a little messy) love buffalo chicken wings...right? This way no one will get any cards sticky and we can all still enjoy the taste of buffalo wings. Here is the recipe if anyone else is interested.

12 oz. cooked chicken, shredded
2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, softened
1 C. ranch dressing
3/4 C. Frank's Hot Sauce
1 C. shredded cheddar cheese
Frito Scoops

Mix together chicken and hot sauce. Let set for 30 minutes. Meanwhile beat cream cheese and ranch dressing. Fold in shredded chicken. Spread mixture into pie plate sprayed with Pam. Bake at 350 F for 15 minutes. Add cheddar to top and bake an additional 10-15 minutes. Serve hot with Frito Scoops.

You could serve this dip for any party really. Especially if you are having some friends over to watch a sporting event. That way you will have no worries when it comes to messy hands getting all over the furniture due to serving buffalo wings.

Well wish me luck everyone and have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Hold the Marshmallows, Hand me a Margarita

My blog of choice here at Chew on That seems to be guilty food confessions, so here is another cathartic truth (so appropriate at the start of Lent). I have done a great disservice to sweet potatoes over the years. Rather than enjoy the great flavor of these more interesting potatoes, I have consorted with my older sister to drown them under a sea of baked marshmallows at each and every family gathering. My mom's back would turn and we would sneak another bag of the mini-variety on top of the casserole and pop it back into the oven. Basically, the sweet potatoes functioned merely as a base or holder for the marshmallowy goodness, and an excuse to sneak more sugar past my health-conscious mother. For this, dear sweet potato, I apologize.

As you must already be aware, today is National Cook a Sweet Potato Day, and I plan to redeem myself. (I have no idea who has the final authority on these crazy food holidays, but I would love the job.) It also happens to be National Margarita Day (perhaps a rival faction from the foodies responsible for sweet potato day), and I certainly cannot let this festive food holiday pass me by either. While you might think the combination would present a problem, I have a solution to honor both foods equally at my dinner table. The lime.

A proper margarita should always be made with several *fresh* limes. Take the juice of one lime and mix it with tequila, triple sec, and ice for the perfect margarita. Garnish with a glass-rim covered in salt and several lime wedges. Perfecto. If you purchase several limes at the store, you will have plenty leftover from drink-slinging for a delicious preparation of your sweet potatoes. Lime, cilantro, and cayenne pepper bring an interesting twist to sweet potatoes, while still allowing their great flavor to come through.

Lime Cilantro Sweet Potatoes


2 lb. sweet potatoes peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1/2 tsp. finely grated fresh lime zest
1 Tbs. fresh lime juice
1/4 C. chopped fresh cilantro


Put oven rack in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss sweet potatoes with 2 Tbs. oil and 1/4 tsp. salt in a shallow baking pan. Arrange potatoes in 1 layer and roast, stirring halfway through roasting, until tender, about 25 minutes total. Stir together cayenne, zest, and remaining 1/2 tsp. salt in a small bowl. Whisk together lime juice and remaining Tbs. oil in a medium bowl, then add potatoes. Sprinkle with cayenne mixture and cilantro, stirring gently to combine. Sauté onions and bell pepper in margarine for 5 minutes. Add squash that has been sliced and cubed. Sauté 5 minutes more add tomatoes (break up whole tomatoes). Cook for 5 more minutes. Add bread cubes and seasonings. Put in 2 quart casserole and sprinkle top with parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes.

Happy National Margarita and Go Cook a Sweet Potato Day! Now go celebrate!

I am ready for Spring, or at least BBQ season

I am so ready for Spring, that yesterday when the weather warmed up to 44 degrees, coming off of below zero wind chill, this felt like a heat wave to me. All of the snow at my house melted and I was compelled to take off the cover on my gas grill and light it up. Having done that, I looked through my refrigerator for something to grill. I found some fresh vegetables and they are always my favorite side dish for the grill.

