Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Go-ing to the Chapel and She's Gonna Get Ma-aarried

"How do I cut a tomato?" is a sentence that has been haunting me since Sunday when my friend Laura so innocently uttered the words. We were at a cook-out at her house and she was slicing tomatoes for burgers. I think she was just kidding in a way, but I'm not sure.

With her wedding rapidly approaching, Laura is always busy with something. She works, goes to grad school, and is planning a wedding; not to mention the fact that she has the most adorable new nephew that takes a lot of her attention (he would take mine too!). I have no idea how much time Laura spends in the kitchen. If her hectic schedule is any indication, it is probably not much.

For this reason, I want to provide her, my other friend Danielle, and any other new brides, with a quick, easy, and impressive meal your new hubby will swoon over!

The first thing is a super-easy Almond-Crusted Tilapia (sounds fancy, right?). There is not a recipe per se, but I will list approximately what I use and explain the procedure.

Almond-Crusted Tilapia (or other mild white fish)
  • 1-2 packages frozen fish (If you can get it fresh, even better)
  • 1-2 cups breadcrumbs (I usually use seasoned for more flavor)
  • 1/2 cup-1 cup almonds, chopped fine
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 egg
  • butter for cooking

Procedure: If the fish is frozen, thaw ahead of time in fridge or leave in the packaging and submerge in a bowl of cold water for 1/2 hour to an hour. If it is still frozen, place it under running cold water or defrost in the microwave.

Prepare one bowl with a beaten egg and a separate plate with a mixture of the breadcrumbs, almonds, flour, salt, and pepper. Sometimes I even add a little Parmesan to the mix.

Melt about 2 tablespoons of butter in a pan over medium-high heat.

Dip the thawed fish in the egg and then into the dry mixture. It helps to really press the mixture onto the fish so that it adheres.

Slowly place the fish into the pan of melted butter and cook--without moving it around much--for about 3-4 minutes on each side or until you notice it browning around the edges. Flake with a fork to ensure that it's done.Voila!

The other recipe, that goes fantastic with the fish, is a Zucchini Casserole of sorts that was featured in Family Circle magazine. The magazine called it Seven-layer Gratin, but I left out ground turkey, making it more of a vegetable side dish than an entree. The recipe can be found here.

Here are some pics of how the dish is assembled. Just as a side note, don't you love the baking dish?? I bought it for my mom (selfishly) at our World Market store closing sale which, by the way, was almost like a funeral for me!

I hope you girls try this- let me know how it goes!!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Save My Fingers!!

I keep mentioning how Spring in finally here, yaada, yaada, yaada and now today, it's cold and dreary. What kind of a cruel joke is this?! My friend Kristen said it was because she broke her shorts and tees out of storage, so it's all her fault!!

For whatever reason---probably because I'm so cold my fingers are about to fall off---I don't feel like doing a long post. I am going to post a tribute to food using some of my favorite food pictures I have taken. I hope you enjoy them and I promise I will post something more interesting soon!

Here they are in no particular order because I am running out of time before I freeze to death...

  1. Sourdough bread in which I scored "N" for my brother, Nino
  2. Romanesco- an amazing looking cruciferous vegetable

  1. My wedding cake; well, not mine from my wedding (I'm not even close to marriage!)- I just decorated it for school
  2. Doughnut from Voodoo Doughnuts in Portland that looks like my dad

  1. Pimientos de Padron from Viridian Farms in Portland
  2. Brioche we made in school; they look like ET during construction

  1. An AWESOME Italian Plum
  2. I envy the skill of this latte craftsman/woman

  1. I believe pears and figs were created specially for me
  2. Butter Braids- they taste better than they sound...

  1. Yellow tomato and Purple Pepper *Fun fact: I almost named my blog "Purple Pepper Eater" in honor of this rare pepper, but found that other people had post titles with similar names and I wanted to be original.
  2. The morning of my exam to become a Registered Dietitian, I ate half of a peanut butter sandwich with Skippy on white bread (blah!) because that's what my mom ate before she passed her nursing boards (apparently it's a nursing tradition). It worked!!

Have a great Saturday, with or without sunshine!!!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Tale of Two Tarts

The word "Two" combined with the word "Tarts" does magical things for me. It brings me back to the Portland Farmers Markets where my friend Heather and I would frequent the lovely Two Tarts Bakery. I admire everything about their business- the quality of the product, reasonable prices, beautiful presentation, and friendliness. Although they have not been open long, they appear to be well-established and professional. That is exactly what I aspire to be like in the future when I too follow my dream of starting my own business.

