Thursday, March 31, 2011

Dinner's at 8. What Now?

Dinners at eight. You're hungry at 6. You ate lunch at 2- what to do, what to do?! Do you have a battle of epic proportions with yourself trying to stay away from the oreos, or potato chips? It would be sooo easy to reach for them, wouldn't it? So easy to down 6 cookies, or diminish half the bag of chips. Come on! You're better than that! Don't ruin your appetite with mindless fillers, who also happen to be saturated fat and carbohydrates...and not the good kind either. They will leave you feeling full, yet unfulfilled. Let's explore some healthier options to tide you over until the dinner bell has rung. What about making a parmesan pita crisp? All it takes it a pita, fresh grated parmesan and some herbs, such as rosemary. Maybe a smattering of olive oil as well. Sprinkle the cheese and herbs over the whole wheat pita, and broil until golden brown. Slice into 4's and enjoy not only a delicious treat, but one that has a good balance of protein, fat and fiber. Are you a cheese head? Then this is the perfect late afternoon snack for you. Take a part-skim mozzarella string cheese, and wrap it in a slice of fresh proscuitto. Pair this with some olives, or artichoke hearts, and you have yourself a nice little antipasto. How about a grown-up grilled cheese snack? Take a piece of whole grain rye toast, and slather it with dijon mustard. Place a piece of sharp cheddar cheese on top. Broil until the cheese melts. Top this with a tomato- and voila, you have a snack that is rich in calcium. These are some ideas for a quick bite to eat, that won't disrupt your dinner plans. If you have any go-to snack favorites, please post below!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Successful Failures

Ahhhh the road to culinary enlightenment is a long one, that's for sure. I have failed...yet again. When I say failed, I mean- I wouldn't have fed last night's "dinner" to death row inmates. That bad. I know I preach about healthy cooking, and rave about my latest great cooking encounters-- but after last night, I realized that in order to get better, you have to mess up. It started off as a mouthwatering day dream. Dijon chicken, with Giada's smashed fried lemon potato cakes. I bet your mouth is starting to was mine. I mentally rummaged through my fridge to see what I needed for the dish, and with the help of my mother who happened to be at the grocery store, I had all I needed for what was sure to be a home run meal. An hour later, I was looking at what can only be described as sludge. I may as well have prepared ordinary hashbrowns, with a side of chicken shaped rubber. If it weren't for my loved ones, who happen to have also been the victims of this last supper, I would have crumbled at the sight of my fallen meal. It got me to thinking....are we born with natural talent in the kitchen? Is it something you can learn? If so, how do we actively hone our abilities? And then I turned to my good friends at google. It seems that other people have pondered this same question. Upon polling the audience, if you will, I have come up with the following tips that will assist you in your quest to be the best chef that you can be: 1. Look at several different recipes for the same dish. Pick the least jazzy. Use this basic recipe as a way to learn the main architecture of a dish. Along the road, you will learn by trial and error what you can add, eliminate, or modify. 2. Less is more. You can always add more seasoning, (salt especially) but you can never take any away. 3. Use Youtube. It is a great tool for learning technique. Many of us are visual leaners, so it is much easier to see how to do it, than read a monotone recipe. 4. Avoid overworking your food. Flipping it too much, kneading it too much may make you think you are really cooking, but overworking your food may result in it being too tough, or not evenly cooked. 5. Sometimes the best meals are the meals that you create from ingredients in your fridge. A lot of times, you have everything you never knew you needed, right on those cold shelves. Get yourself a base. A pasta perhaps. Open your fridge and see what you can add to it. I got this idea from another blogger, who put it perfectly; almost anything can be made into a delicious soup, springrole or casserole, as long as you enjoy the ingredients. Be spontaneous. 6. Keep fresh herbs around at all times. They add pizazz to any dish. (remember- less is more.) 7. It's just like the age old question; "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?" Practice, practice, practice. Make a dish, and then make it ten times again until you perfect it. Then, the next time you're entertaining, you will have a delicious recipe that may not be new to you, but certainly is to your guests. 8. Use flavorful cooking liquids. I always try to substitute water when I can- because it has no taste. I love using chicken broth when baking chicken, or cooking rice instead of water. ] 9. Tang it up! I believe that any dish is automatically better, when a splask of wine, lemon, or vinegar is added. It really brings out the flavor of the meal's components. 10. Don't be afraid of using real butter. Your hips will forgive you. Cooking with butter makes everything creamier, and tastier.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Sandwich Woes...

Why are deli sandwiches so much more delicious than homemade sandwiches?! I don't care what magic tricks you pull out of your fridge, it just doesn't taste the same. Sure you could go the extra mile and not only purchase the Boars Head cold cuts, buy the Boars Head mustard and oil and vinegar sandwich dressing to boot...but in my mind, your sandwich just falls a little below perfection. Now that I have paid my deli-workers sufficient respect, I must air my grievances. WHAT IS SO HARD ABOUT GETTING A SANDWICH ORDER CORRECT?! Every single time I order a sandwich from a deli, one ingredient is left out. Now, when you're a food snob, all ingredients are of equal value to your palate. Just because I like more lettuce than onions, does NOT give you, deli worker, free reign to "forget" my onions. They are part of my sandwich family, and without them, I feel incomplete. It down right puts me in a bad mood. In no way, shape or form am I a high maintenance sandwich orderer. Usually, I go mainstream. A little turkey, some cheese....perhaps L,T,O, mayo and mustard. Every time, EVERY TIME, something is missing. Can I get and "A'men" if you're with me!? Lord have mercy on the days where I crave something special. One day, I really wanted extra banana peppers on my un-original sandwich. Just that sour, pickled pepper taste was enough to make my salivary glands channel Niagra Falls. That being said, which ingredient do you think they left out? I used to gawk at crazy people who made scenes, or engaged in physical altercations in public places. Maybe someone got their sandwich order wrong? I almost feel a connection to these angry people right now. So, my question is this: is it necessary to ALWAYS write your order down and hand it to the lovely individual who has the pleasure of making your lunch? I seem to think so.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Sassin' up the Casseroles

Growing up, I hated casseroles. Of course, I also thought wine tasted like hairspray, and look at me now. I begrudgingly ate my mother's tuna casserole, solely to be excused from dinner. As soon as I forked a sensible amount into my mouth, I could spring free of my fishy albatross, and play T.V. tag before dark.

What was I thinking? Now casseroles represent everything I love! Perhaps they are misconstrued by America. When most people think of casseroles, they think of slushy, sloppy scoops of goo, served up by a hair-netted woman, with a mole on her chin. Or their great Aunt Ursula.

I feel that it is my civic duty to reinterpret the casserole. In fact, I will now call it the "sasserole." (Insert eye roll.) I will jazz it up. No longer will we eat them with a spoon. No longer will we dread dinner. Let's create some sassy casseroles, containing all of the things we love. I'd hold off on the m&m's, though.

I love pasta. Don't you? I love chicken. I LOVE artichoke hearts. I love garlic. I love feta cheese, and I love pine nuts. Throw all of these together, and sprinkle the juice of 2 fresh lemons over the top. I suggest using shell pasta, as when you sprinkle the feta cheese in the dish, it melts into the shells and is absolutely delicious. The definition of a casserole is a dish that can be cooked and served, all ingredients together. That's exactly what we're doing! By placing all of the complimentary ingredients together- the possibilities are endless! Like sundried tomatoes? Throw some in there!

Another delicious casserole is a chicken tamale casserole. It incorporates the sweetness of cornbread and zesty enchilada sauce. It is quick, easy, and perfect for all audiences.


