Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Peanut Butter and Key Lime Marmalade Sandwich w/ Cream Cheese and Apples

I recently got back into peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  I remix them with different fruit and cheese combinations.  This key lime marmalade and cheese cream combo is definitely a winner for anyone who enjoys the pleasing tartness of key limes.

Key Lime Marmalade, where have you been my whole life?

Peanut Butter and Key Lime Marmalade Sandwich w/ Cream Cheese and Apples


  • 1 MacIntosh Apple
  • 1 pat butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 heaping tablespoon reduced fat peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon key lime marmalade
  • 1/2 teaspoon low fat cream cheese
  • 2 slices Oatnut Bread

Rinse apple and thinly slice three vertical rings from the apple.  Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine peanut butter, key lime marmalade, and cream cheese.  Mix until smooth.  Set aside

Melt butter in a nonstick skillet over low heat.  Add apple rings and balsamic vinegar and saute until soft, about 2 to 3 minutes. 

Assemble sandwich by layering apple rings on one slice of bread and spreading the peanut butter mixture on the other slice of bread.   Enjoy!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Matzo Ball Soup

You play like you ain’t had no food in ‘bout four or five days.
Yep…  Gotta be hungry to play a Jew’s harp.  Gotta eat it up.
Have mercy.
Then, what happened?
No, he didn’t?
He got a lot of gravy on them chitlins.
Like it greasy, Christian.  Give me some grease…
I can hear that. 

-Christian McBride feat. Gina Gershon, "Chitlins and Gifltefish," Conversations with Christian McBride, 2011.

It all started with a box of Whole Wheat Matzo Meal on clearance at my neighborhood grocery store.  That got me thinking.  I thought back to all the times I've been denied and excluded from the matzo ball soup experience.  I suddenly got this throbbing ache in my stomach.  I cried.  I was overwhelmed with emotion.  I could barely even stand up.  The mass discrimination against vegetarians and pescetarians was just too much to handle on that somber Saturday morning.  Lol.   I figured that $2.97 was a low risk investment for my own little foray into matzo ball soup.  

A couple months later, I came down with an awful cold and my mom was nowhere to be found.  Can you believe the nerve of her to think that Mississippi is too far away (from Baltimore) to come and tend to her youngest child during my feeble moments of sickness?  I pushed on.  I took lots of drugs to no avail, and finally decided that a warming, comforting broth would be the perfect antidote.  Aha!  The perfect opportunity for my random, obsessive experiment with matzo ball soup.  I did a little preliminary research and discovered numerous matzo ball soup aficionados who insisted on things like seltzer water in the matzo dough, schmaltz over oil,  floaters vs sinkers,  and a large singular matzo ball vs several small matzo balls.  The purists also agreed, no egg noodles.

I decided to do my own thing since I wasn't vying for a gold ribbon in authenticity.  I simply wanted a delicious, filling matzo ball soup that could cast away my cold virus.  To that end, I made a homemade broth using leftover vegetables and the leftover smoked turkey necks I had in the freezer from this recipe for Spicy Southern Collard Greens w/Aunt Fadrie's Chow Chow.  For the matzo balls, I simply used the recipe on the back of the matzo meal box.   Then, I decided to beef up the final product with carrots, celery, no yolk egg noodles, and fresh dill.

Final Verdict:  OMG, this soup is absolutely delicious.  Somehow, I ended up with both light and fluffy matzo balls and the heavier, more dense variety.  I much prefer the light and fluffy ones.

On another note, matzo ball soup just might be the most suitable substitute to satiate my never ending chicken and dumplings cravings.  My mom made the flat noodle type.  She would combine them with fresh pepper, seasonings, and the leftover bony chicken parts such as the back, neck, and wings in a medium saucepan.  There were no broth or vegetables.   The final result was an explosion of flavor that doesn't lend itself very well to vegetarian & pescetarian cooking. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Banana Nut Trail Mix

Trick or treat!  Halloween is less than two weeks ago.  By now, you've probably carved the jack-o-lanterns.  You might have decided on a scary, funny, or ironically epic costume.  Maybe, you're drafting a menu for a dinner party or community event.  No matter what your Halloween plans are, there's likely to be food involved.  This year, I challenge you to avoid the common pitfalls in our diet by replacing the candy and sugary sweets (which are nothing more than empty calories) with a healthier and more nutritious snack such as this trail mix.