My "Tale of Two Tarts" actually doesn't involve the bakery; they were just an inspiration for the post title, so I thought I would mention how wonderful I think they are.

With Spring finally here and weddings galore, my mom and I have been sampling various tart recipes to serve at a wedding shower we are co-hosting. Tarts are a fairly simple way to make a bold, yet elegant statement at nice event (you know, something a little fancier than a backyard barbecue where chips and dip are an acceptable appetizer).

The first tart we tried was sweet and the second was savory. In pastry school, my absolute, hands-down favorite thing we made was the Pear Tart. It has a sweet tart dough (Pate Sucree) crust, an almond (Frangipane) filling, with poached pears on top. Heaven in a tart pan. When I was in school in Portland living alone, I tried not to take the treats we made home because I didn't want to be eating them all the time. Well, I took the whole Pear Tart home, and what should have taken a week to eat probably only took a few days. I think most Dietitians would disapprove (oh wait, I am one- Oops!).

Pate Sucree (Sweet tart dough) - Yield: 4 x 8" tarts

  • 4 oz powdered sugar, sifted
  • 8 oz butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 12 oz All-purpose flour
  • 1 egg
Blend butter, salt, and sugar on low speed.
Add egg and vanilla.
Add flour and mix slowly until dough forms. Don't over-mix!
Chill in plastic wrap before use.

*You can freeze the unused dough as long as you wrap it tightly. Another use for unused dough is to just roll it out, cut, and bake like cookies!
Frangipane - Yield: 2 x 8" tarts

  • 6 oz almond paste*
  • 1 oz sugar
  • 4 oz soft butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 oz cake flour, sifted (I used AP flour)
Use paddle attachment on low speed to blend together almond paste and sugar (you may have to use your hands to help break it up)
Add soft butter and blend in completely
Add eggs, then flour

*Almond paste is a little pricey; if you want to make your own, just combine--in a blender or food processor--2 parts blanched slivered almonds (without skins) with 1 part sugar, plus enough moisture to make a paste. I made the tart twice and the second time I didn't have enough store-bought almond paste, so I tried making my own and it turned out great! One thing I noticed though, is that the store-bought kind had a stronger almond flavor, so I added a bit of almond extract to my homemade paste.
Poached Pears - You will need 1-2 pears for each tart

  • Look for pears that are quite firm so they don't fall apart while poaching
  • To make the poaching liquid, dissolve sugar into water in about a 1:1 ratio. So if you need 3 cups of water to cover the pears in the pot, use about 3 cups of sugar. You are basically making a simple syrup so you can make it as sweet as you like. It will turn out fine if you decide to add less sugar.
  • Make your poaching liquid over medium heat to dissolve the sugar, then add the pears-- which should be peeled and cored--and reduce the heat to low.
  • Cut a circle out of parchment paper to fit down in the pot and cover the pears.
  • Poaching times vary, but will probably take at least 20-30 minutes. Test for doneness with a toothpick; it should go in easy and feel almost like a canned pear.


To assemble the Tart:

  • Roll out the tart dough and press against the sides and bottom of the tart pan. Remove excess by just pressing your thumb against the top edge of the pan to cut it off.
  • Smooth the frangipane filling out in the bottom of the tart shell
  • Drain poached pears and slice into thin wedges (whatever you think looks pretty)
  • Arrange the pears on the tart and press slightly into the frangipane filling
  • Bake at 375 degrees for about 40 minutes or until golden brown and set.
  • Allow the tart to cool and then brush the top with an apricot glaze (just warm apricot jam + a splash of water on the stove or in the microwave)
  • Enjoy your beautiful masterpiece!


OK, I know that recipe sounds complicated, but it really isn't all that bad and like I said, it can be very impressive! I am not going to post the recipe for the other tart because it will also be long and I don't want to bore you. If the pictures leave you dying to know what all goes into the Sauteed Spinach-and-Mushroom Tart with Ricotta Cheese either let me know and I can e-mail you the recipe or go to the library and check out Once Upon a Tart by Frank Mentesana and Jerome Audureau with Carolyn Carreno. It is a great book!

I don't mean to brag or anything, but...YUM!!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Make-Me-Laugh Monday!

Last night I got to hug Barack Obama.

In my dreams!!

No literally, in my dreams I hugged him and it was wonderful.

This dream had to be at least the 5th of which involved me meeting/knowing/hugging Obama. We're practically best friends by now...

