Wednesday, December 21, 2011



This is the most magical, joyful time of year for me. We've packed a lot of stress and high expectations into the month of December. But all things considered, there's no way to exceed the ultimate gift of Christmas.

It's the time of year when all over the world, believers, and many nonbelievers feel the tug to be with their families and loved ones and celebrate their ties to each other. Love is love, no matter what you call it, how you give and receive it, or how you celebrate it.

For a long time love involved a Rum Cake. It was my Daddy's favorite. No matter what I cooked, or how long I worked in the kitchen, my food didn't always suit Daddy. He was nice about it, and appreciative, and even supportive and complimentary, but there were times when the jar of peanut butter sitting on the table was his favorite thing. He said it wasn't what was on the table, but who was around it that really mattered. Except for the Rum Cake—the same rum cake you all have made over and over again—nothing new or different—no added twist. He loved my Rum Cake, and I tried to always have one on hand. It made me so happy to see him really enjoy something I prepared just for him.

The last Rum Cake I made he hardly touched. He was already on a journey that would separate him from worldly things. We saw it happening day by day, little by little, but that love I felt when I was close to my Daddy never went away. Even when the spirit left his tired body, his love was still there.

So, I'm making another Rum Cake for Christmas, in gratitude for his Love, and in memory of all the wonderful, happy times we shared, and the deep conversations, and the life lessons, and even the hard times. I am so grateful for that Love that continues to be part of my life.

Celebrate the season and enjoy each moment with those around your table!

Merry Christmas!

Rum Cake

1 cup chopped pecans

1 package butter golden cake mix

1 package vanilla instant pudding mix

One-half cup light rum

One-fourth cup water

One-half cup Mazola Corn Oil

4 large eggs, beaten

Hot Rum Glaze*

Preheat oven to 325º.

Grease and flour a bundt pan. Crumble pecans in bottom of pan.

Mix cake mix, pudding mix, light rum, water and corn oil until blended. Add eggs and beat for two minutes on medium speed.

Pour into prepared pan and bake for 60 minutes.

Remove from oven, and while cake is still hot pour Hot Rum Glaze over cake. Leave in pan for 30 minutes.

*Hot Rum Glaze

1 cup sugar

1 stick butter

One-half cup light rum

Boil all ingredients while stirring for three minutes. Pour over hot cake.

Wrap the cooled cake in saran wrap, and then foil to store. This cake tastes better a day or two after baking. The cake seems to take on a more intense rum flavor.

Sweet Potato Pecan Pie

(The sweet potato part of this pie is adapted from a recipe in Well, Shut My Mouth! By Stephanie L. Tyson and is absolutely one of the BEST pies I have ever tasted.)

(makes 2 deep dish pies)

Pecan Layer

2 deep dish pie crusts (Marie Callender's are great if you don't want to make your own)

One and one-half cups pecan pieces

3 eggs, beaten

1 cup light corn syrup

1 tsp. vanilla

one-half cup brown sugar

one-third cup melted and cooled butter

Preheat oven to 350°.

Divide pecan pieces evenly over the bottom of the two pie crusts.

Beat eggs, corn syrup, vanilla and brown sugar until thoroughly combined. Add melted butter slowly while continuing to beat. Divide this mixture between the two pies. Bake for about ten minutes while preparing the sweet potato layer.

Sweet Potato Layer

2 medium sized sweet potatoes, baked and mashed (I cook them wrapped in saran wrap in microwave for about ten minutes)

one-half cup sugar

1 T flour

3 eggs, beaten

1 can sweetened condensed milk

one-half tsp. Cinnamon

one-half tsp. Nutmeg

1 tsp. Vanilla

1 tsp. Lemon extract (optional)

one-fourth cup butter, melted

Mix the sweet potatoes, sugar and flour. Add eggs and combine. Then add sweetened condensed milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, lemon extract and butter, mixing to thoroughly combine.

Remove pies from oven and pour this mixture gently over the pecan mixture. Fill the pies to the top and return to oven for 45 minutes, or until set. May have to cover crust edges with foil while baking. Some pecans and filling will rise into sweet potato layer.

