Friday, March 30, 2007

Peep This!

I must admit, I have a sweet tooth and it's pretty bad. There hasn't been a day that has gone by where I haven't eaten at least one piece of candy. Even when I am deathly sick I consume so many cough drops that they might as well be candy.

Because of my candy addiction Halloween and Easter are by far my favorite holidays. I can't explain the feeling I get when I go to the grocery store and either see employees setting up an aisle for the candy or it is already packed full of holiday candy. But if I had to pick between the two of these holidays I would have to pick Easter. Why? Because that is when the Peeps come out. Ahhh, yes the marshmallowy, gooey, sugar-coated candies that I love so much.

Anyway if you are a lover of Peeps like myself check out a peek inside a fishbowl. They are having a Peep-tastic Photo Challenge. On this blog, Andrea challenges all the Peep lovers to pose, freeze, melt, stuff in your mouth and basically do anything with them and take as many pics as you can and send them to her so she can post them. Then she, along with some others, will judge and pick the best. This challenge ends on April 7th. Have fun!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Pulled Pork

With many foodies, the crock pot has somewhat of a bad reputation. It's often viewed as a rather low-brow cooking technique capable only of boring pot roasts and chili. While the crock pot is pretty spectacular with pot roast and chili, I know it has potential outside of these areas. Slow-cooking results in moist and flavorful meat, that I have been known to eat right out of the crock pot. All the tastes have time to truly blend during the long spell of cooking and you have a chance to do other things, such as work a full day. The problem might be that people cannot plan a meal 4-5 hours ahead of time for the High setting or, even worse, 8-10 hours ahead for the Low setting.

Since I have been running around for the last week preparing for my imminent move to NYC, crock pot cooking came in handy. At dinner time a few nights ago, I made a simple meal and also started marinating a pork loin roast in a spicy rub in preparation for Crock Pot Pulled Pork from Heaven. Four hours later when I was starting to yearn for bedtime, the pork was ready for the crock pot. Although you can marinate a piece of meat for up to 24 hours, many chefs advise four hours for optimal results. I put the pork roast in the crock pot, and making sure to keep the rub in tact, covered it with a mixture of apple juice and cider vinegar. The roast cooked for about 10 hours at low while I slept.

The result was delicious, and the best part was waking up to the smell of apple and pork filling my apartment. With a couple forks, the roast easily fell apart, and with a little BBQ sauce, Worcestershire sauce, or ketchup, quickly became many, many pulled pork sandwiches enjoyed for days to come. With no one to share with immediately at hand, I think I have now effectively overdosed on pulled pork. Mmmmmm, it was worth it.

Crock Pot Pulled Pork From Heaven


2 1/2-4 lbs. boneless pork shoulder
1 Tbs. brown sugar
2 Tbs. Cajun seasoning
1 Tbs. salt
1 Tbs. cumin
1 Tbs. paprika
1 Tbs. fresh ground black pepper
1 Tbs. chili powder
1/2 Tbs. mesquite powder
1/2 C. frozen apple juice concentrate
1/2 C. cider vinegar


Combine brown sugar through mesquite powder. Spread over entire roast. Refrigerate roast in a Ziploc bag for up to 24 hours. Place apple juice and vinegar in a crock pot and add the spiced shoulder being careful not to lose the rub. Cook on high for two hours, then reduce to low for 10 more hours. Remove the roast and let rest for 30 minutes. Pull roast apart with two forks.

Recipe compliments of one our favorite readers, Sandi Kafka, Arcadia, CA

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Not For Diabetics Only

Yesterday was 19th Annual American Diabetic Alert (r) as sponsored by the ADA (American Diabetic Association)

What does that mean to you? Probably nothing if you aren't diabetic or don't live with one. But there are many people out there that don't even know that they are diabetic. I didn't know; I found out accidentally. So if you have a minute, take this easy Diabetic Risk Test. It's much healthier to know and get it under control than to go undiagnosed.

Now just because you are diabetic doesn't mean you cannot eat any of your favorite foods anymore. You can pretty much have anything you like depending on what it is, in moderation. And with all the healthy choices out there and Sugar-Free recipes to choose from, as long as you read the ingredients and nutrition information, you cannot go wrong. The best part is that if just eat healthy, not only can you eat the same things as your family and not have labeled 'diabetic food', but you become healthier and keep your diabetes under control.

Since all the rage is now for healthier living, it's not surprising that most of the healthier choices for meals include many things that are appropriate for diabetics. Just be smart about what you eat, which is really good advice for anyone, not just diabetics.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Saturday Morning Rituals

Conveniently - and scarily like a planned-out sitcom - my best friend's boyfriend lives less than two blocks from my boyfriend's apartment. This was not some conniving girl-plot to be BFF forever, it just worked out that way. It makes cab rides easy (and cheaper) and it's always nice to know they're close. But the best part about having them within spitting distance is that every Saturday morning they wake up hungry - and so do I.

