Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Break-Up Diet - 365 Days a Year

My good pal Annette Fix, from WOW-Women on Writing, is my guest blogger for the day. She has an amazing book launching today.

The Break-Up Diet: a memoir by Annette Fix goes on sale today! You can order it on or from your local bookseller.

The Break-Up Diet is the true story of a 30-something single mother/aspiring writer who is working as an exotic dancer, searching for Prince Charming, and trying to find a perfect balance between her dreams and her day-to-day life as Supermom.

Please visit The Break-Up Story Forum (
A place where women can go to read and share their break-up and dating stories. Check it out and join the fun!

Annette Fix is the Senior Editor for WOW! Women On Writing, an author, and spoken-word storyteller, living in Laguna Niguel, California with her Danish Prince Charming, her aspiring photographer son, and two rescued dogs.

Book Website:
The Break-Up Story Forum:

We don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day. As a matter of fact, if you ask my husband what date it falls on, he probably wouldn’t be able to tell you. And I like it that way.

Why? Because he believes we shouldn’t cherish each other on only one day out of an entire year.

We have a special ritual that I believe will keep us happily married all the way into the fairytale sunset. Each morning, and at different times throughout the day, my husband will ask, “Is there anything I can do for you?” And, after my either yes or no reply, I ask him the same question.

Beyond the obvious and tangible benefit of having a quick errand run or a particular meal prepared, offering to do “anything” for each other is a constant reminder of why we got married in the first place. Love and devotion.

And I’ll take that over a box of chocolates and a bouquet of flowers any day.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms - Veggie Delight!

Portobello mushrooms are a huge favorite of mine. After marinating, they make a great grilled sandwich or panini. Slice them for a stir-fry style side dish. Or stuff them with cheese. Even the biggest meat eater in our house enjoys them!

Just a couple weeks ago, the local grocery store (I live on a farm outside a town of 400 residents) had packages of portobellos priced at 5 for $10. Each package had 3 fairly good sized mushrooms, so I purchased them and served them several different ways.

The website The Gourmet Sleuth has a wonderful read on portobello mushrooms.

Here's a good stuffed mushroom recipe that makes a great side dish or a vegetarian entree.
  • 4 large portobello mushrooms
  • 3/4 chup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/3 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts (I substituted almonds and thought it was good)
  • 1/3 cup chopped onion
  • 3 T. Parmesan chese
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1/4 t. black pepper
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 T. vegetable broth

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 15 x 10 baking sheet with cooking spray.

Remove stems from mushrooms. Combine 1/4 c. mozzarella, bread crumbs, nuts, onion, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Stir in egg and broth. Blend.

Spoon the cheese mixture into mushroom caps. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella cheese. Place on baking sheet and bake uncovered for 20 - 25 minutes. Mushrooms should be tender.

Carrot Cake

When my college roommate got married some 20-odd years ago, she served a tasty carrot cake at the reception. She also told me that carrot cake should be served at all weddings since it is the "traditional" cake. Actually, I believe fruit cakes were the original wedding cakes, but nonetheless, her wedding/carrot cake was a hit!

The first cakes resembled bread instead of having the consistency of the cakes we consume today. Carrot cake as we know it derived from medieval times. Sweeteners were scarce so carrots were substituted in cakes and desserts. This cake resembles a quick bread more than a cake.

Molly O'Neill, in her New York Cookbook (1992) states that Washington was served carrot cake at a tavern in New York in 1783 as a celebration of British Evacuation Day.

During WWII, the British revival of carrot cake came about due to sugar rationing. The sweet spice dessert did not gain popularity in the U.S. until the 1960s.

Carrot cake can be a plain spice cake with grated carrots or it can be a culinary work of art. Ingredients for one of my favorite variations are:
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 2 t. cinnamon
  • 1/2 t. ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 c. vegetable oil (I substitute apple sauce for the oil)
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups grated carrots (about 4 medium carrots)
  • 1 8-oz. can crushed pineapple
  • 1 c. coconut
  • 1 c. chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9 x 13 pan or two 9-inch round cake pans.

Combine dry ingredients and stir to blend. Add eggs, oil, carrots, and vanilla. Beat until blended. Stir in pineapple, coconut, and walnuts. Pour mixture into the pan(s). Bake for 50 to 60 minutes.

If you like the traditional cream cheese frosting most American carrot cakes are topped with, try this recipe. This recipe will frost a 9 x 13 cake. If you prepared two 9-inch round cakes, you'll need to double this recipe.

  • 1 3-oz. package cream cheese
  • 1 T. warm water
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 3 cups powdered sugar

Beat cream cheese, water, and vanilla. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating until frosting reaches a smooth consistency.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Hash It Over

Once considered a traditional breakfast side dish, hash has been dished up in both diners and home kitchens alike. I will admit that when I think of hash, I get a queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach and think of some can on a shelf in the canned vegetable aisle at the grocery store. The picture isn't appetizing, and I question why someone would subject themselves to such a foodstuff.