"I'd like to give a shout-out to my best friend Maria- I love you girl!" See, the feelings are mutual.

Did anyone see him on Jay Leno last week? I thought he was so charming and funny, but then again, he is my friend and that's pretty much a pre-requisite. On the show, he was talking about Secret Service men that don't allow him to do certain things, such as take a 5-minute walk. In my dream, I hugged him, but Secret Service was standing by. Maybe I'm a little more dangerous and suspicious-looking in my dreams. Any worries the Dreamland Secret Service may have had was probably erased when after hugging Obama I exclaimed "Yes, I hugged him, I hugged him!!" That part of the dream was probably the most accurate because I believe that's what I would do if indeed I did get to hug Mr. Obama.

The point of this whole story is that I made myself laugh first thing this morning when I remembered this dream. If it didn't make you laugh--and it probably won't because other people's dreams and inside jokes are often only funny to themselves--I want to at least provide a joke so that I don't disappoint you. And if you would like to leave a joke or funny dream, please do!!

Here is a joke that my aunt told me. It's sort of about religion, but since I have already sort of talked about politics, here it goes...

A taxi driver picked up a nun and while they were driving the driver said, "Sister, I have something to ask you. I know this sounds weird, but I have always wanted a kiss from a nun; Do you think you could do that for me?"

The nun responded, "Yes, I think I could do that for you, but you have to promise me two things. One is you must be Catholic and the other is that you must not be married."

The taxi driver said, "OK sister, I promise that I'm Catholic and that I'm not married."

When they got to the destination, they both got out of the car and the nun gave the taxi driver a kiss.

The taxi driver then said, "Sister, I have something to confess- I'm not Catholic and I have a wife."

The nun looked at him and said, "That's OK, my name is Larry and I'm going to a costume party!"

Well, on that note, have a great week!!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Cheese. (That's a catchy enough title, right?)

I'm probably the only human being on earth that doesn't like to eat a straight-up chunk of cheese. I went to Costco (which by the way is my new favorite place) with my friend yesterday and of course there were samples. I usually don't take samples at Sam's club because of the swarms of people around the poor old ladies usually doing the sampling. Either Costco patrons don't take part in the act of competitive eating, or we were there at a good time, because the sample tables were empty. We tried a chunk of aged cheddar cheese that I could tell would be good on a cracker or grilled cheese sandwich, but just not as a naked chunk (that sounds bad!). I felt bad throwing half away, but I just couldn't do it.

Anyway, along the same cheesy theme, I just found a website I'd like to share. It's called Ilovecheese.com and is the site of the American Dairy Association. After just a little browsing, I can tell there is a plethora (great word) of information about cheese. There is a cheese guide, entertaining ideas, food and wine pairing tips, recipes, and more. Even I--a cracker girl--can appreciate this site!
*Photo taken from ilovecheese.com

Monday, March 16, 2009

It's Make-Me-Laugh Monday Once Again

This Monday, I am particularly in need of a good laugh. Searching for a job is not easy as it is, but in these tough economic times, it's even worse (obviously!). I try not to complain too much because I do not have a house payment or a family to support. I just hope things turn around soon!

OK, enough with the depressing stuff; I'm starting to sound like Debbie Downer. That's it!! Oh man, I'm excited; I'm going to post a Debbie Downer video for today. I wasn't sure what to post and now I do, so I'm already in a better mood! I hope this cheers you up too:

Sorry to post another video, but this one was just too appropriate for today. And it got even better when she mentioned bananas and potassium!

Friday, March 13, 2009

This is going to be a quick post because I have to get ready to go out with my mom. We're running errands and going to lunch for her birthday, which is tomorrow! Last night, my brother made my family dinner to celebrate. He is an AWESOME cook! He is not professionally trained, but he has trained under a great Chef who pretty much taught him everything he needs to know (or so it seems).

I took pictures of what he made, but they really don't do the meal justice, so I don't think he would want me to post them. I am so bummed about it! The lighting in our kitchen at night is horrible and my old camera (which is what I used) is terrible too.
I did take some pictures early in the day--when there was natural light-- of vegetables that I chopped to roast in the oven for dinner. It was a combo of eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, red onion, carrot, and a head of garlic. I have been wanting to do this for a while ever since I saw Giada do it on Everyday Italian.