We regularly receive a phone call between 9 and 10 a.m. yelling in scratchy morning voices that it's time for pancakes. No argument here. Our classic staple is Banana Chocolate Chip pancakes (a nice compromise for me and R with a good fruit-to-chocolate ratio). We usually just use the regular Aunt Jemima mix and then throw in whatever else is in the fridge (by Saturday, it's usually not much).

This past Saturday we were feeling particularly adventurous. I had found a recipe for Orange Ricotta Pancakes in this month's Everyday Food magazine and we decided to give them a try. (Ever since I read about Pumpkin Pancakes at Everybody Likes Sandwiches, I've been itching to try a new pancake recipe.) The batter was quite thick as the recipe calls for almost two cups of ricotta. You'll notice in the picture that our griddle is strangely spanning the two burners on the stove. Something about the size of the griddle and the distance between the burners necessitates a diagonal placement of the griddle and a constant rotation to keep the pancakes browning nicely (I left this up to R while I did the dishes).

The pancakes came out thicker than I would have liked and were very dense from the ricotta cheese. The picture in the magazine looked like they were much thinner, maybe adding some milk to the batter would help this cause. We also used a nonstick spray instead of the canola oil that it called for when cooking. This kept the grease level down and eliminated the need to drain them.

Overall they were enjoyable, especially with some strawberry jam spread over the top. If you like your pancakes dense, then you'll definitely be a fan of this recipe. I think I'm more of a buttermilk girl. I highly recommend starting your own Saturday Morning Pancake Ritual... even if your best friend doesn't live next door.

Orange Ricotta Pancakes
Adapted from Everyday Food, April 2007


1 3/4 C. part-skim ricotta cheese
1/3 C. granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp. grated orange zest (about 1 orange)
2/3 C. all-purpose flour
3 Tbs. canola oil (see note)
Confectioners' sugar, for serving


In a medium bowl, whisk together ricotta, granulated sugar, eggs and orange zest. Whisk in flour just until combined. In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-low. Working in batches (and adding more oil to the skillet when necessary) add batter, using a a scant 1/4 C. for each pancake. Cook until browned, about 4-5 minutes per side. Transfer pancakes to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain. Serve hot, dusted with confectioners' sugar. Serve with jam and maple syrup.

*You can substitute a nonstick spray for the oil and eliminate the need to drain the pancakes.

Yield: 12 pancakes

Monday, March 26, 2007

Is It Summer Yet?

This weekend we had a little taste of summer in the Midwest. Sunday the temperatures were up in the high 70’s, something we rarely see until June. That got me to thinking about how much I love a Farmer’s Market and all the seasonal fruits and vegetables you can enjoy on the grill. One of my favorites is Grilled Corn On The Cob, and this one sounds particularly fun. Doug's BBQ Corn is made with beer and grilled to perfection. You should try it the next time you’re looking for a great grilled side dish.

Good Job Mr. Puck

As the featured celebrity chef at, we have enjoyed seeing all of Wolfgang Puck's tantalizing recipes. This week, the famous chef and restaurateur announced that his culinary business will now only be using products from animals raised in strict, humane conditions. His food empire will no longer be supporting factory-farmed meat and eggs. Many hope that Puck's popular persona will help spread knowledge about ethnically and environmentally unsound conditions under which food is produced.

Read More Here!

A beginners guide to food photography

"Visit any bookshop and head for the cook book section and you’ll be overwhelmed by the array of books filled with scrumptious recipes accompanied by wonderful photography of the meals being written about. But how do you photograph food and get such great results?"

read more | digg story

Friday, March 23, 2007

Is That Wine orJust A Juice Box?

I went out to dinner last night to this really nice Italian Restaurant and noticed one of the ladies who was sitting at a table next to mine was pouring wine from a small box that looked like a children's juice box but a little bigger. It's not everyday you see something like this, usually its just a glass of wine or a bottle placed on the table. Not last night. These small boxes, called Tetra Pak boxes are the new thing these days for all wine drinkers to enjoy.

I am not much of a wine drinker but I was really curious about the little purple box. I flagged down my waiter and ordered The Three Thieves Bandit, Pinot Grigio. Not only did it taste delicious but it's affordable.

