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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Luscious Limes

Two of my favorite foods are in season right now-limes and avocados.  The bright green and tart punch of limes adds a brightness to so many dishes, and avocados, well, that creamy, richness can be used so many ways it's not even funny.  It's no wonder that one of my family's favorite soups uses copious amounts of both of these ingredients to make a veritable taste explosion, Yucatan Lime Soup.

My husband and I tasted this wonderful mix of savory tartness when we visited the beautiful Mayan Riviera several years ago.  Now, I grew up in the Caribbean, but I had never had a combination like this before.  Rich chicken broth mixed with a strong lime flavor. *sounds of angels singing* I was in heaven!

To keep with the feel of the fiesta, the ensemble needed to have a punch of color, and being a red head, I went with a gorgeous bright pumpkin cashmere cardigan to be the centerpiece of my outfit.

By the way, this lovely is on sale at JCrew!

Florals are so very in this year, and I am embracing my softer side.

Admittedly, skinnies are not for everyone, but you know what is? Mid-rise boot cut.  Who doesn't want a longer leg line? But, for this evening, I've got on my skinnies.

A blue wedge to tie it all together, and voila!

Okay, back to cooking.  When I first started looking for a recipe that matched what we had in Mexico, I came across quite a few, but none had enough of a lime-y punch.  However, we did finally adapt an Emeril Lagasse recipe to get the taste as close as possible to the original.

Yucatan Lime Soup

4 chicken thighs
1 T. cumin seed, ground in a mortar and pestle
1/2 t. kosher salt, plus 1 t. more
1/2 cup vegetable oil
20 corn tortillas, sliced into 1 inch strips
3/4 cup white onion, finely diced
3/4 cup red onion, finely diced
1 T. cajun seasoning (I used Emeril's)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
2 serrano chiles, finely diced
8 cups chicken broth
Juice of 3 limes
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
2 avocados, sliced

Remove skin from chicken and season with ground cumin and 1/2 t. salt.  Set to the side.

Grind the cumin and salt using a mortar and pestle for the freshest flavor.

In large pot, heat oil over high heat.  Cook tortillas in small batches until golden brown on both sides.  Drain on paper towels.

Remove all but 3 T. of oil from the pan.  Add onion, cajun seasoning, remaining salt and saute until soft.  Add the chicken, garlic, tomatoes, and chiles and saute for 3 minutes.  Add stock and the juice of 2 of the limes.  Simmer for 30 minutes, or until chicken is fork tender.

Remove chicken from pan and de-bone.  Return chicken to soup.  Remove from heat and add cilantro and the juice of the remaining lime.

Serve with sliced avocado and tortilla strips.  Taste the luscious limes and rich avocados, my lovelies!


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Mizithra and Me

I have had a torrid love affair with Mizithra since I was 18 years old.  We met through my husband when he took me to supper at the Spaghetti Factory in Nashville, Tennessee. We don't meet regularly, just whenever we come across each other. And when we do, I know Mizithra is coming home with me.  Mizithra is rich.  Dry, with a creamy mouthfeel.  Yes, mizithra is a Greek sheep's milk cheese.  

Now, I am a fan of all cheeses from either sheep or goat's milk.  I love their creamy texture and tangy bite.  I also love that they are healthier (usually) than traditional cow's milk cheeses. Truth be told, I adore all real cheeses.  I don't count blocks of orange cheese product or bags of weird shredded stuff as real, but everything else is fair game. I serve mizithra over pasta with browned butter and garlic.  You can also add a dollop of your favorite red sauce (mine is a mushroom marinara) to balance out the dryness of the cheese if you like.  Add a lovely spinach salad and you are good to go.

Have you reached a love/hate relationship with your jeans and heavy sweaters yet? Most people have and I am no exception.  But, yesterday's weather gave me a bit of a reprieve with temperatures in the mid 50's.  So, was a chance to break out of the jeans and into a dress.  Well, a dress that was worn to look like a skirt.  Don't know what I mean?  It's dead simple...

