About Me

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My husband, Mike, and I moved from NJ to Southwest Florida in September 2006. I currently work at the Punta Gorda Library and fill my free time with crafts, reading and my experiments in the kitchen.  Our fur kids, Buddy the dog and Nibbles (aka Brutus) the cat, keep us entertained all day. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Cheers...you just drank all your calories for the day!

Like any all-American girl, I like a nice adult beverage.  From beer to wine to frou-frou fruity girl drinks, I love them all.  As a person who is trying to enjoy food and drink AND watch her weight, those drinks can use up a lot of my daily calories. What's a girl to do?

We all know about "light" beers. Most of them have about as much flavor as a cardboard box in a blender.  The only two I've been able to tolerate are Bud Light Lime and Michelob Ultra.  I rarely indulge in these two treats.  If it is extremely hot, like it has been lately, I do enjoy them after they have spent some time in the freezer.  Ahhhh....refreshing.

I haven't found any other good light bottled adult beverages. I do love the Smirnoff Blueberry Lemonade, but I often think twice about drinking them.  There are several companies working on some lower calorie drink mixes, as well as some chefs sharing their lower calorie recipes.

I just tasted the Crystal Light Appletini mix.  Granted, I tasted it without alcohol, but I wanted to see how the mix itself tasted without the bad influence of the alcohol.  At 5 calories a serving compared to 160 calories for an alcoholic appletini, it is a great calorie deal.  The flavor is not quite as good as a real appletini, but it's not horrible.  Unfortunately, they are limited time only. There are two other flavors - Mojito and Margarita. I've heard they are both good, but have not had a chance to try them.

Crystal Light Appletini Mocktail


There is another company that has zero calorie drink mixes.  Slim Stix has a margarita, a mojito, and a cosmo mix that have no calories.  The only calories you would take in are from the alcohol you add to them.  A while ago I signed up to get a free sample and have yet to recieve them. They are only available in stores on the West Coast. You can, however, order them from Amazon or the Slim Stix website.

Lisa Lillien, know to her fans as Hungry Girl, has a whole cookbook with guilt free cocktail recipes.  It is called Hungry Girl Happy Hour.  The recipes are really easy and use everyday items that you already have if you are watching your calorie intake. You can check out some of her cocktail recipes on her website, Hungry-Girl.

So, next time you want to indulge in an adult beverage but don't want to ruin your diet, look into these ideas, and "Cheers!"

Sunday, July 24, 2011

I love breakfast.

I love breakfast. It is, without a doubt, my favorite meal of the day. It is also the easiest meal of the day for me. Eggs, oatmeal, dry cereal, bacon...whatever I make is quick and delicious. Top it off with a nice hot cup of coffee and I'm in heaven.

Most days I have oatmeal with some kind of fruit in it. I don't use the packaged flavored oatmeal anymore. Ever since I discovered the big containers of regular oatmeal, I've been enjoying adding my own flavors to the oatmeal. Bananas and brown sugar...yummy. Homemade blueberry syrup mixed into oatmeal is wonderful. Peaches with a little cream, heavenly. I've often wondered what people in other countries eat for breakfast. Do they have the same sugary cereals that we seem to push on our children?

Yesterday I wanted something different to eat, so I whipped up a batch of french toast. I have yet to find french toast out that I really love. I have only been satisfied with my homemade french toast. I am always looking for ways to improve my french toast.  This latest batch was fantastic.  It's all in what kind of bread you use AND what you add to the egg mixture.  This time I used Arnold Whole Grains Health Nut bread - mostly because it was on BOGO at Publix this past week and I had PLENTY to spare. My egg mixture included two eggs beaten well, 2 tablespoons of Coffee Mate Italian Sweet Cream creamer, and 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract.  I soaked the bread REALLY well in this mixture and then cooked it on my cast iron pan in BUTTER (yeah real butter!) So far this has been my winning combo.   Just the right amount of deliciousness from cooking in butter on the cast iron pan and creamy, custardy center from the egg mixture.  I topped it with little slivers of butter and some awesome blackberry syrup. Heavenly!!!

 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

One minute cake

It's hard to believe that the following ingredients      





















combine to make this cake























in one minute.

Here is the recipe for One Minute Cake

Ingredients
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 heaping tablespoon of flour
2 tablespoons chocolate PB2*
1 tablespoon water chocolate chips for melting and drizzling over cake

Directions

Mix beaten egg, brown sugar, baking powder, flour, PB2 and water in a small bowl.
Spray a small ramekin with cooking spray.
Pour batter into ramekin. Cook in microwave for 30 seconds.
Invert ramekin onto plate and remove cake.
Heat chocolate chips in microwave for 10 seconds, or until melted. Drizzle over cake. Enjoy!

*PB2 is a powdered peanut butter that has 85% less fat than regular peanut butter. You can learn more about PB2 on the Bell Plantation website.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Where there's smoke, there is bricked chicken

Happy 4th of July to all!

Today is one of the main "grilling" holidays. Families all over the United States are gathered for barbecue, fireworks, and swimming in the pool. Except here at our house. That's because two years ago I set our gas grill on fire. I have Bobby Flay and his show "Boy Meets Grill" to thank for this. This story goes down in my book as my funniest cooking fiasco.  Here's the story...

On Bobby's "Boy Meets Grill - Spaghetti Park" episode, he took a whole chicken cut in half, marinated it, and then cooked it on the grill under a tinfoil wrapped brick. It looked so good that I could almost smell it cooking. In my mind, if Bobby could do it, so could I. I prepared the marinade and put the chicken in it. When it came time to cook the chicken, I started the grill and put the chicken on the grill and topped it with the foil wrapped bricks. I went inside to get the clean plate for the finished chicken - because EVERYONE knows that you can't put the cooked chicken on the same plate that you had the RAW chicken. While waiting for the chicken to cook, I sat down on the couch to watch the Food Network.