I think this is a super idea for anyone who loves to drink wine. Not only is this box easy to hold (don't have to deal with glass), but it's recyclable, cheap in price but not in flavor, fresh, and you could take it anywhere without having to worry about breaking the bottle.
Check out this really cute link of the Three Thieves. Make sure to read the story about how these boxes made it to the States. Have a good weekend!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Fruit: A Risk vs. Rewards Analysis

A foodie must-read! A hilarious blog post breaking down our most popular fruits in brief summaries of risk, reward and analysis. When discussing the plum: 'While no one in recorded history has ever uttered the phrase "wow, that was a fantastic plum,” this is a fruit that delivers."'

read more | digg story


I've got a thing for noodles; spaghetti, vermicelli, lo mein, almost clear rice noodles, soba, and especially, udon. The Japanese udon is a wheat noodle and gloriously thick, absorbing the flavors of it's honored dish, Udon Noodle Soup. Feast your eyes on the most mouth-watering pictures I've seen of udon. In my mind, udon noodle soup truly reaches perfection with the addition of tempura, pictured here (the noodles in this soup are soba but I couldn't resist the beautiful picture, my apologies).

I picked up some delicious tempura udon on the way home on Tuesday. Thinking about it, tempura is truly magical. It's technically deep-fried seafood, often shrimp, or vegetables, but the result is seldom greasy and perfectly crispy, unlike so many other manifestations of fried food in America. Rather than the boring potato, tempura carrots, yams, squash, and green beans are simply scrumptious. Make some Tempura Broccoli Florets or Crispy Onion Flowers and no sane person will turn up their nose at these vegetables!

A mixture of tempura, shrimp and vegetables, should be served alongside a good Udon Noodle Soup, so that each piece can be dipped into the hot broth and quickly gobbled up. A variety of vegetables, including mushrooms, seaweed, and scallions, can be added to the udon noodle soup. In many restaurants, a half-moon slice of fish cake called kamaboko is served on top of the soup. If making udon soup at home, use miso soup for the broth (you can buy miso paste at any Asian supermarket). Remember, Japanese custom actually encourages loud slurping of udon noodles!

Udon Noodles


4 C. Flour
1 tsp. Salt
1 Egg yolk
Cold water
Additional flour


Sift flour and salt together into a large bowl. Add egg yolk and enough water to make a stiff paste. Knead thoroughly. Cover the dough with a damp kitchen towel and let it stand for 30 min. Sprinkle board and rolling pin with additional flour. Roll out dough until it is paper thin. Fold into a long roll and cut into strips about 1/10 inch wide. When unrolled, the strips should be at least 12 inches long. Cook 3-4 min in boiling salted water.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Rainy Day Remedy or Do What You Can To Smile

Well, it has been raining and raining and raining, seems like it never ends. I know Spring is supposed to be rain, but I liked the tease of nice weather we had last week. It is a promise to every Doubting Thomas' who swears that summer will never get here.

So I decided that I was not going to wait for the weekend to relax. I am going to start tonight. I am going to watch Casino Royale, and then make some Triple Addiction Popcorn Treat, or maybe some Easy Microwave Caramel Popcorn.

Whatever the case, I am looking forward to the movie and the munchies. Guess I should worry about dinner first. I think that I will go for something a little healthier, so there are no 'guilties' associated with the popcorn specialties.

OK, first on my list is a Spaghetti Salad with the leftover pasta we had last night


l lb. spaghetti
l medium cucumber
l medium onion
2 tomatoes
3/4 of a bottle (12 oz.) Italian salad dressing
3/4 of a bottle of McCormick Salad Supreme seasonings


Cook, drain and rinse spaghetti. Rinse 4 more times. Cube cucumber and dice onion and tomato.
Mix all ingredients. Remix just before serving.

Then, I'll pop in the movie and get ready to watch with my munchies on my lap. Now I am really looking forward to getting home tonight. Now I only have to navigate the rain, anyone have a boat?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

What To Do After A Long, Long, Day

Last week was one of those weeks you would rather spend lying in bed with the covers over your head. At least that’s what I wanted to do. My nineteen-year-old son thought it would be a great idea to take an old car on the road for a 6-hour drive. In addition, he forgot to put oil in it before he left. So of course we got a call on Friday night asking us if we could pick him up in West Lafayette, Indiana, home of the Purdue Boilermakers.

So on Saturday morning, we all hopped in the car for a thrilling ride on the interstates of Illinois and Indiana where we happened to find a Hooters Restaurant in Merrillville, Indiana. That proved to be the best thing about the trip as I was able to try a great little wine from Twin Valley by E & J Gallo Vineyards. Their Cabernet Sauvignon is a full-bodied yet soft wine that goes well with a variety of foods including My Bacon-Wrapped Meatloaf by Wolfgang Puck.