All you do is chop the veggies and toss in olive oil, sea salt, and pepper and roast about 1/2 hour-45 minutes in the over at 400 degrees. The garlic is in the upper-righthand corner. You just cut off the top, drizzle a little olive oil, wrap in foil, and roast just like the vegetables.
This is such a simple way to get your vegetables in! As you can see, I made a TON, so the leftovers will help remind me to eat them through the week as well...I only wish I had thought of it sooner!
Have a great weekend!!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Happy RD Day to Me!

You know, I never really had a "day" devoted to me other than my birthday. I'm not a Mom, Dad, teacher, secretary, or Veteran and thus have never had the privilege. Well now I do! Last year was the first annual Registered Dietitian Day! I know it's exciting, but please get ahold of yourself. The thing is, last year, I wasn't a Dietitian yet; now I am, so I'm celebrating like it's 1999! OK, I'm not really celebrating, I just had the urge to write that, so I did.
This glorious holiday falls in March because it is National Nutrition Month. Each year, there is a theme, and this year it is simply "Eat Right." Sounds simple and really is simple if you are willing to dedicate yourself to making lifestyle changes that benefit your health both now and in the future. Here are some key components to a healthy, balanced eating plan (we try not to say diet because it tends to foster negative thoughts):
  • Emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat or fat-free milk and milk products
  • Includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts.
  • Is low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium) and added sugars.

You can read more about Eating Right at eatright.org. The link that I've provided takes you to a page discussing the Key Messages from this year's National Nutrition Month. You can also navigate around the site to find more fun and useful info.

Well, I guess I better go get started on my day.
I feel like a princess....

TOTALLY KIDDING! But do you like my tiara?

Have a good one!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Yesterday's Promise

Yesterday I said that I would post today about an awesome drink that is easy, refreshing, and healthy. It's perfect for the warm Spring/Summer days just around the corner! With temps in the 70's here in Cincinnati, I might just have to whip up a glass.

I hope you weren't anticipating a recipe for an elaborate, bubbly cocktail that you can sip from a champagne flute at a garden party, pinky in air. That's not my style. In fact, this is not a recipe at all. It is just a simple idea that I received from the same Dietitian that introduced me to Salmon Burgers.

Green Tea Iced Tea. Simple. Healthy. Refreshing. Delicious. Cheap.

Drink this, not that

That's all you have to do is buy your favorite green tea and steep- If you do not have a favorite, try Bigelow- it's awesome! They even have different flavors, such as Green Tea with Pomegranate and Green Tea with Lemon, but I really don't like flavored tea so I stick with the plain.
The directions for iced tea are on the box. If I am making just one glass, I steep 1 tea bag in a few ounces of hot water in a heat-safe glass- it creates a concentrate (sort of like juice). After about 5 minutes or so (when it has imparted flavor and cooled) I fill the glass with cold water, add ice, and stand in awe yet again at how good this is! Hot green tea doesn't excite me, so I am surprised every time when I like it cold.
Here's to drinking to good health!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Make-Me-Laugh Monday!

Oh man, I almost wrote a completely different post until I remembered it was Monday!! Now you will just have to wait until tomorrow to read about the healthy, easy, refreshing drink idea I was going to share!

Hmm, how can I make you laugh today? Personally, I LOVE to laugh and find that I laugh at almost anything. Don't get me wrong, I don't go around handing out free pity laughs, but I am also not shy when it comes to belting out a good laugh.

I have already mentioned my love of comedian Demetri Martin. If you haven't been watching his new show Important Things With Demetri Martin you have really been missing out!

Another all-time favorite of mine is Andy Samberg of Saturday Night Live. For several years after cast members like Will Ferrell and Cheri Oteri left the show, SNL just wasn't very funny. Now, I feel like it has it's spunk back, and it is largely due to Andy Samberg (in my opinion).

Here is one of my favorite "Digital Shorts" created by Andy and his friends. There are a lot more on NBC.com, but as you may know, some of them are just a weee bit inappropriate! I decided to keep this one clean, but it's still hilarious- Happy Monday!

*By the way, Chronicles of Narnia (Lazy Sunday) is my all-time favorite, but there is one bleeped cuss-word so I didn't want to put it on here. I recommend you check it out on your own!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Got Milk?

  • Milk does a body good
  • Don't cry over spilled milk
  • Got Milk?
  • 3-a-day of dairy
  • She must be the milkman's daughter (I hear this one a lot---kidding Dad! I know I look exactly like you, but without the moustache)
This is a horrible picture of us, but it's the only recent one I have!

Milk, milk, milk. Man, I hear a lot about milk, but I don' think I drink it enough. Do you?