Cool for one hour before serving with whipped cream.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving Debriefing

The table is cleared and the dishes are done. A battalion of plastic containers stand ready in the frig, along with a ziplock bag of sliced turkey. We're all in a food coma semi-snoring through one football game after another. The fatigue from overeating is shifting into a pleasant state of culinary satisfaction. And I'm reviewing this year's Thanksgiving menu in my head.
Manchego Cheese with Prosciutto and Mixed Olives
Brined Fresh Herb Turkey Breast Roasted on Root Vegetables
Italian Sausage and Mushroom Dressing
Cream Turkey and Roasted Root Vegetable Gravy
Mashed Yukon Gold Potatoes
Fresh Collard Greens
Buttered Turnips
Fresh Cranberry and Pear Compote
Yeast Rolls
Warm Sweet Potato Pie with Whipped Cream

How did it rate compared to years past?
The turkey was moist and delicious--no complaints there. And nobody seemed to miss the dark meat. The dressing was only so-so. The recipe still sounds good, but the taste didn't live up to the billing. Gravy-delicious thanks to the pan drippings from the turkey and vegetables. Mashed Potatoes--maybe the best we've ever had!?? Not really any different than last year. Perhaps someone has been craving mashed potatoes. Collard Greens--for those of us who like collards, these were superb--freshly picked and cooked with a nice ham hock and plenty of black pepper. But collards aren't for everyone. Turnips, also fresh from a local garden, were really delicious, but again, not for everyone. Mama cooked them with a little salt, sugar and butter. They were perfectly seasoned. Next, the cranberries and pears cooked with some brown sugar, butter and orange marmalade--they won an overwhelming thumbs up from everyone with a request to please remember how I made them so we could repeat. Rolls were rolls. Nothing exceptional. And finally, dessert, Sweet Potato Pie from a recipe I found in a new North Carolina cookbook. Mama and I thought this pie was absolutely delicious, however, Doug was not so enthusiastic. A pie made from a vegetable? Well, yes, and better than pumpkin. He didn't agree.

Looking forward, we'll have a similar meal for Christmas, with a few changes: a soup starter (Italian Dumpling), a better dressing (cornbread this time), and I'll add a Rum Cake to the dessert list, but the Sweet Potato Pie will remain!

I'm making my lists and checking them twice! It's that time of year.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Turkey Time

There's going to be a new dish on our Thanksgiving table this year, an authentic Native American dish.

I found the recipe in Spirit of the Harvest, by Beverly Cox and Martin Jacobs. After twenty years the James Beard Award Winning book has been reissued. Each section of the book describes the culture, diet and ceremonial use of food by Native Americans in different areas of North America.

The picture of the stuffed baked pumpkin looked so beautiful, I couldn't resist adding it to our menu. This little sugar pumpkin is stuffed with a mixture that is very similar to a Thanksgiving dressing. After giving it a test run, I can hardly wait to place it next to the turkey and cranberry sauce. It's going to make a beautiful presentation and a delicious addition to our table.

I couldn't resist giving another stuffed squash a try while working on a vegetarian dish for my non-meat eating friends. I tried both butternut and acorn squash for this dish. The acorn squash proved to be a better receptacle for the tortellini with pumpkin blue cheese cream sauce. The squash alone is so delicious when roasted. The addition of the pasta and sauce simply doubles the 'goodness'. One acorn squash will provide six side dish servings.

May your table be complete this Thanksgiving, your blessings be many and the spirit of gratefulness fill your holiday.


Serves 6


1 4- to 5-pound sugar pumpkin

2 teaspoons salt

½ teaspoon dry mustard

1 to 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or rendered fat

1 pound ground venison, buffalo, or beef (I used sweet Italian sausage--delicious!)

