Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I'll be back soon!

Hey everyone! Sorry I've been M.I.A. again. I really really promise I'll be back posting after the holidays. I'm just going to take a little breather. I'm stockpiling some great reviews and recipes and will see you all again in the new year.

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Pack Your Knives and Go!

I got an inside scoop today about one of the restaurants I recently reviewed.... Forte di Asprinio. You can read my full review by clicking here. To sum it up, it was a very bad experience with mediocre food and horrible service.

The breaking news is that Stephen Asprinio, the Top Chef contestant whose name is etched on this eatery, just got FIRED!* I'm assuming they'll be changing the name of this restaurant. I really hope that they change the concept too.

*As of 12/4, Stephen's departure has been confirmed. The executive chef remains with the restaurant.

UPDATE:Stephen e-mailed me to let me know he sold his shares of Forte to pursue other opportunities in Dubai and Las Vegas (he was not fired, as I stated in the original post). I wish him the best of luck on these new ventures!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Taste Test Tuesday: Kashi 7-Grain Pilaf

I'm always looking for healthy side dishes. When I was searching for whole wheat cous cous, I stumbled upon Kashi Original 7 Grain Pilaf. It was buy one get one free! I picked up a couple to try out. It's pre-made (like Ready Rice). All you have to do is heat and serve. Plus it had no sodium or additives which I thought was really great.

Serving Size: 1 cup
Calories 220
Total Fat 4g
Sodium 0mg
Total Carbohydrate 45g
Fiber 7g
Sugars 1g
Protein 8g
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

I opened up the bag to heat it up. Honestly, it smelled pretty bad. Like a musky odor. I was kind of scared but gave it a go. After 60 seconds of heating with a little water, it was ready! The aroma was totally different now, it smelled tasty and nutty. I topped it with a teaspoon of olive oil and a tablespoon of parmesan cheese. It was delicious! It was nutty and flavorful. It had a variety of textures, some soft, some a little crunchier. It made for a great combo. You could pretty much add any flavors you can think of to the pilaf. It's a great substitute for rice, with high amounts of protein and fiber. I'll be getting this again for sure!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Six on Sunday: My Pizza

I didn't make any recipes with 6 ingredients or less this week unfortunately. But I will be making this for my office's pot luck lunch on Wednesday. It was my entry in this year's Pillsbury Bake-Off. I still reminisce about how amazing the experience was. I can't wait to enter again next year for the 2010 Bake-off!

Blue Cheesy Prosciutto Appetizer Pizza
1 can (13.8 oz) Pillsbury® refrigerated classic pizza crust
1/3 cup cream cheese (from 8-oz container or package)
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese (1 oz)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (4 oz)
4 slices prosciutto (about 2 oz), cut into thin strips
1/3 cup SMUCKER'S® Apricot Preserves

Heat oven to 400°F. Lightly spray large cookie sheet with CRISCO® Original No-Stick Cooking Spray. Unroll pizza crust dough on cookie sheet; press dough into 15x12-inch rectangle. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until light golden brown.

In small microwavable bowl, microwave cream cheese and blue cheese uncovered on High about 30 seconds or until melted. Stir until well mixed. Spread mixture over partially baked crust. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese; top with prosciutto.

In small microwavable bowl, microwave preserves uncovered on High about 30 seconds. Stir until smooth; drizzle over pizza.

Bake 8 to 12 minutes longer or until crust is golden brown and preserves in center of pizza start to bubble.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

West Palm Beach: Forte di Asprinio

Since Forte opened, I've been dying to try it! Not only because the infamous Stephen Asprinio from Top Chef owned it, but because the menu looked inventive. When I heard they had a special of 3 courses for $30, I thought it would be a great time to try it out. It was Halloween night and we had reservations for 8:30. I was expecting the restaurant to be busy, but was surprised when there were only 3 tables occupied.

Wine: I looked through the wine list and was impressed! They had lots of great wines. A good amount were available by the glass. They also had wine flights (I chose the medium bodied reds), which aren't readily accessible at restaurants. The medium red flight was a great choice and the sommelier did a great job explaining the 3 that were included.

Service: Our server was horrible. I asked him a couple of questions regarding the menu, which he replied with a shrug and "I don't know". He acted as if we were wasting his time. When he poured water, some of it was splashed on my sister and he didn't apologize. I mean, come on, he had 3 tables and couldn't do his job! He also got our wine order messed up. The good part was the sommelier, he was friendly, and quickly fixed the mistake our server made when he input our wine flights.

First Course: Was the ricotta/eggplant terrina. It seemed like it was sitting around for a while. I tried to eat it by itself but it was very bland. It was only good when smeared on the bread, which was doused in garlic & butter.

Main Course: I had the buccatini alla carbonara. It was the best of the 3 courses. The pasta was cooked perfectly and there was a perfect amount of sauce. The sauce was creamy and well flavored with the pancetta and cheese.

Dessert: This was the butterscotch budino (basically pudding). It was creamy, but just blah. Pudding isn't my dessert of choice. The mini beignets were bland and had to be smothered in pudding to taste good.

I would not come back to Forte to eat. I think the menu verbiage makes the food seem much more unique than it actually is. The service should have been much better. The food was decent, but not worth the price (even though it was only $30). The best part was the wine, and I would only come back to sit at the bar and indulge in another flight or one of their cocktails.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Taste Test Tuesday: Amy's Pizza

On my quest for "healthy" junk food, I stumbled upon Amy's Organic personal size Margherita Pizza. It looked pretty good, so I decided to give it a try.