Take your favorite summer sundress-

Add a soft cashmere sweater to wear over the dress, so that it looks more like a skirt and sweater combo (belted of course! Don't want to lose that waistline.) -

To keep those lovely gams warm, a pair of tights-

Last, but not least, how about a fun flat to keep things lively?

Soooo much better than a pair of jeans, no? The great thing about this outfit is that you already have everything you need in your closet!

Ready to meet my rich and creamy mizithra?

Doesn't he look luscious? Firm, dry, yet creamy.

Mizithra with Browned Butter and Garlic Pasta

5 oz mizithra cheese, finely grated (I get mine at Whole Foods, but you may have a local cheese shop that has it as well.)
5 oz parmesan reggiano, finely grated
1 stick unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 t. salt
1 lb. spaghetti

*I grate both the mizithra and the parmesan using the small hole grater of my food processor, just to make things easy.

Mix the mizithra and parmesan together in a small bowl.  Reserve for serving.

Set the water boiling, per manufacturer's directions.  While the water is boiling, brown butter in a small saucepan by heating it slowly over medium low heat.  When the butter is lightly golden, add the garlic and salt.  Continue cooking until butter is a golden brown and the garlic is lightly golden.  

Honestly, is there any better smell than cooking garlic and butter?

Drain pasta and toss with browned butter.  Plate each serving and top with a liberal amount of  the cheese mixture.

Lest you think I had forgotten all nutrition, I also love a good spinach salad.  Yours can include hard boiled eggs if you wish, but this time I kept it simple.

Spinach Salad with Vinaigrette

8 oz baby spinach
3 thin slices red onion
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
4 oz sliced white mushrooms


1/4 cup sugar
1 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
3 T. apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil

Layer spinach, onions, bacon and mushrooms in a large bowl.  Mix sugar, salt, pepper, and vinegar in a small bowl.  Slowly (oh so slowly) whisk in the olive oil, so that it makes an emulsion.  Toss to coat and serve!

Complete with a glass of King's Estate Pinot Gris and begin your own affair with mizithra. 


Saturday, January 15, 2011

A word about food...(okay, quite a few words)

I don't believe I have shared my food philosophy with you yet, my lovelies.  In a single phrase-WHOLE FOODS-and I am not referring to the supermarket chain (although I do like to go there very much).  Whenever possible, I like to make food using fresh, organic, unprocessed ingredients.  This means as many fresh fruits and veggies as I can find, and those that are in season.  I mean really how appropriate does a tomato (all pale and sad) taste in the dead of winter?  Compared to how it tastes in the height of summer?  

Where I live, is not the most whole food friendly area.  Organic is hard to find and the nearest Whole Foods supermarket is an hour away.  But, during the summer we have a very small farmer's market that is open once a week.  And, the local supermarkets do have a small organic selection in the produce section.  Yes, I pay more, but I have the peace of mind that my family and I are not consuming really scary pesticides, herbicides, and genetically modified food.  We also know that we are voting with our pocket book to keep the organic food markets viable against the mega agribusinesses.  Don't know what the heck I am talking about? Watch Food Inc. then watch King Corn. They are disturbing films, but stick with it.  Know where your food comes from.  Eat responsibly.

Aren't sure what this means for you when you are walking down the grocery aisles?  Here is a handy chart to help you figure it out.

Courtesy of Summer Tomato

Feeling confident about your food choices, now? I hope so! Remember, a healthy inside creates the most beautiful outside.  No, seriously! A study conducted in the UK, found that while people found a "healthy glow" attractive, this glow was achieved best by eating fresh fruits and veggies rather than by tanning.  So, eat well and be beautiful, my lovelies!


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Feelin' the Need for Green

Last week I totally embraced the grey, cold winter days.  Today-not so much.  So, a lovely green sweater and a soul warming Split Pea Soup with Sour Cream Cornbread was the answer!