Grilled Skewered Vegetables


1 mushroom
1 piece zucchini
1 piece red pepper
1 piece vidalia onion
1 piece eggplant


Alternate vegetables on skewers. If using wooden skewers, soak in water for at least ½ hour. Barbecue on grill, brushing occasionally with bottled teriyaki sauce. Just grill long enough to get the char marks.

Now I didn't take the time to put them on the skewers. I have one of those handy dandy baskets in which you can put the vegetable and close it (a square clamshell with a really long handle so you don't burn yourself). You put it on the grill and flip it over as you grill it.

I added some chicken breasts on the grill and brushed the same teriyaki sauce on them as they were grilling. I made my favorite tossed salad to finish my meal. It made me feel like spring wasn't that far away. I hear there is a winter weather watch for this weekend, snow expected too. Guess I will have to wait to grill again.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Say Hola To A Great Cabernet

Just got back from Cancun, where I was able to sample the local Mayan inspired cuisine. This was a new experience for me, and approached each new dish with a little trepidation. Imagine my surprise when I ordered the Pibil Pork and found it tasted just like barbequed pork, which has always been one of my favorite foods. My husband had the Pork with Tomatoes, which was a spicier version of Hungarian Goulash.

Since I was in Mexico, I thought I’d try a Mexican red wine to go with my newfound favorite cuisine. Casa Madero Cabernet Sauvignon has a black currant aroma with a full-bodied flavor that stands up to the sturdiest of foods. I did a little research when I got home and found that this wine is imported into the US, but is not available everywhere. Therefore, I found the next best thing; the Stone Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon by Beringer, and decided to try it with some of my favorite dishes.

Try this wonderful wine with this great Mexican dish Mexican Beef & Bean Stew

A simple stew with chunky salsa, made in the crockpot with ease


1 1/2 lb. beef for stew, cut into 1" pieces
2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
1 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 C. coarsely chopped onion
1 can (about 15 oz.) pinto beans, drained
1 can (about 16 oz.) whole kernel corn, drained
1 can (10-3/4 oz.) beef consommé
1 C. chunky salsa
2 Tbs. chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. garlic powder, or 2 cloves garlic, minced


Coat beef with flour. Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Cook beef until browned, stirring often. Place beef, onion, beans, corn, consommé, salsa, chili powder, cumin and garlic powder in 3-1/2-qt. slow cooker. Cover and cook on Low 8 - 10 hr. or until beef is done.

Let me know what you think and if you have any wine and food pairings you'd like to try.

Product Review: Odorless Chopping

I have been known to chop garlic while wearing large, yellow, rubber kitchen gloves. Even in other people's kitchen, I often request a pair of gloves to wear while chopping. And though I may come off as a germ-fearing weirdo (which I'm not) or even an ignorant kitchen dweller (not even close), I do have a point. Who wants their hands to smell like garlic for days? Although my boyfriend claims this is an aphrodisiac, I'd rather have chocolate covered strawberries.

Like any good chef, my love for garlic is pure and I use it unsparingly in many a dish, but I knew there had to be a better way to chop it than with thick rubber gloves. And there is! Maybe you've already discovered this wondrous piece of machinery or maybe you've only seen it on infomercials, but the Food Chopper is likely to be one of the smartest kitchen gadget inventions ever. There are many versions of food choppers in many different brands and from what I can tell they basically function the same way, but I can only speak for the one I've used, the Zyliss Food Chopper. Scanning in at less than $15, it's an affordable solution to all your chopping problems!

(Brace yourselves for the infomercial section of this blog post...) But you don't have to limit your chopper to garlic, it chops onions, peppers, nuts and anything else you need chopped! Manually operated by pressing down on the top, you control the fineness of the chop. You may love this product for its time-saving excellence or its incredible precision, but for me, I'm just glad I don't have to reach for the bright yellow gloves.