Serving Size: 1 Pizza
Calories: 360
Total Fat 17g
Sodium 720mg
Total Carbohydrate 47g
Dietary Fiber 3g
Sugars 4g
Protein 16g
Rating: 4 out of 5

I took it out of the box and was slightly disappointed. Where was the cheese? It seemed like there was way less cheese on the pizza than was shown in the picture. But the size of the pizza looked good, perfect for one person. In to the oven it went. I opted for the crispier crust, so I placed the pizza directly on the rack.

The pizza was ready after about 9 minutes. The aromas were great and I was more than ready to dig in. The crust was tasty. It had good flavor (not bland like alot of frozen pizzas). It was also crisp on the outside, soft on the inside. The sauce had a hint of garlic and tasted like the main ingredient, tomatoes. Overall, it was very well seasoned. The only disappointment was the lack of cheese, but the rest of the flavors made up for it somewhat. If it had a little more cheese I would have given it a 5.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Creme Brulee for the Holidays

I'm proud to announce I'm officially a member of Florida Foodies Restaurant and Travel Magazine! It's a great blog that highlights innovative recipes and fun destinations all over Florida.

My first contribution is a great recipe I came up with, Pumpkin Pie Creme Brulee. Be sure to check it out!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Taste Test Tuesday: PB Puffins

I was in Publix in search of a snack to keep stashed in my pantry when I noticed that Puffins were on sale. I've heard good things about these on other blogs so I decided to try them out. Turns out there 100% natural too, sweetened with cane juice. I've become a peanut butter addict lately, so that's the flavor I opted for.

Serving Size: 3/4 cup (30g)
Calories: 110
Fat: 2g
Sodium: 230mg
Carbs: 23g
Fiber: 2g
Sugar: 6g
Protein: 3g
Rating: 5 out of 5

I was pretty tired on a Saturday morning and I wanted to make the easiest breakfast possible. Cereal it is! I skipped the milk part, for some reason I've never been a fan of plain milk to drink or with cereal...but that's another story. Anyway...I just ripped open the bag and munched away. I first thought, wow, the bag is pretty full, that's a good sign I didn't get ripped off. I put a few of the pb nuggets in my mouth and crunched away. They were delicious...perfectly crunchy and not totally filled with just air! They weren't overly sweet and had a really good peanut butter flavor. These are a perfect snack and I'm sure make a good, healthy breakfast with some milk.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Taste Test Tuesday: Kardea Bars

I was lucky enough to get a few samples of the new Kardea Nutrition Bars. I haven't seen them in the stores yet, but you can order them online on their website. This is what Kardea has to say about their Banana Nut Bar...Banana nut is one of life's great comfort food combinations. Kardea brings you this taste sensation in its heart healthy nutritional bar. 1g Plant Sterols, 7g Total Fiber, 7g Protein, Vegan-Friendly, Lower Glycemic Sweetener & Kosher Certified. The label also says "for natural cholesterol management". I guess that's what the plant sterols are for.

Calories: 150
Fat: 5g
Carbs: 21g
Protein: 7g
Fiber: 7g
Sugar: 11g
Sodium: 80 mg
Rating: 4 out of 5 (Banana Walnut & Cranberry Almond)

My favorite flavor out of the pack was Banana Walnut, so I tried that first. The size was about what I expected for a 150-calorie bar (not big), but that was fine. The texture scared me a little, it was very soft. It was mostly smooth with a few chunks of the nuts. But I took a bite and it tasted great. There was a strong flavor of banana and walnuts. The next day I was going to try the Cranberry Almond, so I put it in the fridge for about an hour to firm up. That helped the "floppiness" of the bar a lot. The Cranberry Almond was a hit too. But I'm not a huge fan of Chai or Lemon, so those two I didn't like. But if you are into those flavors you should try it. All of the bars were well flavored with the title ingredients. If I saw these in the store, I would buy a few. It's a great snack bar with a good distribution of nutrients and good flavor.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

LA Fitness Opening Soon!

I know this is non-food related...but I couldn't help myself. I need to workout to counteract all the pigging out I do on the weekends. I'm very excited about the new gym (that statement is really sad, haha)!

I've been a member of LA Fitness for about a year now. I work in Boca Raton, so the one in East Boca that's opening up off Yamato and 95 is perfect for me! It's finally opening on Saturday, October 25th! From what the salespeople have told me, it's going to be the largest LA Fitness in Florida. They'll have a huge cardio area...plus racquetball, basketball and a pool.

10/24 - UPDATE: They will be opening some day between 10/28 - 10/30 due to inspections. But they said everything is set up and ready to go.

10/29 - UPDATE: The plans are to open on Saturday, November 1st. They are going through the last inspections today.

11/3 - UPDATE: They are now open for business!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Taste Test Tuesday: Newman's Marinara

I saw a bottle of Newman's Own Marinara in my cupboards and thought of his recent passing. He was an excellent actor and very charitable. Newman established a policy that all proceeds from the sale of Newman's Own products, after taxes, would be donated to charity. As of early 2006, the franchise has resulted in excess of $200 million in donations. One beneficiary of the donations is the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in Connecticut, a residential summer camp for seriously ill children. So buy more Newman's Own products! It's for a good cause.

Serving size = 1/2 Cup
Calories: 70
Fat: 2g
Sodium: 510 mg
Fiber: < 1g
Sugar: 11g
Protein: 2g
Rating 3.5 out of 5

I opened the jar and the thickness was good. Not too runny, not too thin. But I thought it would have more texture to it. I picture a marinara to have lots of chunks of tomatoes, but this only had a few. Now on to tasting...

