Friday, January 30, 2009

A Meal from the Pantry ...

And by that I mean that most of the ingredients for today's recipe were already residing in my home. I simply had to pick up a bit of beef and a bunch of mushrooms and start cooking. I guess it goes without saying that one of our premier, national eating holidays occurs this weekend: Super Bowl Sunday. If you were expecting to find a bunch of yummy, game-friendly snacks here this week, I'm sorry to disappoint. Maybe next year if I can muster up any interest in either of the teams. (Sorry Phoenix and Pittsburgh peeps, I'm a Cowboy fan!)

Its long been my custom, at least during the winter, to whip up a batch of hearty soup on Sunday afternoons for us to enjoy all week. And I make plenty of it. We'll generally have the soup for dinner twice during the week, rounded out with salad and bread, and any left-overs make a mighty fine lunch. Last Sunday was no exception. I put that yummy College Inn Bold Sirloin Stock to good use and we've been happily dining on Beef Barley soup ever since.

Beef Barley Soup:
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound of lean beef sirloin, cut into small cubes
  • some Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • one 10 oz. package of Crimini mushrooms, sliced, stems removed*
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 1 large stalk of celery, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 large clove of garlic, minced
  • 2 cups of low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 cups of low-sodium beef broth
  • 3 cups of College in Bold Stock - Sirloin flavor
  • one 14.5 oz can of Petite Diced Tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup of raw pearl barley, rinsed and drained
  • the leaves from 5 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • a handful of chopped fresh parsley
  • Some additional chopped fresh parsley and thyme for garnish
Heat 1 tbsp. of olive oil in a large soup or stock pot over medium high heat. Add the cubes of beef and dust them with a bit of salt and pepper. Saute, stirring as needed, until the meat has browned on all sides. Drain the meat and reserve in a small bowl.

Pour any residual fat from the pot and return the pot to the stove. Drizzle a tiny bit of olive oil into the pan and add the mushrooms. Saute them over medium-high heat until browned, then add the carrots, celery, onion and garlic. Saute for approximately 5 minutes, stirring as needed, until the onion begins to wilt. Add the fresh thyme leaves, stirring to combine and saute for one minute. Then add the vegetable broth, beef broth and beef stock to the pan, along with the diced tomatoes and their juices, and a hand full of chopped fresh parsley. Stir to combine and bring the soup to the boil. Add the pearl barley and the reserved cubes of beef. Allow the soup to boil again, then turn the heat to low, cover and simmer the soup on low for approximately 40 to 45 minutes, or until the barley has cooked.

Serve the soup garnished with some additional fresh parsley and thyme. Do not skip the fresh thyme at the end - its essential! As written, this recipe will serve 6 - 8 depending on serving size. Enjoy!
* Crimini mushrooms are also known as Baby Bella mushrooms, and I prefer them for their rich flavor. You could certainly use regular white button mushrooms, or leave them out altogether if that is your preference.

The three different types of broth may seem like over-kill, but really I think that's what makes this soup so special. They all add something different to the mix in terms of flavor and that Bold Stock can't be beat for adding richness. It should be noted that the Bold Stock is a bit high in sodium, so if that is a concern for you, opt for the standard low-sodium beef stock and use 5 cups of that instead.

Only after I'd written this post (earlier in the week) did I discover that I haven't invented "souper Sunday" ... in fact, there's an entire blog which devotes every Sunday to the best soups from around the web. Deb in Hawaii from Kahakai Kitchen has been hosting Souper Sundays for quite awhile now and I was delighted to hear about it. I will be a frequent visitor to Kahakai Kitchen's weekly soup round-up and I must say that last week's offerings looked spectacular. Be sure and check out her yummy blog.

So, how will you be celebrating Super Sunday? Hungry Diva wants to know.

Bon appetite!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Well Stocked Diva ...

I'm always curious about how people find my blog. By far the most popular search item that leads people here is: "South Beach Turkey Chili." Second behind that is some variation of "cats and cabbage" or "can cats eat cabbage?" No one knows why and I don't know if they can.

Yesterday someone arrived here after searching the phrase: "how to deepen your pantry." I'm sorry to say, unknown searcher, that you are one day late (make that *early*! Thanks, Dana!). Though I do hope you'll return and find today's post useful. (Unless of course you mean physically ... in which case maybe you need the DIY Network!)

Indeed, we have been discussing pantry staples a bit here lately, so I thought it might be time to open the cupboards - and offer my own primer on pantry essentials. I'm not trying to compete with Mark Bittman, or even offer a rebuttal. The following is simply a list of items that are always on hand chez Diva.

Pantry Staples:

  • Brown Rice - (actually, I keep it in the fridge)
  • Pearl Barley
  • Whole Wheat Orzo
  • French Green Lentils
  • Garlic
  • A variety of oats: steel-cut oats, rolled oats and instant oatmeal
  • A variety of pasta shapes, both whole wheat and white
  • A variety of canned tomatoes: petite diced, crushed, sugar-free tomato sauce, tomato paste
  • A variety of oils: extra-virgin olive oil, canola oil, vegetable oil, walnut oil, sesame oil, some flavored oils
  • A variety of vinegar: red wine, white wine, sherry, balsamic, etc.
  • Canned beans: black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans and fat-free refried beans
  • Nuts: walnuts, pecans, roasted pumpkin seeds and roasted almonds
  • Several kinds of broth a/o stocks: Chicken, Vegetable, Beef - all low-sodium and fat-free, and the scrumptious new College Inn Bold Stock pictured above.
  • Baking Supplies: whole wheat flour, white flour, corn meal, chickpea flour and various extracts and powders

Fridge Staples:

  • Eggs
  • Butter
  • Canadian Bacon
  • Non-fat Greek Yogurt
  • Non-fat plain Yogurt
  • Non-fat Milk
  • Unsweetened Soy Milk
  • Low-fat Cottage Cheese
  • A variety of olives
  • A variety of cheeses, always to include a chunk of good quality aged Parmesan
  • A variety of fresh veggies: onions, carrots, celery, red, yellow and orange peppers, radishes, shallots, etc.
  • Fruit: lemons, limes, grapefruit, Granny Smith apples
  • Fresh Herbs: parsley, thyme, rosemary, dill and cilantro are all pretty standard
And, lastly, I consider a well stocked spice cabinet to be truly essential. Here's what mine looks like:

... and no, I didn't clean it for you. Doesn't matter, *I* know where everything is and that's all that counts. This is my arsenal and I use it daily. A pinch of this, a dash of that and - zoom - I'm on my way to delicious. As we discussed last week, if you don't use your herbs and spices regularly you do need to check them for freshness. Many will lose their flavor after 6 months or so ... personally, I wouldn't know, mine never last that long!