Here are some other brands of Food Choppers you might want to try:
Cuisinart Food Chopper
Pampered Chef Cutting Edge: Food Chopper
Vidalia Chop Wizard

Friday, February 16, 2007

Writing Is Just Like Cooking

I don't know about the rest of you but I love to cook, I love creating new dishes for me and my boyfriend in our kitchen. Sometimes I can be the creative one and make up my own recipe from scratch and when I do, I must admit I am pretty proud of myself because they turn out pretty darn good. But when I need ideas, I do turn to other resources but I end up switching some of the ingredients around a bit to make it "my style". It is kind of like writing an article. You research ideas and topics to write about and once you find something you like, you write about it in your own words.

So where am I going with this you might be asking? Well, the other day I found a recipe from Kraft for mini meatloafs and it caught my attention because of the presentation. I almost passed it up because I have never been a fond fan of meatloaf. But as I read the ingredients and directions I decided to switch up the ingredients and try it. And boy did it turn out great. I want to share my recipe with you because this is a perfect meal to serve for two people or for a family of four. The best part is, this is cheap to make because most of the ingredients should already be in your fridge and pantry.

Below is the recipe that I have come up with. I am giving you the ingredients I used for making this a meal for two. Just double it up if you want to make a meal for four. I hope you gals/guys try this and let me know what you think.


1/2 Ground Turkey
1 tsp.Old World Seasoning (use less or more depending on your taste and style)
Spaghetti Sauce
Low Fat Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
Pam Cooking Spray
1/2 Pkg. of Chicken Stuffing
1/3 C. of water


First pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl combine ground turkey, water and stuffing mix, and old world seasoning. Mix these ingredients well. Take your muffin pan and spray Pam inside each "cup" so the mini turkeyloafs won't stick once they are cooked. Take a handful of the meat mixture (you need to judge the size) and stuff in each muffin "cup". DO NOT OVER-STUFF! Once this step is done, you will need to make an indention in each cup- just hollow out the middle (like you would when you have mash potatoes and you want the gravy to stay in the middle). Now in the hollowed out part of each mini turkey loaf add a spoonful of the spaghetti sauce. Then put the pan in the oven and let it cook for 25 minutes. After this time, take out the pan and sprinkle some shredded cheese on top and place back in the oven for an additional five minutes.

Take out and let them sit for a couple of minutes. I served these with mashed potatoes and a veggie. They were excellent!

Yield: 6 mini turkey loafs


Thursday, February 15, 2007

Things You Should Dunk in Your Tea

How can we bring the tradition of afternoon tea into standard practice in American culture? That would be great! If you are not a fan of tea, well then coffee, cider, or hot cocoa could certainly be served. I think the answer to American popularity could lie in the food served with the tea. Not only is tea itself packed with antioxidants, as covered in The Truth About Tea, many doctors and nutritionists praise grazing, or eating smaller meals more often, as healthier for you. If we look to healthier items, packed with nuts and fruits, afternoon tea might just help fight the growing rate of obesity in American. I have high hopes. And, I like tea.

Nibbling on a light sandwich with your afternoon tea, you could eat less for lunch and generally feel lighter throughout the day. Try some refreshing Cucumber Tea Sandwiches. Looking for something a little less dainty? Sink your teeth into these Shrimp Butter Tea Sandwiches. I assure you; the silver three-tiered serving tray is not a necessity.

I personally have a thing for scones. In fact, look forward to a lengthy article on scones at on Monday. English scones can be plainer, much like the North American biscuit, and not to be confused with the English biscuit meaning cookie. For example, the Scottish Buttermilk Oat Scone is pretty close to the scone's authentic origins. These scones are generally topped with a clotted cream or a spread such as Lemon Curd.

In American, the triangle-shaped scones are usually sweeter and eaten alone. Here are a few of my favorites:

Walnut and Honey Scones
Cherry Chocolate Chip Scones
Pumpkin Carrot Scones
Cheese and Herb Scones

Spread the word about the teatime revolution!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Valentine's Day For The Kids

So now the kids are home from school and probably had their own version of Valentine's Day in class, complete with one simple valentine from every child and assorted candy and cookies. They want to keep the excitement of the holiday going into the evening and you don't really want to run out to the store to buy the picked-over, still full-price decorations that are left. You need to improvise. I have a couple of easy suggestions.