Spaghetti Squash: I added a couple tablespoons to spaghetti squash and some parmesan. It tasted okay. It needed salt and garlic and maybe a little olive oil. The flavor didn't go as well with the spaghetti squash as I had hoped.

Pizza: Another day I made a mini pizza (recipe to come on Sunday). The sauce tasted much better this way, offsetting the saltiness of the cheese. It's a perfect consistency for pizza sauce because it's relatively smooth and not watery.
My favorite bottled sauce of all time is Barilla Green & Black Olive Tomato Sauce...thanks for getting me hooked on it Dad :) But I will keep trying out Newman's Own products to help support some great causes.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Foodbuzz Publisher Community Launches

It’s here, it’s here! Foodbuzz, Inc. is unbelievably excited to announce the official launch of the Foodbuzz Publisher Community, which is comprised of more than 1,000 global food bloggers, our “Featured Publishers.”

At launch, the Foodbuzz community successfully broke into the top ten rankings of internet destinations for food and dining, according to Quantcast, a global internet rating service.

Foodbuzz Publisher Community
In addition, the inaugural 24 Meals, 24 Hours, 24 Blogs event—which aims to showcase 24 Featured Publisher blog posts around the globe in a 24-hour period—kicked off on Sept. 20 and successfully displayed to online food enthusiasts an international, virtual street festival of food and diversity.

“Food bloggers are at the forefront of reality publishing and the dramatic growth of new media has redefined how food enthusiasts access tasty content,” said Ryan Stern, Director of the Foodbuzz Publisher Community. 24 Meals, 24 Hours, 24 Blogs captured the quality and unique local perspective of our food bloggers and shared them with the world. The event illustrates exactly what the future of food publishing is all about—real food, experienced by real people, shared real-time.”

Foodbuzz is proud to be the only online community with content created by food bloggers and rated by foodies, offering over 20,000 pieces of new food and dining content weekly. Members can vote for their favorite pieces of content (recipes, photos, blog posts, videos, restaurant reviews) by “buzzing” them up to the top of the daily menu of submissions.

While the site is logging over 14 million monthly page views and over three million unique monthly visits, the Foodbuzz blogger community is concurrently growing at a rate of 40 percent per month, driven by strong growth in existing partner blogs.

“Our goal is to be the number-one online source of quality food and dining content by promoting the talent, enthusiasm, and knowledge of food bloggers around the globe,” said Ben Dehan, founder and CEO of Foodbuzz, Inc. “Foodbuzz is like the stock of a great soup, allowing bloggers to contribute content and subsequently interact in a rapidly growing, online niche-specific community.”

Keep buzzing,
The Foodbuzz Team

Click Here to view all the fantastic menus from 24,24,24!

Missing in Action

Sorry I've been gone! I am officially back in action. I had a busy streak for a while and the cooking and taking pictures kind of went out the window for a few weeks. But I'm back for Taste Test Tuesday starting tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Taste Test Tuesday: Chicken Potstickers

First...SORRY I didn't do a Six on Sunday! I had a really busy day and totally forgot (I promise to behave this week). On to my taste test...I saw Ling Ling All Natural Chicken Potstickers at Publix Greenwise Market the other day and couldn't resist. The nutritional info looked decent. I love potstickers! Eventually I will try to just make them myself. But I love convenience...especially when I get home from a long day and am too hungry to wait around for food to cook.

Serving Size: 5 pcs
Calories 260
Fat: 6g
Sodium: 620mg
Carbs: 39g
Fiber: 2g
Sugar: 5g
Protein: 13g
Rating: 4 out of 5

The instructions were pretty simple, just put them in a pot with a little oil and water and let them cook for 8 minutes. While they were steaming...I eyed the sauce that came with the potstickers and decided against it. I ended up mixing some Veri Veri Teriyaki with water and honey (I mixed it with water because the sauce is thick with a lot of sodium). It came out great! It was a thin consistency with a slight sweetness. Now time for the dumplings! I made 7 of them...2 of them came apart at the seams slightly. The wrapping of the potsticker seemed a tad bit overcooked. The filling was great! It tasted exactly like what I would get at a restaurant. It was moist and flavorful. Seven was almost too many..I think next time I'll stick to the serving size of 5 and eat a nice salad with it. It was WAY better than having a Lean Cuisine!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Daring Bakers Go Crackers!

I had a football party to go to (GO GATORS!) so this worked out perfectly. It was very easy to make. The crackers came out very well. They were crisp without being too hard and ha just the right amount of flavor to complement my Buffalo Chicken Dip. The dip was a huge hit at the party! People gobbled it up quickly. It's the easiest dip I've ever made, so it will definitely be in my repertoire. It's perfect for tailgating.

Lavosh Crackers* 1 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
* 1/2 tsp salt
* 1/2 tsp instant yeast
* 1 Tb sugar
* 1 Tb vegetable oil
* 1/3 to 1/2 cup + 2 Tb (3 to 4 oz) water, at room temperature
* Joe's Stuff and Salt

1. In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt yeast, sugar, oil, and just enough water to bring everything together into a ball. You may not need the full 1/2 cup + 2 Tb of water, but be prepared to use it all if needed.

2. Sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter. Knead for about 10 minutes, or until the ingredients are evenly distributed. The dough should be 77 degrees to 81 degrees Fahrenheit. The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), satiny to the touch, not tacky, and supple enough to stretch when pulled. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

3. Ferment at room temperature for 90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size. (You can also retard the dough overnight in the refrigerator immediately after kneading or mixing).

4. Mist the counter lightly with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter. Press the dough into a square with your hand and dust the top of the dough lightly with flour. Roll it out with a rolling pin into a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. You may have to stop from time to time so that the gluten can relax. At these times, lift the dough from the counter and wave it a little, and then lay it back down. Cover it with a towel or plastic wrap while it relaxes. When it is the desired thinness, let the dough relax for 5 minutes. Line a sheet pan with baking parchment. Carefully lift the sheet of dough and lay it on the parchment. If it overlaps the edge of the pan, snip off the excess with scissors.

5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Mist the top of the dough with water and sprinkle a covering of salt and Joe's Stuff. Be careful with spices and salt - a little goes a long way. If you want to precut the cracker, use a pizza cutter (rolling blade) and cut diamonds or rectangles in the dough. You do not need to separate the pieces, as they will snap apart after baking. If you want to make shards, bake the sheet of dough without cutting it first.

5. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crackers begin to brown evenly across the top (the time will depend on how thinly and evenly you rolled the dough).

6. When the crackers are baked, remove the pan from the oven and let them cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. You can then snap them apart or snap off shards and serve.

RECIPE - Buffalo Chicken Dip
* 2 8 oz pkgs cream cheese
* 1 cup Blue Cheese crumbles
* 1 cup Monterey Jack
* 1 cup shredded rotisserie chicken
* 3/4 cup Frank's Red Hot sauce

This recipe is super easy! All you do is combine all of the ingredients in a pot over medium heat until melted. Then let cook for about 10 more minutes to meld the flavors.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Eat Out for a Good Cause

From September 21 - 28, more than 3,700 restaurants across the country are participating in Share Our Strength's Great American Dine Out. Each participating restaurant will donate a portion of their proceeds to the Share Our Strength, which works to end childhood hunger in the United States.

Click here to find a restaurant near you! A few options in the Fort Lauderdale area are Buca di Beppo, Big City Tavern and Beach Watch. Make sure to make it this weekend...the event ends on Sunday.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Taste Test Tuesday: Almond Breeze

On other sites I've heard good things about Almond Breeze Unsweetened Vanilla. I have scoured many a Publix store looking for it but it seemed like they always ran out. I finally found it at Publix Greenwise!

Serving Size: 8 fl oz
Calories: 40
Total Fat: 3g
Sodium: 180mg
Carbs: 2g
Fiber: 1g
Sugars : 0g
Protein: 1g
Rating: 4 out of 5

I was excited to try this out. I wasn't sure what to make with it, but I needed some coffee big time! I found a great recipe for a cool coffee drink on Hungry Girl. I adapted it a little bit to use the almond breeze and my magic bullet blender. The recipe is below. The texture is very similar to reduced fat milk (as long as you shake it up well). It's nice and creamy. There is definitely an almond flavor but it's not overpowering. The touch of vanilla comes through. I will definitely keep buying this for drinks and my sweet concoctions.

Cool Mocha Malt (serves one)
1/3 cup Hot water
1 tsp instant coffee
2 tsp malt powder
1 tsp cocoa powder
2 1/2 packets Splenda
1/3 cup Almond Breeze (vanilla, unsweetened)
1/3 cup ice cubes

Dissolve the dry ingredients with the hot water and put in your blender. Add the Almond Breeze and Ice and blend. It's a cool and refreshing coffee drink with around 70 calories!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Six on Sunday: Burger Time!

I love burgers! They are easy to make and really delicious, even a the fake "Boca Burger" tastes great. I love to come up with different toppings for them. Here is a good one I came up with. This recipe serves 2, enjoy!

Mediterranean Burgers
2 Burger Patties (I used Boca for this one)
2 Hamburger Buns
2 tsp Dijon Mustard
2 tbsp crumbled Feta Cheese
2 tbsp sliced Olives

Prepare your burger patties and buns the way you like it. While the burgers are cooking, combine the mustard, olives, and feta until everything is well mixed. When burgers are done, place the olive feta mix on top and then plop it on the bun. If you have sun dried tomatoes on hand...that would be a good addition too!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Food Fact Friday: Chicken Cordon Bleu

September is National Chicken Month...woohoo! Seriously though, I do eat a lot of chicken. Probably 80% of all the protein I eat (As you can see by all the chicken recipes). It's very versatile and relatively inexpensive. I was thinking about all of the yummy ways to eat it, and Chicken Cordon Bleu kept popping in my head. I mean, what's better than stuffing cheese and meat into more meat then frying it?! Below is what I could find about this delicious dish. For a really good recipe, Click here.

First for the term, "Cordon Bleu". This was originally a wide blue ribbon worn by members of the highest order of knighthood in France. By extension, the term has since been applied to food prepared to a very high standard and to outstanding cooks. The analogy was from the similarity between the sash worn by the knights and the ribbons (which at the time, were almost always blue) of a cook's apron.

The first known dish with "Cordon Bleu" in the name is Veal Cordon Bleu, a Swiss dish in which veal is wrapped in ham and Gruyere and fried. Food historians believe that Americans adapted this recipe to include chicken instead of veal, and substituted Swiss cheese for Gruyere. The term "Chicken Cordon Bleu" first appeared in airline ads in the 60's, when they were focusing on the elegance and luxury of flying.

