Friday, December 9, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me

This time tomorrow, I will officially be in my late 20’s. Therefore I bid farewell to my mid-twenties and hold my head up high with a healthy mix of enthusiasm and trepidation upon the anniversary of my birth. I love birthdays. It’s a day all about you! However, turning 27 proves to be a sign of my ever evolving maturity because I’m excited to be celebrating alongside my darling brother in-law who will graduate from college tomorrow! So I’m happy to say December 10, 2011, is all about me AND Taylor ; ) We’ll be in Michigan this weekend for the festivities.

And the new digital camera I got for my birthday will capture all of the happy faces this weekend and over the holidays!

I’m going to pull a birthday girl “get out of jail free” card right now as I don’t have a new recipe to post. BUT with all the traveling I’ve been doing over the past month, I was bound to come across a new favorite place to eat!

Feast your eyes and stomachs on Hendrickx in downtown Chicago. This brings me back to younger days growing up in Belgium. And who better to tell me about this place than one of my best friends, whom I met in Belgium when I was 7. She now lives in Chicago and knows a good Belgian bakery when she tastes one. You could get anything here, and I bet it will be amazing. But my personal favorite is the Belgian liege waffle. I saw a recipe for liege waffles in a recent issue of Food & Wine magazine, and I need to try it out soon!

My beat for today is one I’ve been listening to ALL week! I love Florence and the Machine's "Shake it Out". Brilliant.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

One rainy Sunday when I was in the third grade, I picked up a book to look at the pictures and discovered that even though I did not want to, I was reading. I have been a reader ever since.
- Beverly Cleary

I love this quote. I love Beverly Cleary, and I love an occasional rainy day in the fall. It puts a slight chill in your bones as your body craves the warmth of a crackling fire and your mind relishes in the delight of reading a good book.

I chose a quote from Beverly Cleary because National Write a Novel in a Month as well as Blogher’s National Blog Posting Month take place in November. And Beverly Cleary, alongside Judy Blume, was one of my favorite authors growing up. Did anyone else adore Ramona Quimby as much as I did? “Beezus and Ramona” and “Ramona Quimby, Age 8” were two of my beloved books as a kid.

A more than eventful traveling schedule in November created too big a barrier for me to participate in either one of these writing exercises this month. Memphis, South Bend, Chicago and Kentwood, MI, will occupy my time over the next three weeks. And I knew the likelihood of writing a 50,000 word novel or posting to my blog every day for a month was doomed to fail. So, I’ve added this to my list of goals in 2012. If I were to write a novel, as terrible as it might turn out, what would my story line be? Who would be my main character? Kind of fun to think about.

But while I’m still at home, I continue to cook. And this time I’m letting the side dishes bask in the blog limelight. Here are two simple and tasty recipes for roasted honey sweet potatoes and squash casserole. Both dishes require very little time or talent to produce, and they’re both rich in flavor. The sweet potato recipe comes from Ellie Krieger. And the squash casserole is how my mom used to make it during the holidays when I was growing up. It’s cheesy, creamy goodness.

Honey roasted sweet potatoes and melted cheddar cheese over squash casserole need an equally sweet, soulful and charismatic voice. Enter Cee Lo Green’s “Fool for You”, featuring Melanie Fiona.


Click here for Ellie's Honey Roasted Sweet Potatoes recipe. 

Mama's Squash Casserole
2 lbs squash, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 can of cream of chicken soup
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Combine chopped onion and squash into a bowl, and season with salt and pepper.
Steam squash and onion mixture for about 10 minutes.
Drain the mixture and transfer into baking dish.
Mix the cream of chicken soup in with the vegetables and bake for about 20 minutes, until bubbly
Top casserole with cheddar cheese and continue to bake for another 10-15 minutes.
Serve hot and enjoy!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Fall Put A Spell On Me

"Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns."
- George Eliot

The fall season is finally upon us in Nashville, and it is bewitching. The bright leaves of red and orange, the bountiful pumpkin displays, the smell of apple cider lingering in the crisp autumn air, candy corn, and the excitement around Halloween costumes and Thanksgiving pies make me euphoric.  Even the opportunity to wear scarves and boots again tickles my fashionable fancy. This is my happy place.