He has many great recipes you should check out at Just click on the tab for Wolfgang Puck and start cooking away.

Top 10 Foods For a Good Night's Sleep

While you may know the wonders of Sleepytime Tea (usually featuring chamomile), many other foods actually help us sleep better at night. The minds of Yahoo Food put together this list for the top ten sleep-inducing foods. It makes me sleepy just reading it.

Top 10 Foods for A Good Night's Sleep

The Ultimate Battle

The constant dispute between R* and I is whether dessert should be chocolaty or fruity. Sometimes we can compromise with a combination, but most of the time I crave a large slice of chocolate cake or a light and airy tower of chocolate mousse, while his stomach grumbles for a glazed fruit tart or caramel-covered bananas. Any true chocolate-lover can understand what a strain this puts on our relationship.

I. Need. My. Chocolate.

He's learning to understand this.

In the meantime, I draw upon the age-old skills of sharing and compromise and occasionally agree to a fruit-centric dessert. Inspired by a recipe we found in a cookbook, we decided to take advantage of the deliciously juicy pears that are in season and bake them. The original recipe called for some sort of store-bought custard on top, which didn't sound good to either of us, so we improvised for the most part. The pears were ripe and baked quickly, and though the recipe said to baste the pears with the cooking liquid throughout the baking time, I found the liquid stuck to the bottoms and was too gloppy to baste with. In the end, we topped the pears with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, whipped cream and a sprinkle of lemon zest.

I will admit, reluctantly, that it was a fantastic, quick and easy dessert that did satisfy my sweet tooth after dinner. The cold ice cream melting over the hot pear was a delicious combination and the lemon zest kept it from being overly sweet. The recipe said to count on one pear per serving, but we both felt that was a larger portion than we could handle.

If you have a similar struggle in your relationship, I encourage you to try this recipe as it seems to be an adequate compromise. Maybe next time I'll drizzle some chocolate sauce on top... [insert evil laugh here: muah ha ha ha].

Baked Pears

4 ripe pears
Juice of half a lemon
1/2 C. brown sugar
1 Tbs. cinnamon
1 Tbs. butter or nonfat spread
2 Tbs. lemon zest

Optional Garnishes: vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce, whipped cream, etc.


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Peel and core each pear and place cored side down in a baking dish. Brush lemon juice on top of pears, covering completely. Combine brown sugar, cinnamon and butter in a small saucepan and heat gently until completely combined into a syrup-like texture. Make sure not to burn the liquid. Pour sauce over pears and put in oven for about 20 minutes or until pears are soft. If the sauce is not too thick, try to baste the pears once or twice during the cooking time.

To serve, place 1 or 2 pears on a dessert plate or bowl. Drizzle with extra sauce from pan and top with ice cream and lemon zest.

Yield: 4-6 servings

*Please note: the man previously referred to as "my boyfriend" will henceforth be referred to as R per his request. I think he thinks I'm going to say something embarrassing about his cooking that can be traced back to him... but he lets me take pictures of his food, so we'll humor him.

Monday, March 19, 2007

A Breath of Fresh Air

I've only written about the Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten once in this blog, although I am a longtime fan of hers. Her recipes are manageable and yet always impressive-looking. But my favorite part about Ms. Garten is the complete calm that she instills in the cooking process. Her soothing demeanor and lighthearted personality makes her shows on the Food Network so easy to watch. I love the Hampton's setting - though some may call it elitist - and I think it's endearing the way she talks about her husband. Call me old-fashioned, but I just think Ina Garten really gets to the heart of what cooking is about.

The New York Times had an article about the Contessa herself in Sunday's paper (which I wouldn't have found without the help of my beloved Serious Eats). It's a really nice window into the world of the business-savvy cook and the empire she's growing.

How To Tell if a Recipe is Worth Cooking With Five Easy Questions

Nobody wants to take a whole bunch of time out of their busy day to cook something that ends up tasting crappy. And it's pretty frustrating even to make a dish that comes out great--if it takes twice as long to make it as you expected and you're sitting down to dinner with your family at 10:00PM.

read more | digg story

Friday, March 16, 2007

Painting Your Town Green

Ah, St. Patrick's Day, a day of green clothing, beer and good Irish food! In the spirit of St. Patrick's Day I have decided to give you some laughs, an Irish recipe for the Irish Car Bomb and for all of you who plan on going out and celebrating, I have found a great city guide which tells you the best hot spots to go in the city you live in.

