Thursday, May 27, 2010

Strawberries Romanoff (and a Bake Sale!)

In Courtney's post about this dessert, she mentioned La Madeleine, and from that moment, I knew I would be making this. Throw in my quart of delicious local strawberries from our CSA and the fact that I already had all of the ingredients on hand, and I knew this would make a special treat for a weeknight.

The first time I had strawberries Romanoff was at La Madeleine, and it was a bite of someone else's order. The cream was much thicker and more tangy than I anticipated. It's not too sweet but is the perfect accompaniment for those glorious strawberries. I even whipped up the sauce in the morning and stored it until later, making it a great make-ahead dessert for a party.

Strawberries Romanoff
source: Cook Like a Champion
Serves 2

1/4 cup sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons brandy or vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced if large
freshly grated nutmeg


Mix the sour cream, brown sugar and brandy together in a small bowl.
In another bowl, whisk the heavy cream until it thickens slightly, then add sugar. Continue whisking until cream is fluffy.
Gently fold whipped cream into sour cream mixture.
Place strawberries in serving dish of your choice, top with sauce and freshly grated nutmeg.

Coming up this Saturday, Lindsay from Love and Olive Oil wrangled a bunch of Nashville-area food bloggers together to do a flood benefit bake sale. All proceeds will benefit Second Harvest Food Bank. The Green Wagon in East Nashville (1100 Forrest Ave) has been kind enough to take us on, so we will be there from 1:30-4 pm with our delicious treats. I'll be making these delicious peanut butter cookies. All treats will go for $2. So if you're in the area, come on by and spend some money!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Couscous, Lentil, and Arugula Salad

Honestly, I'm not a big salad fan, though over the years I've honed my preferences. I like salads with lots of stuff - a variety of vegetables, cheese, and nuts. I like my salads pre-tossed with the dressing so that it's evenly coated. And I prefer a flavorful vinaigrette to something creamy and gloppy. If I'm going to eat a salad for a main course, it's also got to have something else besides vegetables and dressing. Most people solve this by adding grilled chicken or steak or even cottage cheese or tuna. But this salad adds couscous and lentils.

The recipe for the dressing makes plenty, so feel free to halve it if you don't want the leftovers. Seeing as our first CSA delivery was this past Saturday, I made the whole recipe. This salad was very filling, but it also felt good on a hot evening to eat something so refreshing. I loved the peppery bite of the arugula with the sour tang of the lemon juice and the flavor of the Dijon mustard. I definitely found a salad I like.

Couscous, Lentil, and Arugula Salad with Garlic-Dijon Vinaigrette
source: Eating Well
Yields 4 large servings


* 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
* 1/2 cup lemon juice
* 1/2 cup red-wine vinegar
* 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
* 4 small cloves garlic, minced
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* Freshly ground pepper, to taste

* 1 1/4 cups vegetable broth, or water
* 1 cup whole-wheat couscous
* 2 1/2 cups water
* 1 cup French green lentils, or brown lentils, rinsed
* 4 cups arugula, any tough stems removed, or mixed salad greens
* 1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
* 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
* 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese


1. To prepare vinaigrette: Combine oil, lemon juice, vinegar, mustard and garlic in a blender, a jar with a tight-fitting lid or a medium bowl. Blend, shake or whisk until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
2. To prepare salad: Bring 1 1/4 cups broth (or water) to a boil in a small saucepan. Add couscous, cover, remove from the heat and let stand until the liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes.
3. Combine 2 1/2 cups water and lentils in another saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook until just tender, 15 to 25 minutes. (Green lentils will be done sooner than brown lentils.) Be careful not to overcook the lentils or they will fall apart in the salad. Drain any excess water and let cool for about 10 minutes.
4. If arugula leaves are large, tear into bite-size pieces. Toss arugula (or greens) with 1/4 cup of the vinaigrette in a large bowl, then divide among 4 large plates. In the same bowl, toss the couscous and lentils with another 1/4 cup vinaigrette; divide the mixture among the plates. Top each salad with cucumber, tomatoes and feta and drizzle each with 1 tablespoon vinaigrette. (Cover and refrigerate the remaining 1 cup vinaigrette for up to 1 week.)

Nutritional Information

Per serving: 549 calories; 18 g fat (5 g sat, 10 g mono); 17 mg cholesterol; 79 g carbohydrates; 22 g protein; 15 g fiber; 579 mg sodium; 630 mg potassium.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Strawberry, Pistachio, and Goat Cheese Pizza

In Houston, there was this restaurant right around the corner from my apartment that, in addition to some killer margaritas, had this salad on the menu that included a sort of cheesy pita bread under all of the salad. It was like you were rewarded for eating your salad with some delicious, cheesy flatbread. This pizza is a little bit like that in concept because it's not really a traditional pizza with sauce and cheese and toppings. It's more like salad on top of bread, with which, as I learned from that salad in Houston, there is absolutely nothing wrong.