1 medium onion, chopped

1 cup wild rice, cooked

3 eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon crushed dried sage

¼ teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 350F. Cut the top from the pumpkin and remove seeds and strings. Prick cavity with a fork and rub with 1 teaspoon of salt and the mustard. Heat oil in a large skillet. Add meat and onion and sauté over medium-high heat until browned. Off the heat, stir in wild rice, eggs, remaining salt, sage, and pepper. Stuff pumpkin with this mixture. Place ½ inch of water in the bottom of a shallow baking pan.

Put pumpkin in the pan and bake for 1 ½ hours, or until tender. Add more water to the pan as necessary to avoid sticking. Cut pumpkin into wedges, giving each person both pumpkin and stuffing.

Acorn Squash with Tortellini and Blue Cheese Sauce

2 Acorn Squash

2 T butter, melted

8 T shredded Parmesan Cheese


1 package cheese Tortellini, cooked one minute less than package directions, and drained

2 cups half and half

1 (15oz.) can pumpkin puree

2 T butter

One-half teaspoon salt

One-half teaspoon pepper

One-fourth teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage

5 oz. Blue cheese crumbles

Fried sage leaves as garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°.
Split squash long ways (from stem to tip) and remove seeds. Slice a little piece off bottom of each half to allow halves to sit flat. Place squash into foil lined pan. Brush inside with melted butter, sprinkle a little salt and about a tablespoon of parmesan cheese into each half. Cover pan with foil and bake for about 40 minutes, until flesh is tender, but squash still holds its shape.
Meanwhile, cook tortellini according to package directions, but about a minute or two less than directed. Drain and set aside.
Add half and half, pumpkin, butter, salt, pepper, nutmeg and sage to sauce pan. Stir to combine over low heat. Finally, add blue cheese, stirring until blue cheese melts into sauce. Add cooked tortellini, and remove from heat.
Remove roasted squash from oven. With slotted spoon, add tortellini to each squash, drizzling a little more sauce over top.
Return to oven and bake another twenty minutes, sprinkling the remaining parmesan cheese over top during the last ten minutes.
Garnish with fried sage leaves, slice and serve.
(I sprinkled the top of these squash with pumpernickel bread crumbs, but they didn't add to the flavor of the dish, and I don't think they look very good, so I won't do that again!)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pumpkin Cake

I saw this cake being demonstrated by pastry chef Katherine Thompson on the Martha Stewart TV show. It was such a quick, easy cake I had to try it to see whether the taste could stand up to the ease of preparation. It did.

It's a very moist cake with lots of flavor and good texture. I even substituted one cup of whole wheat flour (I didn't have quite enough regular flour on hand) with no complaints. There's one more reason you should try this cake: it makes your house smell absolutely wonderful while it's baking and for several more hours after you take it out of the oven!

Nonstick cooking spray with flour

3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

2 cups canned pumpkin puree

2 1/2 cups sugar

4 large eggs

1 cup vegetable oil

1 1/4 cups chocolate chips

For The Creme Fraiche Glaze

3 tablespoons creme fraiche (I used sour cream)

3/4 to 1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted


Make the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8-to 10-cup Bundt pan with cooking spray; set aside.

Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg together into a medium bowl; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together pumpkin, sugar, and eggs on medium speed. With the mixer running, slowly add oil. Add flour mixture and chocolate chips; mix on low speed until just combined.

Pour batter into prepared pan and transfer to oven. Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 70 to 80 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for 20 minutes before inverting cake onto rack or serving plate.

Make the creme fraiche glaze: Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together creme fraiche and 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar until smooth. Add more confectioners' sugar as necessary to reach desired thickness. Drizzle glaze over cake and serve.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Fall Soups and a Sandwich

As much as I love to cook, there are times when I'd rather not. That's when I either call for takeout, or fall back on simple, quick meals that don't require much thinking or cleanup. Two of my easy favorites are soups-- Spicy Thai Kale and Chickpea Stew and Chicken Soup with Barley. The chicken soup can also serve as a good cold remedy if you add special hot sauce and some extra garlic. More good news: both these meals are healthy, filled with vegetables, and neither break the calorie bank. I think 'good and good for you' is how the saying goes.

