Monday, February 23, 2009

FREE Kashi Entree

Who doesn't love anything that is FREE??!!
Well, go to, and Kashi will send you a voucher for a free entree while supplies last. All you need to do is sign up and you should have your voucher within a couple of weeks!

Roasted Red Pepper Soup

The last time I went back home to visit family, I had a yummy Roasted Red Pepper Soup from a local restaurant. I had tried many versions of this soup at several of my local restaurants, but this version from The Fiddlers Three in Shelbyville, Indiana was the king of the hill! When I returned home, I tried to recreate, yet add my own twist, to the recipe. The two taste nothing alike, but I was not trying for a copycat version of this soup, only inspiration. Below is my recipe for Roasted Red Pepper Soup.

Roasted Red Pepper Soup

2 Roasted Sweet Red Peppers (or can substitute 12 oz. jarred roasted red peppers) Diced

1 Small Onion - diced

3 Large Cloves of Garlic -finely chopped

3 T Olive Oil

6 Ounce Can of Tomato Paste

1 Large Can Diced Tomatoes with liquid

3-4 Cups Chicken or Vegetable Stock (depending on how thick you want)

2 T Parsley - Chopped

2 T Oregano - Chopped

3 T Basil - Chopped

2 T Smoked Paprika

1 T Ancho Chile Pepper Powder

1 T Chipotle Powder

Salt & Pepper to taste

Feta or Gouda Cheese to top soup

Saute in olive oil the roasted red pepper, onion, garlic, salt and pepper. Saute until tender.

In food processor blend the red pepper, onion and garlic mixture until a paste begins to form. Add tomato paste and diced tomatoes until a thinner mixture begins to form. Slowly add 1 cup of the chicken or vegetable stock until well blended.

Transfer mixture to medium size pot and add the rest of the stock. Stir well to blend. Add the chopped parsley, oregano, basil, smoked paprika, ancho chile powder, chipotle powder. Simmer on medium low heat for 20-30 minutes. Serve in individual bowls and top with Feta or Gouda cheese and freshly chopped basil.

In the picture I also added 2 slices of grilled Flank Steak with olive oil, salt and pepper from the previous nights meal. You could also add cream or milk for a silkier texture.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Living in Mayberry

Am I living in Mayberry? Not that Mayberry, NC appeared to be a bad place in which to reside back in the day if you were looking for that small town, rural vibe. If I recall correctly, Mayberry only had one choice in which to dine-the diner. One huge downfall I find to small towns is the lack of culinary delights and find it downright frustrating.

My tiny town in Middle Tennessee has not explored culinary flavors any further than the Chinese and Mexican fare that seems to be the staple here judging by how many have come and gone over the past ten years. Sure, we have some of the big chain restaurants, your basic buffets, and a small scattering of authentic Italian and Greek joints.

One of my favorite places to tout is a little bistro run by a French chef who seems to have an impressive culinary resume. However, even that bistro wasn't up to par on my last visit for lunch a month ago. By the way, I don't recommend the berry bread pudding concoction. I cringed when my husband ordered it and politely spit it out when I took a bite of his. The absolute worst dessert I have tried. Sorry if this seems harsh, but I believe in honest critiquing and know my fellow local food snobs (you know who you are) appreciate the heads up next time they dine at the bistro.

I have learned to ignore the accolades from locals giving their critiques on a particular restaurant or even just on an individual home cook. I have had entire meals ruined with the first bite from the disappoint I have felt after fantasizing that the meal might just be "the one" I've been biding my time for. My husband has come to expect that I will probably send my meal back because I will find something less than palatable about it.

I must acknowledge and praise , though, the few who have satisfied this self-proclaimed food snob. Hats off to Fast Jack's for the best prime rib I have had in this area as well as their unexpectedly good blue cheese dressing with it's huge chunks of identifiable blue cheese. Their pizza is also the best in the area (best when eaten fresh from their oven). Who knew this bar/restaurant would hold such surprises!