Keep your pantry well stocked and you'll be half-way towards getting dinner on the table in a hurry. Come back tomorrow and I'll tell you all about what I did with that Bold Stock pictured above ... and a few other items from the list of essentials.

So, what's in your pantry? Curious Diva wants to know.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Are you aware that today is a holiday? A day for joyous celebration of ... blueberry pancakes! That's right, its National Blueberry Pancake Day, at least here in the US. I don't know if you been given the day off from work, or how you plan to mark this august occasion, but me? I'm making pancakes ... and they won't contain blueberries.

Its not simply that I'm a contrarian, although I am, more than that ... its January! I woke up to a snow and ice covered world, there's not a local blueberry in sight, and really I just don't understand why we're celebrating out of season?? Blueberry Pancake Day should be celebrated in July or August, not the dead of winter. In the dead of winter I want something hearty, something to chase the chill away. I want oat and nut pancakes!

In the spirit of the day, I will offer a pancake recipe and, if you're feeling celebratory, go ahead and throw a handful of blueberries into the mix. Personally, I never want fruit in my pancakes, but that's a whole 'nother story.

Oat and Nut Pancakes:
  • 1 1/2 cups of whole wheat pancake mix
  • 1 cup of rolled oats, such as Quaker
  • 1/3 cup of chopped nuts, I used a mix of walnuts and pecans
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups of milk*
  • 1/2 tsp. of pure vanilla extract
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, mixing to blend and let stand for 10 minutes.

Cook the pancakes in a large, lightly greased, non-stick skillet until they begin to bubble and the bottoms have browned. Flip and continue cooking until browned on the other side and cooked throughout. Serve and enjoy!

As written, this recipe will yield 12 - 14 pancakes, depending on size. You can freeze the extras for later use.

* I used 1 cup of unsweetened soy milk and one cup of non-fat milk ... because I've got a ton of soy milk in the fridge.

You'll note that this recipe makes use of boxed pancake mix. For those more enterprising, feel free to make your own whole wheat batter and add the oats and nuts accordingly. Juliet of Yummy, Low Calorie Diet Food featured a recipe for whole wheat pancakes last month that would fit the bill nicely.

Either way you can't go wrong. These pancakes are wholesome, filling and altogether delicious - even without the blueberries. In case you're wondering, tomorrow is National Corn Chip day ... a holiday from which I will likely abstain. You can find a list of our other wacky holiday's here, scroll down to find the food related celebrations ... and ready your popcorn popper for Friday.

So, what's your favorite kind of pancake? Hungry Diva wants to know.

Bon appetite!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Giving in ...

The following is an actual conversation that took place chez Diva on Friday night:

The Husband: Let's invite X to dinner tomorrow night. We can make some fish.

Me: But fish makes everyone so sad.

The Husband: No, fish only makes you sad.

The comedian in me would love to end this interchange with the line: "We had pork" ... but to tell the truth ... I acquiesced. I gave in. I made them some fish.

Long time readers will recognize this recipe as a variation on my Chicken Vera Cruz, but in all honesty this preparation is really best when used with fish. Naturally, I like to use a mild fish, something like tilapia, but any sturdy white fillet will do. I added some zucchini to the mix this time and it was a welcome addition indeed.

Tilapia a la Vera Cruz:
  • 3 fresh tilapia fillets
  • 1/2 pint of grape tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1 large shallot, peeled and minced
  • 1 tbsp. good quality extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. good quality balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp. red wine vinegar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
  • the leaves from 2 or 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 3 tbsp. jarred Marinara sauce - any brand without sugar
  • 1 large zucchini, sliced in half lengthwise and cut into half moons
  • 10 large pimento stuffed green olives, sliced
  • some snipped fresh dill
Pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine the grape tomatoes, shallot, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, chopped parsley and fresh thyme. Mix to combine adding a pinch of Kosher salt and a generous grating of fresh black pepper. Reserve.

Place each fillet on a large piece of aluminum foil and surround with the zucchini slices. You'll be forming a packet, so position the fish about 2 or 3 inches from one side of the foil. Spread 1 tbsp. of Marinara sauce over each fillet. Spoon the tomato/onion mixture over all the fillets in equal measure. Top with the olives and a bit of snipped fresh dill, to taste. Fold foil up and over the dressed fillets, sealing edges and sides to form a packet.

Place the packets on a large, rimmed baking sheet and bake on the middle rack of the oven for @ 20 to 25 minutes, depending on the size and thickness of the fillets. Larger pieces may need more time, thinner ones less - you're smart, you'll figure it out. Mine were finished after 22 minutes. Remove from the oven, open the packets very carefully - as the steam will be HOT - serve and enjoy!

You can alert the media - I ate the fish ... and it was spectacular. So moist and tender and the savory topping is just flat out scrumptious! I wish I had taken a picture of the fish on the plate - but fish goes cold in .1 seconds, so we just dug in and scarffed it down! The first picture is prior to baking and the second was taken after we opened the packet. This dish is quick, easy, super healthy and makes a beautiful presentation. As written this recipe will serve three. I hope you'll try it!

Turns out that not all fish makes everyone sad. Quite the opposite in fact, we were three very happy diners indeed. This meal will make your wallet happy too. Chances are you'll have most of the ingredients on hand - and tilapia requires only a minimal investment. Its one of the least expensive types of fish. I reckon this dish costs roughly $4.00 per person ... and that's New York City pricing so it may be even less depending on where you shop. Tilapia runs about $6.99 per pound making this meal easy on both your waistline and your pocketbook. Bonus!

So, what's your favorite way to prepare fish? Curious Diva wants to know.

Bon appetite!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Housekeeping: Linkage Edition

First off, a belated and truly heartfelt thanks to The Vintage Kitten for bestowing her Fabblog award on me! Quite chic, isn't it? This means a lot coming from The Vintage Kitten because for my money she has one of the most interesting and stylish blogs around. If you've not been to her site, do have a look - she's funny, talented and altogether delicious. Her photography is quite something too. Kitten and I are of the same ilk ... we're both rule breakers of a sort ... so I'm not going to post any rules about this here either. I will, however, pass my award along to the following individuals:

Food for Laughter, Life, Lightly Salted, Jamjarsuperstar, Uncommon Artistic Endeavors and The Duo Dishes. Enjoy your award and feel free to pass it on, or not, as you see fit. I could have given this to literally all the blogs on my read list ... but that could take days! Frankly I think you're all fabulous. Really!

Earlier in the week, The Duo Dishes tagged me with the Luck and Resolutions Meme, in which you're supposed to list four things that you wish for in the new year and four resolutions. Well, you all know how I feel about resolutions ... but I'll make an exception in this case and offer four food related resolutions for the New Year.