Salads are never a bad addition to round out a dinner meal, but grilled cheese sandwiches are especially nice with soup. I love apple slices on my grilled cheese. I saute thin apple slices in a little Smart Balance just to soften. Layer the apples between pieces of your favorite cheese and good bread and grill until the cheese melts. The result is so good you could almost call it dessert.

The next time you don't feel like cooking, try one of these quick recipes. You'll hardly notice you're in the kitchen.

Thai Stew with Chick Peas and Kale

(8 servings)

2 tablespoons Smart Balance butter

1 sweet onion, chopped

1 sweet potato, peeled and diced

3 garlic cloves, chopped

2 inches of ginger, peeled and chopped

One-half teaspoon turmeric

2 teaspoons cumin

1 teaspoon coriander

One-half teaspoon salt

One-half teaspoon pepper

4 cups chicken or vegetable broth

1 cup lite coconut milk

One-third cup pad Thai sauce

2 cans (16 oz. each) chick peas, drained

1 bunch of Kale, triple washed, center stem removed and kale chopped

Add Smart Balance to large soup pot over medium heat with chopped onion and sweet potato. Stir and cook until onion begins to soften. Add garlic, ginger, and spices and stir and cook another minute or two. Now add chicken broth, coconut milk, and Thai sauce and bring to a simmer. When soup is bubbling add chick peas and kale, stir to combine, cover and simmer over low heat for 35 minutes.

Serve over cooked barley (or rice), garnished with cilantro and red pepper strips.

This is also delicious served with blue cheese crumbles on top!

Grilled Cheese with Softened Apples
Chicken Soup with Barley
(adapted from Martha Stewart)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

4 carrots, diced

4 celery stalks, diced

1 medium sweet onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, minced (or more garlic if feeding a cold sufferer)

3 boneless chicken breasts cut into one-half to one inch pieces

Salt and pepper

6 cups chicken broth

5 thyme sprigs (remove stems after cooking)

1 cup quick cooking Barley

pinch of red pepper flakes

5 cups baby spinach leaves

Shredded Parmesan Cheese, optional

Mongolian Fire Oil, optional garnish (found in Asian food section) for cold sufferers

Add olive oil to large soup pot over medium heat. Stir in carrots, celery, onion and garlic. Cook until vegetables begin to soften, about 8 minutes. Add chicken, salt and pepper, stir to combine and cook another two minutes, until chicken is becoming opaque on outer edges.

Add broth, thyme, barley and pepper flakes. Cover and cook until chicken is cooked through and barley is tender, about 10-12 minutes.

Add spinach, cover and cook another minute or two until spinach is wilted.

Adjust to taste with salt and pepper and serve with shredded Parmesan cheese and Mongolian Fire Oil, if desired.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Shrimp and Baked Cheese Grits

It's not unusual for the meals I cook to reflect my thoughts and feelings. Whether it's love I'm trying to share, excitement, joy, encouragement, or the need for simple comfort. What foods match my thoughts during this month commemorating the Tenth Anniversary of 9/11?

It's been ten years since we were attacked on American soil and so many lives were lost. Families and friends were devastated, and we as a nation were stunned, afraid, and not at all sure about what would happen next. Not only were we attacked, but it was a complete surprise, and it all happened right before our eyes. We watched in real time as the tragedy unfolded.

Some of us, and I fall into this category, went from being very naïve about our safety and security, to realizing just how vulnerable we are every day. I was over the half century mark, past the age of knowing better.

However, now that I look back, I realize I moved from one naïve mindset to another: after this life changing event, I believed our country would come together in brotherly love, working for the common good, righting past wrongs, moving forward united. It's never too late to begin.

As I watched the families and friends commemorate their losses of ten years ago I was reminded of the losses we have all suffered. No one is immune. There is no angel of the Lord passing down our streets marking the doorways of those who should be passed over. We're all vulnerable. Even more reason that we should be kinder and more caring.

It's fall, it's back to school, it's ballgames and changing leaves. It's hometown happenings with a family focus. Summer is over, and we're settling in. We're preparing for the colder months ahead. During this month of taking stock, I'm thinking of foods to share, foods to nurture, foods that say, “I care.”