-1 Cup mexican 4-cheese mexican blend
-1/3 cup fat free milk
-1/4 cup egg substitute
-1 tsp ground cumin
-1/8 tsp ground red pepper
-1 can cream corn
-1 box corn muffin mix
-2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
-1 can red enchilada sauce-1/2 cup fat free sour cream


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Combine 1/4 cup of cheese and next 6 ingredients in a large bowl, stirring just until moist. Pour mixture into a 13x9 inch baking dish, coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until set. Pierce entire surface liberally with fork; pour enchilada sauce over top. Top with chicken, sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake again at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, or until cheese melts. Remove from oven, let stand for 5 minutes. Cut into 8 pieces, and serve each with a dollop of sour cream on top.

Andale! Get to it!

Recipe courtesy of

Monday, March 21, 2011

Sample Sales

Do you love grocery shopping? Do you loathe it?

Perhaps you haven't found your groove when food shopping. Perhaps you haven't found that perfect market. Maybe you do your paper good shopping at Wal-Mart. Maybe you get your produce at Giant, Food Lion or A&P. Maybe ShopRite has the best fish selection, Grand Union, the best steaks. Maybe you're one of the chosen ones, who lives in a ten mile radius of a Wegmann's, Whole Foods or Fairway. Maybe you'd prefer to skip the shopping and order in.

Perhaps your go-to grocer doesn't offer the heavenly samples that mine does...but that's another story.

When you find the perfect super market, it's as if you've found nirvana. No more suffering. No more crazy mom's with crazier kids, cruising down the aisle as if it were the Autobahnen-- legs, arms and pacifiers flying. There is a place for everything, and everything is in it's place. The number one rule in finding the perfect supmarket, is analyzing it's samples.

I refuse to go to a grocery store that does not fully support sampling. It is like being a diabetic in a candy store. What good is the chipotle crab dip to me, if I can't taste it!? To me, test driving a car is essential before purchasing it. Just sayin.

First of all, the employees dishing out the goods are always happy. They are either delighted to be sharing their little edible morsels of sunshine, or they must be high. Either way, they are appreciated by yours truly.

Second, the little creations they come up with may look mundane, tired, and/or generic- but I kid you not, they ALWAYS taste delicious. I have not yet determined if it is due to my insta-starvation the minute I walk into the market, or if there truly is something hidden in the spinach dip with pita chips. It may look like a cube of boars head ham on a little rye toast point, but what you don't see is the horseradish dill dip coating the bottom!

There may not be a wide array of samples, but I think it says a lot about the grocery store if they at least have them. It's giving back to the community, all the while promoting sales of certain products. Sometimes, when my farmers market/grocer get's realllll crazy, they have local folks come in and set up their own sample tables, filled with homemade goat cheese, tomato sauce, quiche, bruschetta, you name it! The best part is, I always by it. Without fail, if I taste it...I buy it. Sometimes it's subpar, but little MaryLee behind the folding table is looking at me with such pride, such helplessness, that I can't bare to turn her fruitcake down. So, in the cart it goes.

Very rarely I don't enjoy something that I sample. For example, there was a table set up this weekend, with a sign on it that said "Spinach Surprise!" Now, I love spinach, and I adore surprises, so this is a mini christmas morning to me. I nearly knocked down five patrons while making my way to the steaming dish. When I got my first (out of 5) piece and bit in, a mixture of warm cream cheese, garlic, artichoke, spinach and a warm crusty shell unfolded in my mouth. It. was. life. changing. I nearly went out to my car, found a hat and a different jacket as a disguise, and went back in for round two.

The moral of the story is this: If you're grocery shopping at a market that does not offer you samples while shopping, (even if it is only a weekend thing) you're not going to enjoy your grocery shopping to the fullest. If you read my first post on this blog, you will know that Sunday's are my grocery shopping days, solely because of the samples.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

If You're Lucky Enough to be Irish...You're Lucky Enough!

Top o' the mornin' to ya, my li'l leprechauns! May the road rise up to meet you...and may that road lead you to good food, good friends, and good wine!

Although today's recipe is a slow cooker, it may be a wee bit too late to make for tonight's festivities. But, then again, who says you can't enjoy this delicious emerald of a dish the other 364 days of the year?

Ale-Braised Corbed Beef and Brussel Sprouts

- 1 3lb piece of corned beef brisket (with spice packet included)
- 1lb carrots, peeled and cut into 3 inch lengths
- 1 12 ounce bottle amber ale
- 3/4lb brussels sprouts
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 2 tbsp whole-grained mustard
- 1 tsbp fresh chopped taragon
- Spoonful of minced horseradish

In a 5-6 quart slow cooker, place the beef, contents of the spice packet, carrots, and ale. Cooke, covered, until the beef is tender: (On high for 4-5 hours, or if you're at work, cook on low for 7-8 hours.) Ten minutes before serving, thinly slice the brussels sprouts. (This is easiest to do in a food processor with a slicing blade.) Transfer the beef from the slow cooker to a cutting board; if slow cooker is on the low setting, turn it to high now. Add the brussels sprouts to the carrots and liquid in the slow cooker. Cook, covered until the sprouts are tender; about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the sour cream, tarragon, mustard and horseradish. Slice the beef and serve with the sauce and veggies.

Cead mile Failte!

Recipe courtesy of

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Trusty Sidekicks

I love sandwiches. I love burritos. I love steak, chicken, lamb and fish. But I don't love them all alone. I merely like them intsensely. There is a difference.

A main dish without sides is like a pitcher without a catcher. It's Ringo Starr as a solo artist. Sometimes things are just better with counterparts.

I feel the same way about my meals. I love savoring the different flavors, textures and bites of each element of my meal. I am a huge fan of sides. Whether they are potatoes, beans, salads, or bread- I will not discriminate. I believe that they are there for a reason- each one complimenting their superior. I like experimenting with my sides while at home. I take pride in choosing the most obscure, while dining out. I have come to find that the sides that I enjoy the most, are the ones that have a medley of ingredients. Sure potato chips are a nice snack. I won't turn my back on any starch ro carb, believe you me. But when mixed with something else, say, a we're talking.

Recently I have been really into salads. Not necessarily the leafy kind- but the pasta salads. The macaroni salads. The egg, tuna and chicken salads. I have relied on my Real Simple friends, as well as Martha Stewart herself, to compile some of my favorite original side salad recipes. Hold onto your seats!

Cucumber salad with sour cream and dill dressing. DON'T KNOCK IT TILL YOU'VE TRIED IT, PEOPLE. In this delicious salad, you want to very thinly chop your 4-6 cucumbers. Make sure they are the kirby cucumbers, which are longer and thinner. Halve them after you finely chop or julienne them. In a medium bowl, combine 1/2 cup of reduced fat sour cream, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of chopped dill, salt and pepper. Wisk the mixture together and and toss in the cucumbers. Sprinkle dill to garnish.

Green bean pasta salad. All you need is 4oz penne, 4 oz green beans, 1 can of red kidney beans, rinsed, 1/4 cup of chopped parsley, 2 tablespoons of grated parmesan, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice. Salt and pepper to taste. To assemble, cook the pasta, and add the green beans in 3 minutes before pasta is done. Drain, and run under cool water. Toss the pasta/beans with the red beans, parsley, parmesan, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Serve!

Apple, grape, celery and goat cheese salad. This one is absolutely delicious. I would have never thought that I would choose to make something with these ingredient, but I am so happy I did! The ingredients are as follows; 1/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans, 2 celery stalks thinly sliced diagonally, 1 granny smith apple- cored, halved and thinly sliced, 1 cup of seedless red grapes, halved, 1 tbsp white wine vinegar, 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, a scopp of fresh goat cheese, salt and pepper to taste. To assemble, spread the pecans on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes or until lightly browned. In a large bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients and toss to combine. Chill, serve, enjoy!