Praises also go to Pearl's Cafe in Sewanee, TN, worth the short drive up to the mountain. Upscale dining ,yet with an unpretentious air, everything we have dined on has been wonderful. Having a huge sweet tooth, I have to let everyone know that Pearl's has some of the best bread pudding ever to have passed my lips! The huge portion is easily enough for two, however, I do not share my bread pudding. I have been known to have my husband make the trip or pull off when passing just to run in and get a take home box of the dessert. Word has it that their creme brulee is also excellent.

As you can see, I am living in Mayberry as far as dining choices. Could someone at least point me in the direction of Aunt Bee's house so I can enjoy some good comfort food?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

My Favorite Snacks

Some days I just don't feel like eating a full fledged meal. I'm more content to just consume small snacks throughout the day. Today is one of those days. I try to keep some staples on hand for days just like today. These snack ideas are also perfect for children as they don't contain the newsworthy red or yellow dyes or processed sugars.

Today I am craving Hummus-yes a wonderfully easy and healthy snack option for your household. For those not familiar with this Middle Eastern staple, chickpeas or garbanzo beans are the backbone of hummus. It has few ingredients and would be a great food for a child to participate in making. Hummus can be basic or you can infuse other wonderful flavors into it. It can be made with Tahini or without-let your taste buds decide which you prefer. Tahini is a sesame paste that can either be prepared at home or purchased at the grocery.

One of our favorites is Roasted Garlic Hummus. The following recipe has just six basic ingredients. Feel free to adjust the amounts for taste and consistency.

Roasted Garlic Hummus


2- 15 oz. cans of chickpeas or garbonzo beans-rinsed and drained

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoons roasted garlic

1/3 cup Tahini

2 tablespoons olive oil

salt to taste

Blend first four ingredients in food processor until fairly smooth. Slowly add olive oil. May use or more less depending on desired consistency. Add salt to taste.

Garnish with smoked paprika or fresh minced parsley. Serve with pita bread, pita chips or fresh vegetables.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Angel Food Ministries

During these hard economic times, we are looking for ways to cut our spending. Groceries can be a big monthly expenditure depending on your family size and your spending habits. For my family of five, I will spend between $350-$550 a month on groceries. I know this ranks on the lower end for most people, but if you shop wisely, take advantage of sale items, and use coupons, this can be done. However, for some families, even $350 a month for groceries is out of their reach.

We see on the news everyday how much our fellow neighbors are struggling and how some, especially the elderly, are having to decide if they are going to eat on any given day. Our local newspaper has been reporting over the past weeks how the Meals On Wheels program is making budget cuts which in turn would cut out one hot meal per week for those who depend on it. The paper stated that some of the elderly are living on Cheerios because they can not afford groceries. Angel Food Ministries can literally be a life saver for so many struggling right now.

I heard about Angel Food Ministries some time ago, but never took the time to research it. I was under the impression that there would be income guidelines which I knew my family would not qualify. Several months ago I decided to check out the website at and was blown away. There is no income guideline or any other sort of requirement to participate in this program. The only catch is that there are not distribution sites in all states. However, within a 15 mile radius of my home, there are three sites. Any church can request information and potentially provide this wonderful program to its community.

Angel Food Ministries has actually been around since 1994 when Joe and Linda Wingo started the ministry in an effort to help those who were struggling financially. The website states that the ministry now provides food for over 500,000 families per month and I am sure this number will jump considerably over the next six months with all of the current unemployment in our country.

Each month, Angel Food Ministries puts out a menu that will feed a family of four for a week for only $30!!! Just some of the items on the menu for February are Boneless Pork Chops, Chicken Breast, Sirloin Strip Steaks, veggies, soup mix, shelf staple milk, eggs, and even a dessert! Wow-a family of four could order the monthly menu times four (to my knowledge there is no limit) and only spend $120 for the bulk of their food. Angel Food Ministries also offers additional boxes of special items once a family has purchased one of the main menu boxes. These additional boxes could supplement and round out the monthly menu. An example would be a Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Box for only $21 or a Frozen Side & Fixin's Box for only $16. They also provide a Senior/Convenience Box with ten pre-packed meals that only need to be heated.