Have a laugh on me:
Two Irishmen, Patrick Murphy and Shawn O'Brian grew up together and were lifelong friends. But alas, Patrick developed cancer and was dying. While on his deathbed, Patrick called to his buddy, Shawn, "O'Brian, come 'ere. I 'ave a request for ye." Shawn walked to his friend's bedside and knelt. "Shawny ole boy, we've been friends all our lives, and now I'm leaving 'ere. I 'ave one last request fir ye to do." O'Brian burst into tears, "Anything Patrick, anything ye wish. It's done." "Well, under me bed is a box containing a bottle of the finest whiskey in all of Ireland. Bottled the year I was born it was. After I die, and they plant me in the ground, I want you to pour that fine whiskey over me grave so it might soak into me bones and I'll be able to enjoy it for all eternity." O'Brian was overcome by the beauty and in the true Irish spirit of his friend's request, he asked, "Aye, tis a fine thing you ask of me, and I will pour the whiskey. But, might I strain it through me kidneys first?"

For every wound, a balm. For every sorrow, cheer. For every storm, a calm. For every thirst, a beer. Here is a recipe for an Irish Car Bomb.


1/2 pint Guinness
1 oz. Jamison
1/2 oz. Bailey's Irish cream


Pour Guiness into a pint glass. Float Baileys on top of Jamison in shot glass. Drop shot glass, carefully, into Guiness. Drink quickly before it curdles.

For Irish food recipes click here!

Now for the fun part, here is a city guide that MSN came up with. Just look for your city and click on it. Have fun, be safe and most of all WEAR GREEN! Happy St. Patrick's Day.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Chew Your Tea and Finish that Fugu

Inago, hakarl, durian, and the scotch egg--foods out there with a hefty dose of character. Public signs in many places in Southeast Asia outlaw bringing a durian fruit onto public transportation...

read more | digg story

A Sustainable Spring

After writing an article for Recipe4Living on Sustainable Eating last week, I have been thinking a lot about this topic of sustainability. Sustainable eating supports sustainable agriculture, which helps the environment and improves the food supply for the entire planet. Rather than big, mechanized farming operations, sustainable agriculture is based on the smaller, local farm which is more environmentally-conscious. These smaller farms raise livestock in a more natural state, rotate crops to keep the soil nutrient-rich, and greatly cut down on petroleum usage and carbon emissions.

More than the organic food movement, sustainable eating is an issue that really resonates with me. My first home in Indiana boasted 28 acres, and my second, 5 acres, as my parents moved closer to Indianapolis for a better school district. Even my second home, where I spent the majority of my childhood, was completely surrounded by cornfields. My best friend and I would cut through the cornfields to see each other, often unknowingly passing each other on the way. In August and September, we reaped the rewards of corn plucked right off the stalk. Corn on the cob is still one of my favorite foods, but it's hard to find any that taste half as good as that did. Sadly, as I entered high school and went off to college, that cornfield was replaced by a subdivision of people who do not mind being able to reach out and touch the house next door from their open windows. In my now no-longer-small town and all over Indiana, small farms who cannot compete with the handful of mega-farms are being replaced by treeless, crowded subdivisions.

Something seems to be amiss in the dominant agricultural mode in America and the ways its people are eating, so reliant on mass-produced and heavily "preserved" food. Many scientific studies are exploring how the hormonal treatment of livestock, for example to make chickens mature more quickly, may be affecting people. Moreover, when people taste truly fresh produce, eggs, milk, and more naturally-raised meat, the difference is often staggering. In my mind, people should be demanding not only the preservation of our fragile environment, but the best-tasting food. If we do a little more to support smaller, local farmers, it's a step in the right direction. Visit or to find farmer's markets and other sources of sustainable agriculture in your area. And try your hand at a couple of these recipes with foods that are in season for spring:

Citrus-Asparagus Saute

Fit As A Fennel Tomato Salad

Rhubarb Crunch

Balsamic Strawberries

And here ends my rant. Happy coming of Spring!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Beware of the Ides of March

The Ides of March is March 15th. I remember that my favorite teacher in school loved Julius Caesar so much that we actually had a party in class celebrating the Ides of March.

For those of you who are not aware of the significance of the Ides of March, according to the Roman calendar, it is the date signifying the beginning of spring and there was a huge celebration in the city of Rome. The Soothsayers warned Julius Caesar to "beware of the Ides of March," which of course he didn't listen to and was stabbed to death by his best friend Marcus Brutus.

Our school party consisted of any food with the name Caesar in it. Starting with the ever-famous Caesar Salad.

Caesar salad is so much better when tossed with fresh, homemade dressing as in this recipe.