Chicken Cities Tidbit: There are four places in the United States with the word "chicken" in their name: Chicken, Alaska; Chicken Bristle in Illinois and Kentucky; and Chicken Town, Pennsylvania.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Taste Test Tuesday: Ezekiel Bread

On to another healthy pick that I've been eating regularly lately. Buying bread in the freezer section of the grocery store kinda scared me. I thought it wouldn't be good. But I heard lots of good things about Ezekiel 4:9 and all of it's healthy ingredients. So I gave it a try. Now I'm hooked!

Price: $3.99/loaf
Serving Size: 1 slice
Calories: 80
Fat: .5g
Carbs: 15g
Protein: 4g
Fiber: 3g
Sugar: 0g
Sodium: 75 mg
Rating: 4 out of 5

They call it Ezekiel 4:9 because of this bible verse, "Take also unto thee Wheat, and Barley, and beans, and lentils, and millet, and Spelt, and put them in one vessel, and make bread of it...". It's 100% natural and organic. It's lightly processed, so your body processes it better than regular bread.

Now for the taste testing...It's kind of a pain to defrost because the slices like to stick together. What I usually do for sandwiches is just defrost the slices enough so I can pull them apart, then put my toppings on it then pop it into the microwave (for no more than 20 seconds) or the toaster oven. It tastes great warm and especially toasted. When warmed, it has a great nutty taste that regular bread doesn't have. But it's not great when it's cold. It's also a little more crumbly than regular bread (but who knows how chemicals are used to create "softness"). If you haven't tried it yet, give it a go to see if it's your cup of tea. One of my new favorite ways to prepare it is toasted with peanut butter and bananas!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Food Fact Friday: Slow Food

The new term, "Slow Food", is becoming more and more popular. There was even an event in San Francisco called Slow Food Nation recently. I know it is mostly about eating locally grown food, but I wanted to find out more...

The Slow Food movement was founded by Carlo Petrini in Italy in 1986 to combat fast food. It claims to preserve the cultural cuisine and the associated plants and seeds, domestic animals, and farming within a local region.

The Slow Food movement incorporates a series of objectives within its mission, including:
- forming and sustaining seed banks to preserve heirloom varieties in cooperation with local food systems
- developing an "ark of taste" for each ecoregion, where local culinary traditions and foods are celebrated
- preserving and promoting local and traditional food products, along with their lore and preparation
- educating consumers about the risks of fast food
- educating citizens about the drawbacks of commercial agribusiness and factory farms
- teaching gardening skills to students and prisoners
- encouraging ethical buying in local marketplaces

I try to eat local when I can, but I feel this is pretty difficult in South Florida. I even went to a farmers market and everything was imported. Anyone have any good tips?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Get Some Flavor...

We're smack in the middle of the inaugural Flavor Palm Beach, where some great restaurants in Palm Beach County are offering a 3 course menu for a nice price, $20 for lunch and $30 for dinner. This only runs through the end of September, so there are only a couple weeks left to take advantage. I'm definitely going to go to at least one. My problem is Miami Spice goes on at the same time too...there are way too many good restaurants to go to!

When I was looking at the menus, some sound really appealing and some just don't seem worth it. The first place I really want to try is Forte di Asprinio, which is owned by Top Chef's infamous Stephen Asprinio (I've been to the bar there, but not yet to eat...and yes...I saw Stephen). The two things that really interested me were the local corn zuppa with crispy pancetta and brioche gnocchi appetizer and the wood burning oven-roasted local grouper “ivornese with marscapone polenta and asparagus. Some other menus that looked good were Strip House and iii Forks.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Taste Test Tuesday: PB2

I forgot how I first heard about PB2, but my first thought was..."This stuff has to be gross!" If you haven't heard of PB2, it's a powdered peanut butter. They make it by extracting the oil from the peanuts (The same company sells peanut oil too). It's all natural, mostly peanuts, with just a touch of salt and sugar. All you do is add water to the powdered peanuts and voila, you have peanut butter. I read lots of good reviews about it, so I took the plunge and bought one jar on ebay to test it out (It's not in any stores around South Florida, but you can check on their site for a store near you).

Cost: $3.99/jar in a 4 pack from their website (plus shipping)
Nutrition Info for 2 tablespoons:
Calories: 53.2
Fat: 1.87 g
Protein: 5.65g
Carbs: 3.4g
Fiber: .48g
Sodium: 77.6 mg
Sugar: 1.66g
Rating: 5 out of 5

My box arrived and I was craving a PB&J sandwich so I cracked open the jar and was ready to go. I followed the easy directions...take 2 tablespoons of the PB2 and mix it with 1 tablespoon water. So far so good, at least it looked like peanut butter. Before I condemned by bread and jelly to an unknown fate, I had to taste a little bit. Wow...it was awesome! It tasted just like peanut butter and had basically the same texture (maybe just a little less "mouthfeel" because most of the fat was missing). I made my PB&J and was thrilled. I now have no reason to miss the real thing. I know regular natural peanut butter has healthy fats, but I get enough fat in other ways. So PB2 is now my new peanut butter staple. I have been eating this stuff every day...you gotta try it...you'll love it!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Taste Test Tuesday: Fruit & Yogurt Parfait

We stopped at McDonald's right before our drive to New Orleans. It was early in the morning, and my hunger was creeping in. I new the next 5 days would be full of delicious foods...andouille...fried shrimp...beignets. My heart told me to order the McGriddle (Mc D's best invention...damn you IFF!)...but my mind told me to order the Parfait. I decided to listen to my mind.