Four Things I Wish for in 2009:
  • Health and happiness for my family, my friends, myself and all my readers.
  • That the economy will make a miraculous recovery and all those who lost jobs in 2008 will find even better jobs in 2009.
  • Peace on Earth - yes, its a bit Polly Anna, but I'm sincere in my wish.
  • More travel, more vacations. This one is contingent upon the husband, of course, but a girl can dream!
Four Food Resolutions for 2009:
  • Form a better relationship with my crock pot. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
  • Continue my exploration of chickpea flour.
  • To try more new restaurants, to branch out instead of sticking with the tried and true.
  • Continue to eat well with an eye toward health, and continue to create new, healthier versions of old favorites.
And there you have it, my slightly off-beat resolutions for 2009. Once again, I'm going to break the rules ... if you're reading this and would like to use it on your own blog - consider yourself tagged and resolve away! No need to make them food related either - that was my change.

So, what are your food resolutions for 2009? Hungry Diva wants to know.

Bon appetite!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Interview Redux ...

Fasten your seat belts ... as I'm about to present part two of Diva, The Interview. Can you stand the excitement?! This meme appeared on Sassy's blog around the same time as the other and she very graciously sent me a list of five questions that I thought were quite provocative. Sassy was probably my first "blog friend" and I simply adore her. If you've not paid a visit to her blog, why not pop in and find out if you're Sassified?

1. What is your advice to a mother of 3 young (somewhat picky) children who is completely stuck in a cooking rut?

My advice to all parents is to cook with your kids. Not only is it a great bonding experience, but its also a nice way to get your children to try new things. If they've had a hand in making the meal, they're more likely to give the end results a try. I've had great success in getting my niece and nephew to try new veggies ... after they've used them to decorate a homemade pizza - so I know it works. Its fun to cook with kids and doing so will create lasting memories for your family. Who knows, you may have a budding chef right there in your household?!

As for getting out of a cooking rut - we've all been there. I'd be remiss if I didn't suggest coming to Beach Eats for new recipes! ~Ahem~ Beyond that, there are several sites online with easy to follow, kid friendly recipes. The FoodNetwork is a great resource, Recipe Zaar and All Recipes can also be useful. Try typing "cooking with kids" into the search box on the FoodNetwork site and see if anything tempts you. When I find myself in a rut, I'll usually pull out my cookbooks and start flipping through them. Trying something new, or revisiting a recipe you haven't made in a while, is a good way to get the culinary creativity simmering again.

2. How do you look at a recipe and KNOW it's going to be something you'd enjoy? I always get so weirded out by some food combinations, so it keeps me from even attempting them. (example, someone made a sandwich the other day with sauteed onions and apples on pastrami. The onion/apple combo scared me.)

True, some combinations do seem odd at first ... but you never know until you try. Apple and onion are spectacular when paired together ... in the right recipe, of course. (And I'm not sure I'd like them with pastrami!) I can look at a recipe and know that I'll like it - but I think that comes from experience. I've cooked enough to know what I like and what works well together. For those less experienced, I think you have to take chances, be daring, experiment.

3. Food is so expensive. Making things homemade SEEMS like it'd cost so much more. Do you find this to be true?

Actually, I don't find that to be true. I think its far more economical to make things from scratch than to buy packaged or prepared products - healthier too! A loaf of bread, for example, which costs upwards of $4.00 these days can be made far more cheaply from ingredients that are likely already in your own pantry. Does it take time? Yes ... but its worth it.

If you don't have a well stocked pantry or spice cabinet, you will need to make a small investment in staple ingredients. Once your pantry is stocked, though, you're ready to rock. Roast a large whole chicken or turkey breast and serve it on Sunday. On Monday, turn the leftover meat into turkey chili and serve it over rice with a side salad. Later in the week take the leftover chili and turn it into quesadillas by adding some cheese, some fresh veggies and stuffing it all between two whole grain tortillas. Brown the quesadillas in a tiny bit of oil in a non-stick pan, steam up some veggies as a side and voila - you've made your third meal from one investment!

If Mexican food isn't your bag, use half the leftover turkey or chicken to make a delicious veggie-laden pot pie, then take the other half and make soup. Its amazing how far you can stretch one main meal if you just get creative. My point is that using fresh ingredients is not only healthier, its more economical too. Eating well on budget takes some planning, of course. My suggestion is to pre-plan your menu for the week ... similar to what I've described above. recently did a feature on The Top Ten Money-Saving Ingredients - its a wonderful resource full of great tips and the article includes links to some terrific recipes. Check it out and get cooking!

4. What is your ultimate goal with your blog? What could happen with it that would make you say, "I did it! I'm a success?"

My goals are simple: world domination ... a la Martha Stewart.

Kidding. I do intend to write a cookbook at some point. And getting real traffic on the blog would certainly feel like success to me ... though I've so far done nothing in terms of marketing. I hope to have time to do that over the summer. Beyond that, I would sincerely like someone to pay me for what I do.(Someone other than my blog sponsor that is.) When I get my first check for a writing gig - food related or otherwise - I will be a happy Diva indeed.

I'd be delighted if I could turn this into some kind of profitable operation, I guess that's my ultimate goal - but in a strange way I already do feel like Beach Eats is a success. Though my readership is not as large as I'd like, my peeps are loyal and they seem to enjoy what I'm doing. My intentions were simple when I began the blog - I wanted a place to warehouse my recipes and an easy way to share them with family and friends. Initially, I didn't anticipate the small readership that I've developed - but now that I have, I'd like to build on that.

I'm pretty happy with the way things have turned out so far ... but if the Food Network rings ... I'll take the call!

5. What do you think is the main difference between a good blog and a bad blog? What is it about a blog that makes you keep coming back for more?

The main difference between a good blog and a bad blog? Seduction. A good blog has well-crafted posts that reveal themselves, and indeed the author, to the reader layer by layer ... like some linguistic dance of the seven veils. A good blog tantalizes the reader, leaves them wanting more; while a bad blog just ... spews. Let's face it, all bloggers are to a certain extent exhibitionists - but how we go about exhibiting ourselves makes all the difference. Good blogs seduce; bad blogs simply vent. Or, at least that's my opinion.

I read so many blogs and all of them for different reasons. That being said, its largely about the writing for me. If the blog is well written, I'll be back for more. I'm not fond of grammatically challenged blogs, and if the blog is rife with malapropisms that's a turn off as well. I'm not talking about typos - I'm the queen of typos - I'm talking about gross misuse of language ... really cringe-worthy stuff. That, I cannot abide. I do love me some humor though. (Gross misuse of language there!) Make me laugh and I will surely return.
And there you have it, part two of the Diva interview, courtesy of Sass. These questions were spectacular, Sassy - and I only hope I can live up to them when I interview Scarlet later this week. Thanks so much, Sass, I really enjoyed doing this!