This past weekend was the first in three weeks that I have been home. And I've never been more content to answer "absolutely nothing" when asked if I had any plans for the last two days. But I did know of one familiar place where I wanted to spend some time this weekend: my kitchen. I've had it in my head to make a pot roast for about a week. And Saturday presented the perfect opportunity to do so. Because this recipe called for a good 5 hours of my time, I needed a lazy weekend to enjoy the process from shopping for the ingredients to serving it on the plate. 

From our apartment, you can see a snippet of the downtown skyline. So I opened the door to our balcony, letting the brisk air fill the room, and began to prepare a traditional Yankee pot roast. About an hour into cooking, Nina Simone's "I Put a Spell on You" started to play on Pandora. And I thought
 this song was the perfect compliment to my dish.

A hearty meal that could leave you with a week's worth of leftovers is a great choice for the fall. The flavor is good. The level of difficulty in making this dish is easy. And the pot roast comes out wonderfully tender. You could serve it over brown rice, or we chose to simply eat it as is - soaking up any leftover broth with a crusty fresh loaf of bread.

Bon Appétit!

Traditional Yankee Pot Roast


2 teaspoons olive oil
1 (4-pound) boneless chuck roast, trimmed
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
2 cups coarsely chopped onion
2 cups low-salt beef broth
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 cup chopped plum tomato
1 1/4 pounds small red potatoes
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Chopped fresh parsley (optional)


* Preheat oven to 300°.
* Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sprinkle roast with salt and pepper. Add roast to pan, browning on all sides (about 8 minutes). Remove from pan. Add onion to pan; sauté 8 minutes or until browned. Return roast to pan. Combine broth, ketchup, and Worcestershire; pour over roast. Add tomato; bring to a simmer.
* Cover and bake at 300° for 2 1/2 hours or until tender. Add potatoes and carrots; cover and bake an additional 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Stir in lemon juice. Garnish with parsley, if desired.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Texas Sized Appetite

Quand l'appetit va, tout va.
- Obelix

Upon leaving rise, a quaint French restaurant in Dallas, the hostess hands you a small piece of paper with a unique quote printed on the inside. Written in French, my quote read: "When the appetite goes, everything goes." And here I am, writing this post 5 months after my last entry. It's funny how a seemingly insignificant piece of paper, a random luck of the draw, spoke straight to the core of me.

This past week, I had random encounters with three of my lifelong loves: French food, the French language, and friends (best friends). And so my appetite kicked in to reconnect with each. This past weekend marked the third annual girls' weekend. Each fall, my closest girl friends from college get together for a long weekend. And this year we traveled to my girlfriend's hometown of Dallas, TX. The Big D was awesome! I would also like to take this opportunity to thank her boyfriend who endured sharing one bathroom with 4 women as we paraded and primped in front of the mirror for hours before going out each night.

Girls' weekend is similar to the holidays for me. You're surrounded by people you love; there's always a lot of commotion, and I indefinitely gain a few lbs from the amount of food and alcohol I consume. And so the word appetite takes on a more literal tone as it relates to how much I managed to eat and drink in one weekend. And it was all worth it. But you better believe it's gonna be soup and salads for the remainder of the week.

Of all the wonderful restaurants we sampled this past weekend in Tejas, my favorite was rise. Hedda Gioia Dowd, a Memphis native (my home girl!), is co-owner and creative genius behind this charming salon de souffle. Known for their souffles, rise specializes in both the savory and sweet versions of this classic French food. I had the ever so scrumptious raspberry souffle. French music softly plays in the background. Fresh coffee is served in a French Press. All the dishware is unique pieces of pottery. And your water for the table is contained in recycled wine bottles - great idea for the home might I add. It just doesn't get cuter than this place.

Of course rise has a cookbook (Rise to the Occasion). And, of course, I had to have it. I feel the need to make a souffle of my very own in the near future! My copy was signed by the Chef and co-owner, Cherif Brahmi. He writes: "Le bonheur est dans la cuisine..." Happiness is in the kitchen. Well said monsieur.