1 or 2 crushed garlic cloves
1 egg yolk
1 Tbs. lemon juice
1 tsp. Worcestershire
5 Tbs. olive oil
2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 C. Parmesan
1 small head romaine lettuce


Process in the blender, all except garlic for two minutes. Crush garlic, add to other mixture, and process on high for two more minutes. Refrigerate. (Up to 1 week) Toss well with one small head of Romaine lettuce (washed, dried and torn up), and croutons of your choice. Sprinkle with a little Parmesan.

Here are some other Caesar-named recipes to round out your menu.

Chicken Caesar Primavera
Caesar Salad Supreme
Grilled Chicken Caesar Melt

I don't know about you, but I am always looking for a reason to have a party, and every good party has great food. If you are wondering what else happened that day in Rome, click on the fun link below for a quick smile.

Top 10 Things Overheard In Rome On The Ides Of March

Enjoy yourself and happy Spring.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Fishing For A Great White Wine

Recently my husband and I bought a new house with a kitchen that dated back to the 1950’s. We decided that it had to be renovated right away, and, as anyone who has renovated a kitchen knows, you spend at least three months of that process eating out. So after two months of local restaurants and fast food joints, we decided to stray a little farther a field than our town and ended up at Champps Americana Restaurant Here I found a delightful White Zinfandel from Beringer which I paired with their Coconut Fried Shrimp. Crispy and light, this wine had a subtle flavor that didn’t overwhelm the seafood.

The next day I went out, bought a bottle of Beringer White Zinfandel, and started trying it with a variety of fish dishes to see if my initial impression was correct. To my delight, it stood up to all of the dishes that I prepared with style and flavor. You might want to try this delightful wine with such great fish dishes as Baked Lemon Sole. Try it with this and othergreat seafood recipes and make this Lenton season the tastiest one yet.

The Joys of Carbo-Loading

I am a big fan of carbohydrates. Despite all the low-carb fanatics out there with their low-carb brands forcing regular restaurants to make specific sections of the menu for their low-carb customers (I'm not bitter or anything...), I'm still a big fan of carbohydrates. There is just this innate comfort in a warm toasted bagel, a hearty stack of pancakes and especially, a steaming bowl of pasta.

In high school I ran on the cross country team and every Friday before a meet we had a Pasta Party in hopes of "carbo-loading" our digestive systems by converting pasta to power. Sometimes we'd congregate at Olive Garden to take advantage of their "Never Ending Pasta Bowl," but mostly we took turns hosting the team at our houses and asking our parents to prepare boatloads of pasta to feed a team of hungry girls. It was always a good time.

In light of the whole Atkins hubbub, I don't know if "carbo-loading" is still the preferred method of preparation for running anymore, but as far as I'm concerned, nothing brings people together more than pasta - and I'm not even Italian!

A few months ago, my boyfriend found a recipe for Broccoli and Bow Ties on the Food Network show Barefoot Contessa with Ina Garten. (Actually, he scribbled it down on the front and back of one of those pink "While You Were Out" notepads that seem to be the only pieces of paper in his apartment ever.) Sounding simple enough, he cooked it for me one night and it was delicious. The recipe calls for a full lemon zested plus juice and the refreshing flavor dances perfectly with smooth olive oil and fresh grated Parmesan. Since his first attempt, it has turned into a classic fall-back for nights when we want to cook but don't want to work too hard. We've added chicken, asparagus and I'm sure that shrimp (he doesn't like seafood) would be great too! When we made it this weekend, we used angel hair, but I'd recommend sticking with smaller pastas like bow ties and penne so the sauce really clings to the noodle.

It's a very versatile dish and the unique lemony flavor just keeps me coming back for more.

Broccoli and Bow Ties
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa, Food Network


Kosher salt
8 C. broccoli florets (4 heads)
1/2 lb. farfalle (bow tie) pasta
2 Tbs. unsalted butter
2 Tbs. good olive oil
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 lemon, zested
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 C. toasted pignoli (pine) nuts
Freshly grated Parmesan, optional


Cook the broccoli for 3 minutes in a large pot of boiling salted water. Remove the broccoli from the water with a slotted spoon or sieve. Place in a large bowl and set aside.

In the same water, cook the bow-tie pasta according to the package directions, about 12 minutes. Drain well and add to the broccoli.

Meanwhile, in a small saute pan, heat the butter and oil and cook the garlic and lemon zest over medium-low heat for 1 minute. Off the heat, add 2 teaspoons salt, the pepper, and lemon juice and pour this over the broccoli and pasta. Toss well. Season to taste, sprinkle with the pignolis and cheese, if using, and serve.

To toast pignolis, place them in a dry saute pan over medium-low heat and cook, tossing often, for about 5 minutes, until light brown.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Cooking+TV Show=Money? Where Did The Love Go?