Perhaps you are a potato salad fan, but want to sass it up a tad. How about a trying a warm potato salad with a dijon scallion vinaigrette? To do so, firt make the vinaigrette. You will need; 1/4 cup white wine vinegar, 1 tbsp dijon mustard, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp pepper, pinch of sugar, 3/4 cupe extra-virgin olive oil, 3 chopped whole scallions. Place all ingredients, minus the oil in a jar, and sken 'em up! Slowly pour in the oil, and stir again. Next, scrub 2 pounds of red potatoes, and slice them about 1/3 inch thick. put them in a medium saucepan with salted water, and boil them until they are tender. (Approx. 15 minutes.) Drain the potatoes, and stir in the vinaigrette. Top with freshly chopped scallions.


Recipes courtesy of Real Simple and Martha Stewart

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Yuca'n do it!

Latin American cuisine is an art. Each dish has such charisma-- it's vivid flavors apparent in both taste, and sight. It's ingredients masking the truth of preparation, that has been passed down for hundreds of years. Sure you know what makes the dish- but how to make it is the real secret.

I had the pleasure of experiencing a real Latin American dish recently. In the past, I have had my fair share of Mexican food, which is one of my favorites. But this meal was on a whole different level. This cuban heirloom was a mambo on a plate. Los colores! los sabores! Fue increible!

The porkchops were mind-numbingly delicious. The rice and beans...even better. My mouth watered at the sight of the plantains. But the real scene stealer was the dish that should make every potato in the world jealous.

Yuca is the latin american equivalent of the potato. It is a light, fluffy root that when prepared in this dish, has a slight vinegar taste. It complimented all of the other sides on my plate- all the while, standing out in the crowd. I was so pleasantly surprised, I went back for fifths. Now, I don't come from a long lineage of latin american chefs- but I did manage to steal a few tips on how to make this succulent side. All you need is yuca, salt, olive oil, onion, garlic and lemon juice. Cut the yuca in long slices, and place them in a pan, with enough water to cover them. Stir in the salt, and let them come to a boil. Cook for 15 minutes, or until tender. Place the rest of the goodies in a frying pan, and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Pour over the yuca and serve immediately.

If you want to accompany this root goddess with coconut rice and beans- more power to you!

Place a tablespoon of butter, a half minced shallot in a pan over medium heat. Stir until the shallot has turned translucent. (3 minutes.) add the 1 cup of rice, and stir until it is coated with butter. Pour in the 3/4 cup coconut milk, and 1 cup of water. You can add a pinch of nutmeg too, although it is not mandatory. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat- then reduce to a medium-low heat. Cover and simmer until the liquid has been absorbed, which is about 18 minutes. Add the can of black beans, and cook a few minutes until hot. Garnish with cilantro- cause even side dishes like to look goooood.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Broadening Your Horizons

Are you one of those people who don't like the taste of things you've never tasted?

Perhaps we should all take a step back, here and talk about what's really going on. Maybe you don't like the look of the white stuff oozing out of the pasta. Or, maybe the texture is a little too slimy for your palate. Maybe it's been ingrained into your head by a picky grandmother, who would never eat the stuff. But have YOU actually tried these taboo foods?

The offending food might not be terrible. You may even...gasp....enjoy the dish. The perfect way to introduce these foods to your repertoire is by "dumbing them down." Trick your too-picky tastebuds into eating these foods, by pairing them with something enjoyable. Miso soup is a great example. You probably constantly spoon around the bouyant white cubes floating around in your soup. But, upon eating one, you may actually enjoy tofu! Quit singling them out, and enjoy them. Next thing you know, you will be making a nice, light tofu stir-fry.

Fish. Many people swear against it. Maybe they aren't a fan of the "fishy" taste. Maybe the consistancy is too tender. Perhaps they had a bony experience with a filet in the past. Let's try it again. Introduce fish into your menu, by masking it with other ingredients. Start by making a nice white-fish taco. Tilapia, or grouper is a perfect training-fish. By adding the guacamole, or jicama slaw on top of your taco, you will be delightfully surprised at how delicious your meal is.

International cuisine. Whether it's curry, pad thai, or greek fare, many people are less than enthusiastic to broaden their culinary horizons. Once upon a time, I was on the fence too. It was a dark time. I remember my first gyro, like one would remember their first kiss. It was messy, enlightening, and delicious.

Is it the lamb that scares you off? Well, let's substitute that for something more vanilla. A chicken gyro is a great way to test the greek waters. You won't be disappointed. We can even go a step further and make it a chicken finger gyro. It is a fast meal, that is easy on your wallet. You can make your tysons chicken fingers, and even buy the tzatziki sauce. If you'd prefer to be crafty- bake or boil some chicken, and make your own sauce by whipping together greek yogurt, cucumber, dill, garlic and a touch of lemon juice. Get a large pita, and place the chicken, lettuce, tomatoes, onions and tzatziki on top. If this doesn't leave you screaming "Opa!" I don't know what will.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Mourning Time...Rise and Shine!

Eyes open slowly. It's time. It's the worst time. 5 more minutes?

Rain is beating on your window, a melancholy tune by a lone steel drum band. Only you're not in your Hawaiian shirt, nor is your nose covered in zinc. It's a weekday- and your alarm has once again assaulted you.

Rise and shine, friends! Peel yourself off of your warm, powder scented cotton cloud of a pillow. Lift one leg....and the next, to the edge of your bed. Feel that cool, stale dark morning air, as you mourn the loss of your comfort. Put on that dully appropriate attire. Comb that bed-head. Brush those teeth. What's next?


Let's make this commute to Jungleland a little more bearable, shall we? Before you do mach-10 to the nearest Dunkin' Donuts or Starbucks- or Stewarts if you live in the boonies, like myself...consider constructing your own liquid speed. They sell the good stuff at all of the grocery stores now- so by all means, you can still enjoy those DD arabica beans. But- spice it up- add a dose of calypso to your mundane "mourning".

Next time you're at your grocery store- pick up a bit of coconut milk. Use the coconut milk instead of creamer, with however many packets of splenda you prefer. I tried this trick, but went even a little further- and made it an iced coffee. It brightened up my morning, all the while conjuring visions of top-down convertibles, sunshine and tanning lotion. Ay Dios Mio!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Wonderful Discovery

Last night upon leaving the gym, I was tired, sore and hungry. I assure you, I'm not pleasant to be around while any one of these three, let alone all of them. I needed something easy, fast and cheap before I let myself enter the subtle realm of uninterrupted relaxation. (aka "Teen Mom" on MTV and a glass of chard.)

Nothing in the fridge, nothing in the pantry, nothing in my stomach. I picked up the phone, and dialed a number I only usually drunk dial. Chopstix chinese food.

Now, let me sort this out for you. I am not the healthiest eater, nor am I a gym buff. I realize that after college, you actually have to DO something to prevent yourself from resembling Jabba the Hut. Or Kirstie Alley.

Many of us have our go-to greasy chinese favorites. In fact, my staple used to be sesame chicken. Some prefer lo mein, or pork fried rice. I URGE you to try what I experienced last night, because that is exactly what it was-- an experience. I opted for the healthy meal, a steamed chicken and broccoli, with no sauce, over brown rice. Sounds pret-ty boring, I know.

...Remember that miso-soy dressing I have been writing about for weeks? The one that Iput over the ahi tuna in "Next to Nobu"? Well, open the fridge, and take out the remaining dressing. I poured this dressing over the steamed chicken and rice, and it was an instant delicious meal, that only cost me ten dollars, and 20 seconds.

With a "Takeout Fakeout" like that- who needs pots and pans?!

Don't answer that.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Power Couples

Peanut butter and Jelly. Milk and cereal. Chips and dip.

These classic culinary couples are known for tempting your tastebuds, and have long secured positions among your top ten favorite foods. There are classic couples out there, but as always, waiting in the wings are the next rising stars.

What happens when you pair unlikely ingredients, that not only compliment each other's flavors, but enhance your health? Sure Brad and Jen were great together. They were like Macaroni and cheese. They made America feel comfy, cozy and warm inside. But, when Macaroni (Brad) is paired with Olive oil, lemon juice and garlic (Angie), he starts being more nutritious, tastier- more alluring. He even starts building orphanages.