Keeping in theme with all things French, I had to choose a song from Edith Piaf. I love her. And if you ever have any interest in learning more about this cultural icon, I highly recommend the film "La Vie en Rose" with Marion Cotillard. Excellent. Quite a depressing life Edith lived. But it's an amazing one at that. 


Friday, May 20, 2011

Tyler Florence is Walkin' in Memphis

There's no profound way to lead into this post, other than to say: I MET TYLER FLORENCE! My day, my weekend, and my month of May are complete. I’d like to thank Twitter, Nicole, and Kim for a terrific team effort in making this moment happen.

I’m so happy for the city of Memphis. This weekend we are hosting Food Network’s The Great Food Truck Race as they film the upcoming season – which airs this August. And you know yours truly was on the case to find out exactly where to get in on the action.

Around 11:30 this morning, Tyler Florence tweeted “Charcoal Smoked Ribs at Rendezvous in #Memphis #AmericanTreasure”. Done. Within two minutes I was out the door and on my way to Rendezvous for lunch. Good thing it’s just down the alley from work. Once our group was seated and ordered drinks, our waiter informed us that Tyler was there but already left. He just picked up large orders of ribs as part of the show’s competition. I was defeated and my bank account was now short $12.

But we weren’t throwing in the towel just yet. After lunch, the ladies and I walked up the street to Court Square where the food trucks were stationed and Food Network was filming. The trucks were not serving food until Saturday. Friday was for filming only, so there was a glimmer of hope that Chef Florence would appear.

And appear he did within fifteen minutes of patiently waiting. My co-worker, quite arguably the biggest Tyler Florence fan aside from my mother, was determined to meet him. She ever so boldly called out his name and waved for him to come over; and he did! The nicest (and only) celebrity chef I have met to date, Tyler Florence was most gracious in shaking our hands, having a little sideline conversation, and posing for photos with us.

To Tyler Florence: thank you for making our day! And to the competitors on this season’s The Great Food Truck Race: GOOD LUCK! I leave you with a musical tribute to this city and my memorable day of walkin' in Memphis.

I’m off to Florida for a family wedding! Have a great weekend everyone!


Thursday, April 14, 2011

My Kind of Town

I'm off to Chicago for the weekend! Will have lots to report upon my return - including new eats and beats! And so I will leave you with none other than Ole Blue Eyes paying tribute to my favorite city.

Have a great weekend!

Monday, April 11, 2011

This Rice Would Be So Nice

Somebody stop me! Or just feed me...until I'm full. My stomach has been a bottomless pit the past two days, neither craving a particular food nor satisfied by anything I feed it. I refer to my stomach as its own being in times like these because I can't control its insatiable appetite. The food cravings run rampant from the moment I wake up until the time I go to bed just (just to stay out of the kitchen).

The tragedy in this situation is two-fold. First, I have no food in my kitchen. I've stalled on a visit to the grocery store and consequently have a random assortment of food in my pantry that doesn't add up to a single meal. Second, my hungry hippo self is attending a formal on Friday Chicago...with college students! Stewart's fraternity chapter at our Alma Mater is having their 55th annual formal, and a lot of the alumni decided to use this opportunity for a reunion. And while we're at it, I might as well tell you that I'm sporting a lobster red farmer's tan. And my dress is red! Don't get me wrong. I'm so excited for this weekend. I love getting glammed up and going out for a night on the town; and this night involves an open bar. Woop woop! But me, green tea, and a spray tan are going to rendezvous asap.

So while I'm thinking of all the food I want to eat and don't have, this brown rice salad comes to mind. The recipe originally came from my best friends' family. And I can't compare it to any rice dish I've ever had. This is a quintessential summertime dish. There are so many colors, textures and flavors in this rice, it will send your taste buds on a roller coaster ride! You have to try it. I've made this dish before for a group of co-workers and they loved it. Last weekend we had it at my parents' and the leftovers didn't make it past the first night in my house. This rice dish makes a statement, and people will remember you for a good way.

