Between you and me, it’s hard to get folks who won’t eat vegetables to give them a try. However, there are many people who love their steak that also like mushrooms. I was able to make a soup that tastes like it’s all about the mushrooms and add a few other healthy veggies to it. It’s virtually a fat-free dish! Shhhh…just serve this and see what happens.
Ingredients (serves 6-8)
6 portobello mushrooms, diced
1 eggplant, diced
1 small onion, diced
1/4 cup hummus
1/4 cup avocado or guacamole
1/2 cup fresh spinach
1 large celery stalk
1 whole lime, uncut
1 TB chopped, fresh cilantro
1 32 oz carton chicken or veg stock
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 TB sea salt, or to taste
fat-free sour cream, for garnish
Place all ingredients except for the thyme and sea salt in a large pot. Simmer for 30 minutes to an hour, or until all the vegetables are very soft. Remove the lime and discard. In batches, add the soup to a blender. Don’t fill blender more than halfway. Put a towel over the cover of the blender and put your hand on top to avoid spillage. Put the pureed soup in another pot. Add the thyme and salt to taste. Simmer for ten more minutes. Serve in bowls with a dollop of sour cream for garnish.
When you eat out often, like I do, you’ve got to watch what you eat, right? Who knows how much hidden carbs, etc. are in any given dish? Well, here’s a way to ensure you know exactly what you are getting.
This type of antipasto platter is lunch for me sometimes. Sure, it’s probably higher in fat than some dishes, but it’s basically carb-free!
I LOVE the two types of olives pictured here. The Castelvetrano (green olive) has a fresh, green flavor and the flesh is meaty and thick. The other olive pictured here is the Cerignola. It’s a red olive characterized by an almost smoky flavor and is very fleshy, as well.
Combine these outstanding olives with Prosciutto de Parma, Capicola and thinly sliced salami with marinated artichokes, hard goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes and you’ve got a heavenly little snack.
You can find antipasto items in every city, but when I’m at home I generally go to Mazzaro’s for the olives.
Bring a platter the next time one of your friends asks you to go sailing. These are great provisions!
I believe it’s important to balance what you eat each day and not try to eat strictly low-carb, low-fat, low-calorie for every meal. Firstly, it gets very BORING and secondly I don’t want to be one of those stick people with no figure forever. Like the olive, I want a little meat on me. Check out one of the best pasta dishes I ate lately:
This dish is a Chianti braised beef ravioli with a mushroom cream sauce that tastes like it has a little kiss of sherry in it. When I order this as an appetizer (locally at Vincenzo’s) the people at my table fight over the last ravioli.
Think about it. How can one go wrong with the combo of braised beef, pasta and a rich cream sauce? It’s a winner.
For the quality of food at Vincenzo’s, the prices are fair, the service is attentive but unobtrusive and every visit I have paid there has been equally satisfying.
My favorite dessert lately? Check out the pic below while I formulate the words to describe this dish…
There’s tiramisu and then there’s this happy cloud of love on a plate. It’s not your typical, customary Italian dessert. If you want to indulge yourself in a bit of a chocolate fantasy, come with me for a moment. Imagine light, chocolate mousse with mascarpone cheese, lady fingers soaked in espresso and more, all covered in a chocolate sauce and served with two spoons.
You can find this treasure at Bella’s Italian Cafe in South Tampa or you can make a version of this at home. I can’t even look at a normal tiramisu anymore.
Are you trying to find more “natural” eats around town? Check out your local farmer’s market. The market closest to me here in St. Petersburg, FL has gone to great lengths to bring in fresh, local food, from produce to meat. I had been looking around for beef that was sustainably produced and fed a vegetarian diet (with no genetically modified feed). It’s hard to find.