No...this isn't me. But the sweater is the same!

 Aubergine is one of the most universally flattering colors, don't you think?

A little conservative for my tastes, but you have to love the details!

In the absence of any real leaves, I just had to wear my own.

Now, Split Pea Soup has been much maligned in the food world, and if you've only had the drab, gloopy junk from a can, well, I can understand why.  But, when made from scratch, it is hearty and rich-not the same thing at all!  Add a bit of bread, and you have the perfect winter meal. This recipe was given to me by my friend Linda-kudos to her!

Smashed Pea and Barley Soup

2 cups split peas
6 cups water
32 oz. organic/free range chicken broth
1/3 cup onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of 1 lemon
1 t. salt
1 t. sugar, preferably raw (aka turbinado)
1/4 t. parsley
1/4 t. white pepper
1 bouquet garni thyme (sprigs of fresh thyme tied into a bundle for simmering)
1/2 cup barley
6 cups water
2 medium carrots, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 small potato, diced (skin on)

Rinse and drain the split peas, then add to a large pot with 6 cups water, broth, onion, garlic, lemon juice, slat, sugar, parsley, and thyme bouquet.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 1 hour 15 minutes, until peas are soft.

While the peas are cooking, combine the barley and 6 cups of water saucepan.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for an hour and 15 minutes.  The barley should be soft and absorb most of the water.

If you wish to have a smoother soup, blend with a hand held blender or process in a blender, working in small batches.  I prefer my soup to be a bit chunkier, so I skip this step.  I also find that as the soup cools, the peas break down on their own and become a bit smoother.

Add the carrots and potato and simmer for another 20 minutes.  Drain barley using a colander or sieve.  Add barley to peas.  Allow the soup to sit for 15 minutes before serving.

Easy peasy! (Sorry, I couldn't resist!)

In the south, cornbread is a staple.  Although fewer and fewer know how to make it from scratch.  Most use some sort of cornbread muffin mix, which is sweet and, quite frankly, an abomination in my opinion. Bleh.  While I do make straight up cornbread (I'll share that recipe another day), tonight we are having Sour Cream Cornbread.  Now, normally I don't like using canned vegetables of any kind, but this recipe calls for canned cream corn (and honestly, is the ONLY way you could make me eat canned creamed corn).  The result is a light, fluffy and moist almost corn pudding-ish bread.

Sour Cream Cornbread

1 cup self-rising corn meal
2 t. baking powder
1 can creamed corn
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sour cream
Mix dry ingredients together.  Add corn, eggs, oil, and sour cream.  Mix well and pour into a greased 9 x 9 inch pan.  Bake at 400 F for 30 minutes.  Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Serve with Honig Sauvignon Blanc and stay warm, my lovelies!


Monday, January 10, 2011

Cajun Catfish Sandwiches

It is a slushy, wintry day, so what better way to pass the time than in the kitchen!  I picked up fresh catfish fillets before the winter storm hit along with fresh baguettes and made up Cajun Catfish Sandwiches to warm our bones.

But, first, what am I wearing for this grey day? Well, I embraced the cool grey and white tones of the day and went with that color palette (plus I was influenced by the images of our Parisian  street fashionistas-see the Outfit Ideas above).

I paired my winter white lace cami with a grey deep v-neck cardigan.  Finished with my grey heels and a grey and white striped scarf worn in the style of Look 10 in the Style Tips page above. This keeps my neck warm, but the scarf safely out of harms way in the kitchen.


For the menu, I kept things simple.  Just Cajun Catfish Sandwiches with seasoned french fries, baked in the oven.

Start with self rising cornmeal and fresh lemons.

Pick the freshest fish available-this is was delivered that morning, never frozen.

Fry until golden brown.

Mix a bit of your favorite cajun seasoning into a few tablespoons of mayo.