The perfect beat to pair with this summertime rice salad is Astrud Gilberto's Summer Samba. The song was made to play alongside this dish. It's colorful, happy and exotic.

I hope you enjoy this eat and beat as much as I do!

Brown Rice Salad: 1 Cup rice (white or brown) cooked.
1/2 Cup golden raisins
1/4 Cup olive oil
1/4 Cup red wine vinegar
1 small red onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 Cup roasted pistachios, roughly choppped (buy them roasted to cut back on time)
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
1 tsp Kosher salt
1 tsp red pepper flakes
15 oz can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 Cup basil leaves (chiffonade)

1. Cook rice and set aside
2. In a Cuisinart, pulse the golden rasins, 1/4 cup olive oil and red wine vinegar together until blended into a vinegrette. Set aside.
3. In a pan, saute the red onion and garlic in 2 tbsp olive oil. Set aside.
4. Mix the rice, vinegrette, garlic/red onion and all remaining ingredients together in a large bowl. Serve hot or cold.

*You'll notice in the picture that the chickpeas were substituted for yellow bell peppers. Make it your own. I've made had it both ways, and you can't go wrong.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Lykke Li and a New Crab Dip

Have I ever mentioned that I love seafood? I do. I LOVE seafood! Born in the coastal town of Georgetown, SC, I spent many a childhood summers between Charleston and Myrtle Beach. Fried shrimp, crab boils, hush puppies and catfish are my idea of home cookin'.

I can vividly remember my great Aunt Leenie, who at the time was a spring chicken in her 70s, tying raw pieces of steak to a small wood plank in my hand. We then proceeded to wade out into Atlantic Ocean to catch crabs - only knowing you've caught one when there's a slight tug on the strings or your toes become prey to crab claws. Have you ever seen people cast wooden crates off the peer to catch crabs? Amateurs. Leave it to the crazy Carolina women to lure crabs in with raw meet at their feet. They're the best.

The inspiration begind this appetizer comes from the Lee Brothers' recipe for "A New Crab Dip". Forget warm crab dips that tend to be overloaded with cream and cheese. When it's seventy degrees and sunny outside, the last thing I want to eat is a hot and heavy dip. This one is served cold and ushers in Spring with flavors from fresh tarragon and lime juice. I added paprika and Old Bay seasoning to kick the flavor up a notch, and it was just the right combination of spices to do the trick. Per the Lee Brother's suggestion, you could even serve this dip as tea sandwiches instead.

Having never bought crab before from a food market, I was somewhat stunned at how expensive it is! We're talking $12 for a small 8 oz container full. Granted, it's the premium picked crab meat. If I was incorporating the crab in a sauce or pasta, I wouldn't worry. But because the meat is featured as a dip, I say you splurge. It makes a difference.

Both Lykke Li and this crab dip recipe are new finds for me this week. My latest favorite beat, "Dance Dance Dance" comes from this Sweedish native. It's the perfect tune to start my weekend off right.  I'd also recommend you listen to "Tonight", "Little Bit" and "Possibility".

Have a great weekend!

Cold Crab Dip:
8 oz picked crab meat (about 1/2 a pint)
3 tbsp high-quality store-bought mayonnaise such as Dukes or Hellmans (Dukes is my all time favorite!)
2 tbsp lime juice
3 tbsp finely diced red onion
1/2 tsp minced terragon
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Paprika and Old Bay seasoning to taste

In a small bowl, mix all ingredients together until thoroughly blended. Season to taste with salt, pepper, paprika and Old Bay seasoning. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Store in refrigerator, not more than 24 hours.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

These Cheese Straws Are Really Pink

Things are about to get big and cheesy on My Eats and Beats. I'm talking about big burritos and cheesy snacks.