And so the tides turn. Classic meals are a wonderful idea, even better if executed perfectly. But there is room in your heart and your fridge to spice it up once in a while, if only for your health.

These new "power couples" are walking the red carpets of the produce section as we speak. They are wearing the finest haute couture saran wrap out there. They have waited in the wings, giving mac and cheese their time in the spotlight. Now it's their time. They were just discovered by the agents at Real Simple.

Their reviews:

Grilled Steak. A handsome leading man. Everyone loves him, especially with his old broad, mashed potatoes. But a new compound leading lady in his life, has made him more attractive. Brussels Sprouts, a fresh faced german gal. They are a wonderful vegetable that rid the body of carcinogens that may form on meat during high-heat cooking-- such as grilling. Try substituting one of your go-to steak sides with some nicely dressed brussels sprouts. I highly recommend adding olive oil, garlic and pancetta to them.

Avocados mixed with tomatoes. Now, if you've been reading my blog from day one, you know I love a good salsa or pico de gallo. Tomatoes contain the antioxidant lycopene, which is great for you. Throw some avocado into the mix, which is a good fat- and you have quite the power couple. The fat from the avocado helps your body absorb seven times more lycopene. Not only is it delicious with fresh lime juice- but it is healthy too! HELP yourself!

Olive oil and fresh veggies. Similar to the avocado and tomato recipe, adding a small amount of healthy fats such as olive oil to your zucchini, spinach or other dark green vegetables brings out their carotenoid lutein, which is an antioxidant that helps prevent against age related macular degeneration. Now that's a Kurt and Goldie power couple!

Spinach...and oranges?! I thought they hated each other! Spinach, which is full of iron, is hard to absorb. When eaten with vitamin C, such as an orange or tangerine, the iron in the spinach is absorbed more efficiently. If the two together don't strike your fancy, consider adding a fresh red pepper, and some tomatoes to make a nice baby spinach salad.

Friday, March 4, 2011


Snacking can be so mundane sometimes. There are only so many choices, such limited varieties. It's time to pull a snack time switch-up. Let's take your go to guilty, or not-so-guilty pleasures and spice things up.

Freezing snack foods is a fun way to make your go-to goodies a little edgy. Have you ever tried frozen grapes? Deeeelish. It's a frozen treat that won't let you down. I have tried this with many fresh fruits, such as strawberries, pineapples, mango, blueberries, raspberries- and to be honest, I've never met a frozen fruit that I didn't respect. Nothing but love.

Do you find yourself mindlessly helping yourself to a sleeve of oreos? Make sure you freeze that sleeve first! Now, I'm not the biggest oreo fan, but putting those suckers in the freezer made me see them in a whole new light-- which leads me to the next treat.

I know everyone is with me, when I say that the Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies are far better frozen. The only down side is- you can't eat just one. I cant put away a box of those, in the span of two commercials.

On to everyone's favorite lunch time snack - fruit roll ups. (Fruit-by-the-foot, gushers, and all of the other futuristic fruit snacks that are out there now.) Freeze these fruity snacks for a delicate and delicious snack.

Frozen candy is also delicious. Gummy bears, chocolate bars, jolly ranchers, you name it- I'll freeze it.

You can mix healthy with sweet also. Try dipping banana slices in dark chocolate and topping with nuts. Put them in the freezer- and you won't soon forget about them!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

From "Ewww" to "Woooooo!"

I remember a time when my love affair with food was tumultuous. It was not pleasant, not inspiring and certainly not welcome in my day-to-day routine. It would nag me, like a jilted lover. "You're not paying enough attention to meeeee." "You never want to try new things!" "Do I look prettttty?"

I feel sorry for the boyfriends out there, mine included.

I didn't have the patience to pay attention to this love growing inside of me. I knew I enjoyed food- I don't think I have ever skipped a meal. I knew I savored each bite a little too much...I knew I wasn't exactly earning gold stars when it came to sharing during mealtime. Before long, I knew I had to embrace it.

I was in Philadelphia at my sisters house, a few days before her wedding. My mother decided grace my family with her culinary talents one evening. To say that I had been excited about the potential of this meal was an understatement. I remember the sheer disgust that reached deep down into my soul when I heard she was making.....

.....shrimp and grits. NO.

Enter a killer mood swing. Not only was I not going to be able to enjoy her famous "Chicken Cindy," but I was being forced to entertain the idea of enjoying her deep southern roots, or so she called them. (She was born in Texas, but moved at 4 months old...puhhlease.)

Begrudgingly I help set the table. There I sat, heavy hearted, fork in hand. When I finally put that first odd shaped bite in my mouth- and chewed- I was utterly dumbfounded.

The flavor!

The texture!

The color!

The presentation!


It was such a piece of art, this meal- I will never forget it. I urge you to make this culinary wonder- the more unappetizing it sounds to you- the more you will enjoy it. It is definitely a dish worth adding to your repertoire.


-4 cups water
- Salt and pepper
- 1 cup stone-ground grits
- 3 tbsp butter
- 2 cups sharp shredded cheddar
- 1 lb shrimp- peeled and deveined
- 6 slices bacon- chopped
- 4 teaspoons lemon juice
- 2 tbsp chopped parsley
- 1 cup thinly sliced scallions
- 1 large clove garlic- minced


Bring water to a boil. Add salt and pepper. Add grits and cook until water is absorbed - about 20-25 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir with butter and cheese.

Rinse shrimp and pat dry. Fry the bacon in a large skillet until browned- drain well. In the grease, add shrimp. Cook until shrimp are pink. Add lemon juice, chopped bacon, parsley, scallions, and garlic. Sautee for 3 minutes.

Spoon grits into a serving bowl. Add shrimp mixture and mix well.

recipe courtesy of Bobby Flay and the Food Network.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Food Alias - Think Thin!

Do you want the Big Mac taste, without the Big Mac waist?

Then start thinking about ways to disguise your food- make healthier options just as pleasurable as their naughty counterparts. No one said healthy food couldn't be mouthwatering.

Instead of the Big Mac, make a lean turkey burger. Dress that baby up with worchestershire, onions, oatmeal, and whatever else strikes your fancy, and throw it on the grill. With the calories your saving from the Micky D's "beef", not to mention the three sesame buns (Think sandwich thins, people!) you can indulge by adding the super secret sauce. (Which is really just mayo, (use low fat!) french dressing, vinegar, ketchup, relish and minced onions.)

Are you craving mashed potatoes? How about making something that tastes almost the exact same, but has exponentially fewer calories? Mashed cauliflower is an excellent "food alias" for mashed potatoes. Doctor it up with some fresh garlic, lemon and herbs, and perhaps a little butter substitute. (You won't believe it's not butter.)

Are you addicted to the cold asian sesame noodles? Try substituting the actual carb stocked noodles for shredded spaghetti squash. It has the same look and almost the same texture- you won't even know the difference!

If you're making stir-fry, consider using chicken broth as your base instead of any oils. Although canola and vegetable based oils are healthier than other alternatives, broth is by far the healthiest and gives the dish a fresh crisp flavor. Spaghetti squash is a healthy alternative for pasta in general. For all of you Atkins lovers, you don't have to dream of ziti anymore. Make a homemade marinara and add it to this multi-faceted veggie.

There are infinite ways to cut the calories, without cutting the flavor. They are as easy as using splenda instead of raw sugar. Drinking Crystal Light, rather than a high fructose lemonade. Use less salt- opt for more herbs. Cut the oil, and fatty products- use the zing of a citrus to flavor a salad. Ditch the milk chocolate- who doesn't love a dark chocolate covered strawberry? Even better- a 60 calorie Jello pudding cup!

Think thin!