Note: This trail mix should only be enjoyed as an occasional snack since it's high in fat.  However, trail mix does provide nourishment to the body in the form of fiber and protein making it a much better choice than candy and sugary sweets.

Banana Nut Trail Mix


  • 1/2 cup honey roasted cashews
  • 1/2 cup honey roasted peanuts
  • 1/2 cup honey roasted sesame sticks
  • 1/2 cup dried sour/tart cherries
  • 1/2 cup banana chips

Add ingredients to a one gallon Ziploc bag.  Toss to mix well.  Transfer to a serving container or individual bags (for trick-or-treaters).   Makes about 6 to 8 servings of 1/3 cup.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tuna Italiano

Here are the facts:

  1. As a pescetarian, I've eaten a lot of tuna sandwiches.  
  2. Of the tuna sandwiches I've eaten, the best ones have all been Italian-style.  
  3. Of the Italian-style tuna sandwiches I've eaten, the best ones have all been in Philly.  
  4. Of the Italian-style tuna sandwiches I've eaten in Philly, the best ones are the Tuna Diablo at Primo Hoagies (#1), Ave Maria at Sarcone's Hoagie's (#2), and the Tuna Italiana at Paesano's (#3).  

So, yeah folks, Philly is a solid town that packs a mighty punch in the hoagie department!  Check out this guide from the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation http://www.visitphilly.com/philadelphia-hoagie-finder/

Every good sandwich starts with good bread.  Since Baltimore isn't particularly known for its sandwiches, my options were somewhat limited in that department.  Stone Mill Bakery would have been my preferred option, but they were closed on Sunday when I made this sandwich.  After a little searching around, I ultimately ended up getting a baguette from Bonaparte Breads to create this masterpiece.  This sandwich is probably most similar to Paesano's Tuna Italiana.

Tuna Italiano


  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon capers
  • 3 cans chunk light tuna packed in water, drained
  • 1 bunch broccoli rabe
  • 1-12 oz jar hot cherry peppers
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1-8 oz jar roasted red bell peppers, drained
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon garlic
  • 1/3 baguette
  • olive oil, to taste
  • 2 slices of sharp provolone cheese
  • 2 hard boiled eggs, thinly sliced with an egg slicer

Tuna Salad

In a bowl, combine first four ingredients.  Set aside.  Add drained tuna to a mesh strainer and press out any remaining water.  Combine with oil mixture.  Refrigerate and allow to marinate overnight if possible.   Note: Recipe will yield enough tuna salad for multiple sandwiches.   

Sauteed Broccoli Rabe & Hot Cherry Peppers

Thoroughly wash broccoli rabe and remove stems.  Set aside.  Chop about half of the hot cherry peppers.  Heat one tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a medium pan.  Combine broccoli rabe and hot cherry peppers in the pan and sauteed until just soft, about 5-7 minutes.  Add one teaspoon of minced garlic during the last two minutes of cooking.  

Marinated Roasted Red Bell Peppers

In a bowl, combine roasted red bell peppers, 1/4 cup olive oil, and 1 teaspoon of garlic.  Allow to marinate overnight.

Sandwich - The Good Stuff

Preheat oven broiler.  Using a sharp knife, cut the baguette down the middle, leaving one end intact.  Carefully press both sides of the bread flat so that the intact end doesn't break.  Brush both sides of the bread with olive oil.  Add one slice of cheese to each side of the bread, cutting if necessary.  Add tuna salad and marinated roasted red bell peppers to the bottom side and the sauteed broccoli rabe & hot cherry peppers to the top side.  Place on a roasting pan and broil in the oven for 2 or 3 minutes.  Remove from the oven.  Top with hard boiled egg slices.  Fold over to seal.  Enjoy!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Barbecue Baked Beans w/ Crushed Pineapple & Quorn Grounds

Have you noticed the earthy hues of leaves slowly and meticulously painting the landscape like the delicate brushstrokes of a painter's brush?  Have you been unexpectedly hit in the face by a cold north wind?  Are you rearranging your schedule to accommodate Sunday night football?  Maybe so, maybe not.  Regardless, these are all telltale signs of autumn unfolding here in Maryland.  I am feeling mixed emotions as I long for the dog days of summer and crave for the warming comfort of fall foods.  Thankfully, baked beans are the perfect antidote for my momentary blues, perfectly marrying summer cookouts and fall bashes.  