Calories: 160 (for a 5.3 oz serving)
Protein: 4g
Fat: 2g
Carbs: 31g
Fiber: 1g
Sodium: 85 mg
Sugar: 21g
Rating: 4 out of 5

When the person at the drive thru handed it over, my first thought was, "Whoa this is tiny!". You can see by the serving size...it's almost 2/3 of a cup. I think they should increase the size to 1 cup (or have a "large" option). That makes for a better breakfast if this is all you're going to eat. The fruit to yogurt ratio looked good. The fruit was mixed berries, and they looked fresh. I took the little packet of granola and poured it in. I mixed everything up and took a bite. I was very impressed! The yogurt is sweetened nicely. It has a slight vanilla flavor which goes very well with the fruit. The granola gave it a nice crunch. I would definitely get this again...maybe even order it as a side dish instead of fries. Give this one a try if you haven't yet.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Daring Bakers do Eclairs!

Last month, I was a bad girl and missed the challenge. But I was excited to get back in the game in August. Then I saw it was chocolate eclairs...yum! I thought it was going to be very hard...but this was actually the least time consuming challenge as of yet. It was fun and delicious!

My only issue was that I piped some of them a little small to make mini eclairs, but they didn't rise so much. A couple of the really small ones I tossed. Then I cut into a few and even though they looked done on top, they were a little raw in the middle. After about 10 minutes more in the oven (just to see if I could save them), they came out great! The ones that came out the best were my bigger ones (About 1.5 inches wide and 3.5 inches long). Make sure you don't take them out of the oven until they are very puffy.

Chocolate Éclairs by Pierre Hermé

Choux Dough
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup water
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
5 eggs, room temp

1) Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Divide the oven into thirds by positioning the racks in the upper and lower half of the oven. Line two baking sheets with waxed or parchment paper.
2) In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to the boil.
3) Once the mixture is at a rolling boil, add all of the flour at once, reduce the heat to medium and start to stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon. The dough comes together very quickly. Do not worry if a slight crust forms at the bottom of the pan, it’s supposed to. You need to carry on stirring for a further 2-3 minutes to dry the dough. After this time the dough will be very soft and smooth.
4) Transfer the dough into a bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using your hand mixer. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each egg has been added to incorporate it into the dough. You will notice that after you have added the first egg, the dough will separate, once again do not worry. As you keep working the dough, it will come back all together again by the time you have added the third egg. In the end the dough should be thick and shiny and when lifted it should fall back into the bowl in a ribbon.
5) The dough should be still warm. It is now ready to be used for the éclairs.
6) Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a 2/3 (2 cm) plain tip nozzle with the warm cream puff dough. (I did not use this. I used a large ziploc bag and filled it with the Choux. Then I snipped a small piece of the bag off the bottom corner, so the choux would come out smoothly) Pipe the dough onto the baking sheets in long, 3.5 to 4 inches (about 11 cm) chubby fingers. Leave about 2 inches (5 cm) space in between each dough strip to allow them room to puff. The dough should give you enough to pipe 20-24 éclairs.
7) Slide both the baking sheets into the oven and bake for 7 minutes. After the 7 minutes, slip the handle of a wooden spoon into the door to keep in ajar. When the éclairs have been in the oven for a total of 12 minutes, rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back. Continue baking for a further 8 minutes or until the éclairs are puffed, golden and firm. The total baking time should be approximately 20 - 25 minutes.

Chocolate Pastry Cream
2 cups whole milk
4 large egg yolks
6 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
7 oz bittersweet chocolate chips, melted (I used Ghiardelli)
2 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature

1) In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. In the meantime, combine the yolks, sugar, and cornstarch together and whisk in a heavy-bottomed saucepan.
2) Once the milk has reached a boil, temper the yolks by whisking a couple spoonfuls of the hot milk into the yolk mixture.Continue whisking and slowly pour the rest of the milk into the tempered yolk mixture.
3) Strain the mixture back into the saucepan to remove any egg that may have scrambled. Incorporate Chocolate. Place the pan over medium heat and whisk vigorously (without stop) until the mixture returns to a boil. Keep whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 more minutes (still over medium heat).
4) Scrape the pastry cream into a small bowl and set it in an ice-water bath to stop the cooking process. Make sure to continue stirring the mixture at this point so that it remains smooth.
5) Once the cream has reached a temperature of 140 F remove from the ice-water bath and stir in the butter in three or four installments. Return the cream to the ice-water bath to continue cooling, stirring occasionally, until it has completely cooled. The cream is now ready to use or store in the fridge.

Chocolate Glaze (My Own)
4.5 oz bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla

1) Over low heat in a small saucepan, combine the ingredients. When it looks about half way melted, remove from heat and continue stirring until completely smooth.

Assembling the éclairs:
1) Slice the éclairs horizontally, using a serrated knife and a gently sawing motion. Set aside the bottoms and place the tops on a rack over a piece of parchment paper.
2) Pipe or spoon the pastry cream into the bottoms of the éclairs (I used the ziploc bag trick again). Make sure you fill the bottoms with enough cream to mound above the pastry. Place the tops onto the pastry cream and wriggle gently to settle them.
3) The glaze should be barely warm to the touch. Spoon glaze on top of the assembled eclairs. Let set at room temp or fridge.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

New Orleans School of Cooking

I went with my sister on this fun little excursion on our first day in New Orleans. It was only $24 for a 2 hour long cooking class, including lunch (and Abita!). I mean...how can you pass that up! We walked in and were greeted by the teacher, a great home cook and New Orleans native. There were about 15 of us in the class, from all over the place...from Charleston all the way to France.