My family's favorite recipe, the one they ask for more than any other, is my version of Shrimp and Grits. We've been eating it for as long as I can remember. It's good anytime of year. It's a great meal to share with friends or around the table with your family. Give it a try, and while you're sharing, think about how fortunate we are to live in this wonderful country, and what we need to do to preserve it.

Shrimp and Baked Cheese Grits


2 lb. shrimp, cooked* , and peeled

One and one-half sticks butter, room temperature

3 tablespoons minced shallot

2 minced garlic cloves

Zest and Juice of one lemon

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

1 tablespoon chopped chives

One-fourth tsp. Nutmeg

One-fourth tsp. red pepper

Three-fourths cup bread crumbs

*Boil shrimp in shells with bay leaf, quartered onion, and 3 tablespoons Old Bay or similar seafood seasoning mix in enough water to cover. Bring water to boil with bay leaf, onion and Old Bay. Add shrimp, cover pot and cook only 2 minutes, just until pink. Remove shrimp from water and cool immediately in ice bath to prevent further cooking. Drain. Peel and devein shrimp. Set aside.

Combine softened butter and remaining ingredients except bread crumbs, stirring and mashing together to combine. Put cooked shrimp in 9 x 9 inch casserole. Top evenly with butter mixture and sprinkle with bread crumbs. Bake at 350º for 20 minutes (butter should be bubbling). Turn broiler on for just a minute to brown bread crumbs. Serve with Cheese Grits**

Baked Cheese Grits**

6 cups chicken broth

2 cups quick (NOT instant) grits

One-half stick butter

1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce

One-half teaspoon Texas Pete

2 eggs

2 cups shredded cheese, half colby, have cheddar

Preheat oven to 375°.

Bring chicken broth to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and slowly stir grits into simmering broth. Cover pan and reduce heat to low. Cook for seven minutes. Remove lid and whisk to remove any lumps. Add butter, Worcestershire sauce and Texas Pete, stirring to combine.

Beat the eggs in a small mixing bowl. Slowly add about a cup of hot grits to bowl to temper eggs, stirring to combine. Then add egg mixture back into grits, along with cheese, and stir well to combine.

Pour grits into buttered 9 x 13 inch casserole.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, until grits are browned and puffed.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Beaufort Clams

I've written before about my love for our new home-away-from-home. The friends we've made in this energetic community top my 'reasons why' list. Quickly following is the beauty of the area. No matter what time of year, it's a gorgeous place to be. Fighting for the number two spot is the food. There are so many good restaurants within walking distance of our house, not to mention frequent invitations to our neighbor's home just at the end of the street. Fred and Sue have given us such a good tutorial on the local fare. The other night we had clam chowder with cornmeal dumplings and fried cornbread (so I could try both). As I understand it, the cornmeal dumplings were cooked into everything with a broth, from beans to chowder, a generation or two ago.
My early exposure to seafood included fried catfish, occasionally grilled trout, and shrimp cocktail in a little glass jar found in the cold cut section of the grocery store. Oh, and fish sticks in the lunch room every Friday. Now, I can ride my bicycle to two fresh seafood markets. It's almost like heaven to me.
This week we enjoyed Clam Chowder with our neighbors, and then I made Beaufort Clam Soup with Cannellini Beans and Roasted Tomatoes. When the fresh, local clams are available, I can't help myself!
Beaufort Clam Soup with Cannellini Beans and Roasted Tomatoes (4 servings)

4 dozen fresh clams, cleaned (discard any clams that remain open)
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 sweet onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 cups chardonnay wine
1 can (15 oz.) cannellini beans, drained
1 can (15 oz.) fire roasted diced tomatoes with juice
2 tablespoons fresh basil cut into a chiffonade

Add butter and olive oil to wide bottomed pot over medium heat. Add chopped onion, cook until transparent (3-4 minutes) and then add garlic and cook for another minutes, stirring to combine. Add parsley, red pepper flakes and wine. When wine is heated to a simmer (you may need to increase heat a bit) add clams and cover pot. Let clams steam in wine for about 5 minutes, until they open. May take an extra minute or two. Discard any clams that do not open.
Remove clams to separate serving bowls and add beans and tomatoes to pan. Stir to combine and simmer for a few minutes. Sprinkle basil over clams. Then spoon hot soup mixture over clams and serve with crusty bread.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Campfire Cookery

I just read the book Campfire Cookery by Sarah Huck and Jaimee Young. 'Roughing it' never sounded so good.