Same rules apply here, if you'd like me to interview you, leave a comment asking me to do so and I'll get back to you.

Bon appetite!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Frugal Diva: Quickbread Edition ...

Yummy quick bread or heavy-weight doorstop? You make the call.

Ok, I'm kidding, and mostly because I'm not really a fan of quick breads. They're too often leaden in texture and lacking the soft, chewy comfort one desires of a loaf. That being said I'm long ... very long ... on fresh dill and I've still got that barrel of chickpea flour with which to contend. Astra Libris mentioned using the chickpea flour in quick breaks awhile back and that got me thinking; the ginormous bunch of dill residing in my fridge got me baking. Here's what I did with it ...

Cheddar Dill Quick Bread:
  • 1/2 cup of chickpea flour
  • 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup of all-purpose white flour
  • 2 tsp. of baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp. of ground cayenne pepper*
  • 1/2 tsp. of salt
  • 1 scant tbsp. of brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. of fresh thyme*
  • 2 or 3 tbsp. of snipped fresh dill
  • 1 1/4 cup of shredded reduced fat cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup of grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup milk*
Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine the flours, the baking powder, cayenne pepper, salt and brown sugar and whisk well to combine. Add the shredded cheese and herbs to the dry ingredients and mix well.

In a small bowl, beat the egg and milk together and add them to the dry ingredients, stir to mix until just combined. The batter will be VERY thick and stiff. Scrape the batter into a 9 inch, non-stick, loaf pan, smoothing the top and pressing it into the corners of the pan. Bake the loaf in the middle of the pre-heated oven for 40 to 45 minutes or until golden brown and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool the loaf in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then remove from the pan. Serve warm and enjoy!
The results? A savory, delicious loaf that's bright with the flavor of fresh dill and rich with all the yummy goodness you'd expect from cheese. The chickpea flour, while not the predominant flavor, is there in the background - adding a bit of whimsy and intrigue to the mix. Frankly, I love this bread. I love it too much.

Its delicious all on its own, right out of the pan, but I'm not going to lie - I buttered my slice. So sue me. Life's too short to live without butter!

A couple of notes on the recipe. One, I know its not Beachy. I could probably have replaced all of the white flour with a combination of whole wheat and chickpea flour ... but I was trying to build success into my quick bread mission. Same is true for the bit of brown sugar. Certainly, I could have opted for agave nectar ... but I have yet to master baking with it. Again, success was my intent. Feel free to play around with both the flour and other non-sugar ingredients and report back to me.

As for the thyme, it was hanging around my fridge too. Thyme and dill play well together, so in it went. Feel free to use whatever herbs you have on hand. All will be well. Lastly, the cayenne ... the brand I use is *super* hot. Insanely hot - thus the 1/8 teaspoon. If your pepper is less potent, why not live dangerously and up that to a 1/4 teaspoon? Your choice.

I'm well pleased with the results of my frugality. This savory bread will in no way be mistaken for a doorstop and I've made a small ... ok, very small ... dent in the chickpea flour and dill. I smell a series in the making ... stay tuned!

So, have you got a favorite quick bread recipe that won't be mistaken for a doorstop? Curious Diva wants to know.

Bon appetite!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Hybrid Soup ...

Is there anything more comforting than a bowl of chicken soup? It satisfies both body and soul and its a regular guest at my table. I've got a bunch of different chicken based soups that I enjoy, but my all time favorite is my recipe for Stracciatella, or Italian Egg Drop soup. I like to enhance the soup with some carrots and celery in addition to the traditional spinach. Its heaven in a bowl and will cure whatever ails you. I promise.

Seems I was in the mood to guild the lily this weekend and decided to stir things up a bit. With the husband's fondness for canned Chickarina in mind, I set out to create a healthier version of his old favorite. I began with my classic recipe, added some homemade meatballs and swapped out the pasta for some cooked barley. The results? Magnificent!

We'll begin with my recipe for the basic soup and the meatball recipe will follow.

Stracciatella Soup:
  • 1 can of low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 6 cups of non-fat, low-sodium chicken broth (or stock if you have it)
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into small dice
  • 1 large rib of celery, cut into small dice
  • 1 or 2 small tender stalks, leaves included, from the heart of the celery, chopped*
  • half of a medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 small clove of garlic, minced
  • a handful of chopped fresh parsley
  • some snipped fresh dill, to taste (optional)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • a dash of freshly grated nutmeg
  • a dash of good quality curry powder*
  • one bunch of fresh spinach, washed, stems removed and chopped
  • one large egg beaten with a pinch of salt and pepper
  • some cooked barley or whole wheat orzo
  • Some chopped fresh parsley and some freshly grated Parmesan cheese for garnish
Combine the vegetable and chicken broths in a large soup or stock pot. Add the carrots, celery, celery leaves, onion, garlic, parsley and dill (if using) to the broth. Season with a bit of salt, pepper, nutmeg and curry powder and bring the soup to the boil. Once it boils, reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, wash and prep the spinach and cook your barley or pasta. After the soup has simmered for the required time, add spinach to the broth, stirring well to combine and raise the heat to medium high. When the soup just begins to bubble gently, add the beaten egg by drizzling it into the broth in a gentle, circular motion. Allow the egg to cook undisturbed for approximately one minute, then stir. The egg will form lovely, delicate strands which run throughout the soup.

To serve: place some cooked barley or whole wheat orzo in the bottom of a large bowl and ladle the finished soup over it, garnishing with the chopped parsley and a dusting of Parmesan cheese.

This is my go-to chicken soup recipe and I swear it has magical healing powers - just ask Mama Diva! Don't be fooled by the list of ingredients - this comes together in a hurry and can be prepared in half an hour. It can be served and enjoyed as written above, or you can do as I did on Sunday and add some:

Mini Chicken Meatballs:
  • 1 pound of ground chicken breast
  • 1 small onion, peeled and grated
  • 1 small clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. of grated Parmesan cheese
  • a dash of Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • a generous grating of fresh nutmeg
  • some snipped fresh dill
  • 1/3 of a cup of chopped fresh parsley
  • one egg white, lightly beaten
  • 1 tbsp. of bread crumbs
Place a 4 sided box grater into a large mixing bowl and grate the onion directly into the bowl. Hint - be careful! Try to avoid grating your thumb into the bowl along with the onion. To the grated onion add the ground chicken and the rest of the ingredients, stirring well with a fork to combine.

