Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Isles Buns and Coffee

Have you ever been to Isles Buns and Coffee? If not, you must go! Their fresh squeezed orange juice and puppy dog tails (like a long cinnamon roll) will make your morning.  If you want something a little less sweet their buttermilk scones can't be beat.  I love the raspberry white chocolate chunk ones!  They also offer breakfast treats that are gluten free and low-fat. 

 (images courtesy of Google Images)

On Memorial Day morning the line was out the door and down the street and everyone patiently waited in lines at the staff served dozens of puppy dog tails and whipped out lattes and mochas like no other.   

Monday, May 30, 2011

Auntie Helen's Pasta Salad

This salad makes an appearance at least a few times every spring and summer at family gatherings.  My Auntie Helen started making it and then the recipe just kept on getting passed along.  There is a reason for this--the salad is incredibly easy and delicious.  If you can boil pasta and cut vegetables this recipe is a breeze and is great to bring to barbecues. 

1 lb. whole wheat penne
4 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 8.5 oz jar of sun dried tomatoes cut julienne style in oil, drained
8 oz. of Italian dressing
1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley
1/4 cup capers, drained

1) Boil the pasta. Cook until al dente.   While the pasta is cooking, cut the tomatoes, drain the sun dried tomatoes and the capers, and chop the parsley.
2) When the pasta is done, rinse with cool water.  Transfer to a large bowl and add the tomatoes, sun dried tomatoes, capers, parsley and feta.
3) Add the dressing slowly, mixing well as you add it.  You can always use less dressing if you want, so if you add it slowly you can make sure to get the right amount.

Wasn't that easy?  Feel free to switch things up a bit and add roast chicken breast or kalamata olives. 

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Bye Bye Food Pyramid!

The Obama administration is ditching the food pyramid.  That one was a long time coming, especially considering the latest version, adopted in 2005 had those weird vertical sections that made it more confusing than it was before.   

When I took a nutrition class in college I started to see why the food pyramid is just kind of pointless.  Potatoes might be vegetables but that does not make them healthy when they are deep fried or loaded with sour cream, bacon and cheese. There is not a lot of nutrition in white bread, especially compared to whole grain varieties.  You are much better off eating brown rice rather than white and some vegetables are superior to others. 

The new "food pyramid" will be a plate, which makes logical sense.  It also will supposedly reflect that vegetables and fruit should take up 50% of your plate, which is a huge improvement.  However, I also hope that this new "pyramid" conveys the message that not all grains are equal, some vegetables are closer to a grain, and that yes--too much dairy and meat is not good for you.  Unfortunately this "pyramid" is the closest to nutrition education that some kids get, and I really hope it is actually a tool that can be used to guide kids towards healthier choices.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Restaurant Review: La Belle Vie

Well--I do not know how I can possibly review this place. It was absolutely perfect and although there were things that I ate that were okay, but only okay compared to the other things I was eating them with. I will just take through the courses and share my experience with you.

1st course--Artichoke Custard with Blue Crab, Trout Roe, Preserved Lemon and Chives accompanied with a Spanish sparkling wine (Montsarra Cava Brut).  The crab was my favorite part of this dish. The trout roe (trout eggs) were interesting and I liked them much more than my dining companion. Overall, this course was light, airy and the perfect start to the meal. The wine was awesome and I definitely would like to try it again. 

2nd course--Sauteed Halibut with King Crab, Ramps and Goat Cheese Sebayon--accompanied with a Corbiellieres Rose' from France.  The halibut was done perfectly, the crab was wonderful and if you are wondering what ramps are, they are a leek-like onion and were also very delicious.  I have to admit that I am glad this course was small--it was delicious, but the goat cheese sebayon made it incredibly rich.  I loved the wine, but I almost always like a good rose'.

3rd course--Mascarpone Gnocchi with Braised Rabbit and Morels accompanied by a red wine blend from Italy.  The star of this course was a tie between the gnocchi and the morels.  I kept on staring at my plate debating which savory morsel to eat.  This was my favorite dish by far, but I honestly could have done without the braised rabbit.  I have had braised rabbit before and I do not know if this rabbit missed the mark because the gnocchi and morels were so savory and delicious or if it just was not as good as it could have been.  Either way--this dish was a winner!  I also have to compliment the wine.  it was a blend from Italy made from grenache grapes, which brought me back to Italy since a lot of house wines in Italy are made with these grapes.