But since hash consists of finely-chopped ingredients mashed into a paste, the end result of a homemade hash certainly makes the canned variety pale in comparison. Corned beef is the preferred choice of meat; however, any leftovers will suffice. Typically, leftover beef, onions, potatoes, and spices serve as the basis for the dish. Quite often, the mixture accompanies eggs and toast on the breakfast plate.

But depending on your geographic region, hash might resemble a completely different dish. In Cuba, hash is a.k.a. picadillo - shredded beef (although sometimes shredded chicken), garlic, tomatoes, onion, and spices - used as a stuffing for tacos. Occasionally, additional vegetables are added to the mix; the Cuban version, featuring raisins and olives, is a well-known rendition.

In the southern U.S., shredded pork and barbeque sauce marinate into a spicy mixture and the meat is served over rice.

Traditional corned beef hash remains relatively simple to make. Serve this one beside eggs cooked to your style for a hearty breakfast. The ingredients list includes:
  • 2 lbs. cooked corn beef, cubed
  • 3 potatoes
  • 2 T. butter
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 T. Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 whole egg
  • 4 T. butter

Boil potatoes until tender but firm. Drain, cool and dice. Saute pepper and onion in 2 T.butter. Mix cubed corn beef, potatoes, pepper, onion, egg yolk, and egg until a firm consistency, similar to a meatloaf. Form into patties. You may chill overnight or fix immediately. Melt 4 T. butter over medium heat, add meat mixture, and cook thoroughly (approximately 8 - 10 minutes).

If you prefer to utilize those meaty leftovers for another main dish meal, try a Texas hash. This dish is a family favorite!

  • 1 1/2 lbs. beef
  • 3 onions, diced
  • 1 t. minced garlic
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1 can Rotel tomatoes, with juice
  • 1/2 c. uncooked long-grain rice
  • 1 t. chili powder
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1 t. black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 2 quart casserole dish. Brown beef and onions. When onions are transparent, add peppers and garlic. Cook until green peppers are soft. Remove from heat. Add remaining ingredients and pour into casserole dish. Cover and bake for 45 minutes. Remove lid and bake an additional 15 minutes.

4 - 6 servings.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Baked Alaska

When I was a senior in high school, I had to cook a dinner - complete with appetizer, main course, vegetable, potato or rice, salad, and dessert - and invite someone to eat dinner with me. I wanted something elegant; something that others would never consider making. I'm not sure what I prepared for the main course, but I do remember making a Baked Alaska for dessert.

The French call it a bombe, a conglomeration of solid ice cream and cake, coated with the meringue. Legend has it that the dessert evolved from the French. A Chinese delegation was visiting Paris, and the Chinese chef showed the French cook how to prepare the dessert.

Baked Alaska features a sponge cake topped with hard ice cream. Uncooked meringue covers the entire dish and it is placed in the freezer until serving time. Just prior to serving, the dessert is placed in a hot oven or under the broiler until the meringue begins to brown.

Many claims to discovering the dessert exist. An American physicist boasted about his creation in 1804 after testing the heat resistance of beaten egg whites. His "invention" is known as omlette surprise.

But the name, Baked Alaska, originated in 1867 at Delmonico's. Chef Charles Ranhofer coated a brick of ice cream with meringue and popped into a toasty oven for a short time. The cause for celebration: America's acquisition of the Alaska Territory. Ranhofer dubbed the dessert Alaska-Florida.

Considered a sign of wealth, the dessert was served in fancy hotels and was popularized in America with a mention in the Fannie Farmer Cookbook.

Here's a fairly easy recipe for Baked Alaska:

1 sponge cake or 1 1-inch layer cake, any flavor
1 qt. ice cream sliced in half to fit on cake; any flavor
5 egg whites
1 t. vanilla
1/2 t. cream of tartar
2/3 c. sugar

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Place sliced ice cream halves on top of cake. Trim excess cake to a 1 inch border around the ice cream. Freeze until solid. Beat 5 egg whites with vanilla and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Spread meringue around cake and ice cream, making sure to form a seal around the cake. Bake in 500 degree oven until golden brown, approximately 3 minutes. Serve immediately.

Serves 8.

Welcome To the Kitchen

So, I was sitting in my office yesterday glancing through an old cookbook when genius struck! I like food. I enjoy history. I am a writer. Why not combine those three elements and create a recipe for a blog?

So with that thought in mind, I decided that this will be a good exercise for me. This is a creative recipe for food writing experience and a chance to experiment in the kitchen.

It's a match made in heaven!

Each day's blog will focus on a particular food. If a certain day is a national or international celebration, for instance, January 26 is Pistachio Day, then that day's blog will give information about that particular food, including its history. I'll also include a recipe that either I have developed or one that is a family favorite.

If the inspiration would have hit me earlier, I would have started this on the first day of the month, but since I didn't receive the epiphany until the third, I will catch up this week.

So take a seat at the kitchen table (or your computer desk) and dish with me.