Big Eat
Tuesday night my sister and I went to the grand opening of Memphis' first Chiptole Mexican Grill. Not since my days as an undergraduate on the campus of Loyola University Chicago have I lived within 50 miles of a Chipotle. And now memories of my glory days and the feeling of being uncomfortably full after eating a chicken burrito were within my grasp once again. I have been counting down to the grand opening for 3 weeks - since they announced the date. I was ready. I was set. And apparently every Rhodes and University of Memphis student was also going to Chipotle the same night as me.

Here is the line when we arrived. I waited 40 minutes outside and 20 minutes inside before placing my order at the counter. There were people who grew weary and stepped out of line, deciding to try another day. The older couple in front of me had not been to a Chipotle. Fantastic folks; welcome! And while you take ten minutes to decipher the right way to order from the menu, do you mind if I step in front of you? The best part was the woman's snort everytime she laughed. Hilarious! The Hispanic gentleman behind me kept laughing to himself and making comments to his wife such as "It's just Chipotle!" Well guess what, sir? While I'm sure you could whip up an even more authentic burrito, you're still in line with us!

Finally, my moment of Mexican grill greatness was upon me. The burrito was stuffed to perfection with chicken, cheese, lettuce, pico de gallo, guacamole and black beans. YUM! After I devoured my meal, I felt what you can only feel after eating a Chipotle burrito  - absolute discomfort and a full belly. So worth it.

Cheesy Eat
Now let's get cheesy. Could you devour an entire bag of Cheetos or a box of Cheez-Its in one sitting? Is there anything better than licking your fingers clean of cheddar? If you answered yes to at least one of these two questions, you're going to love this recipe for cheese straws.

These orange stick snacks are perfect to have on hand for your guests. Fill a clear glass with parchment paper and stack the cheese straws inside for presentation points. This snack is such a simple and fun way to entertain from scratch, and it is sure to please everyone's tastebuds. I'd pair these cheese straws with boiled peanuts and ice cold brews.

This snack is rockin’ and packs a punch of heat at the end, just like Pink. So come on and “Raise Your Glass”. And don’t forget to fill it plenty of cheese straws. I'd recommend doubling the recipe; you'll be glad you did when you see how quickly these disappear!

Lee Brothers' Cheese Straws:
1 1/2 Cups (about 4 ounces) grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
4 tbsp (1/2) stick of butter, softened and cut into 4 pieces
3/4 Cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tbsp half-and-half

1 - Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2 - In a food processor, combine the cheese, butter, flour, salt and red pepper and process in five 5-second pulses until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the half-and-half and process until the dough forms a ball, about 10 seconds.
3 - On a slightly floured surface, using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough into an 8x10 inch rectangle that is about 1/8 inch thick. With a sharp knife, cut the dough into long, thin strips. Dip the knife into flour after every few inches to ensure a clean cut. Gently transfer the strips to an ungreased cookie sheet, leaving atleast 1/4 inch between them. The dough will sag and may break occasionally in the transfer, but don't be concerned. The straws can be any length from 2 to 10 inches.
4 - Bake the straws on the middle rack for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the ends are barely browned. Remove from the oven and set the cookie sheet on a rack to cool.
5 - Serve at room temperature. Cheese straws will keep in the refrigerator, in a sealed container, for 2 days.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Lola Wants Sour Orange Pie

"Woman make pie. Man eat pie.
Man love pie. Man love woman."
- My husband on this sour orange pie (and apparently the secret to a man's heart)

This past weekend was filled with an abundance of good eats and good company – two of my favorite things. Sundays are generally reserved for family dinner at my parents' house. And this Sunday my older sister came home from Chicago for a few weeks!

Thrilled to have her here, I offered to contribute appetizers and dessert to the menu. What the hell? I was feeling inspired to spend my Saturday in the kitchen! And with family dinner providing a perfect venue to taste test new recipes, I immediately dove into The Lee Brother's Southern Cookbook for ideas.

At 5 pm Saturday evening, I turned on the speakers to my portable music player and began work in the kitchen. At 11 pm, my dessert was stored in the refrigerator with the two appetizers I previously made; and this chica was down for the count. You might as well have called me Maw Maw as I sat straight up in a wing backed chair and began to doze off to sleep. But it was all worth it on Sunday afternoon when my contributed food was met with compliments and devoured by family members.