If using the meatballs, add them to the soup before you add the spinach. Let the soup simmer for the required time, then bring to a gentle boil. Shape the chicken mixture in to smallish, 1 inch meatballs and add to the soup. Allow them to simmer undisturbed until cooked, approximately 5 minutes or so, they will float to the surface when they are cooked. Then proceed with the spinach and cheese additions as described above.

As written this recipe will likely yield approximately 30 meatballs ... which is way too many for one pot of soup. I added half the meatballs to my soup and simmered the rest in some unadorned chicken broth ... I'll freeze the cooked beauties for future use - and you may choose to do likewise.

You can't go wrong either way. The Stracciatella soup is delicious on its own, and its outrageously good with the addition of the meatballs. Sort of a hybrid Italian Wedding/Egg Drop/Chickarina, if you will. Its truly a meal in a bowl. The husband devoured his and I know the left-overs won't be around long. As written, this soup will serve four. I hope you'll try it!

One quick note about the celery leaves ... that's an old trick from my grandma Pam. She never made chicken soup without adding the celery leaves and neither do I. As for the curry powder, that's my own personal quirk ... it bumps up the chicken flavor. Use just a dash and the results will be luscious and savory.

So, what's your favorite kind of soup? Hungry Diva wants to know.

Bon appetite!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Reunited and it Feels So Good ...

Sure, we had some good times, you and I. Shared a few laughs, got a little hot, a little crazy at times. But I was young and foolish then, couldn't see what you were doing to me, couldn't see that you were trouble - with a capital T. Besides, I never could control myself with you - we always went too far, you and I. That's why I had to call it quits. Give you the slip. I'm just gonna come out and say it: break up with you.

Yeah, it hurt at first. I missed you like crazy, couldn't get you outta my mind. Getting over you was tough. I'm not gonna lie, I did somethings I'm not proud of - desperate things, things I've never said out loud. (Mashed lima beans, anyone?) Then one day it happened, the fog cleared, you slipped my mind completely and I've never looked back.

Until Friday. Oh man, Friday. Seemed like any ordinary day. Breathless from the cold and caught in the relentless tide of other shoppers, I nearly passed you by - almost missed you entirely. Its been half a year but our bond is so deep, so real, something made me look that way ... and there you were - hiding behind that stock boy and his cart.

Damn, you looked fine. Different, a little wiser - yet somehow fresher - more enticing. I took you home. I had my way with you:

Noodles. I'm talking about noodles. The noodle and I have been reunited and it feels so good! Ronzoni is now making a (mostly) whole wheat variety and they are outstanding! I was dubious at first, fearing a gummy non-noodle-like texture, but that isn't the case at all. They're as light and fluffy as any noodle should be and they're packed with protein (8 grams) and fiber (6 grams). They do contain some semolina, but they also contain flax meal and wheat fiber, so I'm sold.

I put them to good use as the base for this sausage and roasted tomato dish that I cribbed from The Duo Dishes. Thanks, Duo, this recipe was magnificent! I swapped out the pork sausage in your recipe for some hot italian turkey sausage, added a bit of chicken broth to the sauce and topped it with some shards of fresh Parmesan cheese. Delicious - a perfect winter meal. The husband and I adored this dish and I recommend it highly!

I have a deep personal commitment to noodles and I'm delighted to welcome them back to my life. Thanks, Duo Dishes and Ronzoni!

So, what's your favorite way to serve noodles? Hungry Diva wants to know.

Bon appetite!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Winter Skin

If you're anything like me, your skin needs some serious help to survive the winter. The chill winds and dry heat of the radiators are enough to leave me feeling quite reptilian. While life as a lizard may have certain advantages -mmmm ... basking in the sun - I have no wish to be mistaken for one.

Luckily, I've discovered a few products to save me from that fate and I'd like to share them with you today. Much like my never ending quest to tame the brillo head, I've spent a lifetime - and several fortunes - searching for the right skin care regimen. I've tried all the brands, from high-end to low-rent, yet I always return to The Body Shop. I like their philosophy and my skin likes their products.

I popped into my local store a few month ago and, on the advice of one of the sales women, picked up a tube of their Vitamin C Cleansing Face Polish. Wow, this stuff rocks! It gentle enough to use every day, smells great and leaves my face feeling super clean and fresh. The tiny micro-breads exfoliate gently, and the Vitamin C helps to brighten your skin as well as protect it from pollutants. I have sensitive skin and was worried about using a daily scrub, but my skin is radiant. I can't remember when its looked this good. Really.

I use the scrub at night and follow it up with one of the Vitamin C Plus Time Release Capsules. Aren't they cute? You simply twist open the single-use capsule and apply the contents to clean skin - then hit the sack. The magical little capsule will do the rest for you and you'll awake with soft, bright, evenly toned skin. At $28 a jar, they're a bit pricey, but completely worth the investment, and far less than you'd pay for similar products in other lines.

The lizard skin is not limited to my face - my hands are a mess this time of year. Dry, dry, dry! Doing skillions of dishes doesn't help either. Fortunately, there is a remedy: Kiehl's Ultimate Strength Hand Salve. I'm not going to lie, at $19.50 for a 5 ounce tube, this stuff ain't cheap ... but, again, well worth the money. This is the only hand cream that works for me, and the only one who's texture I can abide. It forms an invisible glove around your hand and provides all day protection. Its miraculous. Really.

Paired with the Kiehl's in the above photo is my other winter savior: Aveeno Overnight Itch Relief Cream. I practically bathe in the stuff before bed and I simply cannot live without it. Its fragrance free, works on contact and fast absorbing ... so you won't feel like a greased pig after using it. Bonus! It can be yours for a mere $5.31 at In the words of Martha: its a good thing.

In case you're wondering, I'm not getting kick backs from any of these brands, nor will I make a dime if you click those links. Think of this as a public service, my post-holiday gift to you. Soft, radiant skin is decidedly Divalicious, may it be yours this winter!

So, have you got a favorite skin care product you'd like share? Or a tip for taming winter skin? Shout it out in the comments. Silky Diva wants to know.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Diva, The Interview ...

There's a fun little meme-like deal floating around the internet this week and I'm delighted to have the opportunity to join the fray. I first saw this interview thang on Argentum Vulgaris's blog: Tomus Arcanum and I was most intrigued. I left the requisite comment on his blog and the following are the interview questions he's chosen for me. I must say it was great fun to do and I hope you'll enjoy reading the answers as much as I enjoyed writing them.

Be sure and check out any one of Argentum's eight! blogs. His blogs are fascinating and with a selection like that there's something for everyone. Personally, I'm partial to Tomus Arcanum ... just love that name, and Things that Fizz and Stuff. Always something interesting going on in Argentum's world. Check it out!