I had bookmarked this last year as part of a fictional backyard cookout menu that we never got around to hosting. Because, you know, it's totally normal to plan menus for parties that you don't actually have. It was brought to my attention again by Coach Nicole from Sparkpeople, and I decided that this time I would actually make it.

The goat cheese melts a little on the hot crust, and this is just a lovely spring supper with a glass of white wine. It would also make a nice appetizer for a not-so-fictional outdoor party. I substituted arugula for the watercress and really enjoyed the peppery bite of the arugula with the cool sweetness of the strawberries.

Strawberry, Pistachio, and Goat Cheese Pizza
source: Cooking Light May 2009
Serves 6

1 12 oz prebaked whole wheat pizza crust
1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese
1 cup sliced strawberries
1 cup trimmed watercress (or arugula or spinach)
1/2 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper
1/4 cup shaved fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
3 tbsp shelled, dry-roasted pistachios, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 425-degrees.
2. Place crust on a baking sheet or pizza stone. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove crust from oven and sprinkle goat cheese evenly over the crust.
3. Combine strawberries, watercress, olive oil, juice, salt, and black pepper; toss gently to coat. Arrange strawberry mixture evenly over goat cheese. Sprinkle pizza with Parmigiano-Reggiano and nuts. Cut into 12 wedges. Serve immediately.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

San Juan Puerto Rico Part 2

It's taken me a while to finish up our San Juan trip. Here is Part 1 if you missed it.

Our second full day in San Juan was designated as our sight-seeing day. However, we woke up later than planned and spent a while waiting for the bus to go into Old San Juan which meant that we didn't arrive in OSJ until nearly 11 am. Having read about Cafe La Mallorca, I wanted to eat breakfast there. I ordered the namesake food, a mallorca, which is kind of sandwich. Mine was made with ham and cheese and then sprinkled with powdered sugar. It's a little like eating a french toast sandwich. Somehow the sweetness and saltiness complement each other beautifully. After we saw the window full of pastries, we decided to get one to split for the road.

We definitely needed the fortification (pun!) for the rest of the day - traipsing around OSJ visiting the forts! Our first stop was Castillo de San Cristobal. The forts are run by the National Park System, and you can buy a pass to both forts for $5 a person. Although El Morro is the more famous of the forts, San Cristobal is much bigger. We were awed. We didn't take an official tour but just used the maps we were given to navigate around. There is also good signage in Spanish and English around the forts.

Even if you're not that into history, the forts are totally worth it for the views that they afford. You can see all of Old San Juan and down the coast and across land to the cruise ship terminals. We spent a lot of time just enjoying the view and taking pictures of the garitas (the sentry boxes that San Juan is known for). San Cristobal was built to prevent land attacks on San Juan, and the oldest parts of the fort date back to the 1600s.

One of the interesting things about San Cristobal is that it was used by the United States during World War II to look for German U-boats in the Caribbean. You can see how some of the architecture does not exactly match the rest of it. Having a vivid imagination, we spent some time playing in the sentry boxes imagining spotting everything from Dutch war ships to U-boats. Of course, most of the time, the guards didn't see anything except a vast expanse of ocean and the occasional trading vessel. I can imagine it would get pretty lonely in there.

This is a view of the other fort, El Morro, from San Cristobal. In between the two are the slums known as La Perla. In the bottom left corner you can see the Devil's Garita. The legend says that sentries were known to disappear from this sentry box as if they were snatched away by the devil. Because we're hardcore, we decided that we wouldn't take the tourist trolley to El Morro but would walk instead. It's a good hike, but we were walking along the coast.

El Morro gets all the glory, but we honestly liked San Cristobal best. The neat part about El Morro is that it guards the entrance to San Juan Bay, so you can see pretty much all of the bay and watch boats enter. It makes it clear how awesome of a natural bay San Juan bay is. The area on the other side of the entrance to the bay used to be a leper colony. Now it's a recreation area. The other very cool part of El Morro is that, in the oldest part of the fort, there is part of a shell stuck in the wall from when the US attacked San Juan during the Spanish-American war in 1898. Very cool.

Dorky side comment: You know how in the book of Joshua, Rahab, the prostitute who helps the Israelites enter Canaan, lives in the city walls? I never really understood how she could live in the wall until I saw the walls around San Juan. Look at how thick they are! You could totally live in there.