As our teacher was explaining some history...we were brought some home-made biscuits. There was a strange brown syrup served with them...which turned out to be Cane Syrup. We drizzled this on the biscuits. It was so good! It had a honey-like consistency, but none of the flowery honey aftertaste. I wanted to buy some but I couldn't find any.

After devouring the biscuit...I looked at the menu and it looked wonderful. For class they were cooking Chicken Andouille Gumbo, Jambalaya, Pralines and Pina Colada Bread Pudding (I'm SO sorry I don't have pics of these! I was so hungry I forgot to take pics). She made the bread pudding first because it had to cook a while. It seemed really simple to make. She then made the pralines because they needed to cool. She made the gumbo and jambalaya next. A few of us got up to try it just before it was ready. It was so great to learn all the great techniques.

Now time to eat! They passed us a bowl of gumbo and jambalaya. The gumbo was the best I have ever had. It was not too thick, more like a soup. At first glance I thought maybe it should be thicker...but once I tasted it I realized it was perfect! You could taste the garlic, andouille, and chicken, all in perfect portions. The broth was so rich and well seasoned. Everyone was going up to get seconds of the gumbo. The Jambalaya was good...but not as good as the gumbo. It was a little over seasoned. The bread pudding (again..bread pudding is not my all time fav) was a nice ending. The Pina Colada flavor wasn't overpowering, but I'm still not sure if it meshed perfectly with the cinnamon and nutmeg. Last but not least...the pralines...they were perfect. They were a little soft, with the right amount of nuts and sweetness. We were even lucky enough to take some extra for the road.

If you like to cook and you're in New Orleans...GO TO THIS CLASS! It is so worth it. The food and the learning experience was awesome. When I go back to N.O.L.A. I'm going back...they have different classes depending on which day of the week you go.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Taste Test Tuesday: Abita

There's always Miller Lite, Bud Light, and a plethora of other beers that we consume all the time. But in Louisiana they have Abita. It's only been around for just over 20 years, but Abita has become a staple in New Orleans. Here is some information from Abita's website....

"Abita uses only the finest ingredients – British and American barley, German yeast, European and Washington State hops and the pure artesian water of Abita Springs. In Abita, we are blessed with the purest of water. Drawn from our deep wells, our pristine water is not altered in any way. Abita Beer has no preservatives, additives or stabilizers and is cold filtered. The result is beer that is the finest and freshest tasting as proven by our loyal customers and great chefs of the south who use Abita Beer in their recipes."

Sounds good to me!! Now it's time to try it.

Serving Size: 12 fl oz
Calories 145
Fat: 1g
Carbs: 1g
Sugars: 0g
Fiber: 0g
Protein: 0g

My first beer was Abita Amber. The bottle was ice cold, that's a plus. The beer is a light brown color. The first sip was like heaven in a bottle! It is extremely smooth and slightly malty. It's a great complement to all the spicy foods they serve in N.O.L.A. My second beer was Abita Restoration Ale. It was very hoppy and slightly bitter tasting. It was okay...but I wouldn't get it again. My third try was Abita Andygator. It's a golden colored lager. I really liked this one as well! It's a very balanced blend of hops and malt, and not overpowering in flavor. Overall, my favorite was Abita Amber...actually...I think it's now one of my all time favorite beers ever! You can buy Abita outside of Louisiana, but it's not so easy to find. If you have a Total Wine store near you, they carry Abita. Definitely take a look around for it, it's worth it!

For Tomorrow: My review of K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen

Sunday, August 24, 2008

All About N.O.L.A.

I just got back from a great vacation. Not only was the food & sightseeing amazing, but I even won $220 at the casino. Woohoo!! We took a great plantation tour at Laura, a very scary Haunted History Tour, and even a Cocktail Tour, where we were introduced to all the drinks and bars that made New Orleans famous.

The next couple of weeks, I'm going to be posting about all the delicious food I had. I ate SO much! We got to enjoy beignets, gumbo, jambalaya, oysters, pecan pie....you name it! I even got to eat some alligator. I'm going to try to post every day...so keep your eyes peeled.

The journey starts on Tuesday with my review of Abita Beer, a Louisiana brew that is a staple of all the great eateries in N.O.L.A.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Miami Spice at Table 8

I'm on vacation in New Orleans and I finally got some time to squeeze in some blogging. Soon I'll be writing all about my trip...but I wanted to review Table 8 before I ventured into NOLA...

My friend Chris and I decided to extend our Miami Spice experience to lunch as well. We saw that Table 8 offered their Spice Menu on weekends. It was Saturday afternoon, and there were about 30 people in the restaurant. I guess it's a lot more crowded for dinner. It was a steaming hot summer day in Florida, so I chose a glass of Pinot Grigio from Italy. It was the perfect choice, crisp and refreshing.

My first course arrived. It was basically a "deconstructed" Caesar salad. Big romaine leaves with a crunchy buttery "crouton" and some parmesan chunks on the side. It was good, but I've had better. Maybe since it was eggless the dressing wasn't as creamy as I'd hoped for. The second course was a bbq pork sandwich with parmesan fries. The pork was cooked perfectly. The sauce was well spiced and wasn't overpowering the pork. What made this sandwich different was that there was avocado and pickled onions. The avocado gave it a nice creaminess, while the onions gave it some tang. It was a great combo. The fries were amazing! They were perfectly seasoned and fried. The parmesan sprinkled on top was a nice touch. Dessert was a chocolate molten cake. It was not as chocolaty and slightly drier than the one from Talula, but it was still good. As you can see, I LOVE chocolate molten cakes!