Without further ado, I now present: Diva, The Interview ...

1. I like your blog a lot. Why do have such a fascination with food?

Because its so tasty! I think I've always been fascinated with food on some level. At first my interest was very basic, making cookies or baking with my mom. Somewhere in my teens I started reading cookbooks, sort of as a hobby, and my interest grew. I came down with Chicken Pox when I was 19 - horrid! by the way - and I spent much of the recuperative period devouring The Joy of Cooking ... one of the 1970's versions and I still have that book. (Please note, I was not 19 in 1970. This is critical information. I am not *that* old.) That led me to prepare my first meal on my own - for my family ... some kind of chicken (naturally) and a pasta dish out of the Joy of Cooking that I still make to this day. (Pixelgal, do you remember that??)

I moved to New York shortly thereafter and had to cook for myself for real - and I loved it. While the husband was in law school, I spent nearly every weekend in the company of Julia Child, the Galloping Gourmet, Jacques Pepin and even The Frugal Gourmet. They taught me how to cook. I'd watch all their shows, then plan and execute elaborate meals based on what I'd seen. Such fun! It was during that time that I learned to make my own pasta and a really killer Bolognese sauce. That all morphed into a long time devotion to Gourmet and Bon Appetite magazines. Both of which I'd read cover to cover, before getting out my shopping cart and getting busy recreating the wonderful dishes featured on their pages. I credit PBS and both those magazines for fostering my obsession with food and dining ... and creating the need for me to become The Diva on a Diet! I learned too well and became a victim of my own good cooking.

I'm still fascinated by what and how we eat - though these days I'm more interested in eating well with an eye towards health.

2. By your own confession, there will be a lot of chicken, why?

Ah chicken, my beloved chicken. Who knows why I'm such a fan of the fowl?! I could probably eat some form of chicken or turkey every single day and never grow tired of it. Its lean, can be prepared in a myriad of ways, and its just plain delicious. I've eaten chicken in some of the best restaurants in the world. Prior to visiting Germany for the first time I made sure to learn the word for chicken breast: huhnerbrust, so I'd be prepared. (And P.S. it was never on *any* menu!)

Frankly, its become something of a joke amongst my husband, family and friends. If there's chicken on the menu, odds are I'll order it. Eh, what can I say ... I'm a cheap date!

I will add that at home, I'm a poultry snob. No Perdue or Tyson for me. Its got to be some kind of organic, hormone-free, grain fed bird or nothing at all. Those weird, yellow, chemically enhanced birds really freak me out and I steer well clear if possible.

3. We all know about the many things you like in the culinary world; tell us some of the things you hate, or at least dislike somewhat?

I think you all know how I feel about fish. I can't stand the stuff. With the exception of shrimp, I prefer to leave the sea creatures where they belong ... in the sea. I will force myself to eat it every now and then, because people keep insisting its good for me, but I don't really enjoy it. I loathe and detest all forms of organ meat. Can't even bear to think about it really. ~shudder~ And, if I'm being honest, I'm not much of a fruit girl. I love apples, grapefruit and pears ... but that's about it. I'll willingly choke down a few strawberries in season, maybe a handful of super fresh blackberries, but I could go a long time without fruit and not miss it. ~hangs head in shame~

I'm actually a very picky eater ... but getting better as I grow up. Part of the fun of cooking for me has been exploring new ingredients and finding out that things like pumpkin really aren't as evil as I'd thought. I went a long time with a very short list of likes and it pleases me to know I've made great progress over the years and expanded my horizons. There are few things I won't try at this point ... and they are limited to the weird and gross!

For the record, I'd also like to state that there is only one vegetable I cannot abide: cucumbers.

4. You have displayed an innate skill with the camera, tell us about it?

This one actually made me laugh. I'm delighted that you think so, Argentum ... but I think my food photography sucks! I'm trying to improve though and plan to buy one of those nifty light boxes so my shots will at least be decently lit. I'm also in search of a food photography class - but have yet to find one.

I will admit to having some skill with the camera in other areas of still photography a/o vacation and nature shots. I've taken many shots over the years of which I am proud and have some hanging in my office. I owe any talent in this area to my parents, both of whom are exceptionally skilled behind the camera. We've got strong artistic genes in the family and if you could see their work you'd know what I mean.

I will also admit to having a background in art. I was a double major in college and have a degree in Studio Art and Art History. I know I've got a good eye for color and composition ... I just don't know much about getting the best out of a digital camera. I'm much stronger with the old fashioned cameras ... hang in there with me ... I'm learning. :)

5. If there is something you really dislike, or that really peeves you about the blogosphere, what would that be?

In all honesty I'd have to say that I've been pleasantly surprised by the blogosphere. There's a real sense of community out here (there?) and that was something I didn't expect to find. The food blogging community has been particularly welcoming. I've received nothing but encouragement so far, and have "met" some really great people.

Certainly, I'd hoped to create a kind of community when I launched this blog, but I had no idea how far it would reach ... like all the way to Brazil with your blog, or across the pond to Scarlet's. That's pretty damn cool! And much like Sassy said in her interview the other day, I had no idea how much I'd care about this whole thing ... or how many hours I'd need to devote to it!

If I had to come up with a peeve, or something negative, I guess I'd say that its something of a disappointment to me that I can get 40 hits a day ... and only 2 comments. I wish more people were willing to at least pop into the comments section and say hello. I don't expect prize winning prose, but it would be nice to know who's out there reading me. Bueller? Bueller? Anyone? Anyone? ;)

Thanks so much Argentum, I think you've got a bright future ahead of you as an interviewer. Such great questions. I had a blast doing this! And may the deity of your choice forever continue to bless you for *not* asking my weight, or any other diet related questions. ~wink~


If you’d like to play along, just follow these instructions:

* Leave me a comment saying, “Interview me.” (I won't post your email address in the comments.)
* I will respond by emailing you five questions. I get to pick the questions.
* You will update your blog with the answers to the questions. Be sure you link back to the original post.
* You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
* When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Breakfast of Champions ...

Its a windy, bitter 17 degrees out there today and I'm on my way to the gym. While I'd normally opt for a small breakfast of Greek yogurt and some nuts before hitting the gym, on a day like this I really need something heartier. I like a hot breakfast on a cold morning and today I'm going to share my favorite on-the-go product: Uncle Sam Instant Oatmeal with Whole Wheat Flakes and Flaxseed.

Uncle Sam's is by no means a new product. Its been around for generations, since 1908, in fact. Its relatively new to me though. My favorite oatmeal is McCann's Irish Oatmeal. Just a simple can of steel cut oats, they are stunningly good and hearty. I don't always have time to make them though, and when in a hurry I turn to the Uncle.