Please shout at the top of your lungs and pass on the website for Angel Food Ministries and check to see if it is available in your area. Maybe you have a family member, neighbor, friend or church member who could benefit from this wonderful ministry. Remember, this is open to absolutely ANYONE. Thank you Joe and Linda Wingo and all those who make this program possible.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Foodies Get Fix On Top Chef

Wow - we're down to the final four on Bravo Tv's Top Chef!!!! Whether you consider yourself a foodie, food snob, culinary artist, chef, culinary aficionado, food critic, or whatever other label you have deemed worthy of smacking on yourself, we all tuned in last night as five got narrowed down to the final four.

First off, let me say that there were no surprises as to who did NOT get asked to pack their knives. Stefan is a darn creative chef who does know the business, but his attitude and cockiness have to be toned down. Now I know that many chefs have the attitude and mouth to go with it, but jeez, get over yourself Stefan!

The Quick Fire Challenge was one I'm personally glad I didn't have to do-eggs. Throw in Wylie Dufresne, king of molecular gastronomy, telling the final five to cook the perfect egg. Carla won this challenge by taking the simple path and pulled inspiration from Dr. Seuss by preparing green eggs. She stated she doesn't really get into all that molecular cooking and I totally agree with her. I have been elated this season since I haven't had to watch every dish have some sort of foam on it, which by the way, reminds me of stuff cleaned out of a tracheotomy-not appetizing at all!

Stefan took second place with his poached egg in brioche and panna cotta with mango puree and looked like he had just been stabbed when Carla took top honors. Once again, Stefan did an awesome job but his cockiness got the best of him. The bottom two were Fabio and Hosea. Although Fabio did produce a decent dish, Wylie felt it didn't quite measure up to breakfast fare with his egg dessert. Hosea also missed the mark with a Japanese inspired egg trio that Wylie did not feel flowed together well. Leah was in the middle with her less than impressive "greasy" potato ravioli.

On to the "Last Supper" elimination challenge. Did anyone else besides myself find it to be rather, well, cheesy for lack of a more appropriate word? The soft lighting and the long table with judges only on the one side and ends? Did I miss the painting of the Last Supper in the background somewhere? The contestants each chose a knife with well-known chefs that just coincidentally seemed to have much in common with each other. Stefan pulled Marcus Samuelsson who both just happen to be Scandinavian; Fabio pulled Lidia Bastianich whose speciality is Italian; Hosea just happens to get Susan Ungaro who wants seafood; Carla, who is trained classical French pulls , you got it, Jacques Pepin; and Leah cooks for Wylie.

Surprisingly, all of the last supper requests seem to be quite simple. Simple can be quite tricky when one is used to cooking a certain way and trying to impress with difficult executions. Leah prepares what should be a cooking basic, eggs Benedict, but manages to second guess herself and produces an undercooked egg with runny hollandaise sauce.

Stefan also should have been able to cook fish with his eyes closed but manages to overcook the salmon. His attempt at spinach prepared two different ways also falls short as the judges have a hard time distinguishing between the two.
Hosea, trying to put his own spin on shrimp scampi and tomatoes Provencal, also falls flat. The judges seem to think he would have been better off sticking true to the dish.

Carla, elated that she is preparing squab and peas, receives rave reviews, especially for the peas of all things! You can't help but be pulling for this quirky chef. She is always trying to motivate the other chefs and truly seems to care for them. Carla started the competition slowly, but by keeping it simple she has surpassed some of the now dismissed stronger contestants.

And Fabio. This competition would certainly not be as entertaining without his charm and use of words. I'm almost positive after breaking his finger Wednesday night during the prep for the final elimination challenge that he won over some viewers while at the same time offended others. I'm sure that he will be quoted as saying "this is Top Chef, not Top P****" for at least a few weeks. His roast chicken hit a home run with the judges though his salad was demoted to airline food. Fabio won this challenge by evoking memories of his grandmother and channeling her expertise into preparing this dish.