Monday, February 28, 2011

A Virtual Vacation

This is the time of year that really tests us. No longer are we motivated by our new year enthusiasm. No longer are we excited about a prospective snowfall. No longer are we tan. The days of beachy-chic are long gone. There is a glimmer of hope for some of us, who will be leaving on a jet plane for sunnier skies mid-march....while the rest of us are trapped in a blurry tunnel of highways, coffee, and deadlines.

Then Friday comes along, and smiles start appearing. The thought of 50+ hours of freedom is enough to make anyone happy. Add some libations to the mix- and you might as well be on a virtual vacation.

After a nice Sunday walk along the Hudson river, with family, friends and labradors, it was time for a little "VV". We settled down in a friends kitchen, with a picturesque view of the Hudson. I was served one of the most delicious cocktails that I have ever had. I instantly felt as if I were in the carribean, my face being warmed by the sun.

Don't you love those days in February that remind you of the excitement that is coming? Spring is just around the corner, and it is taunting us with promises of blue skies, bird songs and tee shirts. Every time you catch a glimpse of this, it's enough to make you book a flight to the nearest (furthest?) island. The taste is so sweet- yet so bitter when we open our eyes and are reminded of the bare trees, dirty snow and looming cloud cover.

At that moment, (hopefully it is after 5...) make yourself this cocktail- which is now aptly titled "The Virtual Vacation." Close your eyes, and pretend your on the beach.


-Finlandia Mango Vodka

-Fresh squeezed grapefruit juice

-Splash of cranberry juice

-A big fat lime

Don't skimp on the freshly squeezed juice- it is the lynch pin of this perfect cocktail.
-Thank you, KVE for this wonderful drink recipe.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Tip of the Day

Today's tip of the day:

Do you want perfectly shaped pancakes, without the muss and the fuss?

Try cleaning out a ketchup bottle, once you've used all the ketchup. Pour the pancake batter into the bottle, secure the top, and squeeze the batter onto the frying pan. You can also make fun shapes, that you would not be able to secure with a ladle.

idea courtesy of

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Ohhh, Popcorn!

A great American treat.

For me, popcorn conjures up images of baby deer playing with bunnies. World War II women, starting up their own baseball leagues. Visions of Kurt Russell, navigating a quirky family through pirate-infested seas.

It is arguably one of the most popular snacks of the pop-culture americana world. But, like the unsatisfied, demanding group of humans we are, we want to know:


It is pretty good with salt and butter, but who wants to be that vanilla? Don't be so predictable. In today's day and age, it is encouraged (trendy?) to be different.

Show your colors. Cut that hair. Pierce that lip. Ditch the butter- ditch the salt! Oh, you're craaaaazy.

Start out with your favorite brand of popcorn. You may prefer Orville Redenbacher- that works. I prefer the individual kernels that you pop on the stove. Call me old fashioned. Once you have your fluffy golden goodness in a bowl, jazz it up.

All it takes, is some olive oil, pecorino cheese and garlic.

Heat the oil and garlic in a skillet for about 2 minutes, or until the garlic is golden. Discard the garlic. Or, you can add garlic powder- don't go overboard. In a large bowl, toss the popcorn with the oil, shredded pecorino cheese and salt.

Buon appetito!

Perhaps you have a sweet tooth, but can't get your hands on any leftover holiday carmel corn? No problemo.

Pop your popcorn. Melt some butter. Add 2 teaspoons sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon to the butter and toss into your popcorn for a seriously savory, sweet treat!

You can even try to add some hot sauce to your popcorn for a daring edge.

Please, try the recipes, perhaps on Sunday, while you enjoy the Oscars- and let me know how you like them!

Recipes courtesy of

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Takeout Fakeout -Your Guests Will Never Know!

Hibernating is tres chic this season, and we all know that a lot of provisions are being prepared to refuel.

Whether your hosting a get together at your place, or attending someone elses shindig, let's face it; you're expected to prepare a dish.

Everyone has their go-to favorite appetizer, but let's spruce things up a bit. We are all sick of your 5 layer dip, and even more sick of your signature sour cream and onion and potato chip combo.

Let's blow their socks off! (Without having to do much!)

You may not be Giada, or Tyler- but you ARE clever. How can you prepare a killer appetizer, with only putting minimal effort into the dish?

Simple, pull a "takeout fakout."

Below are three ideas for appetizers that will impress your guests, while leaving you enough time to catch up on my latest blog posts.

Step one: Order a pizza. Ask for a plain pie, slightly undercooked, and not cut.
Step two: Go get ready for the night. You've got 30-45 minutes.
Step three: When the pizza arrives, use a round cookie or biscuit cutter, and cut out circles, excluding the crust.
Step four: Heat the round pieces at 400 degrees, for about five minutes.
Step five: Top with slices of olives, some with marinated mushrooms, artichoke hearts, proscuitto, and fresh herbs.

Not a fan of this one? How about some decadent garlic bread? Everyone loves garlic bread!

Step one: Call your favorite italian restaurant, and order a loaf of garlic bread.
Step two: Slather slices of bread with some prepared marinara saice, or pesto. Top with mozzarella, or goat cheese. Top with a marinated pepper, or a sun dried tomato, and heat those puppies in the oven, until they are toasted.

You can also try a Hummus Po' Boy with the garlic bread. Spread hummus on the garlic bread and top with coleslaw, lettuce and tomato.

Perhaps your feeling fancy. Why not try a simple lettuce wrap? It will keep your guests uber impressed, and only takes 5 minutes preparation!

Step one: Order your favorite take-out chinese shrimp or chicken stir fry. Maybe even an order of their Kung Pao chicken.
Step two: Scoop some of the chicken or shrimp dish onto little boston lettuce leaves, and serve.

Rely on restaurants once in a while-- your guests will never know!!

recipes courtesy of

Monday, February 21, 2011

Sass Up Your Salad!

Late February.

Too early to completely disregard those New Years resolutions. (Too late to be sticking to them 100%.)

What's one to do? Do we forego the low-cal lunch, and order the cheesesteak?

NO, we get creative.

I was never very fond of the whole BYOL (bring your own lunch) approach to dieting, but I have to say, it works wonders. If you take the time the night before to prepare your meal, not only does it keep cash in your thinning wallet, but it's great for your waistline.

While a salad is always a healthy choice, some prove to be south of scrumptious. But what constitutes a "salad"? It doesn't have to be a lusterless meal. You are the artiste; the produce section; your canvas. Get in touch with your inner Bob Ross, and make some magic. How do we make less-than-enthusiastic lunch trigger our salivary glands?

Try sassing it up. I was on the whole sushi-grade ahi tuna steak kick, (which is obvious if you read Thursday's entry) so I tried adding some to a baby spinach and vidalia salad. I tossed in some toasted sesame seeds, and the miso-soy dressing and viola, insta-mega meal.

Try adding crumbled feta with toasted pine nuts to your salad. Pair that with some craisins, or the blueberry version of craisins, and you're in for a mouthwatering treat.

Love shrimp? Marinate it in lime juice and let it sit to cook. When it's pink, chop it up into fine pieces, add some ripe chopped avocado, chopped cilantro, and corn to the mix. Toss this into a garden salad, and add a nice lite vegetable oil, seasoned salt, and lime juice dressing.

Try a different approach to the common garden salad. Use Boston lettuce for a softer taste. Pair this with the vegetables of your choice, and add a different dressing, such as a cider vinaigrette. This vinaigrette is a lovely match to the boston or butterhead lettuce. You can make it by adding cider vinegar to olive oil, with a spash of fresh lemon juice, garlic salt and pepper. Crumble some fine bleu cheese, and serve.

The art of the salad is all-encompassing. The possibilities are endless. If you are a fan of chicken salad, put a scoop on top of your salad, and drizzle some balsamic vinegar on top.

Go for it. Get creative. Get sassy.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Next to Nobu

Asian/Fusion cuisine never ceases to delight me. The medley of flavors dancing around my palate is always a welcome experience.