First of all, how about some popcorn balls that are super simple to make with ingredients that most everyone has around their home. The only addition I would add is to put a drop or two of red food coloring into the recipe so that they look like a Valentine, or substitute the M&M's for Red Hots or conversation hearts.

Popcorn Balls

1/4 C. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for buttering hands
1 ten oz. bag miniature marshmallows
1/4 C. light-brown sugar, firmly packed
3 qt. popped popcorn
1 C. M&Ms (optional)


Melt butter in a large heavy pot over low heat. Add marshmallows and brown sugar, and stir until melted. Remove from heat. Pour popcorn and M&Ms into pot; toss well. With buttered hands, shape into 2 1/2-inch balls. Set on parchment-lined baking sheet to dry slightly.

Yield: about 12

Then for dessert, they can make this really fun and easy recipe.

Valentine Cutouts

2 pkg. cherry or raspberry gelatin
2 1/2 C. boiling water
1 C. cold milk
1 pkg. instant vanilla pudding mix


In a bowl, dissolve gelatin in water; set aside for 30 min. In a small bowl, whisk milk and pudding mix until smooth, about 1 minute. Quickly pour into gelatin; whisk until well-blended. Pour into an oiled 13x9x2" dish. Chill until set. Cut into cubes or use a heart-shaped cookie cutter.

Yield: 8-10 servings

Let them decorate and set the table for dinner and put special handmade, homemade place cards for every guest at the table. They will feel like they have personally made this a fun and special occasion for everyone. They may even want to call up their grandparents or other friends to join in the fun.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Beauty of the Stir Fry

As a child, I was hopelessly ignorant to the ease and versatility of stir fry. I would come home from whatever after school activity had kept me occupied until dinner, smell the distinct aroma of sesame oil and groan. How could I have been so blind?

In my wiser, much more mature 20s, stir fry meals have become staples in my weekly menu. How much easier could it get? Vegetables, protein, rice, done! It really is a nutritious way to squeeze all the main food groups into one dish. If you're a chronic stir-fryer, as I am, I highly recommend investing in a good wok - it makes a world of difference when cooking!

Stir fry can also be a very economical way to feed a family. Though it's certainly not my favorite, you can use frozen veggies, white rice and chicken to come up with a low-budget meal that'll keep tummies full.

For me, the best part about stir fry is the sauce! I cheat a bit here and use store-bought sauces, but that's just because they're so good! Trader Joe's has an amazing selection of stir fry and other Asian sauces that make it quick and easy to add flavor and spice. If you like to cook with tofu, you may have trouble with flavoring. I like to cut the tofu into pieces, scatter on a baking sheet and cover them with some of the sauce. Stick that in the over at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes and the tofu will stay firm and flavorful when it gets mixed in with the other ingredients.

You can also vary the type of rice you use based on your specific taste. I prefer brown rice because it gives an almost crunchy texture to the dish. But you can also use plain white rice. If you want to get adventurous, you can explore the worlds of jasmine and basmati rice. Jasmine rice is typically served with Thai food and is more aromatic than regular rice; it also has a stickier consistency. Basmati rice is often used in Indian cuisine and has a different aroma than jasmine, sometimes compared to the smell of popcorn. Any of these choices will liven up your stir fry dish.

Here are a couple of my favorite stir fry combinations:

- Bok choy, bamboo shoots, chicken, Japanese eggplant and Trader Joe's Yellow Curry sauce
- Extra firm tofu, broccoli, sugar snap peas, carrots, bean sprouts and Trader Joe's General Tsao's sauce
- Green beans, beef strips, yellow squash, carrots, zucchini and teriyaki sauce

Still need some inspiration? Try these recipes:
Asian Stir Fry with Spring Peas
Stir Fry Sweet and Sour Egg Strips
Cabbage Stir Fry
Lemon Chicken Stir Fry