Another trend lately are these low-carb, tortilla pizzas I’ve been seeing around town. It’s a crispy tortilla on the bottom and this one is topped with beef that has taco seasoning in it, some green onions, chopped tomato, olives, mushrooms and of course, lots of melted cheese. This one is a keeper. My favorite one is made at Harvey’s on 4th St. in St. Pete, but you can find them in lots of restaurants these days.
You are completely missing out if you haven’t given this next dish a try. Over at Gratzzi on 2nd and 2nd in St. Pete their signature entree is called the Bada Bing. They prepare this dish tableside by flaming cheese using vodka INSIDE the giant cheese wheel, then they add it to pasta with some fresh tomatoes, a little spicy pepper flake and let it get all hot and melted. After the cheese melts, your heart will too.
Another appetizer at Grattzi is one of my favorites in this area. It’s the deep-fried artichokes stuffed with goat cheese. What a decadent, tasty treat! The tart flavor of the artichoke combines with the creamy, smooth tang of the cheese, all with a crunchy crust breading.
Vizcaya on North Dale Mabry in Tampa makes authentic Spanish cuisine at affordable prices. It’s not a huge place. It’s very intimate.
Just the other day I had the pictured chicken breast stuffed with spinach and mascarpone cheese and a beautifully reduced sauce.
I savored every bite.
But wait, there’s more! I have a lot to catch up on with you. Sometimes after doing my radio show, I like to have a little nosh, nothing too heavy.
There are a few places we like to go for appetizers or tapas. One of them is Pelagia at the Renaissance Marriott in International Plaza. Take a look at the sampler. You can select up to four appetizers to mix it up.
On this visit (one of many), I chose wild mushroom risotto cakes, crunchy stuffed olives with three meats, Manchego cheese & honey comb and tomato with goat cheese and pesto.
All of these dishes were reasonably priced comparatively and I hope you’ll give a few a try. I regularly check in on Twitter when I’m dining out, keyword: FoodNationRadio. Happy eating!
In the world of decadence, lobster bisque is certainly in the top rankings. The winner of our menu contest this year requested I make this dish. Truly, just a few simple ingredients are all you need.
1 small to medium-sized lobster
2 carrots, roughly chopped
2 shallots, not peeled, cut in half
Pinch of parsley
pinch of thyme
2 black peppercorns
15 1/2 oz pumpkin puree
6 TB butter
8 TB flour
splash of sherry
1 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup heavy cream
drops of good sherry, for garnish
drizzle of melted butter, for garnish
Put the lobster into boiling water for 10 minutes. Remove and allow to cool. Save the water you used to boil the lobster. Take the flesh out of the lobster shell and reserve. Save the lobster shell. In a large pot, add the carrots (chopped) and the shallots cut in half, flesh-side down over high heat. When the shallots brown, add the lobster shell and stir. Add the lobster cooking water, the parsley, thyme, peppercorns and clove. Allow to simmer for 30 minutes. Strain and put the liquid back on the heat. Add the pumpkin. Reduce by 1/3.
In another large pot, make a lobster veloute by adding the flour and butter over high heat. Whisk for 1-2 minutes, until the butter is melted. Whisk 1 minute more. Add a small splash of sherry. Add the lobster stock and whisk intermittently until it thickens slightly. Add the sea salt. Add the cream and turn down to lowest heat. In a small pan, reheat the lobster meat in a little butter and chop into pieces. Serve in bowls with some of the lobster pieces, a few drops of sherry and a drizzle of melted butter.
We challenged readers and listeners to come up with the best Christmas menu this year. Isn’t that more fun than telling you what to make? This goose was the very epitome of savory and the stuffing (made as dressing, separately) was truly outstanding. These are recipes to be filed away for years to come. Enjoy!
Julia Child always used the steaming and then roasting method to avoid splattering of the goose in the oven (due to the amazing amount of fat rendered). We will do that here as well, but save that fat to saute potatoes with, etc.