4th course--Pan Roasted Poussin with Foie Gras, Black Mission Figs and Hen of the Woods Mushrooms accompanied by a California Pinot Noir. Poussin in a young chicken, which makes it incredibly tender, however what I remember most about this dish was the hen of the woods mushrooms.  Their texture was perfect and they were loaded with flavor.  I honestly did not take much notice of the fois gras. It is not something I ordinarily order, but I did not object since it was on the tasting menu.

5th course--Dry Aged Beef Ribeye with Potato Mille-Feuille, Bordelaise Gastrique, Marrow and Beech Mushrooms.  The ribeye was done perfectly. You know you are at an awesome restaurant when the server does not even ask you how you want your steak does it and the chef just cooks it to his liking.  It was tender, juicy and full of flavor.  Potatao Mille-Feuille is almost like a potato cake.  It was slightly crispy and very flavorful.  Once again--I loved the mushrooms.  Are you noticing a theme here? Oh and the wine for this course was a big bold Nebbiolo from Italy. Delicious!

Now for the cheese and dessert courses....
6th course--Monte Enebro with Blueberry Mostarda and Thyme accompanied with an Amontillado Sherry from Spain.  Monte Enebro is a goat cheese with a very distinctive rind.  The cheese comes from one herd of goats raised by one farmer in Spain.  It is aged in caves, and has a very distinct flavor.  The server warned us that we may not like the rind, but we both thought it was delicious.  The cheese was very very good--maybe a bit citrusy? I loved it.  The amontillado was probably my least favorite of the wine courses.  It was not bad, just not my favorite.

7th course--Compressed Honeydew Melon with Cucumber-Elderflower Sorbet. Time for a palate cleanser! I loved the cucumber-elderflower sorbet.  I love cucumbers and the elderflower gave it some light floral notes that made it very enjoyable.  The honeydew kind of had a strange texture, but was enjoyable nonetheless.

8th course--Almond Custard with Strawberry Pearls, Tarragon and Sour Cream Sherbet accompanied with Moscato d'Asti.  I was a bit nervous about the almond custard since I am not the hugest fan of nuts.  I also find that almonds get a bit too sweet for my taste.  The almost custard was better than I expected, but the real winner in my book was the sour cream sherbet.  I absolutely loved it.  It was like frozen Greek yogurt and I think you all know how much I bring up Greek yogurt on this blog...Anyways, the Moscato d'Asti was light, sweet and a very delicious way to end the night.  I will never complain about beginning and ending my meal with a bit of bubbly!

I thoroughly enjoyed my gastronomical tour of La Belle Vie and am so incredibly thankful I was given the opportunity! It was definitely a meal I will never forget.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sweet Potato Salad with Chili Lime Vinaigrette

Every good barbecue has potato salad, right? As a twist on this summer favorite, I tried a sweet potato salad.  I got the idea for sweet potato salad after watching "American's Next Great Restaurant" and I decided to find one on the web to try.  This one is from Epicurious.  It is delicious and will compliment just about any summer entree extremely well.  It is also pretty healthy.  Sweet potatoes are incredibly good for you containing complex carbohydrates, fiber and lots of vitamins.  This dish is also easy and can be made a day ahead of time.

2 lbs of sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 red bell pepper, diced
4 scallions, chopped, using green & white parts
1/3 cup EVOO
2 tbs of lime juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
salt & pepper to taste

1)  Fill a large pot with water, and add the cut up sweet potatoes.  Bring to a boil.  The potatoes should cook for about 10-11 minutes or just until firm. You do not want them to cook too long or you will have sweet potato puree. Rinse and set aside.
2) While the potatoes are cooking, chop the scallions, red pepper, and cilantro. Set aside. 
3) Mix the dressing well in a small bowl.
4) Combine the potatoes, scallions and red peppers in a large bowl.  Drizzle the dressing over the mixture, stirring and making sure the dressing coats the potatoes.  Before serving, bring to room temperature.  