I can’t wait to share these recipes with you! You're going to love them. But the spotlight goes first to the Sour Orange Pie. If you enjoy key lime pie, try this recipe. In fact, my sister loved it more! That’s not saying much since she doesn’t like key lime; but I’ll take that as a win none the less!

This orange infused dessert is sure to please any citrus flavor lover. It’s refreshing, cool and ideal for entertaining in the spring or summer. I made my own pie crust and substituted a mixture of orange juice, lemon juice and grapefruit juice to create the sour orange taste since I could not find sour oranges. (See notes below for the recipe and substitutions.)

After family dinner and with only 2 pieces of pie left in the dish, we found ourselves outside on the patio. A warm 80 degrees and gusts of breeze kept us cool as we conversed until the sun went down, and Stewart and I made our way home with leftovers (including the pie).

Sarah Vaughan singing "Whatever Lola Wants" pairs well with the sour orange pie. Her sassy lyrics and sultry voice sing "I always get what I aim for". And in aiming to make a delicious citrus pie, my goal was accomplished.  


Pie Crust
1 1/2 cups of vanilla wafers, pulsed 10 times in a food processor to make fine crumbs.
3 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (warm or cold)

Sour Orange Pie (for the filling)
5 large egg yolks
one 14 oz can sweetened condensed whole milk
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 cup sour orange juice
 *If you can't find sour oranges use: 1 part grapefruit juice, 1 part lemon juice and 1 part orange juice
1 tablespoon sour orange zest
 *I used 1/2 tablespoon navel orange zest and 1/2 tablespoon of lemon zest
4 teaspoons navel orange zest
Directions: 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the vanilla wafer crumbs and the sugar. Add the melted butter and toss thoroughly with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until the butter is evenly incorporated, about 1 minute. Using the bottom of a sturdy juice glass, press the mixture firmly into a 9-inch pie pan, creating an even layer on the bottom and sides. Bake on the middle rack until the crumb mixture has darkened to the brown of a pecan shell and the sugar and butter have fused with the crumbs to form a crust, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely on a rack. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees.
3. In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks well with a hand mixer or whisk until they have lightened in color, about 1 minute. Add the condensed milk and 2 tbsp heavy cream and stir with wooden spoon to incorporate. Add the sour orange juice, sour orange zest and 4 tsp navel orange zest and stir until the filling is consistenly creamy and light yellow in color, about 1 minute.
4. Pour the filling into the crust and bake on the middle rack until the surface is quivery, like gelatin, 14-16 minutes. Transfer to a rack and cool for 30 minutes so the pie can set firmly. Transfer to the refrigerator to cool completely, about 4 hours (cover in plastic if keeping for more than 24 hours).

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tomato Tart and Winehouse

Do you ever have one of those days where you come home from work mentally spent? And that mental fatigue makes you feel physically exhausted? The couch charms your butt right into its plush cushions. Bed by 9 pm sounds heavenly, and a glass of your favorite wine instantly eases the tension in your shoulders. That was my Wednesday.

But I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to create a little something special in the kitchen for dinner. My mom used to make this recipe for a tomato tart when I was growing up. Recently I adopted it and have made this dish a few times since then. This recipe has less than five ingredients and is ready in 35 minutes.

The tomato and mozzarella tart is perfect to serve as an afternoon treat, an appetizer before dinner or a light main course. It’s very versatile. And depending on what ingredients you have in your kitchen, you can create your own unique tomato tart in no time! One option is to omit the pesto and substitute it with dried basil and top the tomatoes with a little olive oil. You can create multiple variations with this concept.

The tart is not overly heavy, but the melted mozzarella cheese baked on top of a buttery, flaky pie crust gives it a rich texture. I’ve made this tart using a pre-made frozen pie crust as well as a refrigerated pie crust (like Pillsbury). In my opinion the refrigerated crust had a better crunch – almost like thin crust pizza. However, the pre-made crust version made for a prettier presentation. Either way, you can’t go wrong.