As I sat on my couch last night and flipped through channel after channel trying to find something good to watch, (since Grey's was yet another repeat) I was in shock at all the cooking TV shows I saw. Some were restaurant chefs giving away their "secret" recipes, there was Rachael Ray of course, Wolfgang Puck, some infomercials, and people I have never even heard of or even care to watch. This got me thinking if all these cooking shows have gotten out of control and if these so called professional chefs are only in it for the money and not the love of cooking.

At some point a few years ago before having a cooking show became so popular I truly believe, well at least I really want to believe, that all these chefs were in it for their passion of cooking. I used to love watching Rachael Ray's 30 Minute Meals. I would actually sit on my couch with a pen and paper and take notes, and yes I do own two of her cooking books. However, now I can't stand her. Come on, she has like five different TV shows now, not to mention she stares at me when I walk down the cracker aisle in the grocery store. How could she not be in it for the money? Her attitude is even different on her shows now than before. What used to be passion has turned into what can I throw together for the viewers that just takes 30 minutes? So I want to ask her, Rachael, where did the love go?

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

The Sun's So Hot I Forgot To Go Home

For those especially keen music fans, you already know that I just returned from Mexico. For those of you who are not familiar with the musical stylings of the great James Taylor, the title refers to a line in his song, "Mexico" and that is exactly how I feel right now.

I just returned from a brief vacation in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and coming home yesterday to the dreary coldness of Chicago has not been energizing to say the least. I am already missing the hot, almost scorching sun, the burning sand under my feet and the salty ocean splashing in my face. But most of all, I miss the guacamole. I am a huge fan of the avocado and its presence in basically anything: sushi, soup, sandwiches - you name it! And because of my fondness for the creamy green stuff, I have also had my share of guacamole in many different forms. Some people lay on the onion, some throw in tomatoes and make it more salsa-like, while others whip it up so it's more of a liquid.

But the guac that I consumed for the last 5 days was nothing short of heavenly. The perfect combination of seasonings and texture making it creamy enough to recognize the essential ripeness of the avocados while still leaving delicious chunks big enough to bite into. A large bowl of this fantastic-ness greeted me each afternoon as I loaded up a plate with (homemade) tortilla chips and guac. A finer lunch there never was.

Sure, it's not the most nutritious of diets, but hey, I was on vacation.

Here's a great guacamole recipe that uses Tabasco for a bit of a kick! Don't forget the cilantro - it's key to the unique flavor.

Fresh Guacamole


7 ripe medium avocados, seeded and peeled
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tomato, diced
1/2 lb Monterey Jack cheese, grated
2 green chilies, diced
1/2 C. fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1/4 C. fresh lime juice
Dash of Tabasco sauce (optional)


In a large mixing bowl, coarsely mash avocados, leaving some chunks. Add remaining ingredients and mix to blend.

Note: To store Guacamole, place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the guacamole and refrigerate.

Yield: 6 Servings

Also try Roasted Onion Guacamole, Fat Free Guacamole or Easy Guacamole.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Quick & Easy - On the Run - Daylight Saving Time

Seems like once Monday morning arrives until Friday afternoon ends, all I do is run around. I am sure that statement is probably true for most of us; it seems that we are always on the run. Whether it is running to see a soccer game or shopping for groceries, we all need to find more hours in the day. This weekend is Daylight Saving Time, during which, unless you live in a cave, you know that we turn the clocks ahead an hour on Saturday at 2 a.m., which is really not a big deal, but it seems to throw your biological clock way off.

I am already stressing that I won't finish everything this week, as though that extra hour will make all the difference. I found several recipes that I can make in a short amount of time and will still be healthy. My favorite that I just recently found is:



Nonstick cooking spray
4 1-inch-thick salmon fillets (about 1 lb.)
1/2 tsp. lemon-pepper seasoning or 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 to 2 tsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 medium orange, halved and very thinly sliced
2 C. small broccoli florets
1 C. reduced-sodium chicken broth
3/4 C. water
1 tsp. bottled minced roasted garlic or minced garlic
1 C. couscous


Lightly coat a shallow baking pan with cooking spray; set aside. Season salmon fillets with lemon-pepper seasoning. Arrange fillets in prepared pan. Drizzle with the soy sauce. Top with orange slices. Bake, covered, in a 450 degree F oven for 8 to 12 minutes or until fish just flakes easily when tested with a fork. Meanwhile, in a 2- qt. saucepan bring broccoli, chicken broth, water, and garlic just to boiling. Cook, covered, about 3 minutes or until broccoli is barely crisp-tender. Stir in couscous. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 5 minutes. Serve fish over hot cooked couscous and broccoli.