1 goose 8-10 lbs
blood orange juice (regular orange juice is fine) for basting plus 1 1/3 cups for the gastrique
1 large baguette, about 20 inches in length
1 TB butter
2 packages dried morel mushrooms (about 1 ounce each, dried, or a little more)
fresh thyme, rosemary, oregano and basil
1/2 tsp dried thyme
splash of white wine
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 tsp good sherry vinegar
1 cup of chicken stock (or make goose stock from the giblets, as we did with the turkey recipe on the site)
Take the giblets out of the goose. Rinse the bird thoroughly. Pat it dry with paper towels. In a large, heavy roasting pan safe for the stovetop, place the carrots and 2 shallots, cut into big chunks. Place 2 more shallots, roughly cut into the cavity of the goose. Splash some of the blood orange juice over the goose and generously season with salt and pepper. Place a couple of inches of water in the roasting pan and cover with aluminum foil. Steam over medium heat for one hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
While the goose is steaming, rehydrate the mushrooms according to package directions. While they steep, shred the baguette into bite-sized pieces and place in a large bowl. Beat the egg and add it. Chop 4-5 sprigs of each of the fresh herbs and add them. Add 1/2 tsp of sea salt.
Chop the mushrooms, add the butter to a small frying pan and saute them with a 1/4 tsp of dried time and a pinch of sea salt. When the liquid dries up in the pan, add a splash of white wine. Remove from the heat and allow to cool before tossing in the bowl with the bread mixture. With clean hands, mix the contents of the bowl. Spray an 8×12 glass dish with cooking spray and add the mixture, gently patting it down to fit the dish.
Pour the liquid from the goose pan into a container, leaving only about 1 cup of liquid in the pan. Splash a little more blood orange juice over it. Flip it breast-side-down, and roast, covered, for two hours while you make the gastrique (see below). During the last half hour, uncover it, turn it breast-side-up and place the stuffing in the oven, uncovered. After 15 minutes, add 1/2 to 1 cup of the reserved cooking liquid (and fat) to the stuffing, depending upon how much it has dried out. Bake and roast 15 more minutes and remove everything from the oven to cool for a few moments.
While the goose is roasting, make the gastrique. Place the sugar and 1 1/3 cups of the blood orange juice in a saucepan with the sherry vinegar. Allow to simmer and reduce until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. Allow to cool slightly. Serve with the goose.
Don’t deny it. Things get busy over the holidays, people tire of the preparations and just want to gather and relax. You may have ended up with an impromptu party or two, so here’s how to make the most of it and be prepared. You’ll look like you had it planned all along.
Sun-dried tomato palmiers
Herbed goat cheese
1 package frozen puff pastry sheets (11 oz)
1 6.5 oz jar of oil-packed sun dried tomatoes
4 oz grated parmesan cheese
8 oz of goat cheese
assorted fresh herbs, including basil, thyme, oregano, rosemary
8 0z (or more) wheel of Camembert cheese
best quality assortment of crackers
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
Thaw the puff pastry or quick-thaw according to package directions. Drain but reserve the oil from your sun-dried tomatoes. Buzz the tomatoes in a food processor until smooth. Gently roll out one 10″x15″ pastry sheet without crushing the edges (or it won’t rise). Place it on a cutting board. Paint the dough lightly with the oil from the tomatoes with a pastry brush. Paint the sun-dried tomato mixture on the dough. Roll the long side of the pastry up to the center and stop. Roll the other long side up to the center. With a very sharp knife, slice into 1/4″ thick slices and place each slice on a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Bake until golden 10-12 minutes. These hold up well at room temperature for a short period of time.
Roll out another sheet of the pastry dough, as above. Sprinkle it with parmesan and using a ravioli cutter or a knife, cut into 1/4″ strips. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and twist each end in opposite directions creating a spiral bread stick. Place each stick on the cookie sheet an inch apart and bake at the same temp as above for 10-12 minutes until golden brown. These also hold well.
Herbed goat cheese
Chop assorted herbs finely. Roll cold goat cheese into twelve balls. Roll in the fresh herbs and serve.