I was trying to figure out we could get down to the Paseo de la Princesa from El Morro, but I kind of messed up. We still had a nice walk and entered the Paseo once we got to the city gates. In my mind, I could see the ships landing after a long journey from Spain and the dignataries entering through the city gates, straight up to the Cathedral to give thanks to God for a safe journey. We take for granted how safe and easy travel is nowadays! From the city gates we walked back down to the docks, basically completely circling the perimeter of Old San Juan.

Before we boarded the ferry for the Bacardi distillery, we stopped by the tourist information center for a free rum drink sponsored by Rums of Puerto Rico. The bartender was very knowledgable and turned Joe on to some sipping rums. Then we headed next door to Casa de Don Q, an informational museum about Don Q rums, which also had a tasting bar. I had read that you could get one drink, and I assumed that meant that we would get a ticket. However, it is much more laidback than that. We did buy a few bottles of Don Q's coconut and mojito rums though, so it paid off for them!

Finally, we bought our tickets for the ferry to Catano, across the bay where the Bacardi Distillery is located. The fare was something like $.50-$1 per person. Then you can catch a publico (public taxi) that will take you to the Distillery for about $5 per person. The tour at Bacardi is free, and you get two drink tickets. Unfortunately, we were there during Spring Break, so while we were interested in the tour, most of the sunburned college students were only interested in the free drinks. As tours go, it wasn't that great, though you do get an in-depth look at the history of Bacardi, but they don't dwell on their method for making their rums. Bacardi is not originally a Puerto Rican company. They started in Cuba and then moved after Castro took over. We decided to stick to drinking Don Q, a real Puerto Rican rum.

One benefit is that you get a great view of Old San Juan from across the bay. After taking the ferry back across, we decided to head back to Condado for dinner where we ate at a comida criolla restaurant close-by. Having done all of the tourist things, we were ready to rest our feet and consume some mofongo and a nice cold beer.

The next morning, another planned beach day, we woke up and found it was raining. We stayed in bed hoping it would let up, but it didn't appear to be going anywhere. After doing some quick research, I determined that we were within walking distance of the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico. On the way, we ate a filling breakfast at Bebo's. The art museum was a really nice way to spend a few hours, particularly if it's raining and you don't have a car. They had everything from 17th-century religious art to modern protest art and a sculpture garden.

By the late afternoon, we were determined to spend some time on the beach, and the rain looked to be letting up. We took a walk down the shore and then enjoyed the little bit of sun that came out right before setting behind the buildings. Because it was out last night in Puerto Rico, we wanted to have a big night out so we went back to our condo and got ready to go out.

We first started with drinks at the Atlantic Beach Hotel. The Atlantic Beach Hotel was one of the few hotels we could see that had an oceanfront bar with a patio. It's also a well-known gay hangout. We enjoyed our beers and talked about where we might go for dinner. Only a short bit down Avenida Ashford was Ummo, where we ended up eating dinner. Joe was keen on a place that had live music, but I was tired of comida criolla. This ended up being absolutely perfect.

We started off with a tasting of 3 different red wines and some corn and goat cheese empanadas. Then, we decided to order the Parillada Gourmet for two people. It was brought out to us on the table that you see in the picture that had coals inside to keep it warm. It also came with two sides, and we ordered the mashed yucca and creamed spinach. All of the meat you see above includes blood sausage, chorizo, filet mignon, sweetbreads, pork loin, and short ribs along with two sauces for the meat. We were stuffed. Everything was absolutely delicious and flavorful. My only complaint was that the pork was slightly dry. It was one of the best dining experiences I have ever had: the service, the music, the food, and the atmosphere was just perfect.

The next morning, it was raining just a bit, so we grabbed breakfast in Ocean Park. By then, the rain had mostly stopped, so we headed to the beach one last time. We were very, very sad for our vacation to end. We loved San Juan and Puerto Rico so much that our next vacation will most likely be to another part of Puerto Rico, probably Vieques. Before this vacation, we had always talked about retiring to Mexico, but I think those plans have now changed to Puerto Rico. The beauty of the island, the friendliness of the people, and the combination of cultures is really something to behold. We can't wait to get back to Puerto Rico!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Cream Biscuits

Somewhat shamefully, this was my first time making biscuits. While I was making them, I was thinking of the recently departed Carol Fay Ellison aka the Loveless Cafe biscuit lady. Some of you might recognize her name from Throwdown with Bobby Flay. Even though Bobby Flay won that episode, we all know that Ellison made the best biscuits.