Next thing I know I see billowing white and black smoke going past our back door. I say to Mike, "I wonder what's on fire?" More and more smoke goes by and I think that I just might want to check the chicken. Sure enough the grill is fully engulfed with flames shooting out the back and sides of the grill. I ran inside and grabbed our fire extinguisher and managed to get the fire out. As I stared at the grill with our chicken covered with the chemicals from the fire extinguisher, I pondered why, why did this happen to me but not Bobby Flay? I reviewed the recipe (included below) and realized that I skipped one critical part of the recipe. BLOT OFF THE EXCESS OIL! Yes, by skipping this step, I sent lots of olive oil down into the flames causing our grill to flare up. The main lesson I have learned is: READ THE ENTIRE RECIPE BEFORE YOU USE IT!

So, besides the fact that it was storming at grilling time, we couldn't grill outside because I ruined our gas grill. Our wonderful George Foreman grill came to the rescue.

I hope you all have had a wonderful 4th of July.

Rosemary Bricked Grilled Chicken

Recipe courtesy Bobby Flay

Prep Time:10 min
Inactive Prep Time:10 min
Cook Time:20 min
Level:Easy
Serves:4 servings.

Ingredients
1 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
2 (3-pound) chickens, butterflied
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Lemon wedges, for garnish

Directions
Whisk together the oil, lemon juice, garlic and rosemary in a large baking dish. Add the chickens and turn to coat. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, or up to 4 hours.

Preheat the grill to medium. Wrap 4 bricks in aluminum foil and set aside. Remove the chickens from the marinade, blot off excess oil, and season with salt and pepper on both sides. Place the chickens on the grill, skin-side down, and place 2 bricks on top of each chicken. Grill the chicken for 8 to 10 minutes, then turn over, and return the bricks to the chickens. Close the cover and continue cooking for 8 to 10 minutes or until cooked through. Let rest for 10 minutes and cut into quarters. Serve with lemon wedges.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Food experiments - failure and success

Anyone who knows me is aware that I love to "play" with my food. In other words, sometimes I use a recipe and sometimes I don't. This has made my gastronomical adventures very unpredictable. Some of these forays into culinary chemistry have been interesting and not in a good way. A few that I will mention, but not dwell on, are the previously mentioned Chicken Marsala made with SWEET marsala wine Sick smile and the pork carnitas I made with chipotle chilies in adobo. Devil

Baked shrimp with Feta
Baked Shrimp and Feta Cheese
However, some have been quite tasty. I've managed to make a pretty good version of Carrabbas Chicken Bryan as well as their lentil sausage soup. I made a delicious baked shrimp with feta cheese that I still can close my eyes and taste. . I have experimented with compound butters and had great success, particularly the cherry almond butter. TO DIE FOR!




Do you have any funny food failure stories? I know I have quite a few, but I'm happy to say that I've been pretty lucky.

Gastronomically speaking...

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines Gastronomy as the art and science of good eating. My love of cooking stems from my love of good food.  I believe that if you asked me what came first, the love of good food or the love of cooking, I'd have to say good food.

I was blessed with growing up in a three generation household. When I was in 5th grade, my maternal grandmother moved in with us.  Between my grandmother and my mother, I grew up watching both of them make such family favorites as pork chops, turkey with homemade gravy - no lumps, and apple pie. Oh, that apple pie! So warm and delicious...and now I'm distracted from my writing!

I spent many hours as sous chef to my mother and grandmother and happily learning how to cook at their sides. I remember the first time I helped make the gravy at Thanksgiving.  I still make my gravy the same way. So many family recipes, some that weren't even written down but made from memory. I think I was lucky to have that time to learn to cook with my grandmother and mother...and of course my dad on the grill. Since I lived with my parents until I got married in my 30's, I had a lot of sous chef practice. 

So, when I got married to Mike, the best guy in the whole world, I was excited to have someone to cook for. Of course, I had to choose a picky eater. In the past 8 years, I have managed to get him to eat things that he never would eat before.  He's been great about my experiments in the kitchen.  Most have been deliciously successful. Some, like the time I was teaching my niece, Sarah, how to make chcken Marsala, did not turn out well.  It turns out that you should NOT use sweet Marsala wine in that recipe.

Several months ago, I signed up to write a local cooking blog (http://www.examiner.com/cooking-168-in-tampa-bay/kathleen-harriott). I thought it would be fun, but it really hasn't. The rules of the website for it's writers is too restrictive.  You can't write anything in the first person.  WHAT?  How can I tell a funny cooking story if I can't write in the first person? All content has to be locally relevant.  This means I can't just write an article about a recipe unless it can be related to the local community.  Since they have restricted me to the subject of cooking only, I can't write about a local restaurant - unless it is to try to recreate a meal I have in a local restaurant. I have already written about our local farmers markets and butchers.  What else can one write about that is local and in regards to cooking? I would write about my favorite cooking tools, but I can't talk about ME and would have to say something about how that cooking tool relates to the local community.  Can you see my dilemma? Therefore, I've decided to start my own blog so that I can:
  1. Write in first person
  2. Write about restaurants - local or back home in NJ
  3. Stop getting emails that say "While your article was well written, it did not follow the following Examiner rules - locally relavent"
So, welcome to my blog about food, the love of food, the love of cooking, and my love for feeding my husband.