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Stupid Cupid

Oooooohh how the pressure of Valentine's Day increases as the day approaches. Perhaps that was melodramatic, but the truth is that it's easier for those long-established couples out there. Expectations have been clearly spelled out (usually by the female counterpart) and the respective halves (admittedly a slightly creepy expression for your significant other) understand what they need to do on this forced holiday of romance. Many of the men in just such relationships understand that flowers are NOT an option if they expect an amicable continuation of their girlfriends' affection. (Btw guys, you might want to look into flower meanings before presenting your lady with a bouquet.) When it comes to Valentine's Day, this assurance of romantic gestures is quite comfortable in couples who have been together for some measure of time.

But then there's people like me, floundering on the line of a wonderful yet undefined, even "it's complicated," relationship. In the beginning of such an emotion thing, either the subject of romantic expectations does not come up or neither party wants to scare the other off with such mushy talk. Worse yet, if something is planned, then you will just have spoiled it with talk. Should one celebrate and/or expect presents, and if so, how!? So much pressure. This is where food comes in.

Food is the neutral zone of gift-giving. And, it's my game plan for this Valentine's Day. No, I will not be baking my significant other a giant heart-shaped dessert (adorable, but not right in this situation). Rather, I will go for something understated and classy, like chocolate-covered strawberries. Not to mention strawberries are said to be an aphrodisiac. The message is affectionate, but not over the top. Timing is also essential to my game plan. I am going to present the chocolate goodies a couple days before Valentine's Day, not only taking the pressure off the big day for me, but giving him a couple days to panic about his gesture. *snickers*

Simply Delicious Strawberries in Rich Chocolate

Chocolate-Dipped Fortune Cookies
Chocolate-Covered Truffles
Homemade Chocolate Truffles
Valentine's Sugar Cookies

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Edible Valentines

candy heartsSome things are just better when they are in edible form. Edible jewelry (candy necklaces and ring pops), edible flowers (natural or fruit-shaped), even edible underwear! Most humans enjoy the act of eating and that's why edible valentines are the way to go this year - especially if you go to the grocery store to find the only cards left are for couples married over fifty years and children under the age of seven. Before you break out the Crayolas and construction paper, consider making your sweetheart something he (or she) can gobble down with glee. Here are a couple of my favorites:

cookiesCookie Cutter Valentines
No longer do you have to search for the cookie cutter of your dreams, in these modern times you can make cookies in any shape you can think of, whether it is a baseball mitt or the state of Florida (no joke). Lucky for you, Valentine's Day only requires a simple heart shape that you can find almost anywhere (I particularly like this set of 6 for a measly $10).

The beauty of cookie cutters is that they'll cut through most foods, so you can basically make heart-shaped anything! Try it with sugar cookies, Jell-O, sandwiches or pancakes - the heart-shaped cookie cutter will become your new best friend on February 14. Here are some basic recipes that work well:

Valentine's Sugar Cookies - Decorate with candies, drizzled chocolate or anything else you feel like. You can also make "sandwiches" and put melted chocolate or cream filling in between two cookies.
Valentine Cutouts - Use Jell-O to jiggle your way into their hearts.
Absolute Best Pancakes - Add some fresh strawberries on top for that special Valentine's flair
Sweetheart Sandwich - PB&J, grilled cheese or anything else in sandwich form. A large, heart-shaped cookie cutter makes this an easy way to say "I love you" at lunchtime.

Pizza Valentines
Pizza in the shape of a heart? Why not? With Wilton's Non-Stick Heart-Shaped Springform Pan, it's easy to make your favorite deep dish pizza for Valentine's Day. Use our recipe for Deep Dish Pizza and let the pan put you in the mood. If you really want to spell out your love, write a note to your sweetie in olives, mushrooms or another one of his favorite toppings. If you're lucky enough to live in the Chicagoland area, pizza mogul Lou Malnati's will deliver a heart-shaped pizza to your home!