As a woman, I should be (and am) very concerned with my Calcium intake. Approximately 1 in 3 women will have an osteoporosis-related bone injury in their lifetime. I try my darndest to get my recommended 3-a-day of dairy because a few years ago, I received some startling news via one of my favorite college professors.

This particular professor was--and I believe still is--very interested and involved in Nutrition Research about Calcium, Vitamin D, and Osteoporosis. He made it possible for our entire class to go to a nearby hospital and get a DXA (Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry) scan to determine our bone mineral density. I had an inkling mine wouldn't be great, but I wasn't sure...

When my brother and I were little, my mom made us drink milk with dinner every night--that is, until we were old enough to start making our own decisions in the food/drink arena. Milk started grossing me out, so I stopped drinking it. Big mistake. Needless to say, when my professor handed me my results of the scan he said in his kind Indian accent, "Ooh, this is not good."

Uh-oh, what had I done? And could it be un-done? Luckily, I wasn't the only one with poor results and he informed us that we still had time to build up our bone density. Bone mass peaks in early adulthood, but the need for calcium to help with maintenance is constant. He told us that supplemental Calcium would not be necessary unless we were unable to get it through diet.

From then on, I began drinking milk once again, but this time, I liked it! I also enjoy yogurt, almost daily, so that was a plus as well. If you're not a big fan of dairy, you can get Calcium in other ways: fortified Soy milk or cereal, tofu, beans, meats, poultry, eggs, dark leafy greens (kale, mustard greens), and fish. Fish offers up the most Calcium if you eat some of the tiny bones; I know it sounds gross, but they're hard to detect in a can of salmon or sardines (see Recipe below).

Another way to build bone density is through high-impact activity such as running, sports, jump-rope, etc. I was never an athletic child- I played volleyball (low-impact) and softball (I was the catcher= not very high-impact). Now, I try to exercise in ways that will benefit my overall health, including my wimpy bones.

Here is a recipe that one of my favorite Dietetic internship preceptors gave me for bone-building, mouth-watering Salmon Burgers. I have changed it slightly because I am still unclear as to what the rules are concerning putting recipes online.

Salmon Burgers
1 Can (14.75 oz) Salmon
1 tsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup whole-wheat cracker crumbs
2 large eggs, beaten
3 Tbsp fresh parsley, or 1 1/2 Tbsp. dried
1 tsp ground mustard
1/4 cup toasted pecan pieces (toast in oven or in nonstick pan on stove until lightly brown and fragrant)
2 more tsp. olive oil
  • Drain the Salmon and pick out large bones and skin (sort of gross, but worth it!)

  • Flake the salmon and add to a large bowl

  • Meanwhile, cook the onion with the first tsp of oil until golden and tender

  • To the Salmon add: cooked onion, 1/3 of the cracker crumbs, beaten egg, parsley, mustard, and pecans. Mix.

  • Shape the mixture into 6 patties

  • Press both sides of the burgers into the remaining cracker crumbs

  • Heat large, nonstick skillet over medium heat, add the next 2 tsp oil, and cook the patties on both sides until brown (I usually have to add more oil in the process)

Serve with:

Cucumber Dill Sauce (Recipe from Nutrition Council of Cincinnati Cookbook)

~10 oz plain nonfat yogurt

1 Tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp dried dill

1 tsp Dijon mustard

~1/4 cup finely chopped, peeled cucumber

~1/4 cup finely chopped green onion

  • Combine ingredients and refrigerate until ready to serve


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Ball Dropper

I can't believe I already dropped the ball on Make-me-laugh-Monday! I guess it doesn't have to be every week, but that was my plan, so I apologize! This week it will have to be Tell-me-a-joke-Tuesday.

When my brother was little he wanted to be a Comedian. Looking back on old home videos, I can see why because he sure was a ham! Here are some jokes he told when he was 8 years old on a video we recently watched:
  • A guy went into a restaurant and asked the waiter what soups they had that day. The waiter said they had Chicken soup and Pea soup. The man ordered Chicken Soup. Later, he decided to ask the waiter to change his order to Pea Soup so the waiter went in to the kitchen and said to the Chef, "Hold the Chicken and make it Pea!"
  • A tourist went up to a park ranger and asked if he ever had any accidents. The ranger told him, "No, but a snake once bit me and a horse once kicked me." The tourist asked, "Well, don't you call those accidents?" and the ranger replied, "No those critters meant to do that!"
  • What Kind of fish is rich?

A goldfish!