I met Uncle Sam when I began my search for a sugar free instant oatmeal - and a happier introduction I couldn't imagine. I don't like all those sugary, flavored instant cereals and prefer to flavor my own. Sure, I know Quaker makes a plain, sugar-free instant oatmeal, but its pales in comparison to my beloved McCann's. It lacks the nutty goodness that I so enjoy. And, frankly, the texture leaves much to be desired. Its more alike to wall paper paste than not, whereas Uncle Sam's has a bit of crunch ... and I dig texture. The wheat flakes and flax go a long way towards bumping up the flavor as well. Its nearly as good as the steel cut oats and I adore it.

Take a look at the ingredients and nutritional profile:

Nothing un-pronounceable, no sugar added, and its got a decent amount of fiber and protein to boot. Color me delighted! I like to top my oatmeal with a few crushed walnuts and roasted pecans, a handful of diced Granny Smith apple and a generous dusting of cinnamon. Spectacular!

I make it in the microwave and it takes all of a minute and a half. Its a perfect way to start the day and I recommend it highly.

So, what's your favorite cold weather breakfast? Chilly Diva wants to know.

Bon appetitte!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Pantry Staples ...

There was an interesting article in last week's dining section of the New York Times that I had been planning to discuss before my internet connection went down. Written by Mark Bittman, and entitled "Fresh Start for the New Year? Let's Begin in the Kitchen", the article highlights the need for a well-stocked pantry and presents his list of "In" and "Out" pantry items ... meaning those that are must-haves and those that we might consider doing without or making ourselves.

Its certainly timely. With the economic crisis continuing to deepen, I suspect that more and more of us will be dining at home with greater frequency. I found the article quite thought provoking and, frankly, a bit controversial. While I agree with most of his suggestions - I'm going to have to take issue with a few of them.

Prepared bread crumbs for instance. According to Mark, they're OUT. Personally, I'm not so sure. Do I know how to make my own bread crumbs? Of course, I've done so many times. Am I going to forsake prepared bread crumbs completely? Nope. Sure, homemade anything is better than processed anything, but on the other hand ... we really don't eat much bread. I'd have to go buy a loaf in order to make the crumbs and that just seems silly. I do make exceptions when I have the need for whole wheat bread crumbs, as I did in this eggplant parm recipe, and make my own - but I like the convenience of knowing the pre-made crumbs are there at the ready in my baking cabinet. What about you?

Canned stock is another area where Mark and I differ. Again, I can and do make my own stock from time to time; but much like the bread crumbs, I like the ease of the canned variety. Heck, 90% of my recipes call for canned broth in some form or another. It would be nice to have the kind of time at my disposal to make large quantities of chicken or vegetable stock - the reality is I simply do not. The canned stock will continue to reside in my pantry, thank you very much.

I wholeheartedly agree with his urging of the use of real Parmesan cheese, rather than canned; and real lemons as opposed to bottled lemon juice. And he's spot on with his advice to cull your spice collection periodically. You can't create much in the way of culinary greatness if your spices have all the flavor of a pile of saw dust. January seems like the perfect time to give your pantry an update and the majority of his tips are well worth adopting.

When you've got a moment, click the link and take a gander at the article. I'd like to hear your thoughts. Do dried beans, canned stock, frozen pie crusts and "minute" rice have a place in your pantry? Or are you more likely to make your own stock and boil your own beans? Curious Diva wants to know.

Bon appetite!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Winter Asparagus ...

Phew, I'm back online and can finally share that recipe for roasted asparagus that I promised last week.

Normally, I'm in favor of eating seasonally, and locally, as much as possible. But the thing is ... I really like asparagus - and the husband does too. Enough so that I'm willing to break a few of my own rules and eat it off-season. That being said, the thick woody clubs that are available now bear no resemblance to those lovely, pencil thin, stalks of spring. My solution? Fire up the oven and get roasting!

Roasted Asparagus with Walnuts and Parmesan:
  • one bunch of fresh asparagus
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • some chopped walnuts and some freshly grated Parmesan cheese for garnish
Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees.

Wash and trim the asparagus, snapping or cutting off the tough ends of each stalk. Place the asparagus in a single layer on a large, rimmed cookie sheet and drizzle with some of the olive oil, rolling them around to coat. I probably used about a tablespoon of oil, but didn't measure. Sprinkle the stalks with some Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper and roast in the middle of a pre-heated 400 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes, turning once, until tender and slightly caramelized.

Transfer the roasted aspargus to a plate and top with the chopped walnuts and Parmesan cheese. Serve and enjoy!

This recipe is mainly about technique. I've adapted it from one in The Food and Wine Lover's Diet that called for hazelnuts and Pecorino Romano. Don't have any walnuts on hand? Feel free to use some almonds or pecans instead. Got a chunk of Grana Padano hanging out in your fridge? Go ahead and use that in place of the Parm. Its all good. I mean its really, really good! Roasting brings out the subtle nutty flavor that you never knew was tucked inside those springy stalks.

For my money, roasting is the perfect (and maybe only way) to treat winter asparagus. It was so good we finished an entire bunch between the two of us. I hope you'll try it!

So, what's your favorite roasted veg? Curious Diva wants to know.

Bon appetite!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

New Year, Old Issues ...

Forces have conspired against me and I am once again without internet access. I'm not sure when it will be up again, perhaps Friday. I'm posting this note from another locale. Will catch up on email, comments, etc. as soon as I'm back in business ... hang in there with me and let's hope for a speedy fix!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

New Year, New Cookbook ...

After all the rich holiday food, I find I'm craving two things: soup and chicken. Naturally, I combined the two and made chicken soup on Monday ... but you can't possible need a recipe for that, right? Besides, the soup I made was a charming cheat and I've divulged enough of those lately that I think I'll keep this one to myself.

What I really want to talk about today is ... chickpea flour. And, more specifically, why I felt the need to buy a great, big, heaping bag of it when I have no earthly idea what to do with it?! Anyone? Anyone? ~cue cricket sounds~

Yeah, I thought as much. It seemed like a good idea at the time, yet there that chickpea flour has languished, mocking me every time I open my baking cabinet, low these many months. Fortunately, my sister-in-law, K, gifted Mama Diva with a copy of The Wine and Food Lover's Diet on Christmas and while paging through it I came across a number of recipes which included chickpea flour. Color me intrigued. I bought a copy for myself.