My Dad was a dutch-oven master. We enjoyed his outdoor cooking over many years of wagon train vacations and weekend camping trips. His most popular dinner was Chicken with Dried Beef and Potatoes followed by Peach Cobbler. No one ever turned it down. They never said 'no' to his cornbread or biscuits, either!

And I can't tell you how many potatoes and onions I peeled over the years to satisfy the hungry faces around his breakfast fire. 'How you want your eggs?' was the question asked, but it was more of a polite morning greeting than a promise of giving a choice. They were always fried over easy, and served up with toast, fried potatoes and a big slice of tomato.

This new book, Campfire Cookery, throws a new light on camping meals. These ladies give all the needed tips on how to build and hold the fire, what type of wood produces the best coals, and the necessary cooking implements—all information you need to be a successful camp cook. But their recipes branch out with a near gourmet appeal.

Basic camp food is nothing short of delicious, even if it's a hotdog on a stick (as long as it's a good hotdog), but if you would like to take your campfire (or back deck) cooking to a new level, give this book a try. I'm sure you'll enjoy the new twists on old tried and true camping recipes, along with completely new ideas to tempt your adventurous side.

Pine-Smoked & Maple-

Glazed Wild Salmon



For all the robustness of the ingredients of this dish, the end result

is notably delicate. One might ask, “Oh, but won’t the bracing scent of

pine make the dish taste of Christmas fir or, worse, freshly waxed parlor?” It

will not. The smoked needles impart a light, balsamic flavor akin to rosemary

(indeed one might substitute a bundle of that herb in this recipe), and the light

glaze allows the pine flavor to shine through. The overall effect proves an excellent

complement to the moist, flaky fish this cooking technique yields. Should

one desire a more intensely flavored glaze, one might make a bit extra to brush

over the fish before serving.

1 to 2 large handfuls green

pine needles

1/2 cup bourbon

1/2 cup grade-B, freshly

tapped maple syrup

3 tablespoons Dijon


2 teaspoons freshly milled

black pepper

Four 6-ounce salmon fillets,

patted dry

Kosher salt, to taste

One 9-inch round wire

cooling rack

1. Prepare a medium-high-heat fire, with

the flames occasionally licking the grill

grate. Let it burn for at least 30 minutes.

Whilst the fire heats, soak the pine

needles in the bourbon.

2. In a bowl, whisk together the syrup,

mustard, and pepper. Season the salmon

generously with salt and coat with the


3. Place a large cast-iron skillet upon the

grill grate. Let it heat until very hot.

Using tongs or one’s own gloved hand,

press the needles into the bottom of the

skillet, taking care not to drizzle combustible

bourbon into the flames, and place

the rack on top of the needles. Place the

fish on top of the rack and cover the pan.

Cook until the fish is just opaque, about

15 minutes for medium. Serve, brushed

with additional glaze, if desired.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


Tomatoes are lining my window sill waiting to ripen. There are a few more on a cutting board ready for tomato sandwiches. Pasta Puttanesca is on the menu for the weekend. But today is all about Tomato Pie.

I just took my brand new August Bon Appetit out of its mailing wrapper, admiring the Blackberry and Lime Meringue Pie on the cover. All the while I was trying to figure out how I could work it into my daily choices of healthier foods—definitely a fruit source! This issue features pies of every sort. As I quickly thumbed through the magazine looking for the cover queen recipe my eyes locked on the picture of Tomato and Cheddar Pie. It wasn't nearly as pretty as the cover pie, which looked perfect and sported the elegance of Italian Meringue. No, the tomato pie picture looked sort of messy, slices were gone from the plate and I couldn't quite figure out the crust. Instantly, all thoughts of meringue and blackberries were fading and being replaced by my infatuation with tomato pie.