Yield: 4 servings

I guess the bottom line is don't stress and just do what you can. And check out some of these time saving Quick & Easy recipes.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Almost a year ago I went to my doctor for a routine screening. I figured it was no big deal as I’d managed to live almost half a century without having a significant health problem. Plus, despite being overweight, I had yet to develop any of the obvious health problems associated with it. So I was extremely shocked to find out my blood pressure was 130/95.

I had never had high blood pressure, even during three pregnancies. This sent me to Weight Watchers right after my appointment. During the next 6 months I dropped a lot of weight and my negative attitudes toward “light” foods. I found that you can cook without butter, creams and meat and still have bountiful flavor. Check out some of these delicious meals that are as good as they are good for you.

And what’s the net result of all this dietetic change on my life? Well, besides the outward appearances, I also managed to drop my blood pressure back to 110/75 and my cholesterol to within normal limits. So the next time you think you can’t lose weight or change your cooking habits, just remember to take it one day at a time. You’ll get there eventually. Have a tasty week.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Sam I Am

Today is a fun day, not only because it's Friday but because it is Dr. Seuss's 104th Birthday and the famous children's book, Cat In The Hat's 50th birthday. To combat the literacy crisis, all across America today parents, teachers, children and Dr. Seuss fans are participating in NEA's (National Educational Association) Read Across America Day for the nationwide read aloud of the Cat In The Hat, which is taking place at approximately 2:36 pm. Why 2:36 pm? The creative genuis himself, Dr. Seuss wrote this book using only 236 words with vivid and colorful illustrations. Can you believe that?!!!

In honor of the man himself tonight when you are making your children dinner, I recommend making a Ham and Cheddar Quiche with of course added GREEN food coloring (Get it? Green Eggs and Ham).


2 Tbl. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 C. half-and-half
3 eggs
2 slices Swiss cheese
1 9-inch, single crust pie
1/2 C. chopped fresh spinach
1/2 C. canned mushrooms
1 (4.5 oz.) can ham, flaked
1/2 C. shredded Cheddar cheese
Green Food Coloring

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat together flour, salt, half-and-half, and eggs in a medium bowl and add a couple of drops of green food coloring. Place Swiss cheese flat in the pie crust. Arrange spinach evenly over Swiss cheese, then cover with mushrooms. Pour the flour and egg mixture over mushrooms. Cover with flaked ham and top with Cheddar cheese. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until surface is golden brown.
If this recipe doesn't work for you and your children you can always find a recipe that your kids enjoy eating and just add green food coloring. For more kid friendly meals and ideas just click here.
Here are some fun websites you can visit with your kids to learn more about how to help, participate in, play games and make crafts.

Enjoy this day and let's celebrate the gift of books and reading!

Thursday, March 1, 2007

3 Roast Chickens, 3 Bottles of Wine, Squash, Potatoes...

My friend Adam was in town from Florida this last weekend (he works for Tropicana, seriously, where is my free O.J.?) and we decided to throw a dinner party in honor of our friend Deepak's birthday. With the ice-storm typical of friendly Chicago weather, going into the city really wasn't an option. Over afternoon tea and guacamole, admittedly an odd combination for our snack, we pondered how to wine and dine 8-10 people, half of which are still hungry college students. Roast chicken was the perfect solution because it's not as involved as other crowd-friendly meals like Lasagna. And as a single female, I had never tried to roast an entire chicken on my own, and the prospect sounded delicious. Dinner parties are really an excuse for people to overeat and to cook things they never get around to making otherwise.

I stared with this recipe for Roast Chicken, but then Adam and I went a little overboard. The chickens were purchased from Trader Joe's (oh how I love thee grocery store). Not only did we stuff each of the 3 roast chickens with a lemon, we also threw in a peeled yellow onion and a sprig of rosemary. The rest of the rosemary was chopped fine to sprinkle over each roast chicken coated with butter before roasting. Alongside the chicken, we threw in two acorn squash, a bunch of beets, quartered red potatoes, chopped carrots, and yellow onion. As you can see, our overflow of vegetables resulted in an extra, separate pan.

Yes, we roasted three chickens and an extra pan of vegetables all in my oven at the same time. My apartment smelled AMAZING! While we waited, we munched on Spinach and Artichoke Dip with crackers. It took about 2 hours at around 400 F (a meat thermometer should read 180 for the chicken when done). The Roast Chicken turned out perfect. I am salivating right now thinking about it. The chicken was moist to the point of falling off the bone, the rosemary added the perfect zing to the lemon, and people felt better about being gluttons with all those healthy vegetables around. The dinner party guests finished off the better part of the three chickens, a couple bottles of wine, and promptly passed out on pillows in my living room.