2 3/4 to 3 1/4 C. all-purpose flour
1 pkg. active dry yeast
1/4 tsp. salt
1 C. warm water (120 degrees-130 degrees)
2 Tbs. cooking oil
3/4 C. chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs. olive oil, margarine, or butter
1 14 1/2 oz. can tomatoes, cut up
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 bay leaf
1 Tbs. snipped fresh basil or 1 tsp. dried basil, crushed
1 Tbs. snipped fresh oregano or 1 tsp. dried oregano, crushed
1 tsp. fennel seed, crushed (optional)
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 lb. ground beef
1 C. chopped onion
2 medium tomatoes, very thinly sliced
6 slices bacon, cut into 2-inch pieces, crisp-cooked, and drained
3 C. shredded cheddar, American, or Cojack cheese (12 oz.)


Cook 3/4 C. chopped onion and garlic in 1 Tbs. oil. Stir in tomatoes; tomato sauce; bay leaf; basil; oregano; fennel seed, if desired; sugar; and pepper. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 35 to 40 minutes or to desired consistency, stirring occasionally. Discard bay leaf. Meanwhile, in a large bowl combine 1-1/4 C. of the flour, the yeast, and the salt. Add warm water and 2 Tbs. oil. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds, scraping bowl constantly. Beat on high speed for 3 minutes. Using a spoon, stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead in enough remaining flour to make a moderately stiff dough that is smooth and elastic(6 to 8 minutes total). Divide dough in half. Cover and let rest 10 minutes. Grease two 11- to 13-inch pizza pans or baking sheets. On a lightly floured surface, roll each half of dough into a circle 1 inch larger than pizza pan. Transfer dough to pans. Build up edges slightly. Prick generously with a fork. Do not let rise.

Bake in a 425 degree oven for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Meanwhile, in a large skillet cook ground beef and the 1 C. chopped onion until meat is brown and onion is tender. Drain fat. Spread pizza sauce over hot crusts. Sprinkle with ground beef mixture. Top with tomato slices and bacon pieces. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake about 12 minutes more or until cheese melts and sauce is bubbly.

Yield: 8 servings

Pretzel Valentines
If your icing skills aren't up to par and you don't trust yourself enough to write a love note in chocolate, homemade soft pretzels are an adorable (and creative!) way to say, "Be Mine." Simply roll out the pretzel dough into letter shapes before baking and let the pretzels do the talking.

Soft Pretzels

3 1/2 C. all-purpose flour
2 Tbs. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 package active dry yeast
1 C. water
1 Tbs. margarine
1 Tbs. water
1 egg yolk, beaten
Coarse salt for topping

Mix 1 C. flour, sugar, salt and undissolved yeast. Heat 1 C. water and margarine to 120 to 130 degrees. Gradually add to dry ingredients; beat 2 minutes at medium speed of mixer. Add 1/2 C. flour. Beat at high speed 2 minutes. Stir in enough additional flour to make a soft dough. On floured board, knead 5 minutes. Set in greased bowl; turn to grease top. Cover and let rise in warm, draft-free place 40 minutes. Divide dough into 12 equal pieces. Roll each into a 20-inch rope. Shape into pretzels or other shapes. Place on greased baking sheets. Cover; let rest 5 minutes. Mix egg yolk and 1 Tbs. water; brush on pretzels. Sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake at 375 degrees 15 minutes or until done. Cool on racks.

Are you a heart-shaped kitchen gadget lover? Check out these goodies:

Heart-Shaped Waffle Iron
Heart-Shaped Chocolate Fondue Set
Heart-Shaped Measuring Cups
Heart-Shaped Ravioli Pasta
Heart-Shaped Pan
Heart-Shaped Cappuccino Stencil
Sweetheart Cookie Pan
Heart-Shaped Melon Baller
Silicone Heart Sheet Mold
Pink Heart-Shaped Ramekins
Mini-Heart Cheesecake Pan
Heart Shaped Frying Pan for Eggs

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Meat Gets a Little Fruity

Like the perfect frittata, I find the concept of using fruit in the preparation of meat absolutely brilliant. And perhaps the reason for this might go back to my youth. My sister Ali and I (YES, Ali and Caley rhyme, enjoy it) played an absurd amount of soccer growing up, and thus burned through a staggering amount of calories each day. Sitting down to dinner meant an all-out annihilation of every edible item in sight, including epic battles between sisters over the last dinner roll. To this day I am often accused of eating as though it's going to run away. Over the course of our soccer years, Ali and I had little respect for the division between courses or between side items and main dishes and learned to mix all food together on our plate and in our hungry mouths.