The recipe was on the next page and I liked the way it sounded—the crust was more like buttermilk biscuits rolled out like a pie crust. Tomatoes and two cheeses with a mayonnaise/dill sauce made up the filling. What could possibly be bad? Only one thing—a single slice had more calories than my entire dinner should contain.

I started reducing and substituting and produced a 'slimmer' pie that actually looked as tempting as its full figure counterpart. I'll probably never know if the original tastes that much better. Mine certainly satisfied my craving and far exceeded my expectations. I'll be using this recipe for brunches or company lunch for a long time to come!

Tomato and Cheddar Pie

(adapted from Bon Appetite August 2011 issue)

I changed a few things in the original recipe to make this a 'slimmer' pie: low-fat buttermilk and cheese, and only half the amount of mayonnaise filling. I don't think these changes harmed the results. I would also suggest trying a mozzarella/basil version, or adding bacon or pancetta. The possibilities are endless!

This is a sticky dough. I brought it together and briefly kneaded it while still in the bowl, then wrapped the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerated for an hour. When I was ready to roll the dough, I greased my hands with olive oil and coated the dough ball. I only used about three-fourths of the dough, which also helped reduce calories.


2 cups all-purpose flour

One and one-half teaspoons baking powder

One-half teaspoon baking soda

One-half teaspoon salt

6 T butter cut into small pieces and chilled

1 cup low-fat buttermilk


2 lbs. Large ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into one-fourth inch slices—place slices on paper towels to drain excess moisture

Two and one-half cups grated low-fat cheddar

One-fourth cup grated Parmesan

1 green onion, chopped

One-fourth cup mayonnaise

1 T freshly chopped dill

One-half tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 tsp. Sugar substitute

One-half tsp. Salt

One-fourth tsp. Pepper

One and one-half T cornmeal

For crust:

Whisk first 4 ingredients in a medium bowl. Using fingertips, rub in butter until coarse meal forms and some small lumps remain. Stir in buttermilk and knead gently with your hands until dough forms. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for one hour.

For Filling:

Preheat oven to 425°.

Use only three-fourths of the dough for the crust. Use the excess for individual tomato pie biscuits, or discard.

Roll out dough between 2 sheets of plastic wrap to an 11 inch round. Remove top layer of plastic wrap. Invert dough onto pie dish. Carefully peel off plastic wrap.

Toss both cheeses in a medium bowl until evenly mixed. Reserve one-fourth cup of cheese mixture. Whisk onion, mayo, dill, vinegar, sugar substitute, salt and pepper in small bowl.

Sprinkle cornmeal evenly over bottom of crust, then top with one-half cup cheese mixture. Arrange one-third of the tomatoes over cheese, overlapping as needed. Spread half the mayo mixture over the tomatoes. Repeat layering with 1 cup of cheese mixture, half the remaining tomato slices and the remaining mayo mixture. Sprinkle remaining 1 cup cheese mixture over, then remaining tomato slices. Sprinkle with reserved one-fourth cup cheese mixture. Fold overhanging crust up and over the edges of tomato slices.

Bake pie until crust is golden and cheese is golden brown, 35-40 minutes (check crust halfway and tent with foil if it's getting too dark). Let pie cool before slicing. (Bon Appetit recommended resting 1-3 hours, but with less mayo mixture and using low-fat cheese, my pie was ready to slice by the time it had cooled.)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Quinoa and Kale

I've posted this recipe before. I like it so much that I want to be sure everyone has seen it. If you're not familiar with Quinoa (keen-wah), let me catch you up.

Quinoa is a complete protein source with high levels of B vitamins, manganese, magnesium and iron. While the texture makes you think of eating a grain, quinoa really is a seed. Mixed with a phytonutrient-rich leafy green, you can't find a recipe that is much healthier! Then you add scallions, a little goat cheese or feta, olive oil, fresh lemon juice and zest, and pine nuts and you have a recipe filled with loads of complimenting flavors.
This recipe originated on the food blog Mostly Foodstuffs, and I think it's genius--one pot, twenty minutes total time, couldn't be easier or healthier, and it's really delicious!