Add fresh romaine lettuce and a baguette and you are ready to munch!

Notice a difference in the pics? I hope so! I am learning to use a proper camera rather than my phone.  Patience, my lovelies! I will get better in time.  In the meantime, go forth and be fabulous!


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

¡Viva Cuba!

¡Hola, mis carinas! Today we are talking a little trip to beautiful Cuba-at least in a culinary sense.

But first-what to wear? Just kept it simple since I was doing quite a bit in the kitchen tonight. Silver Aiko bootcut jeans, a plum purple turtle neck, a teal cardigan, and my lovely leopard print stilettos.  Never underestimate the power of an animal print shoe, my lovelies.  It's almost as good as a great set of lingerie for making you feel like you own the world.  Put those two together and you just might!

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Viva Cuba
Viva Cuba by wmckane

Now, then about that menu.  We are having Avocado Pomegranate Salad with Honey Lime Dressing, Paella Havana, Fried Plantains, and Torta de Plantanos (Banana Tarte Tatin-kinda).

Avocado Pomegranate Salad with Miso Dressing

Avocado Pomegranate Salad with Honey Lime DressingServes 4-6

8 cups mesclun or spring greens
1/2 cup pomegranate "seeds" 
1 avocado, peeled, pitted and diced

3 Tablespoons honey
Juice of 1 lime
1/3 cup olive oil
Whisk together the salad dressing ingredients and taste for seasoning. 

Toss the greens and dressing to lightly coat. Garnish each serving with pomegranate and avocado. Serve immediately.


Most people have heard of paella in connection with Spanish cooking, however, in Cuba they have their own New World take on this Spanish classic.

Paella Havana

1 cup white rice, uncooked
1 large onion, diced
1/4 cup green pepper, diced
1/4 cup celery, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 plum tomatoes, diced
1 small sweet potato, diced
1 pork tenderloin, cubed
2 small chorizo sausages, removed from casings and crumbled
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup white wine
1 bay leaf
1 large pinch of saffron
salt and pepper to taste.

Heat oil in a shallow oven proof skillet (about 3 inches deep) or a paella pan. Saute onions, green peppers, tomatoes, garlic and celery.  Add pork and chorizo and cook over medium heat until tender.  Add sweet potatoes, salt and pepper.  Cook for 2 minutes.  Add rice and cook for another two minutes, stirring.  Add chicken broth.  Stir well and cover with oven proof lid or aluminum foil.  Bake at 400 F for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with wine and serve.  ¡Que bueno!

Talk about eating the rainbow! Yummy and healthy!

Prepped and ready!

Almost time for the chicken broth

Ready to eat!

In almost all countries in Central and South America as well as the islands of the Caribbean, plantains are eaten.  Growing up in Aruba, they were one of my favorite foods.  Here they are served sweet, also known as maduros, dulces, or amarillos, depending on where you are.  Plantains can also be served savory, like a potato cooked in the same manner, but just chosen when they are more yellow in color than brown/black as mine was.

Fried Plantains

1 plantain, sliced on the diagonal about 1/4 inch thick
2 T. butter

Melt butter over medium heat.  Add plantains, cook and turn when sides become golden brown and slightly sticky.

That's it, folks! Easy peasy!

Ah, dessert.  This is my little secret when I want something sweet and tropical but don't want to work too hard.

Torta de Plantanos (Banana Tarte Tatin)

1 frozen puff pastry, thawed
3 bananas, sliced in half vertically and horizontally
2 T. butter
3 T. brown sugar
3 T. cream

Melt butter over medium heat in an oven proof skillet. Add bananas, face down.  Cook for 2 minutes.  Sprinkle brown sugar over bananas, getting in between the slices.  Cook for 1 minute.  Add cream, shifting pan to allow the cream to reach all the sugar.

Place puff pastry over skillet and place in 400 F oven for 20 minutes, until golden brown.

Remove from oven and flip onto platter.  Be careful!