I was really pleased with how easy these biscuits were to make. This recipe calls for a grand total of 6 ingredients. I decided to cut them small as a kind of homage to sliders, and they went perfectly with a dab of preserves alongside our quiche, country ham, fruit salad, and hash brown casserole for Mother's Day brunch.

Cream Biscuits

3 tbsp melted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar (optional)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream


Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Melt butter in a small pot or microwave dish, and set aside. Sift two cups flour, the baking powder, salt and (if using) sugar into a large bowl. Fold in 1 1/4 cups cream. If the dough is not soft or easily handled, fold in the remaining 1/4 cup cream, little by little.

Turn dough onto a floured surface, mound it into a ball and, using your hands, press it to a thickness of about 3/4 inch. Cut into rounds, 2 1/2 inches in diameter. Gather dough scraps and continue to make rounds. Dip the top of each round in melted butter and arrange on the baking sheet. Bake until golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Serve immediately, or flash freeze for future use. [Biscuits can be baked straight from the freezer, and additional few minutes baking time will be needed, usually around 3 to 5.]

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Paula Deen's Hash Brown Potato Casserole

Hashbrown casserole was not something I had ever had until moving to Tennessee. But how to make potatoes even better than by adding butter, sour cream, and cheese? Now, I know that using condensed cream of ___ soups is considered pretty declasse in food circles, but sometimes you just have to own it. There were a lot of things that I had to turn a blind eye to in this casserole, like the two cups of sour cream, but let's not pretend like we all eat like this all the time. It's an indulgence, so treat it like such. It is also delicious - rich, creamy, and decadent. Just make sure you send the leftovers home with your guests.

Paula Deen's Hash Brown Potato Casserole
source: Paula Deen's Kitchen Classics
Serves 10-12

2 lbs frozen hash brown potatoes
4 cups grated Cheddar cheese (I reduced this to about 3 cups.)
1 10 1/2 oz can cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup
2 cups sour cream
1/2 cup (1 stick) melted butter
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tsps The Lady's House Seasoning (salt, black pepper, and garlic powder)

Preheat the oven to 350-degrees. In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, 2 cups of the cheddar cheese, the soup, sour cream, butter, onion, and House Seasoning. Place in a buttered 13X9 inch pan and bake for 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and top with the remaining cheese. Return to the oven and bake for 10 minutes longer.

Varation: Instead of topping the casserole with cheese, you may use 2 cups crushed Ritz crackers mixed with a 1/2 cup melted butter.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Hummingbird Cake

When planning brunch for Mother's Day, I was flipping through my Savannah Desserts cookbook, looking for something that would catch my eye. I wanted something decadent but not heavy and something that I could imagine Paula Deen serving me. Sure enough, this Hummingbird Cake caught my eye. You know, women sometimes are given a hard time for having a sweet tooth, but in my experience, that applies more to chocolate. It is the men I have known who really like their sugar, and this cake has plenty of it.

This is a different style of cake, very dense and moist, almost more like the texture of banana bread. The pineapple, banana, and oil make it so tender, and the pecans vary the texture of the cake. Next time, I might roast the pecans to deepen the flavor even more. The whole thing is topped off with a sugary cream cheese frosting. This sure was a big hit, and it went so well with the overall theme of the brunch.

Hummingbird Cake
source: Savannah Rum Runners Bakery in Savannah Classic Desserts by Janice Shay

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 (11 oz) can crushed pineapple, with juice (I used an 8 oz can.)
2 cups diced bananas
2 cups pecans (I had 1 1/2 cups, which was plenty)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 8 oz package cream cheese, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar (I ended up only using 3 1/2 cups.)


Preheat the oven to 350-degrees F. Butter two 9-inch cake pans.

To make the cake, combine the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and baking powder in a large bowl. Mix until well-blended with a wire whisk. Add the eggs and oil and stir with a wooden spoon until moist. Add the pineapple, bananas, pecans, and vanilla. Stir until well-blended. Pour into the prepared pans.
Bake for 25 minutes (Mine took closer to 35), or until a tester inserted near the center of one of the cakes comes out clean.
Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Invert onto racks and remove the pans. Finish cooling before frosting.