I've certainly slowed down my eating as I've gotten older (I can't say the same for my sister) but will always be a bit nostalgic for that happy, albeit often exhausted time. Bread will still often be incorporated, even lost, in the flavors of the main dish. I will always mix my vegetables into my Macaroni 'n' Cheese. Actually, I suspect that peas are meant to go into Macaroni 'n' Cheese. Don't you agree? To get back to the point of this post though, mixing fruit and meat not only nostalgically reminds me the efficiency eating of my youth, it just plains tastes good. I have hardly ever come across a meat recipe calling for fruit in the preparation that I did not like.
Here are some suggestions for fruity meat:

Being the most versatile of meats, chicken adapts well to a variety of fruits, including pears, berries, and even mango. For an elegant meal, serve your chicken with pears poached in red wine.
Chicken Breasts with Pears and Zinfandel
Chicken with Pears
Berry Patch Chicken with Spinach and Garlic Rice
Mango Chicken

When it comes to pork, my absolute favorite preparation will always be with apples.
Spiced Apple Pork Roast
Pork Loins with Cabbage, Apples and New Potatoes
Apple and Pork Stir Fry with Ginger
Braised Pork Medallion with Apples

Fish and Seafood
A fruit "salsa" is a common way to top off many kinds of fish.
Smoked Whitefish Salad With Avocado and Grapefruit
Grilled Mahi-Mahi with Berry Salsa
Grilled Trout with Apricot Salsa
Jerk Fish with Pineapple Salsa
Easy Citrus Salmon Steaks
Oysters with Tangerine Salsa

Monday, February 5, 2007

You Say Potato, I Say Pel-meni

I'd like to introduce everyone to the little-known love of my life: potato dumplings. If you find it odd that such a plain, unattractive little lump could cause my pulse to race, then you've obviously never had a true Russian potato dumpling. You can find dumplings in some form or another in most cultures: the Chinese have wontons or potstickers, the Jews have kreplach, the Indians have samosas and the Polish of pierogis. But my absolute favorite are Russian dumplings called vareniky. You may have heard of pel-meni, which are technically dumplings filled with meat, but the word is often used to refer to both types.

Ironically, it was not my Russian boyfriend who introduced me to these pockets of potato. Instead, I stumbled upon them while attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison for undergrad. The glorious State Street, which runs through the center of the downtown area, contains a vast array of ethnic and not so ethnic cuisines. And among them all is a tiny hole in the wall called Pel-meni. Tucked in among the chain restaurants and other local eateries, Pel-meni's tiny store-front window (often completed fogged up due to the steamy heat inside and the frigid Madison weather outside) boasts its name in Russian and English letters. Though admittedly sketchy-looking from the outside, I don't think I ever passed by around 2 a.m. when there wasn't a line out the door (and rarely was I not waiting in line as well). Serving up large plates (or to-go boxes) of meat- or potato-stuffed dumplings with your choice of hot sauce, this foreign staple has become a favorite haunt for many.

Sadly, with my college days behind me, I was at a loss for my potato dumpling cravings until my boyfriend's mother found the cure for my hunger pains. She found a women who makes dumplings in her house and sells them in bags of 100 for the obscenely cheap price of $10 per bag. The homemade dough wraps around perfectly seasoned potatoes and with just a few minutes in boiling water, they're ready to eat! After coming out of the water, all they really need is a bit of butter to keep them from sticking. Pel-meni serves their dumplings with a side of sour cream and a slice of dark rye bread and that's just how I like mine! Some people also like to add hot sauce.