Serve warm-aahhhh!

So, my lovelies.  Look good and eat well.


Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year's Day Chinese Feast

Good evening, my possibly hungover lovelies.  I hope every one rang in the New Year with style and fun. After a nice lie in this morning, my husband and I became inspired by our Taiwanese guests last night.  Hubby is dabbling with making Chinese bread (which is actually Japanese bread, but it is made in Chinese bakeries.) If you have never had Chinese bread, we are talking about the baked, rather than steamed kind. It is like a soft, delicate yeast roll filled with sweetened red bead paste or coconut custard or sometimes even a pineapple custard. Very yummy indeed.  So, taking my menu cue from his baking, we are having Chinese dishes tonight.

I also decided to keep things casual in the kitchen after yesterday's dress and heels combo.  Today it's comfy black skinny jeans, a heathered grey tank embellished with silk rosettes and beading, a lovely dark grey boyfriend cardi, and grey and purple plaid flannel flats.  Yes, you read that right.  Flats.  Don't worry, the stilettos will be back on tomorrow!

So, now for the tasties-

Gingered Chicken with Asparagus

8 oz of chicken tenderloins, sliced finely
1 lb. asparagus, trimmed and broken into bite sized pieces
3+ T. fresh ginger, finely minced
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
3 T. orange blossom honey
1/2 t. Sriracha sauce (found in the Thai section of your grocery store or Asian market)
2 T. black vinegar (also found in Asian markets)
1 T. dark sesame oil
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 T. corn starch dissolved into 1/4 cup water

In a bowl combine the ginger, garlic, honey, sriracha sauce, vinegar, sesame oil and soy sauce.  Stir until honey is thoroughly mixed into the liquid.  Add sliced chicken and marinate for 30 minutes-2 hours.

In a wok or large frying pan, add 3 T. vegetable oil and heat over medium high heat.  Remove the chicken from the sauce (reserving the sauce for later) and add to wok/pan.  Cook over medium high heat until chicken is completely done.  Add asparagus and cook until crisp-tender.

Add reserved sauce and cook for 2 minutes.  Add corn starch mixture a little at a time, stirring and cooking, until it reaches desired thickness.

Serve with steamed rice-yummo!

Sauce ingredients.

Marination process.

Almost done!

*A note on rice.  Not all rices are created equal.  We prefer Nishiki rice, a Japanese short grain rice, but you can also use a longer grain rice or even a glutenous rice like Thai rice. And, always cook in a rice cooker rather than boiling on the stove.  The flavor is so much better this way!

Crispy Tofu with Shiitake Mushrooms

8 oz fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 package extra firm tofu, drained and cubed
1/4 cup dark sesame oil, for frying the tofu
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 T. black vinegar
1 T. orange blossom honey
1 T. dark sesame oil
1 serrano pepper (or Thai red pepper if you prefer), finely minced
2 T. fresh ginger, finely minced
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 T. corn starch dissolved into 1/4 cup water

In a bowl, mix garlic, vinegar, honey,  2 T. sesame oil, pepper, ginger, and soy sauce together.  Add mushrooms and marinate for 30 minutes.

In a wok or frying pan, heat 1/4 cup sesame oil over medium low heat.  Add tofu in small batches and cook, turning occasionally until golden brown and crispy on all sides.  Place on paper towel lined plate when crispy. BE CAREFUL WITH THIS STAGE! THE OIL WILL SPLATTER AS YOU COOK!

When all the tofu is crispy, remove the mushrooms from the sauce (reserve for later) and cook over medium high heat until tender.  Return tofu to the wok along with reserved sauce.  Cook for 2 minutes.  Add corn starch mixture slowly, cooking and stirring until sauce reaches desired thickness.


Last, but not least, are those fabulous sweet bean Chinese buns-honestly, my husband is a bread genius!

Wearing anything fabulous? Making anything luscious? Go forth, my lovelies and enjoy!