To make the icing, beat the cream cheese and vanilla until very soft. Add the confectioners' sugar gradually, beating until fully blended and a soft spreading consistency has been reached. Add a little milk if necessary to achieve a spreading consistency. Spread over the top of one layer. Set the second layer on top and frost the top and sides of the cake.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Eat Out for Nashville - Monday, May 17th

I'll admit, one of the things I complain about the most with regards to Nashville is the food. The vast expanse of restaurants in Houston completely spoiled me, and I definitely have my Tex-Mex cravings. However, the somewhat smaller food scene that comes with a smaller city also means that I have had the opportunity to be a part of it from attending the Iron Fork competition to regularly commenting on the Nashville Scene Bites blog to getting to know other Nashville food bloggers and writers. That kind of thing didn't happen in Houston. As a part of that, the restaurant scene has come together to help support flood victims and rebuild our city with Eat Out for Nashville this coming Monday.

When you eat out at any of the participating restaurants this coming Monday, they will donate 50% of their proceeds to the Tennessee Emergency Response Fund of the Community Fund of Middle Tennessee. This is a great way to help that only requires that we do what we all have to do anyway - eat. You can help our great city without even tearing up floorboards or ripping up carpet. Doug Hogrefe of Amerigo, who is so community-minded and generous, helped get this off of the ground, but many other restaurants have signed on. For more information, follow @EatOutforNash on Twitter or go to Check there often as more restaurants are being added every day!

So who is with me in eating out for Nashville this Monday?

Here is a list of currently participating restaurants:

Amerigo-West End

1922 West End Avenue

Nashville, Tennessee 37203

(615) 321-6024

Amerigo-Cool Springs

1656 Westgate Circle

Brentwood, Tennessee 37027

(615) 377-7070

Baja Burrito

722 Thompson Lane

Nashville, TN 37204

(615) 383-2252

Burger Up

2901 12th Avenue South

Nashville, TN 37204-2509

(615) 279-3767

The Garden Brunch Café (breakfast and lunch only)

924 Jefferson Street

Nashville, TN 37208

(615) 891-1217

Holland House Bar and Refuge

935 W. Eastland Ave.

Nashville, TN 37206

(615) 262-4190

Lazzaroli’s Pasta

1314 5th Avenue North

Nashville, TN 37208-1600

(615) 291-9922

The Melting Pot

166 Second Avenue N.

Nashville, TN 37201

(615) 742-4970

Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt

6900 Lenox Village Dr. Suite 6

Nashville, TN 37211

(615) 730-7855

Nuvo Burrito

1000 Main Street

Nashville, TN 37206

(615) 866-9713


923 Bell Road, Antioch

100 E. Park Drive, Brentwood

2792 Wilma Rudolph Boulevard, Clarksville

202 North James Campbell Boulevard, Columbia

1401 Interstate Drive, Cookeville

2409 Highway 46 South, Dickson

1202 Murfreesboro Road, Franklin

1009 Village Green Crossing, Gallatin

912 Rivergate Parkway, Goodlettsville

212 Indian Lake Boulevard, Hendersonville

5500 Old Hickory Boulevard, Hermitage

4223 Ft. Campbell Boulevard, Hopkinsville

902 Murfreesboro Road, Lebanon

2367 Hillsboro Boulevard, Manchester

401 S. Mt. Juliet Road, Ste 125, Mt. Juliet

1006 Memorial Boulevard, Murfreesboro

2450 Old Fort Parkway, Murfreesboro

1108 Murfreesboro Road, Nashville

17 White Bridge Road, Nashville

110 Coley Davis Court (Bellevue), Nashville

820 Expo Drive, Smyrna

2000 Crossing Circle, Spring Hill

3535 Tom Austin Highway, Springfield

Paradise Park Trailer Resort

411 Broadway

Nashville, TN 37203

(615) 251-1515

The Patterson House

1711 Division Street

Nashville, TN 37203

(615) 244-7989

The Perch

117a Franklin Road

Brentwood, TN 37027

(615) 661-9008

Stoney River Legendary Steaks

1726 Galleria Boulevard, Cool Springs

3015 West End Avenue, Nashville

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Southern Mother's Day Brunch

Joe's first question when we found it his aunt and grandmother were going to be passing through Nashville on Mother's Day was, "Where do you want to go for brunch?" Seeing as going out for brunch on Mother's Day is equivalent to going out for dinner on Valentine's Day and New Year's Eve (overpriced and crowded), I offered to host brunch at our house since I had the whole week to plan and prepare. Then they would get to relax a little and see our place. Joe's aunt lives in the Chicago-area and his grandmother in the Milwaukee-area, so I wanted to show them a little Southern hospitality with the menu. Everything turned out wonderfully, and it was so much better than going out. We were able to eat at our own pace and just relax and enjoy each other's company.