The experimentations of pairing unlikely cultures proves time and time again to be profitable. There are hundreds of new "it" restaurants monthly in New York City. However, the ones that withstand the test of time are my cup of tea.

Nobu 57 is hands down one of the best restaurants that I've had the pleasure to visit. The robust menu, along with chic ambiance allows this venue to be slightly ostentatious, with a side of fabulous. The throng of Wall Street professionals surrounding the bar, the emaciated models drooling over their neighbors maki, while they casually sip a dirty martini. The power-couple in the corner, "cheers"ing to their good fortune.

And I haven't even gotten to the food yet.

If you have the please to attend, I must recommend the Rock Shrimp Tempura and the Yellowtail Jalapeno sashimi appetizer. You will NOT be disappointed. This yellowtail dish is one of the most succulent treats you will ever experience. The tangy-ness of the miso/soy glaze dressing. The tenderness of the raw fish. The surprising kick to the thinly sliced lost me there for a moment.

It is WONDERFUL. Some nights I dream of this dish.

The menu can get a little pricey, but trust me, it is worth it. Maybe not every night, but definitely for a romantic adventure.

However, I have come up with a surefire plan that will satiate my Nobu cravings on a daily and inexpensive basis.

Go to your local supermarket and see if they sell sushi grade ahi tuna, or yellowtail. Buy some raw jalapenos, (not in a jar) and make your own miso/soy dressing. Slice the fish thin, slice the jalapeno thinner, drizzle on the dressing, and enjoy. I enjoyed this last night.

Miso Soy Dressing

-.5 cup of lite soy sauce
-1 tbsp of miso paste
-3-4 tbsp rice vinegar
-1 tsp of ginger (minced, peeled or grated)
-1 cup vegetable oil

Put 'em in a blender until it's mixed, and pour over your fish!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Crumb of Slumber: Lessons Learned in "Ambi-Cooking"

I would like to dedicate this post to my boss, without whom, it would be a fabricated tale.

My boss is one in a million. With her fluffy always neatly maintained coiff bundled up on her head, and her perfectly pressed polos, she is a character straight out of your favorite movie.

This character has trouble sleeping. Like so many other insomniacs, she has sought the help of her primary care physician. Her knight on the white horse prescribed her a little something special, known as Ambien.

"You may have some side effects....."

A hop, skip and a smile later, she is at home, preparing for bed. All this boss wants is a good night's sleep. She wants to wake up well rested for once.

What do you dream of? Wether it's sugarplums, Victoria's Secret models, or winning the lottery, you're no different than most. Some may sleepwalk. Some may sleeptalk. Some may twist and writhe, making their sheets turn into the likes of a straitjacket.

The bosswoman went to bed at 11pm, that night. In the morning, she woke up ready for the trials and tribulations of another day at work. As she made her way to the kitchen, she saw a beautiful casserole, cooling on the stove.

"Mmmmmmm." This casserole smelled of baked fish..

...and chocolate chips?! Who in their right mind would pair these two ingredients? Certainly not her teenage sons?

More "restful" nights, more suprise entrees.

Things are getting weird. Boss comes to find out, by the help of her sons, and cousin, that sometime during the witching hour, she comes out to the kitchen, sharpens her knives, preheats the stove, and goes to work....while sleeping.

These "ambi-meals" have become rather popular at work. Just yesterday, she brought in pictures of a delightful chicken stew, circa 4:23 a.m.

How about those lobsters that she was saving for a special occasion? Not to worry, they went into a beautiful buntcake.

The ambi-cooking took a turn for the worst with her latest creation. Apparently, she was going for a "sweet, savory" dish. The Vienna Fingers, topped with Brie cheese, sprinkled with melted butter, dill and apricot jam was not a fan favorite.

Before you pop that little coral pill,

Lock your bedroom door.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Eat Your Heart Out....

Sure, Aphrodite was the Greek Goddess of sensuality and love, but what's this femme fatale got to do with asparagus?

Back in the good 'ol days, the greeks referred to sensual, or sexual pleasure as "aphrodisia," in honor of the bombshell. Nowadays, they serve as the punch line of a feeble come-on. How many times has your date suggested you order the oysters?

Are these erotic eats in fact a myth? Are they merely sexually suggestive foods?

Let's discuss.

Many people believe that the term "aphrodisiac" is given to a food that is more likely to enhance sexual pleasures. But, when studied, it seems as if these foods are as pleasurable as your mind allows them to be. Like many other myths, the alleged aphrodisia results may be due to the belief of their users. A sugar pill, if you will.

What are some purported aphrodisiacs?
-Chocolate. Simply because of the sensual act of consuming it. Who doesn't feel better after a bite?
-Oysters contain rare aminoacids that trigger the release of more sex hormones. Mythical? Maybe not!
-Bananas. The phallic fruit. Moving along...
-Alcohol. Duh.
-Ginseng. It is said to increase desire for physical contact.
-Truffles- their musky scent, and rarity make for a suggestive dinner addition.

For all the believers out there, carry on with your practices. It is Valentine's Day, and what better a day to believe in love, and the powers of food?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Passion: Not Just a Fruit

Some are passionate about baseball. Others, about their career. One might be passionate about their labradoodle, or the GOP candidate.

I am passionate about food.

It doesn't so much matter as to what you're passionate about, as long as you can define some form of passion in your life. It may come in the form of relationships. It may shine through in a dance, or lecture. It comes in all shapes and forms-- it makes us who we are. It is never too late to do something that you thoroughly enjoy doing. It's never too late to make each day worth it.

It sneaks up on you when you least expect it. It snuck up on me while I was whining about having to help make dinner. I tried to resist it, it took me down like a welterweight.

The steady rhythm of chopping kale. The tears, brought to my eyes, not only by the beauty of the chopped constituents, but by the damn onions.

The feeling of utter satisfaction, masked by sheer exhaustion when I first heard the shrill timer alerting me that my Mona Lisa was ready to emerge. (Not to mention the applause and approval by my loving mother.)

The blood sweat and tears that went into that first batch of macaroni and cheese was life changing.

(I kid, it was mushroom and feta stuffed chicken breasts.)

From that moment on, I was changed. I had already survived 8,030 passionless days. I would not go one more.

In the past, sure, I thought I was passionate about 98 degrees. I could have sworn I felt it in my soul for my cheer squad pep ralley routine. I was extremely "passionate" about getting my way. Begging my parents daily to allow me to paint my bedroom door light blue. But not only that-- I wanted a yellow star with "Ms. Finch" below it. It was my dressing room.

But not like this.

The feeling that washes over you when you are in your groove- doing something you love - doing something you're GOOD at, is as rewarding as it gets. When the ones you love benefit from your passion- it's even better.

3 years ago, I started my love affair with leftovers. My undying devotion for ingredients.

I will one day grace your television screens, with a fabulous new take on a cooking show on the Food Network. When you're this passionate about anything, how can you fail?

Won't you enjoy some Passion Fruit Mousse?

-3 large eggs
-1/3 cup of granulated sugar
-1/3 cup of passion-fruit puree
-1 tbsp unsalted butter
-1/4 cup of freshly squeezed orange juice
-2 cups powdered gelatin
-1 cup heave cream

Fill a medium bowl with ice water; set aside. In a small saucepan, combine eggs, sugar and passionfruit puree. cook, stirring consistently over a medium-low heat until mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon; about 3 minutes. Remove from heat- immediately add butter and stir well to combine.

In a medium saucepan, combine the OJ, and 2 tablespoons cold water. Sprinkle geltin over OJ mixture; let stand 5 minutes. Place over low heat until the gelatin is completely dissolved, about 2 minutes.

Pour passionfruit mixture through a fine sieve or chinois into a bowl. Stir in gelatin mixture. Place bowl over ice water; mix until the mixture has cooled.