I have a kind of special relationship with baked beans.  It was my first signature dish and, growing up, I was the Chief Engineer of Baked Beans in my house.  I can vividly recall my intrigue with mom's process as she sauteed onions and bell peppers and cooked them in a cast-iron skillet with ground beef on the stovetop.  The ground beef mixture was then transferred to a pot with canned baked beans, brown sugar, barbecue, honey, and yellow mustard and slowly simmered into a sticky, sweet reduction of beans. Hmmm, delish!  I always knew if I could cook these delicious baked beans, I'd never have to worry about going hungry.

This version is a vegetarian homage to the baked beans that my mother taught me to cook many years ago.

Barbecue Baked Beans w/ Crushed Pineapple & Quorn Grounds

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1-12 oz bag Quorn Meatless & Soy-Free Grounds
  • 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • 1-14.5 oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1-8 oz can crushed pineapple in pineapple juice, partially drained
  • 1-28 oz can good quality Vegetarian Baked Beans
  • 3/4 cup hickory smoke barbecue sauce 

Preheat oven to 275º.  In a large dutch oven or pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat and sauteed the red onions, red bell peppers, and garlic until soft, about 4-5 minutes.  Add the Quorn meatless grounds and cook an additional 4-5 minutes.  Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.  If using a pot, transfer the mixture to a large ovenproof dish.  Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the liquid has reduced. 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Amazing Apple Pancake


I have a confession to make.  Cue drumroll... I am not much of a breakfast person.  *Gasp*

It's not that I dislike breakfast.  I just am not willing to put in the extra effort to cook anything, during the week, when I have to wake up at 6 a.m.  So, for the past few years, my breakfast has consisted of oatmeal and whole grain cereals.   While I ate a good amount of oatmeal in graduate school, I've inadvertently embraced whole grain cereals as my breakfast of choice over the past year.  It's quicker. There are four that I eat rather consistently--Kashi Golean Crunch Honey Almond Flax, Quaker Oatmeal Squares,  Giant (store brand) Fiber Select Bran Cereal, and Trader Joe's Toasted Oatmeal Flakes.   These cereals are flavorful and full of complex carbohydrates, making them a great source of energy.  When eaten with reduced or low fat milk or a soy or almond milk, in my case, whole grain cereal is an excellent breakfast choice that provides nutrients from two food groups.  It's also pretty low in calories, which gives me a little more leeway to enjoy healthy snacks during the day and have a satisfying lunch and dinner without going over my calorie recommendations.

Enter weekend brunch.  Brunch is altogether a different beast than breakfast.  Brunch can go as late as 4 p.m. and combines traditional breakfast foods with the savory foods that are more often associated with lunch and dinner.  With work obligations out of sight and out of mind, brunch is a time to finally relax, indulge, and savor your food.

Apples Galore

I spent the past week promoting local food, farmers markets, and Maryland apples on my job.  After so many apple tastings, I thought I would have to take a break from eating apples.   But, how could I not take advantage of having an apple corer (used for my job) on hand?   This amazing device peels, cores, and slices apples in about 30 seconds, resulting in a slinky apple. I kid you not...

I also bought apples at the market this past week since they were on sale, and I hate to waste food.  So, quite naturally, I woke up yesterday morning wondering what could I make with apples.  I considered applesauce and fried apple pies when I suddenly remembered this awe-inspiring recipe from The Kitchn for The Apple Pancake.  Honestly, it had me salivating for days after I first saw it.  The rest is history, folks.

My apple pancake turned out quite different from theirs.  Apparently, I didn't chop my apple finely enough so they didn't condense and caramelize as much as they should have.  Instead, my apple were stacked and layered (a technique I've been trying to figure out for quite a while).  I also substituted one ingredient and added walnuts.  This pancake was quite delicious for brunch and an excellent dessert for dinner (with a side of fat free frozen vanilla yogurt).