Toasted Cinnamon Coffee

Cream biscuits with preserves
Country ham
Fruit salad
Paula Deen's Hashbrown Casserole
Quiche with Asparagus, Mushrooms, and Bacon

Hummingbird Cake

Southwestern Egg & Black Bean Skillet

Last week we were under a strict mandate to conserve water since the flood took out one of our water treatment plants. This meant cutting way back on all tasks that require water: flushing, washing hands, showering, doing laundry, and doing dishes. So meals, like this one, that didn't dirty up a ton of dishes were a necessity if I wanted to continue to eat at home. Not counting the paper bowl and plasticware I used to eat this meal, I dirtied 1) a skillet and 2) a knife. And it was delicious. Black beans, eggs, avocado, and Ro-tel are my favorite food groups.

Southwestern Egg and Black Bean Skillet
source: Cara's Cravings
Yields: 2 servings

1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup frozen corn
1 cup drained, rinsed black beans
salt & pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
pinch of coriander
10 oz can diced tomatoes with green chilies (like Ro-tel)
2 large eggs
2 oz queso fresco, crumbled (I used feta.)
chopped cilantro and sliced avocado, for garnish

Preheat oven to 400F.

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook for about 5 minutes, until translucent. Add garlic, corn, and beans and cook for about 2 more minutes, until garlic is fragrant. Season with salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, and coriander.

Add the diced tomatoes with green chilies and increase heat to high. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and allow to simmer for 10 minutes to blend flavors.

Carefully break the eggs over the black bean mixture. Place the skillet in the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes, until eggs are soft-set. Sprinkle with queso fresco and garnish with cilantro and diced avocado. Serve hot.

Nutritional Info (not including avocado)
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 338.3
Total Fat: 14.0 g
Cholesterol: 227.5 mg
Sodium: 1,525.8 mg
Total Carbs: 35.9 g
Dietary Fiber: 9.0 g
Protein: 20.7 g

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Grilled Mahi-Mahi with Avocado Salad

When I saw this recipe on Vintage Victuals, it was still early March and a little chilly, but I knew it would be perfect for warmer weather and meals eaten on the patio. Mahi-mahi is a great, firm, mild white fish. If you like chicken but are looking to eat more seafood, mahi-mahi would be a great transition. Joe also likes it because it works well on the grill and doesn't fall apart like some flaker fishes. This meal is pretty self-explanatory. I forgot the cilantro and added a few shakes of cayenne pepper to spice up the avocado salad. Also, my Cajun seasoning is a little salt-heavy, so make sure you watch that. Enjoy this great, light meal on a beautiful spring day with a beer or glass of white wine.

Mahi Mahi with Avocado Salad

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon cajun seasoning
4 4-ounce fillets of mahi mahi
2 large, ripe avocados, peeled and diced
1 cup corn kernels, cooked (fresh, frozen, or canned)
1 16-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1 medium tomato, diced
1 medium green bell pepper, diced
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons lime juice
Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat your grill or grill-pan to medium-high heat. Brush the fillets with the olive oil and sprinkle both sides with the cajun seasoning. Grill for about 4-5 minutes on each side, until the fish is cooked to your desired doneness and nicely browned.

Meanwhile, combine in a bowl the avocado, corn, black beans, red onion, tomato, bell pepper, cilantro, and lime juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper (and cayenne pepper) and toss to combine.

Top each fillet with a serving of the avocado salad, and serve immediately.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Open-Faced Sandwiches with Ricotta, Arugula, and Fried Egg

When I was at boarding school in Michigan, I survived on sandwiches. I loved my sandwiches, particularly when dinner was less than palatable, and I got ideas from my peers. One of them introduced me to pita with mushrooms and a slice of provolone on the top. Melted in the microwave, it was as close to gourmet as I was going to get. But it was nothing like this. Whole wheat bread toasted, spread with ricotta and topped with arugula and a fried egg. When that yolk runs and mixes with the arugula, ricotta, and bread, it is heavenly.

Open-Faced Sandwiches with Ricotta, Arugula, and Fried Egg
source: May 2010 Cooking Light
Yields 4 servings

4 slices whole-wheat country bread
Cooking spray
2 cups arugula
1 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt, divided
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, divided
4 large eggs
3/4 cup part skim ricotta cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme

1. Preheat broiler.
2. Coat both sides of the bread with cooking spray. Broil 2 minutes on each side, or until lightly toasted.
3. Combine arugula, 2 tsp oil, lemon juice, 1/8 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper. Toss gently.
4. Heat remaining 1 tsp oil in a skillet over medium heat. Crack eggs into pan, and cook two minutes. Cover pan with lid and cook a remaining 2 minutes or until whites are set. Remove from the heat.
5. Combine 1/4 tsp salt, ricotta, parmesan, and thyme. Spread over bread slices. Divide arugula mixture and eggs over bread slices. Sprinkle with remaining 1/8 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper and serve.