In a chilled bowl, whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form, about 3 minutes. Whisk 1/3 of the whipped cream into the passionfruit mixture. Then, in two additions, fold the lightened passionfruit mixture into the remaining whipped cream. Transfer mixture to a pastry bag fitted with a round tip; serve in cup sized servings.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Interesting Uses For Everyday Foods

When it comes to matters of the home, we weren't all born as knowledgable as Martha Stewart. Sure, we pick some things up along the way, but be honest- do you really know how to get that ink stain out of your new white shirt?

Alas, this is where food comes in. Not only does it satiate your appetite, energize your mind, body and soul, and even console you when you're down....It can be used for so much more than that. Read on for unexpected and welcome uses for some of your favorite daily treats.

Bananas. Kind of mushy, great with Special K, pretty cute coloring. Before you chuck the peel, look around your kitchen and see if there is any silverware, or even leather goods that need polishing. Banana peels are a great buffer. Put some elbow grease into it- that peel can turn a pair of worn leather shoes, or forks into some seriously shiny stuff. (Worcestershire sauce is a great polisher for silverware as well.)

Bay leaves. They don't really thrill me too much. I suppose they add a nice je ne sais quoi to a soup, but listen to what they can do for your garden! Sprinkle these puppies over your garden beds- and the harmful insects will find another rose bush to inhabit.

Dull hair? No biggie. Try pouring a shot of vodka into your shampoo bottle. I promise, you can spare just one. Vokda doesn't only make you think people look better- it can actually make people more attractive! This gem of a liquor has a ton of other purposes too. Got mold? spray the unsightly stain with some bottom shelf vodka. (Don't think about what it's doing to your insides...) Let it sit for 15 minutes and scrub!

For all you Woodsmen, you're familiar with poison ivy. Next time you get it, immediately pour some vodka onto the aggrivated site. This will wash away the urushiol oil, which is the stuff that keeps you wriggling. Want fresh laundry to last? Spray some vodka on your clothes, and hang dry. Vodka kills the odor in clothes, and drys scentless.

Want long lasting flowers? Pour a teaspoon of sugar, along with a few drops of the goose into the vase. It should help keep your flowers beautiful long past February 14th, lovebirds.

Are you in the mood for a cocktail yet?

Moving along to my favorite bulbous herb. Yes, it is delicious in addition to most any meal, but how is it handy around the house? Splinters are like papercuts. Completely unfair and totally unnecessary-- painful to the touch. Try rubbing some garlic on the splinter. You will be the charmer, the splinter your cobra.

Do you have those pesky little ants in your kitchen? Sprinkle some flour wherever you see ants entering your fortress. (Include your pantry shelves, as they are most likely on a suicide mission to your food.) If flour is too messy, try uncooked grits. (This won't work for pesky Aunts.)

Back to that ink stain. Try blotting the stain with milk. Depending on the type of ink, stain removal may take anywhere between a half hour to a whole day. Patience, my friends.

On these cold February nights, nothing warms you up like a homemade fire. Instead of starting the fire with shredded newspaper, which tends to spit flaming tiny paper pieces around the room, try starting the fire with orange peels. They contain oils that burn longer than the paper- and the citrusy smell is just a bonus.

Add a teaspoon of pepper to your wash- and keep those whites whiter and brights brighter! Onto Pepper's companion, Salt. If you have grease stains on your clothes, work a generous amount of salt into the stain before washing.

Now that we've uncovered the super hero powers of things located in our fridge, the possibilities are endless!


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Settin' the Table.....Settin' the Mooooood

Cue the Barry White.

Men, this post's not for you. Carry on.

What is your perfect night in? For some, it's mint chocolate chip ice cream and When Harry Met Sally on Starz. For others, it's a six pack of Coors and World of Warcraft.

Pour Moi, it includes, (but not limited to) settin' my curls, settin' the table and settin' the mooooood.

Now, this could be a night in with girlfriends, family, a significant other or a solo affair. The nights I look forward to most are the nights where some form of entertaining ensues. Sure, entertaining seems like a lot of work, wether it be a group of 6, or entertaining yourself- but there is something so magnifique about putting the puzzle pieces of food, spirits, and ambiance together.

Here is the first hurdle- how do we get you motivated for your fabulous fete?

1.) Plan something. Whether it be a dinner party for close couple friends, or a ladies only jewelry party. (I know a great Stella and Dot stylist...)
2.) Shower. No one likes a greasy dinner host.
3.) Pick out something fancy. Nothing makes me feel like entertaining more than a swingy wrap dress. (Go buy yourself a cute apron too, June Cleaver's making a comeback!)
4.) Have your menu pre-planned and all of the necessities stocked.

Now that you're motivated, let's get to the set up.

Have you ever been to a great dinner party without good music? If you answered yes, then you probably had lots and lots of Merlot.

The answer is NO. Music is the ultimate mood setter. If you don't have any sultry sounds, I highly reccomend turning to the television. I don't know about you, but I have some great music channels on mine. Adult Alternative might sound cheesy, but I promise, you will ooh and ahh when you get to hear all of your favorite catchy tunes from random commercials. (The travelers insurance dog commercial, anyone?) Ray Lamontagne...check.

My personal favorite is the Pottery Barn "Supper Club" selection. Granted, they might be from '96 but they never get old. I'm sure they have since released some wonderful choices. If you're an iTunes kind of gal, here are some perfect dinner party tunes to download:

-Bebel Gilberto - Samba da Bencao - this is a MUST.
-Rosemary Clooney - Come On-a My House
-Louis Armstrong - Mack the Knife
-Eliane Elias - The Girl From Ipanema
-Norah Jones - Turn Me On
-John Hiatt - Feels Like Rain
-Miles Davis - So What
-Corinne Bailey Rae - Choux Pastry Heart
-Thelonious Monk - Straight No Chaser

Now that we've got the music covered, It's time to cook. But please, first- pour a healthy glass of wine. Get sassy with me.

What appetizer are you making?

Cheese platters are as wonderful and easy as they can be artistic. Get creative, these parties only happen so often. A great addition to your cheese platter are Carr's Table Water Crackers in Cracked Pepper. Pair one of these bad boys with a pepperoncini and a scoop of fresh goat cheese, and you won't know what hit you. I know a woman who makes her own goat cheese, one bite - and you've gone to heaven.

Add some fruit and nuts to the platter. Sliced pears, apples and grapes are a perfect compliment to the fromage. Don't forget the Sopressata! A little meat never hurt the cheese.

My sister, who is a spectacular hostess makes a delicious Baked Brie and apricot wrapped in phyllo dough. To die for. Give it a whirl, you won't be disappointed.

Perhaps you'd like to do a smoked salmon and caper crostini? Great idea! it's as easy as 1-2-3.

Now, for the libations. Are your guests drinking wine? Have you planned a special cocktail to serve? If I may, I suggest making a Grapefruit cosmo. Easy, light and will warm you up on these cold winter nights. All it takes is Vodka, a splask of Triple Sec, Grapefuit juice, and to quote my wonderful aunt, "a big fat lime."

Chill, and serve, dahhhlings.

Onto the main course. K.I.S. Keep it simple. No one wants an absent hostess. Prepare the meal around 3pm the day of your event so all you have to do is throw it in the oven or grill. Consider Chicken Paillard. This dish is exceptional for hosting. Who doesn't like salad, and who doesn't like chicken? We are killing two birds with one stone! See recipe below.

Now, for the table. Our altar for the regalement. The canvas for our masterpiece. Make it pretty! I suggest using things lying around the house to create a perfectly shabby chic centerpiece. Have a large vase? Throw some citrus in there! Have mismatched candlesticks? Set them up in no particular order in the center of the table. Light those candles.

Some of the best centerpieces are seasonal. If it's spring, perhaps a beautiful bunch of Hydrangeas will be the perfect accent. If it's summer, try the citrus, or other bright colors. If it's fall, buy a medium sized pumpkin and spray paint it gold. Tie a festive ribbon around the stem, and you have an instant award winning centerpiece. If it's winter, bowls filled with ornaments and greens are a lovely touch.