It was a great experience, but the service was spotty. Our server was MIA half the time. Plus, the food seemed to take forever! We waited about 20 minutes between courses, which is pretty bad. The service was much better when I went for dinner there about a year ago. But the food here is great, and I'll be back!

Food: 4.5 out of 5
Service: 2.5 out of 5

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Taste Test Tuesday: Larabar Jocalat

I‘m always on the lookout for healthy new snacks. I was in a chocolate mood, so I thought I would pick up a Larabar Jocalat bar. They have a few different flavors, and I decided to pick up the Chocolate Coffee. It was a good decision!

Cost: $1.49
Serving Size: 1 bar
Calories: 190
Fat: 11g
Carbs: 24g
Fiber: 5g
Sugar: 19g
Protein: 4g
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5

If you haven’t had a Larabar yet…you gotta try one. It’s made from all whole foods. The main ingredient is dates, and they all have nuts is well. So it’s a great way to get your healthy fats and fruits. The Jocalat bars aren’t any different. But it also has cocoa. The first whiff of the bar had both chocolate & coffee aromas. I took a bite and I was pleasantly surprised. You can taste all the goodness from the dates and the nuts, but you get the strong aromas from the chocolate and coffee as well. The texture is chewy, with a little crunch from the nuts. The combo of all the flavors goes great together. Even though the bar is small…it definitely keeps you full until your next meal. I can’t wait to try all the other flavors!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Miami Spice at Talula

One of the great things about summer in Miami is going to Miami Spice. During August and September, some great Miami Restaurants offer a 3 course menu selection for $23 (lunch) and $36 (dinner). It's a great deal! I hopefully will be going to a fair share of Miami Spice meals, and I'll be sure to report on all them!

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of going to Talula to take advantage of their Miami Spice Menu (unfortunately no pics, I forgot my camera). I've heard so many great things about Talula, and I was thrilled to try it out. We got there exactly at our reservation time and were seated immediately. The good part was that the Miami Spice menu was presented to us, and we didn't have to ask.

We started off with a great bottle of Cab (I forgot the name, but it was $40, from California, and started with an S). The wine was excellent! Then our server brought us nice warm, soft bread with a very creamy hummus. The hummus was perfect...very smooth with just a hint of garlic.

First Course: I got the Gouda and Caramelized Onion Tart. It was served with a small side salad. The tart was superb. The rich, buttery crust went perfectly with the smokiness of the gouda and the caramelized onion flavor. My friend go the Shrimp Ceviche, which was tasty, but he said mine was better.

Second Course: After much deliberation, I decided on the Mahi. It was served on a bed of cous cous. The flavors were very good and it was a perfect size portion. But my absolute favorite part of the dish was the crispy edge of the Mahi. I'm still wondering how they got the extremely crispy edge without drying out the fish! My friend got the steak, which was served with whipped sweet potatoes. I knew he must have loved it, because he wouldn't share (how rude! lol).

Third Course: We both ordered my all time fav, the molten chocolate cake. It was the perfect ending to a perfect meal. It had excellent chocolate flavor without being too sweet. It was topped with a big dollop of espresso cream, which complemented the chocolate perfectly. There were candied oranges as well, but I hate orange and chocolate together so I just pushed it aside (I still don't get how people like that combo).

To conclude...I was really impressed with Talula. Their Miami Spice changes twice a month so there is always something different to be enjoyed. The food was incredible and so was the service.

Food: 5 out of 5
Service: 5 out of 5

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Dinner at Carrabba's

The wonderful people over at Carrabba's sent me a gift certificate. It was a Saturday night, and I was hungry...so I called my friend Chris with a promise of a free meal. So off to Carrabba's we went!

We got there around 7, and it was packed. There were only a few tables open. We got a comfy booth and perused the wine list. I was impressed! I was expecting almost all lower end wines, but they had a lot of great picks. We settled on a new Super Tuscan wine they were offering and it was delicious, full bodied with rich aromas (sorry I can't give a better description...I wish I was a wine expert!).

The warm bread arrived and it hit the spot. It was soft in the middle with a nice crust. The dipping sauce was good as always, a nice blend of olive oil with their spice mix. My salad was good...typical salad fare. A side potion of lettuce with the fixins. I enjoyed the dressing, a creamy parmesan. As I like to say, cheese makes everything better!

The entrees made their way over and they were huge! Chris ordered the Chicken Pamigiano and I ordered the Chicken Bryan. It came with a side...and what I liked is that for a side you can pick any pasta with any sauce. We both chose the penne with tomato cream. The Chicken Bryan came out great. It's basically grilled chicken, sauteed in a lemon white wine sauce with sundried tomatoes, and topped with goat cheese. The chicken was cooked very well, and the sauce had a great tanginess. It paired very well with the goat cheese. The only problem I could find was there was a little too much goat cheese, and I had to remove some so it wasn't too overpowering. My only other minor complaint was that the server seemed a little out of it at times. But overall, it really was a great meal. Even though Carrabba's is a dreaded "chain", it is consistent and reasonably priced.

Great Deal: Every Wednesday, Carrabba's in Florida is offering $10 off any bottle of wine (and the wine is good!).