Friday, May 7, 2010

We Are Nashville

(photo courtesy of Hands on Nashville)

As some of you might know, Nashville and the surrounding area has suffered unprecedented flooding. All kinds of areas were affected, from tony white suburbs to poor, predominantly African-American neighborhoods. Since Monday, I have seen horrific picture after horrific picture and heard tragic story after tragic story. As I drove into town today to volunteer, the sight of the skyline rising triumphantly above the Cumberland brought tears to my eyes.

Even though I've only lived here for two years, I am immensely proud to call Nashville my home. To see the response of my friends and neighbors, known and unknown, is incredible. Jake Owen helped serve lunch to flood victims and volunteers. Taylor Swift donated $500,000 to the telethon. But there's also all of the other people who volunteered with me today at the Disaster Information Center, the ones collecting gift cards, diapers, and underwear, the ones who are gathering around their friends and family members who have lost everything. Nearly every other post on my Facebook is about people going to volunteer or notifying people how they can help or otherwise reminding everyone that we are all in this together.

And while those muddy waters were rising, the local media and alternative media outlets kept everyone abreast of the situation. Firemen and the police worked overtime to serve this community. Volunteers with boats help rescue people who were stranded, and our mayor and governor made responsible and wise decisions. The picture above is of volunteers who, alongside inmates, were sandbagging to save our last remaining water treatment plant.

The church where I just finished up my field education internship was destroyed by a tornado in 1998. Outside there's a sign with a quote from the rector at the time, Lisa Hunt, that says, "God was not in the tornado. God was in our response to the tornado." God has been in Nashvillians' response to the flood. Even Anderson Cooper said, "I've never seen a community pull together so quickly to respond to a disaster." Anderson, that's just how we roll. We are Nashville. We are a community of talented, caring, creative people. We are Nashville, and we are all blessed to live here.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Black Bean and Salmon Tostadas

Mexican food, while it is my true love, is not particularly healthy. Cheese and fried tortillas, beans made with lard and bell peppers glistening with oil. But these The black bean part really satisfies that frijoles refritos craving. Omega-3s from the salmon (canned salmon is also a very sustainable fish source) and healthy fats from the avocado. I was even impressed with how the tortillas baked up nice and crisp. It's also insanely quick to make since you barely even have to cook anything; it's really more assembly. In other words, even my parents could make these. However, they don't necessarily keep well for leftovers, so I would recommend having 4 people to eat them or halving the ingredients.

Black Bean & Salmon Tostadas
source: Eating Well via Cara's Cravings

  • 8 6-inch corn tortillas
  • Canola oil cooking spray
  • 1 6- to 7-ounce can boneless, skinless wild Alaskan salmon, drained
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 2 tablespoons minced pickled jalapeños, plus 2 tablespoons pickling juice from the jar, divided
  • 2 cups coleslaw mix or shredded cabbage
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed
  • 3 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons prepared salsa
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • Lime wedges (optional)
  1. Position racks in upper and lower thirds of the oven; preheat to 375°F.
  2. Coat tortillas on both sides with cooking spray. Place on 2 baking sheets. Bake, turning once, until light brown, 12 to 14 minutes.
  3. Combine salmon, avocado and jalapeños in a bowl. Combine cabbage, cilantro and the pickling juice in another bowl. Process black beans, sour cream, salsa and scallions in a food processor until smooth. Transfer to a microwave-safe bowl. Cover and microwave on High until hot, about 2 minutes.
  4. To assemble tostadas, spread each tortilla with some bean mixture and some salmon mixture and top with the cabbage salad. Serve with lime wedges, if desired.
Per serving (2 tostadas): 319 calories; 11 g fat (2 g sat, 6 g mono); 16 mg cholesterol; 0 g added sugars; 16 g protein; 12 g fiber; 352 mg sodium; 670 mg potassium.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Super Snickerdoodles

When I was a kid, my favorite kind of cookie was a snickerdoodle. It's a fun word to say, and the crispy outside belied a chewy middle with a great cinnamon flavor. I also loved Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal. As my semester is winding up, I wanted to make something special for my field ed group. We've been together all school year and have gotten to know each other very well and have shared a lot of ourselves and our ministries with one another. Because I saw one guy in my group eating a snickerdoodle one day, I decided snickerdoodles would be the perfect treat.