Although I was hoping that Stefan would be sent packing for his less than palatable dinner, I was glad to see Leah finally go. She has been holding onto a lifeline for several weeks and has finally met her fate. The final four are off to New Orleans for what is sure to be an interesting show.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Sucker For "Healthy" Food Review

My kids will tell you that I'm a sucker for food packaging that says it's organic, all-natural, or healthy. I perceive those words to mean I'm going a step above the "other" prepared and processed foods available at the local grocery. If it's healthy then I'm putting something good into my body and not Red Dye #2, right?
At my last visit to the grocery, I thought I'd check out the frozen food section for quick and light prepared lunches. I usually do not buy such meals, however, I was curious at what was available. All the "diet" brands were there and then some nicely designed boxes caught my eye. Hmmm, never heard of leViV I thought to myself. The boxes seem to have been purposely designed to be soothing, yet colorful. I picked up a box and read the back with the company mission on it. "Enjoyable" , "pleasure", "healthier", "living well" all seemed to jump out at me. Instead of "you had me from hello" from the movie Jerry Maguire, leViv had me at "healthier" from the get go. I narrowed my choices down to three entrees to try for those days I wanted a quick lunch.
Today I tried the Spinach and Broccoli Lasagna with Tomato Ragu and Mozzarella Cheese. Makes your mouth water just reading that, doesn't it?! I popped it into the microwave for a quick five minutes and couldn't wait to taste it. The first flavor was definitely the taste of fresh spinach and tomatoes. Great, we're off to a pleasantly surprising start! Next bite tasted the same as did the third bite. I added some freshly ground black pepper and tried again. This time I got a hint of broccoli flavor, but the predominant flavor was still spinach. When I have any type of lasagna, I must admit that I enjoy the gooey mozzarella cheese. However, I could see the cheese adhered to my fork, but I couldn't taste it. I flipped the box over and read that it had light mozzarella cheese as an ingredient. I admit that I had to add some of my own mozzarella so that I could taste the flavor, not just see it. I did finish the entree, but for my palette it just doesn't have enough flavor.
I went to the company website and discovered that leViv actually ships their product directly to the consumer. (Why then was my local grocery carrying this product???). They seem to cater to those with health issues such as diabetes and heart conditions that actually need a strict diet. I applaud leViv for helping those that do have a hard time with their special food needs. How great is it that one can order 28 days worth of meals delivered right to the comfort of your home?
I still can't wait to try the other two meals I have in the freezer, but I hope they leave my tastebuds tingling with spice.The entree was tasty overall for it's garden fresh flavor, however, be aware that you will probably need to add your own spices and seasonings to suit your taste buds.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Who Knew I'd Have Something In Common With Rachael Ray

Thanks to my little brother, I now have a favorite knife! For Christmas my brother sent me the Rachael Ray from Furi Cutlery Set with Bamboo Case and I absolutely love them! Up to this point, my favorite knife was my chef's knife from Wusthof. I pretty much used this knife exclusively for all of my cutting needs. Don't get me wrong, I still love the Wusthof, however the Furi 7" chef's knife is presently my fave! I have never seen a chef's knife that can slice so razor thin and is so comfortable in my hand. The set is made of stainless with a copper plug that helps keep the knife balanced over time. I love that the knife is a solid piece with no gaps between the blade and handle which means there is no place for small bits of food or bacteria to settle into. It will take some time for me to get used to the smaller 5" knife only because I prefer the larger size as I feel that I have better control with the 7". Another plus of this set is that it comes in its own bamboo case for storage which I absolutely love! I can store the set flat in a drawer rather than having it on the counter in a knife block. So far I haven't managed to add the extra ingredient of blood from a cut finger to any of my food, but please beware that these knives are extremely sharp so they need to be handled with care when washing and be sure to store them out of the way or curious kiddies.