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Chicken with Zucchini, Tomatoes and Olives--and a review of Foodily.com

On Saturday night I had a number of produce in the fridge that I wanted to use along with some chicken breasts that I defrosted.  I frequently saute zucchini and tomatoes, but I felt that there must be something else I could do with these veggies that was a bit more creative and fun.  Enter Foodily.  This website is awesome.  In one box you type the ingredients you have, in the other box you type ingredients you do not want and it comes up with recipes from all over the web that fit your search.  Awesome! I can only imagine that this is even better for someone who wants to avoid things like nuts or gluten. The other cool thing about Foodily--you can share what you made on Facebook.  I know I am sharing what I am eating all the time on Facebook, but I would love to hear what you guys are eating too.  I am definitely going to be using this website a lot throughout the summer.

Now onto the recipe--From my options on Foodily, I chose a recipe from Williams and Sonoma

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, flattened to an even thickness
2 tbs EVOO
2 cups of grape tomatoes
2 zucchini, chopped into 1/2 inch chunks
2 tbs of chopped shallots
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup kalamata olives, chopped roughly
1 tsp rosemary, chopped
salt & pepper to taste

1) In a large frying pan, heat 1 tbs of EVOO and add the zucchini, cooking until golden brown, about 6 minutes. Add the shallots and cook for about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes. Season with salt & pepper and set aside.
2) Season the chicken breasts with salt & pepper.  Heat the other tbs of EVOO in the pan and add the chicken. Saute the chicken, browning each side, turning only once.  It should be about 5 minutes for each side. The chicken is done with you can touch the center and it feels firm. Set aside.
3) Add the wine to the skillet and bring to a boil. Add the veggies with the addition of the olives the chicken and cook for 2-3 minutes until heated. Serve with brown rice, quinoa or orzo.  Drizzle the wine sauce over the chicken and the veggies.

* I changed this recipe by adding the olives later in the cooking. I personally do not like when my entire dish tastes like olives and this minimized the olive taste while still allowing me to enjoy them.
* I did not add the chicken back to the wine and veggies cooking, however if I did this recipe again, I would most definitely do this as I think it returns a bit of moisture to the chicken and really adds a bit more flavor. The chicken was sort of "blah" when I did it as the recipe suggest. I would also maybe season the chicken with a bit of rosemary.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Donut Muffins

So a friend posted this delicious recipe for donut muffins on Facebook and I had to try it since my boyfriend loves donuts.  He definitely approved of these! I can't say they are good for you, but everyone deserves a treat now and then.

I pretty much followed the recipe exactly however I used plain applesauce instead of oil to reduce the calories a bit. I promise you will not sacrifice any flavor or texture by doing this.  I also spooned about 1/2 a teaspoon of melted butter on the muffins and sprinkled the cinnamon-sugar mixture instead of dipping it.  I did try the dipping and rolling method but the muffins were just coated with huge clumps of butter, cinnamon and sugar and were just a bit too sweet.  I would like something in between, but I do think the spooning/sprinkling method was a bit better.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Healthy Substitutions

Sometimes I think there is this perception that healthy food tastes bad and when you make a healthy substitution, you are sacrificing flavor.  I really do not think this is the case. I regularly cook out of The Biggest Loser Family Cookbook, Now Eat This!, and I think some Weight Watchers recipes taste fantastic. I am not trying to lose weight, I just know that it does not hurt to eat healthy, so I do my best and these cookbooks help me do it.  I have learned a lot, including a number of healthy substitutions.  Here are some of my favorites:

Greek yogurt instead of salad dressing, veggie dip, mayo, sour cream and flavored yogurt
-Use it as a salad dressing mixed with a bit of vinegar and a few herbs
-Use it whenever a recipe calls for sour cream.  Greek yogurt still has the sour taste, but it is creamier and is also filled with protein and probiotics.
-Add some herbs and it makes a great veggie dip.
-Make mayonnaise out of it using this recipe
-Add fresh fruit to non-fat plain Greek yogurt and a bit of honey, and not only it is absolutely delicious, but you are cutting back on refined sugar and maybe even overly processed high fructose corn syrup.

Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) and grapeseed oil instead of vegetable oil
-Whenever a dressing recipe calls for vegetable oil, just use EVOO or grapeseed oil. Not only will you get better flavor, but you also get monounsaturated fats (which are good) versus polyunsaturated fats which are bad.
-The problem with EVOO is it cannot withstand high temperature cooking, however--it is still great for sauteing veggies and for meats under medium high heat. Grapeseed oil has a bit higher smoke point, so it is a bit better under high temps than EVOO.

Quinoa instead of rice and oatmeal
-Quinoa is truly a wonder grain. Use it instead of rice in just about anything.  Not only does it have double the amount of protein compared to brown rice, but it has eight times as much fiber.  It also is a complete protein, meaning it contains all of the essential amino acids for human dietary needs.
-You can also eat it as hot cereal by adding a little bit of brown sugar and milk.  

Ground turkey instead of ground beef and Italian sausage
-Use this wherever you would use ground beef.  I honestly hardly know the difference in dishes such as tacos, chili and on pizza instead of Italian sausage. I also love turkey burgers.  You are cutting down on fat and eating a lean protein in place of fattier ground beef.

Panko bread crumbs instead of deep frying
-When you love something that is deep fried, consider coating it in panko bread crumbs and baking it in the oven instead. You get the delicious crunch that comes with deep fried food without all of the calories from the oil.

Sweet potatoes instead of potatoes
-Consider making sweet potato fries rather than french fries or over fries.  Sweet potatoes are one of the best vegetables you could possibly eat containing complex carbohydrates, protein, Vitamina A & C, fiber and potassium. 
-Look for some sweet potato salads.  I plan on trying a sweet potato salad with a chili lime vinaigrette in the near future, so watch for that.
-Make twice baked sweet potatoes rather than normal twice baked potatoes. I did twice baked sweet potatoes with jalapenos, cheddar cheese and non-fat Greek Yogurt instead of sour cream and they were a hit at the party I brought them to.

Don't be afraid to try new things. I have made a lot of the substitutions mentioned above and people either do not notice or they mention they really enjoyed whatever I made. Things do not have to contain ingredients that are horrible for you in order to taste good. 

Saturday, May 21, 2011


This post is more like a reminder to make this easy, healthy and delicious summer meal.  Why just a reminder? Because you do not need a recipe.  Use whatever veggies you like.  Use whatever kind of meat you like. Use whatever kind of marinade you like.

Here are some helpful tips:
  • Don't forget to soak the skewers in water.  If you do not--the sticks will burn and give your food a charred taste.
  • I personally like to put similar foods on the same skewer.  I do not like to mix meat and vegetables and I like to put vegetables together that will cook in about the same amount of time.  This way, everything gets done perfectly versus having dried out meat and perfectly cooked vegetables.  I know it is not as pretty, but I feel like the result is a bit better.
  • If you can manage to get the vegetable on a skewer, it is probably will work great on the grill. However, not all vegetables are created equal. Dense vegetables like brussels sprouts and potatoes are going to take a lot longer to cook. It might help to bake them a bit first or cut them in half.
  • Make your own marinade, buy a bottled one at the grocery store or just you olive oil and some of your favorite spices.  I like to marinate things for at least 30 minutes before they go on the grill.  If it is a citrus marinade and seafood is involved--I would do even less.
Anyways--have fun and be creative with this summer meal!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Foodies v. Techies: The Middle Ground

Today I came across this exchange between Virginia Heffernan from the New York Times and Amanda Hesser, co-founder of food52 and author of the New York Times Essential Cookbook.  The conversation is centered around a piece Heffernan wrote earlier in the week, arguing that there is a cultural schism between foodies and techies.  Foodies are the food purists--demanding organic, home-cooked meals that are "politically progressives." Techies value convenience and efficiency and see food as just something that is required for sustenance.