Now you are ready for your guests. Fluff that hair, put on that lipstick, and SMILE. Friends, food and family are what it's all about.

Chicken Paillard with a Creamy Parmesan Salad

Ingredients for Chicken:
-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
-1 cup all purpose flour
-4 eggs, whipped slightly with a splash of milk
-2 cups panko bread crumbs
-Seasoned salt and ground pepper
-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Ingredients for the Dressing:
-2 anchovy fillets (optional, but go for it!)
-2 egg yolks
-4 gloves of smashed garlic
-2 lemons, juiced
-1/2 cup of the extra virgin olive oil
-1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
-salt and pepper

Ingredients for Salad:
-1 cup of grape tomatoes, halved
-1 bag fresh baby arugala (baby spinach works well also)
-1/2 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, boccancini, halved
-Shaved parmesan for garnish
-Lemon wedges, for garnish
-Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling


-Pound the chicken so it is very thin.
-Prepare your breading station, with flour, whisked eggs, milk and panko crumbs. Season all of these with salt and pepper.
-Coat the breasts in flour, egg then panko.
-Lay the coated breasts out on a flat tray and refrigerate to let the crust dry for about 10 minutes.
-Shallow fry the chicken in hot oil for approx. 2-3 minutes per side.
-Drain well.
-Next, the dressing. Put the anchovies, egg yolks, garlic, and lemon juice into a blender for 30 seconds.
-With the blender running, pour in the olive oil.
-Then stir in the parmesan.
-Season with salt and pepper, and set aside.
-Prepare your salad by splitting the grape tomatoes in half, lengthwise.
-Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.
-Add the dressing, and toss thoroughly.

To serve, lay the warm chicken on the plate, and top generously with the salad. Garnish with shaved parmesan, a lemon wedge and a drizze of olive oil. Courtesy of Tyler Florence.


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Teaspoon of Truth...

Think of wine. What two words come to mind immediately?

For me, it's an instant "Yummmmm" followed by a much less enthused "h a n g o v e r."

Why do the things we love the most punish us time and time again? Don't you wish you could have a glass of Simi Chard...(or 6) and not have that nickels and blood taste in your mouth at 7am the next morning? So. Do. I.

I was talking to a colleague of mine who is an oenophile. (Wine lover.) He drinks it, he studies it, and every fall, he makes tons of it. He has the grapes imported from Napa, Tuscany and South America. He experiments with different grapes, mixing and matching and fermenting them together. I have yet to taste his "four-gy" (4 grape wine) but I have heard it is divine. As commonly thought, I asked him if the intense, head-in-a-vice hangover was caused by the sugars in the wine.


Your vicious wine hangover is not caused by the sugar. It is caused by the millions of histamines that live and grow in wine.

Stay with's worth it, wine lovah's.

If you take a NON-DROWSY antihistamine, such as say, Alavert, or Claritin, right before you hit the bottle, this will attack the histamines in the wine, and leave you feeling bright eyed and bushy tailed come morning.

Now, I'm not promoting pill popping, but ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

Thank me later.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Food Snob

I have become known as the "food snob" at work.

No one is safe.

It can be assured that if you are eating in the lunchroom, you will be judged. It is not something that I'm proud of, but I can't help myself. There is always a cocktail of scents wafting through the hallways, and at various times during the day, I find myself lurking, watching, waiting for my next victim.

"Whatcha having?"

Judgement seeps out of my pores as I hear rumblings of various fast food chains. Less judgement seeps when I hear the local grocery store sandwich, and even less, (but still some) when I see homemade leftovers.

Not even your leftovers are safe.

Sure, I give you a B for effort, that you put some blood, sweat and tears into your meal, that a tyson precooked breaded chicken filet I see peeping out of that.....*gasp*......RAGU sauce and mozzarella?!?!? C - . NEXXXXT!

I might walk around the table, (clockwise) with a plastic fork and do a little tour de lunch. Inspection time! Sometimes I'm impressed. Most often, I have no trace of lunch envy. Nope, not even when they have Chirashi, Reubens, or Tacos. (ok fine....maybe a little when the buffalo chicken pizza is passed around.) You may equate my grilled chicken with baby spinach salad to the likes of Ben Stein, (.....Bueller?) but shame on you for doubting my tastebuds.

I'll let you in on a little secret about my lackluster legumes...I have THE HOLY GRAIL. I have perfected the recipe for an authentic asian ginger salad dressing. You know, the orange stuff. The stuff that you secretly find yourself sipping when the waiter or bespectacled couple next to you isn't looking at your favorite sushi joint.

Fear not: the long list of ingredients below include many that are probably hiding in the crevices of your fridge.

-1/2 Cup minced onion
-1/2 cup peanut oil
-1/3 cup rice vinegar
-2 tablespoons water (I know you have that!)
-2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
-2 tablespoons minced celery (ehhh, this isn't too necessary)
-2 tablespoons ketchup (Fun fact: this is how the dressing gets it's orange color. Not from carrots and ginger! Who knew?!)
-4 teaspoons soy sauce (less sodium, people...what happened to your new years resolutions?!)
-2 teaspoons sugar
-2 teaspoons lemon juice
-1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1/4 teaspoom fresh ground black pepper

Throw those beasts into a food processor and, viola!



Sunday afternoons are like Christmas. The anticipation rising as each morning minute passes. Different ingredients dancing through my head as I frantically try to compliment one with the next.

On occasion, this obsession has proven to be problematic for me. Conference calls are interrupted by visions of baked tilapia drowning in mango chutney. My leftovers from last night's experiment taunting me in the office fridge as I work towards a looming deadline.

But not on Sundays.

Sundays I bask in my obsession. I let my mind wander from India, to Italy. Nagoya to New Orleans. "What about a curried chicken and watercress panini? No, no, too obvious." "Oooh, I know, salmon stir-fry with a light lemon ginger jus! No, too similar to Monday." Finally, sometime after noon, I go to my local grocer, which by all means is no ordinary market. As I walk through the doors, I ponder the age old question: What's for dinner?

Just recently my "fareplay" obsession has kicked in. I have always been a foodie, with a dramatic flare. A scientist in the kitchen, uniting unlikely pairs in delicious matrimony. Unwrapping the fresh fish, tomatillos, garlic, farfalle, etc is no less thrilling than unwrapping a Vuitton on Christmas morning. It is just that good.

Baked Lime Tilapia with Mango Pico De Gallo over Wild Rice

Ingredients: (Bare with me, I made this up)

-4 Tilapia Filets
-1 box of whole grain wild rice. (Don't skimp, get the good stuff.)
-4 Tomatillos
-1 large tomato
-1 Sweet onion
-5 juicy limes
-1 large ripe avocado
-1 large juicy mango
-Seasoned Salt
-Fresh ground pepper
-1 Jar of salsa verde, (if not, 2 jalapenos)
-1 canister of Panko breadcrumbs (The flaky stuff they use for tempura)


Preheat the oven to 350.

Make the rice, it takes longer than the fish. Read the box and follow the instructions.

Chop all of the fruits/veggies (minus the limes) into small cubes and place in a mixing bowl. Pour in some of the salsa verde, enough to coat the chopped goodness. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Don't go overboard, people...less is more. Squirt in the juice of three large limes, and toss.

Place salsa verde over the fish, enough to coat the surface. Roll each filet in the panko bread crumbs, just enough to cover them. Then, place the tilapia in tin foil (sprinkle a little olive oil in there..) and then in a baking dish. Then, slice lime, and place on top of each filet. Bake for about 30 minutes(ish?)

When everything is ready, spoon the rice onto your plate. Place the tilapia filet over the rice and then top the fish with a healthy serving of the mouthwatering mango pico de gallo.

Bask in the compliments of your guests.