I haven't found a Russian woman yet who is willing to give up her secret vareniky recipe, so alas, I cannot share one here. The best I can do is point you in the direction of Madison, Wisconsin (or Juneau, Alaska - they have a restaurant there too. Really.) and tell you to get in line.

While Recipe4Living isn't lucky enough to have stolen any pel-meni or vareniky recipes yet, we do have recipes for some interesting dumplings from other cultures. Want to share you dumpling recipe? Click here.

Cantonese-Style Pork and Shrimp Dumplings
Michaelangelo's Potato Gnocchi
Polish Lazy Dumplings
Canedereli Tirolesi (Italian Bread Dumplings)

Friday, February 2, 2007

Soup's Up

I've noticed that a lot of food blogs have been writing about soup lately (I especially enjoyed the Parsnip and Turnip Soup from Barrett of Too Many Chefs). And it seems only fitting - cold weather makes me want to consume hot things. And if you're lucky enough to live in a moderate climate, you probably can't quite grasp what it's like to come inside from 5 degree weather (the low in Chicago this weekend is -12 degrees Fahrenheit). My tea intake has gone through the roof and I find myself choosing dinner menus that involve a satisfying soup. Today was no different. I met my boyfriend for a quick lunch at Go Roma. (For those readers who are not familiar with this restaurant chain, it's basically quality Italian-style food at affordable prices... kind of like a Noodles & Company.) And I know most sophisticated foodie bloggers would look down on this commoner choice for dining, but I love it and I don't think I need to defend that. (I also love the Mac & Cheese at Noodles & Co., but that's beside the point. Perhaps I should work on a acquiring a more sophisticated palate...)

At any rate, my lunch choice was not a difficult one. Go Roma's Tomato Basil soup is one of my absolute favorites. I'm a fan of Tomato Basil soup in general - I just love the creamy yet slightly chunky texture of the tomatoes mixed with bits of fresh basil, especially with a big piece of crusty bread. My previous Tomato Basil obsession was from La Madeleine, which I enjoyed immensely until it went out of business and is no longer in the area.

I have yet to master the Tomato Basil technique in my own kitchen, but for now I have no shame in feeding off of others' excellence. We do have an excellent recipe on the site that is not particularly difficult and will certainly warm a freezing tummy. Go Roma adds a drizzle of basil-infused olive oil on top that really adds to the creamy texture.

Fresh Tomato Basil Soup


4 C. fresh tomatoes, peeled, cored and chopped
4 C. good chicken stock
10 fresh basil leaves
1 C. heavy cream
1/4 lb. unsalted butter
Salt and pepper to taste


Combine tomatoes and stock in saucepan. Simmer 30 minutes. Puree, along with the basil leaves, in small batches, in a blender or food processor. Return to saucepan and add cream and butter, while stirring over low heat. Garnish with extra basil leaves and serve with your favorite bread.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Recipe4Living *PHOTO CONTEST*

Max and I, and all the other editors at love our readers. We love that they share their scrumptious recipes for pesto, buffalo wings, peanut butter kisses, and even the occasional squirrel stew. And we love those amusingly saucy responses to our cooking questions posed in the newsletters ("How do you get kids to eat their veggies?" "Easy, threaten to take away their X-box!").

But Recipe4Living has a new apple of its eye: recipe photos! In order to make our growing community cooking site even better and share some love with our wonderful readers, we are holding a Recipe Photo Contest. Dust off your camera and start snapping pictures of your favorite recipes!! The first 100 photo submissions with recipes will receive a $5 Amazon gift card. Use the gift card to purchase Cool Cooking Gadgets or anything else your culinary heart desires. Weekly contest winners will be featured on the Recipe4Living homepage and
will receive a $50 Williams-Sonoma Gift Certificate. Of course, all the wonderful photo submissions will be featured in a special photo gallery on

So, let's see some photos of Grandma's favorite cookies!

Submit Your Recipe Photos Here!