Here's the recipe for my final product...

The Amazing Apple Pancake


  • 3 medium Gala apples, peeled, cored, and sliced into half moons
  • 4 tablespoons white sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 5 eggs

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.  

In a small bowl, mix 3 tablespoons of sugar with the cinnamon and ginger and set aside.

Cut the butter into chucks and place them in a deep cast iron skillet.  Put the skillet in the oven for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the butter is melted.  Remove pan from the oven and carefully sprinkle the brown sugar over the melted butter.  Add the apples on top of the brown sugar and sprinkle the cinnamon mixture over the top.  Put the skillet back in the oven to caramelize the apples and sugar.  

Whisk the flour with the remaining sugar, salt, and nutmeg.  Gradually add the milk, whisking constantly with a large wire whisk to beat out any lumps.  When the flour is smoothly incorporated into the milk, beat in the vanilla and the eggs one at a time.  Beat the mixture by hand for 2 minutes, or until foamy.  Allow the batter to rest for 5 minutes.  By now the sugar should be bubbling around the apples.  

Remove the skillet from the oven and pour the batter over the apples.  Bake for 20 minutes or until the center is set and sides are lighted browned.  Remove from the oven and allow to rest for a few minutes.  Slice and transfer to a serving plate to enjoy.  

Recipe adapted from thekitchn.com -- Weekend Breakfast Recipe: The Apple Pancake

Friday, October 5, 2012

Spicy Southern Collard Greens w/ Aunt Fadrie's Chow Chow

It's the end of another busy week and I'm beaming because I have something special in the refrigerator--collard greens.  I mean, honestly, there is no greater comfort than a bowl of spicy collard greens with my Aunt Fadrie's homemade chow chow.  I make it my business to pick up a jar of this delicious sweet, spicy goodness every time I go home.  I make several versions of collard greens, but today's recipe is most traditional and my personal favorite.

This recipe is one of the few times I commit pesceterian heresy and cook with meat.  I've tried smoked paprika, imitation smoked bacon bits, and liquid smoke several times for smoke flavor, but there just is no replacement for the smokiness of smoked meat in a pot of greens.  Since I wasn't cooking for anyone else in particular, I had plenty of leeway so I took the leap and grabbed some smoked turkey necks while shopping at the market.  

Right after cooking these, I came across this Commercial Appeal article on the most "southern" of all foods.  I was just as surprised with the foods mentioned on the list as I was with the ones omitted.  When their extensive panel weighed in, there seemed to be an overwhelming consensus that greens, potlikker, fried green tomatoes, okra, cornbread, barbecue, pork, chicken and dumplings, biscuits, and grits were the most southern of all foods.  I was very surprised that more people mentioned greens than any other food.  While I love greens and tend to associate them with southern food, I always thought they were eaten all over the country.  I was also quite surprised that there was no mention of catfish considering the South's dominance in catfish farming.  My list would also include chitlins, chow chow, sweet potato pie, sweet tea, pecans, muscadines, and fried chicken.  

Spicy Southern Collard Greens

  • 2 tablespoons canola or olive oil 
  • 1 lb smoked turkey (any cut)
  • 1 red onion, halved
  • 1 quart vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 1 teaspoon Creole seasoning
  • 2 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 lbs fresh collard greens, washed, stews removed, rolled, and chopped
  • 3 teaspoons minced garlic

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.  Add the smoked turkey and brown on both sides, about 6 minutes.  Add the onion havles, cut sides down, and brown, about 5 to 6 minutes.  Stir in the vegetable broth.  Season with chili flakes, salt, vinegar, and garlic powder.  Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to a simmer.  Adjust seasoning, if desired.  Add the collard greens and minced garlic.   Stir to combine and cover.  Cook until greens are tender for about 45 minutes.  Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with a teaspoon of chow chow.  Enjoy! 

Cook's Note: The longer your greens cook, the more nutritious the potlikker/broth/liquid becomes (assuming you haven't loaded it up with salt).  It's best to sop it up with cornbread or lap it up with a soup spoon.