In the exchange, Heffernan says, "Amanda, it’s because I admire brilliant homecooks like you for your pleasure in cooking that I quit trying. In deference to foodies, let’s say. A day is finite, and I’d rather spend it playing with my kids and reading than cooking."  Okay--fair point, but I argue that it does not have to be a zero-sum game.  As I have mentioned before in this blog--the freezer is a wonderful wonderful thing.  As Hesser mentions in the article--you can cook a week's worth of meals in two hours. 

Hesser continually tries to make this point throughout the conversation, suggesting that she too orders 4-minute meals.  She encourages Heffernan telling her to be more thoughtful--but just do your best.

What struck a cord with me when I read this entire exchange is I sometimes feel overwhelmed by  cooking with consciousness similar to what Heffernan describes. I took a Food Law course this last semester and I learned a lot.  It made me think a lot more about where my food comes from and that there are ethical and health implications of what is on my plate.  I found myself trying to limit my meat consumption, trying to buy as much organic as possible, worrying about not being able to purchase grass-fed beef, avoiding Asian seafood and avoiding Jimmy John's.

After awhile it got really exhausting.  However, does that mean that I hang up my apron (I actually never wear an apron) and call it quits? Absolutely not. I decided I would just do my best.  I almost always buy organic milk and yogurt and try to buy a lot of fruit and veggies at Trader Joe's and Costco because organics are less expensive there.  I eat more vegetables than meat, and I try my best to avoid ground beef.

I feel like Heffernan really missed this point and I feel like a lot of other people do too.  However, I do not entirely blame them.  I think a lot of "Foodies" make cooking intimidating by acting as if every dish requires some sort of unique culinary skill and passing judgment on parents who feed their kids the occasional bowl of boxed mac 'n cheese.

I feel like my blog really is the middle ground between these two authors.  There are some techie shortcuts I take in the kitchen such as using Swanson's Chicken Broth rather than homemade chicken stock or Hunt's Fire Roasted Tomatoes rather than fresh.  However, I try to be thoughtful and conscientious about cooking--making nutritious meals using quality ingredients.  I hope my cooking is accessible to others. My only culinary training comes from my mother and I do not think anything I do requires any special skills.  I am just not afraid to try new things and I really happen to enjoy cooking and sharing my adventures in the kitchens with others.  So in the words of Amanda Hesser--Eat thoughtfully and do your best.

La Belle Vie

I am a lucky girl. Tonight my boyfriend is taking me to La Belle Vie to celebrate my graduation from law school.  Look forward to a review--although I am not sure I have the nerve to review a menu created by a James Beard chef.  It will probably read more like a rave than a review.  Can't wait for dinner!

 (image courtesy of Google Images)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Chicken Piccata--An Old Classic

I have always loved chicken piccata.  I love the lemon flavor contrasted with the salty test of the capers.  This is a simple recipe that goes great with pasta and a green veggie like broccoli or asparagus.  This recipe is based off of one by Giada De Laurentis.

3 boneless chicken breasts
3 tbs EVOO
1/8 cup capers
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup flour
2 tbs butter
salt & pepper

1) Place each chicken breast between two pieces of parchment paper. Pound each one out until it is about 1/4 inch think.
2) Spread the flour out on a plate. Sprinkle with small amount of salt & pepper and then dredge the chicken breast in the flour.  Repeat with each chicken breast.
3) In a medium frying pan, heat a pan under medium-high heat and add the EVOO and then the chicken breast.  Brown each side of the chicken breast, about three minutes for each side.  Remove from pan and transfer to a plate.
4) In the same frying pan, add the wine, chicken, lemon juice and capers.  Scrape any brown bits off the bottom of the pan, bringing the mixture to a boil.  Add the chicken and simmer for 5 minutes.  Do not let it go too long or the sauce will be a bit too citrusy. 
5)  Remove the chicken, turn off the heat and finish the sauce by adding the butter and stirring with a whisk.  Pour the sauce over each chicken breast.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

An Almost Guilt Free Dessert

I am a big fan of a brand of frozen yogurt called Frozing. I like just about every flavor I have tried, but I have to admit my favorite is boring old vanilla.  It has probiotics and is only 110 calories for 1/2 a cup.  I love adding fresh fruit, especially blackberries, blueberries and raspberries.  This creation is made up of Haagen-Daas Blackberry Cabernet Sorbet, vanilla Frozing and fresh blackberries.  It was delicious and not that bad for you.  If you have a sweet tooth or are in the habit of eating ice cream regularly, try a healthier alternative like sorbet or frozen yogurt. 