Take the plastic wrap off the cheese and place back in the wooden round container. Place it on a baking sheet and bake until very soft and melted. Carefully cut off the top and the melted cheese can be spread on crackers. Re-heat if necessary.
Serve all of the above with grapes and assorted crackers.
In this digital age we live in, now more than ever people appreciate the time taken to make a gift and the tastier the better. I put together some ideas to make friends and family smile over the holidays.
Another option is to make edible ornaments or even a gingerbread house. I experimented with gingerbread dough last year and came up with a recipe that would hold up for decorating. If you use this dough for ornaments, make sure you poke a hole in the top of each gingerbread cookie with a round pastry tip (because the hole will shrink) before you put it in the oven. Use holiday-themed cutters to make your ornaments varied and festive. Here’s the recipe link for that:
Other gifts you can make include chocolate truffles by simply scalding cream and pour the hot cream over twice as much (in ounces) of chopped chocolate, stir until smooth, let it cool and roll them into balls. Then you can roll them in cocoa, sweetened coconut, peanuts, pistachios. The possibilities are endless.
An even less expensive option is flavored popcorn. Make some popcorn and while it’s still hot toss it in garlic salt, cinnamon sugar or cajun seasoning. The flavors are up to you, but one thing is for sure; people will know you took the time to make it.
Sometimes, particularly during this time of year with all the holiday treats in abundance, I like to step back and make a few vegetarian dishes. You don’t have to sacrifice flavor for healthier, lower-fat meals. This dish tastes like an indulgence and I dare you not to go back for a second helping.
5 oz tempeh smoked bacon
1 lb spaghetti
2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more to garnish each plate
cracked black pepper
Put a large pot of water on high heat, with a TB of sea salt in it. While that’s coming to a boil, chop the tempeh bacon finely into small dice. Spray cooking spray in a frying pan and lightly “toast” the tempeh over medium heat. (The smell is fabulous.) When it’s lightly browned, set aside. When the water boils, toss in the spaghetti and cook to package directions. In a glass bowl, combine eggs (beaten), 1/2 cup parmesan and cracked black pepper (as peppery as you like it). If you are concerned about using raw eggs, realize the hot pasta will cook them for the most part, but you can always use pasteurized eggs (they come in the shell) if you like. Drain the cooked pasta reserved a few TB of the pasta water.
Toss the tempeh in with the egg mixture and toss the whole mixture in a big bowl with the hot pasta, adding a 2-4 TB of the cooking water to make a sauce. Serve immediately, garnishing with more parmesan and black pepper.
You may be tired of turkey by now and all that other rich food from Thanksgiving. I know how it is. Here’s a lighter, healthier take on what to do with that leftover bird. Hominy gives it a refreshing, nutty flavor.
1 poblano chili
1 jalapeno pepper
1 Cubanelle pepper
1 serrano pepper
16 oz jar of salsa verde
15 1/2 oz can white beans
15 1/2 oz can northern beans
15 1/2 oz can canary beans
29 oz can hominy
1 lb 3 oz can garbanzo beans
2 tsp hot sauce, such as Garlic Goodness
4 TB minced cilantro
1 tsp sea salt, or to taste
32 oz chicken stock
4-6 cups diced, cooked turkey
This is a thin “chili”. If you want to thicken it up, whisk in 2 TB of flour when you add the salsa.
Dice all the peppers into medium dice, removing the seeds. Heat a large pot to high heat and add the peppers into the dry pan. Allow to brown and char slightly, then add the salsa. Rinse the beans and hominy under cool water in a colander and add to the pot. Add cilantro and hot sauce. Add chicken stock to cover. Simmer 30 minutes or more. When serving, add the desired amount of cooked turkey to the individual servings (so the turkey does not overcook and become tough). Serve with cornbread, if desired. (There’s a very moist cornbread recipe here on the site.) Enjoy!