I have substituted spinach and broccoli when kale isn't available, and it's equally as delicious and healthy.

Try it just once. I believe you'll enjoy it again and again!

Quinoa and Kale
(4 large servings, 7 Points Plus each)

1 cup quinoa
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 bunch kale, washed and chopped into 1" lengths
2 scallions, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese or feta cheese (for this Points Plus value, I used fat free feta)
salt and pepper
Bring 2 cups of salted water to a boil in a pot. Add the quinoa, cover, and lower the heat until it is just enough to maintain a simmer. Let simmer for 10 minutes, then top with the kale and re-cover. Simmer another 5 minutes, then turn off the heat and allow to steam for 5 more minutes.
While the quinoa is cooking, take a large serving bowl and combine half of the lemon juice (reserving the other half), all of the lemon zest, scallions, olive oil, pine nuts, and cheese.

Check the quinoa and kale when the cooking time has completed -- the water should be absorbed, and the quinoa will be tender but firm, and the kale tender and bright green. If the quinoa still has a hard white center, you can steam a bit longer (adding more water if needed). When the quinoa and kale are done, fluff the pilaf, and tip it into the waiting bowl with the remaining ingredients. As the hot quinoa hits the scallions and lemon it should smell lovely. Toss to combine, seasoning with salt and pepper, and the remaining lemon juice if needed.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Salmon Cakes

Salmon Cakes

2 servings of two salmon cakes each

(6 Points Plus per serving)

8 oz. fresh salmon, roughly chopped

1 celery stalk, roughly chopped

2 scallions, roughly chopped

~1 inch ginger root, peeled and roughly chopped

One-fourth cup fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped

Zest from one lime

2 tsp. Nature's Seasons by Morton, or similar seasoning blend

1 egg

1 heaping tsp. Wasabi Sauce (I use Atlantic brand) or other wasabi product

One-half cup Panko Lemon Pepper flavored Crispy Bread Crumbs

1 T extra virgin olive oil

Lime wedges

Add salmon to food processor and pulse to chop. Add the next 8 ingredients and pulse until combined. Don't over-pulse. You want to be able to see the different elements.

Remove blade and add Panko, stirring to thoroughly combine.

Divide mixture into four equal parts. They will be very moist, so remove from food processor with a large spoon and add directly to hot pan.

Place nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and add olive oil. When pan is hot, add salmon cakes. Cook for about 4 minutes per side without disturbing until ready to turn. Cakes should be nicely browned and firm before turning.

Serve with a wedge of lime.


Salmon Cakes with Dill Tzaziki Sauce

2 small cans wild Atlantic salmon, skinless and boneless

3 small scallions, chopped

One-half small can water-chestnuts, drained and diced or chopped celery

One-fourth tsp. pepper

One-half tsp. salt

1 T dried dill

1 T dried parsley

1 tsp. lemon zest

1 T lemon juice

One-third cup mayonnaise

1 egg, beaten

One and one-half cups saltine cracker crumbs

1 T extra virgin olive oil

Tzaziki Sauce*

Drain salmon well. Gently mix salmon, scallions, and water-chestnuts. Add pepper, salt, dill and parsley. Combine lemon zest and juice, mayonnaise and egg. Fold egg mixture into salmon mixture. Finally, add cracker crumbs and stir together with a fork. Form into eight patties.

Add olive oil to nonstick skillet over medium heat. When olive oil is hot, add patties. Cook on each side for four to five minutes, until browned and cooked through.

Serve with Tzaziki Sauce.

*Tzaziki Sauce

1 cup low fat Greek yogurt, drained

2 tsp. lemon juice

1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced (or 1 tsp. garlic powder)

1 T dried dill

Salt and pepper to taste

Dash cayenne

One-half cucumber, peeled and seeded, grated and drained (optional)

Mix all ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to use.