Catchy title, no? I mean who doesn't love wine and food?! I do. I do! Now, I'll be honest with you, I haven't read through the entirety of the diet plan - frankly it bored me. I think the basis is sound and entirely compatible with the South Beach Diet, but I grew tired of reading the phrase "The Wine and Food Lover's Diet" over and over and over again. Can we get an edit here? Perhaps interchange the relentless self-promotion for, I don't know, something like "this diet" or "my plan?" Eh, maybe I'm too picky and, really, I digress because the diet isn't really my point. My point is that this book is chock full of healthy and delicious looking recipes and I'm eager to explore it more fully.

Last night I finally put that forlorn chickpea flour to good use in adapting one of the book's dishes. I substituted chicken breasts for the turkey tenderloin called for in the recipe, and added some additional seasonings to the flour. The results were magnificent!

Pumpkin Seed Chicken:
  • 4 skin-less, boneless chicken breasts, pounded thin
  • 1/2 cup of chickpea flour
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • a dash of poultry seasoning
  • a dash of good quality paprika
  • one egg, beaten with 2 tsp. of water
  • 1 cup of coarsely ground toasted pumpkin seeds
  • some extra-virgin olive oil
  • one lemon, cut into wedges
Mix the chickpea flour, salt, pepper, poultry seasoning and paprika together in a shallow baking dish or pie pan. (I probably used about a 1/2 tsp. of the poultry seasoning and paprika.) And place the ground pumpkin seeds in another shallow pan or dish. Beat the egg and water together in a small bowl. One piece at a time, dredge the chicken breasts in the seasoned chickpea flour to coat, shaking off the excess. Then dip them in the egg and turn them in the ground pumpkin seeds to coat well. Continue until all of the chicken has been coated.

Heat some olive oil, enough to coat the bottom of the pan, in a large heavy-bottomed or non-stick skillet over medium high heat until the oil is hot but not smoking. Add the chicken and cook until browned on the first side - roughly 3 or 4 minutes - turn and cook on the second side until well-browned and cooked throughout - approximately 3 or 4 more minutes, depending on the thickness of your chicken. Remove cooked chicken to paper towels to drain off the excess oil and serve, garnished with a wedge of lemon for sprinkling over the chicken at table. Enjoy!

As written, this recipe will serve four. I purchased some whole, toasted pumpkin seeds and used my mini food processor to grind them for the coating.

What a great introduction to this yummy new cookbook! This chicken was so moist and tender. The chickpea flour lends a nice, savory flavor and the pumpkin seeds really give it crunch ... quite similar to fried chicken. I loved the addition of lemon and the husband and I gave it two thumbs up. Delish! I served it with some roasted asparagus, topped with walnuts and Parmesan cheese - and I'll tell you all about that ... tomorrow.

For now, do you have any recipes that include chickpea flour? If so, please share ... curious Diva wants to know.

Bon appetite!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Crepes Redux ...

Since I've not had the opportunity to create much in the way of culinary greatness so far this week, I thought I'd follow up on Papa Diva's crepe post with a recommendation and a couple of pics.

The photo above is of Papa Diva contemplating my favorite Parisian creperie - A la Bonne Crepe, located at 11 Rue Grégoire de Tours, Paris, France. The husband and I dined here on my first trip to Paris in 1997 and I was delighted, though not surprised, to find that it was still there on my second trip in 2007. Both meals were spectacular and I can't recommend this place highly enough.

The atmosphere is charmingly rustic, warm and cozy, and the food is simply divine. We were with a larger group of family and friends in 2007, and I was happy to have the opportunity to introduce them to one of our little finds. As is the custom, we each began with a savory crepe - I had the ham, egg and cheese - then followed that with a sweet crepe. I don't think I need to tell you that I chose chocolate for my sweet filling; a rich, deep, velvety chocolate sauce to be exact that was good enough to drink on its own ... swoon. Though I understand that those who chose the apple were pleased as well. You really can't go wrong with any of Bonne Crepe's offerings.

Mama Diva snapped this pic of the crepe master at work, I think he was filling an apple crepe at the time ... and it was kind of him to put down his cigarette while doing so. Ah, Paris!

As you can see, the Diva family seriously devoted to crepes! I just wanted to take the opportunity to share these with you as I am out and about today. I'll be back with a cookbook recommendation and a new recipe tomorrow, so stay tuned!

Bon appetite!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Cooking Green ...

I know what you're thinking ... its a new week, a new month, a new year - so naturally, today's post will be about resolutions. Right? Not exactly. Those of you who've been with me from the beginning will know how I feel about resolutions. I don't like them and, in general, I resolve ... nothing. Its my belief that change happens when we are ready to embrace it and not because the calendar turns.

I do, however, recognize that others enjoy engaging in such folly and, gracious hostess that I am, I like to encourage them to do so at my annual New Year's Day party. Its our tradition to have the guests write their resolutions on slips of paper and place them into a bowl. Eventually, we all draw a slip from the bowl and read it aloud. My theory being that we seldom keep our own resolutions, perhaps its easier - and certainly more comical - to adopt someone else's.

Some of the resolutions are genuine and others ... mine, usually ... a bit more frivolous. In past years I've resolved to: "moisturize more" ... I didn't; "wear more hats" ... I didn't; and this year I resolved to "form a better relationship with my crock pot." You can probably guess how that will pan out ... and you can read about the only resolution I've ever kept here.

All of that to say that today's post isn't so much about resolutions as it is a confession. I suck at cooking eggs. Really. The husband is the breakfast chef in Divaland and we are all the better for it. I can tackle the most complicated recipe with ease, but ask me to scramble you an egg and you will be sorry indeed ... until now.

Much to my surprise and delight, Mama and Papa Diva gifted me with a wonderful new pan on Christmas morning and I think its going to revolutionize my breakfast cookery! This pan and I have produced two incredible, edible, egg dishes so far and we've only just met. Color me happy! The pan is part of Cuisinart's GreenGourmet line and I adore it. It has a ceramic based, petroleum-free, non-stick surface that provides quick and even heating - which makes cooking (and cleaning up) a dream. And, happily, its as green as green can be.

The stay-cool handle is made from recycled materials, the anodized construction provides superior heat conductivity, requiring less energy to heat it; and it is free from the nasty off-gassing chemicals that are typically used in creating non-stick cookware ... meaning, nothing gross or toxic will leech into your food. Bonus!

You can read more about these magical pans on Cuisnart's site and they can be purchased there as well. They are also available at Bed, Bath and Beyond. I'm thrilled with this gift and can't wait to explore its wonders more fully. I've so far used it to saute spinach, pan fry some tilapia, and have even managed to scramble myself up some amazing eggs. Will wonders never cease?! I recommend it highly and thank the parental units profusely ... breakfast is on me next time you visit!

Now, if only I can get this excited about that crock pot ... stay tuned. Meanwhile, what's your resolution? Curious Diva wants to know.

Bon appetite!