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

My Mom's Tuna Salad

I say this recipe is my mom's and it mostly is--although I have changed it quite a bit.  She always made this recipe in the summer and I loved having it for lunch or as a side at a barbecue.  When I asked my mom "How much cheese?" and "How much mayo?" she replied with her usual "Well I do not really measure." I guess if not for this blog, I probably would not do a lot of measuring either.  Anyways--I figured out the salad.  It differs from my mom's because I used green peppers instead of peas and Rocco's Magnificent Mayo rather than real mayonnaise. 

16 oz cooked whole wheat pasta (shells or rotini work best)
10 oz canned tuna (drained)
8 oz colby jack cheese cut up in cubes
3 stalks of celery, diced
1 green pepper, chopped
2 1/4 cups of Rocco's Magnificent Mayo
salt & pepper to taste

1)  Cook the pasta and once done, drain and rinse with cool water.  Transfer to a large bowl.
2)  Once the pasta is completely cooled, add the chopped veggies the cheese and the tuna and mix well.
3)  Add the mayo half a cup at a time, mixing well.  Dress the salad to your liking.  You may use more or less than the amount I recommend. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Kale Rolls Stuffed With Quinoa

I have always loved my cousin's cabbage rolls.  There is something about the softened leaves stuffed with meaty goodness that I have always enjoyed.  I have never attempted them because they seemed like a ridiculous amount of work.  However, since I have started to enjoy kale more, I thought about how I would enjoy kale leaves stuffed with deliciousness.  Anyways--I made up this recipe using what I know about making cabbage rolls and then I stuffed them with a mixture of quinoa, mushrooms, roasted red peppers, red onins and spices.  They were delicious and surprisingly easy.  Serve them as a side or eat a few of them as a main course. 

2 bunches of kale, stems chopped to the point the leaves start
1 cup quinoa cooked
8 oz mushrooms cut into quarters
6 oz chopped red pepper
1 12 oz jar of marinara sauce
2 tbs of EVOO
1/2 red pepper chopped into small pieces
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp cracked pepper
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder

1) Bring salted water to a boil in a 3 qt pan.  Blanch the kale by dropping the kale leaves into the boiling water for 2-3 minutes.  Run them under cold water immediately after their removal from the water. Set aside the pot, you will use it again.

2) While you are waiting for the water to boil, saute the mushrooms and onion in EVOO with all of the spices.  It should take about 5 minutes, and just before the mushrooms and onions are cooked, add the chopped red pepper.  Saute about 1-2 minutes more. Once done, add the sauteed veggies to the quinoa and mix well.

3) Place the blanched kale leaves flat on a surface with the raised part of the stem down.  Judge the size of the kale leaf and place an appropriate amount of the quinoa mixture on the leaf.  You want the leaf to be folded over the mixture in a way that it will be completely covered.  Start with the sides, then fold in the top, and last the bottom where the stem is a bit thicker. 

4) Put a very small amount of water on the bottom of the 3 qt pot.  Once each kale roll is wrapped, place it stem side down in the pot. The kale rolls should cover the bottom of the pot. Take the marinara sauce and pour it over the rolls.  Fill the sauce jar with about 3/4 cup of water and pour that over the rolls.  Let them simmer for 45 minutes on low. 

Monday, May 9, 2011

Joe's Key Lime Pie

This recipe is a family favorite--possibly because it comes from one of my family's favorite restaurants--Joe's Stone Crab.  This key lime pie is tart, slightly sweet and really--everything a key lime pie should be (yellow, not green).  It is also very simple and quick to make and one of the only desserts I enjoy making. 