Kelsey recommended a few recipes that she had made, even listing these Super Snickerdoodles as one of her top 10 recipes of 2009. The texture of these cookies was incredible, but I thought they tasted just a tad too strongly of butter. Not that having a cookie tasting of butter is a bad thing, but I just wanted a slightly more nuanced cookie with perhaps a stronger cinnamon taste. These were gobbled up though, so I don't think anyone else minded!

Super Snickerdoodles
source: Kelsey's Apple a Day

2 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. coarse salt

1 c. unsalted butter, softened

1 3/4 c. sugar, divided

2 large eggs

4-5 tsp. ground cinnamon


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

3. Put butter and 1 1/2 c. sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about three minutes. Mix in eggs.

4. Reduce speed to low and gradually incorporate flour mixture.

5. In a small bowl, stir together remaining 1/4 c. sugar and cinnamon to preferred ratio.

6. Shape dough into 1 3/4 in. balls (you should have about 20). Roll in cinnamon sugar and place three inches apart on baking sheets lines with Silpat or parchment paper.

7. Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until edges are golden, twelve to 15 minutes. Let cool on wire racks. Cookies can be stored between layers of parchment in an airtight container for up to three days.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Spring Vegetable Carbonara

When I think of pasta carbonara, I think of a rich, decadent dish with bacon and eggs and cream. This definitely has the bacon and eggs but adds some delicious vegetables. Basically, it tastes worse for you than it actually is. Some people have criticized Cooking Light lately for making some changes with their recipes and including more seemingly bad foods like bacon and publishing recipes that require frying. But this is exactly how I like to eat. Four slices of center-cut bacon adds a ton of flavor without a lot of meat, and I also used reduced-sodium to cut out some salt. Spring vegetables, bacon, and pasta? As Ina Garten would say, "How bad could that be?"

Spring Vegetable Carbonara
source: Cooking Light May 2010

1/2 cup frozen green peas, thawed
12 oz asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
8 oz uncooked cavatappi pasta
1/2 cup (2 oz) grated pecorino romano cheese
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
3 large eggs, slightly beaten
4 slices center-cut bacon, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped and seeded

1. Boil a pot of water, and cook peas and asparagus in boiling water for 3 minutes or until asparagus is crisp-tender; drain. Plunge into ice water; drain. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta into a colander over a bowl, reserving 1/4 cup cooking liquid. Combing pasta, peas, and asparagus.

2. Combine cheese, salt, pepper, and eggs in a bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Gradually add hot pasta water to egg mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk. Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, and reserve 1 tbsp drippings from pan. Add cooked bacon to pasta/vegetable mixture. Cook bell pepper in pasta drippings for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add pasta mixture; cook 1 minute until thoroughly heated. Remove pan from heat and stir in egg mixture. Return pan to low heat. Cook for 2 minutes or until sauce thickens, stirring constantly.

Nutritional Info
Yields 4 servings
Calories: 425, Fat: 14.4 g, Protein: 22.2 g, Carb 52 g, Fiber 5.4 g, Sodium 614 mg

Monday, May 3, 2010

Nashville is Drowning

The rain started Saturday morning. Heavy, drenching rain pouring out of the sky. I was down in Franklin pet and house-sitting for my parents. I left around 12:30 pm, driving slowly up I-65 back into town. Then I started hearing things about I-24 being closed, about surface streets in Franklin that I had just passed being flooded. We were supposed to go to a Derby party in East Nashville. I called over, and they reported that the roads were clear so we ventured over without any problems. After the horses ran, local news showed a house drifting down I-24. We left for another party, and the rain had stopped.

Sunday morning, I heard heavy rain outside. After checking Twitter, I came to the conclusion that I could not make it to church. I-40 was shut down going into town, and White Bridge was under water. We hunkered down and turned on the continuous local news coverage and watched the rain pour down outside. News images flashed on the screen of submerged cars and people being rescued from their houses on boats. This was the scene about a 1/2 mile from our house.

We're safe and dry, but many of our friends and acquaintances aren't. Many people did not have flood insurance because these areas have not flooded in 100 years. Right now one of the two water treatment plants is submerged and non-functional. The Cumberland River is still rising. The normal level is 19 feet. It is currently at 50 feet and is expected to crest around noon today at 51 feet. Water is in downtown Nashville flooding restaurants and businesses. MTA bus and train services have been suspended indefinitely

Nashville needs your help. We have not gotten the attention from the national media that we deserve. Recovery efforts need to be heavily publicized. Nashvillest has done a fabulous job using Twitter to keep everyone up to date. If you are in the Nashville area, you can go to Hands on Nashville to volunteer. Otherwise, donations can be made to the Metro Nashville Relief Fund or the Middle Tennessee Red Cross. Please help as you can.