 (picture courtesy of Google images because the pie was gone before I remembered to take a picture)

Ingredients for the crust
9 graham crackers broken into fine crumbs (a food processor works best for this)
1/3 cup of sugar
2 tsp lime zest
5 tbs of butter (melted)

Ingredients for the filling
3 egg yolks
1 14oz can of sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup of key lime juice (I recommend Nelli & Joe's Famous Key Lime Juice, but it you can't find key lime juice normal lime juice will do the trick)
1 1/2 tsp of lime zest

Directions for the crust
1)  Preheat over to 350 degrees.
2)  Blend melted butter, graham cracker crumbs and sugar together well. I use a food processor for this step but feel free to use whatever means you have available to blend these three ingredients together well.
3)  Press the mixture into a 9 inch pie pan so it completely covers the bottom and the sides of the pan.
4)  Bake for 8 minutes.  Leave the oven at 350.

Directions for the filling
1)  In a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks and lime zest until fluffy.
2)  Add the sweetened condensed milk and blend together for 3-4 minutes until the mixture is thick.
3)  Add the key lime juice and on a lower speed, mix together until combined well.
4)  Pour the mixture into the crust.
5)  Bake for 10 minutes at 350.
6)  Let the pan cool a bit and then place it into the fridge and let it set for 4-6 hours.  This recipe can be made a day in advance.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Orzo Salad with Eggplant, Bell Peppers, Artichokes and Feta Cheese

Note: I posted this recipe late last summer, and with the gorgeous spring weather and the abundance of veggies at the Farmer's Market, I thought I would re-post this recipe that I made for a Mother's Day gathering today.  Happy Mother's Day to all of you moms out there!
First, of all—I would like to say this recipe is not exactly quick.  It involves a lot of vegetable chopping (which I personally find kind of therapeutic).  However, the salad lasts a long time in the fridge and makes a great lunch all week long.  It also makes a great dinner—I prefer to add a grilled chicken breast or some sort of protein in that case.  Another reason I love it—you can add just about any veggie you would like.  If you have something you would really like to use—it will probably taste great in this dish!  My mom gave me this recipe--and I am not sure where she found it.

1 Small Eggplant (cut into cubes)
1 Red Bell Pepper (chopped)
1 Yellow Bell Paper (chopped)
1 Red Onion (chopped)
4 scallions (minced)
8 oz orzo (I found whole wheat orzo, but that can be challenging)
6-8 oz crumbled fat free feta cheese
15-20 basil leaves (coarsely chopped)
¼ cup toasted pine nuts

Optional veggies:
1 zucchini (chopped)
1 summer squash (chopped
1 can of quartered artichokes
Kalamata olives

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup lemon juice (about three small lemons)
Salt & Pepper to taste

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In the meantime--chop up the eggplant and put it a baking pan tossed with a little EVOO, salt and pepper.  Back for 45 minutes. (I also cooked the optional zucchini & summer squash at this point)
2) In a 2 qt pot, bring salted water to a boil, add the orzo and cook 7-9 minutes or until it is "al dente."  Drain excess water and rinse the orzo in cool water.
3) Chop up bell peppers and red onion. Set aside. (I added the optional artichokes at this stage)
4) Mix dressing. Set aside.
4) In a large bowl, combine the roasted eggplant, chopped veggies, and orzo and dressing.   Set aside and bring to room temperature.
5) Toast the pine nuts in a small pan, over medium heat, stirring constantly.  The pine nuts will be a golden brown when done.
5) Add the pine nuts, chopped basil, minced scallions and feta to the veggies and orzo.  You're done!

This salad can be served at room temperature, which makes it great for lunch when you have to be at work or school.  However, make sure to refrigerate any leftovers. 

-If you choose to add veggies that are optional--as a rule of thumb, if you like the veggie raw, then add them at step 3.  If you like the veggie cooked, add it to step 1, keeping in mind some veggies take more or less time to cook.
-Sometimes I skip the pine nuts because they can be expensive.  (They are cheapest at Trader Joe's).
-If feta cheese is a little strong for you, try crumbled goat cheese.
-If you do not want to use pasta--try brown rice.  I am sure it would be just as good!