Amy Winehouse and her hot mess self are bringing in the beat for today’s post. Forget Snookie’s “poof”. Miss Winehouse brought back the beehive. I’m a big fan and obsessed with her song “Valerie” - both this featured version with Mark Ronson and the acoustic version. I’ve been known to play a song on repeat 50 times over, and Valerie this would be one of them.

Hope your day is filled with good eats and beats!

Tomato Tart:

10-inch pie-crust (not cooked)
6-8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
2-3 tomatoes sliced
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake the pie crust for 5 minutes and remove from oven. Spread the mozzarella cheese on the bottom of the pie crust. And a few dollops of pesto on top of the cheese. Layer tomatoes on top. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake tart for 35-40 minutes. Keep you eye on the tart. Your oven may cook the tart faster, and you don't want the crust to burn.

Monday, March 28, 2011

German Potato Salad and Bach

I love salads: pasta salad, Caesar salad, Insalata Caprese, etc. So it’s no surprise that I wanted to try my hand at making a traditional German potato salad. And what was the driving factor behind choosing German potato salad, you might ask? Bacon!

This recipe is great. Don’t be deterred by the heavy scent of vinegar at first. It tapers off and is not strong in taste when all the ingredients are combined. The onion, bacon and Dijon mustard pack these potatoes with lots of flavor. Pour me a cold beer with a side of warm potato salad and a little polka music; and call me the St. Pauli Girl.

German potato salad is a great dish for summer cookouts and tailgating. But because you traditionally serve it warm, I can also see myself making this recipe in the winter.

Today I'm pairing my dish with classical music – a first for My Eats and Beats! I adore classical music. Without lyrics you're left to embrace the melody in its purest form and let the emotion of the composition consume you. German classical music has bred some of the greatest composers. Among them are Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Johannes Brahms.

Bach is one of my favorite classical composers, and Double Violin Concerto in D Minor (1st mvt.) is a great fit. A classical German composer for a traditional German potato salad recipe.


German Potato Salad:


2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes

1/2 pound thick-cut bacon

3/4 cup finely chopped onion

1/3 cup white vinegar

1 1/2 tsp sugar

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons minced chives, for garnish

Place the potatoes in a medium-size pot and cover them with enough water to extend 2 inches above the surface of the potatoes. Salt the water and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Continue cooking until potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork, about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain and slice into 1/4-inch rounds.

Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once crisp, place on a paper towel-lined plate and crumble into small pieces. Pour off the rendered fat, reserving 1/4 cup in the pan. Turn the heat to medium and add the onion. Cook until translucent and just beginning to brown, about 4 to 5 minutes.

Whisk in the vinegar, sugar, mustard, and salt and stir until thick and bubbly. Add the sliced, cooked potatoes and toss to coat. Top with the crumbled bacon and garnish with the chives. Serve warm.

Bird is the Word

Dinner was served promptly at 10:30 pm Saturday night; the final outcome: one juicy roasted chicken. I’ve never cooked an entire bird before, and quite frankly I was intimidated from lack of experience. From the moment I cut the chicken out from its plastic casing, my husband could hear me roaring with laughter from the upstairs room. Upon entering the kitchen, Stewart saw me squealing as I braced myself to remove the giblets from inside the chicken.

I work with raw meat all the time; but a 5 lb. naked chicken was uncharted territory in my kitchen. After the giblets were removed, it was smooth sailing from there. I was never rough in handling the chicken. Although the bird was dead, somehow I felt I was being more humane by treating it delicately.

While my chicken roasted in the oven for an hour and a half, I played one of my favorite stations on Pandora radio: Edith Piaf. It’s perfect mood music while cooking in the kitchen. And I had every intention of featuring an Edith Piaf song, until Ben E King’s “Stand by Me” began to play. Five seconds into the song, and two glasses into a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, I held my own private dancing session in the kitchen, while my husband took in March Madness upstairs.

Ina Garten’s recipe for roasted chicken is fantastic. The chicken was so tender and juicy. Perfectly cooked, I’ll be able to use the meat all week for sandwiches and other meals. But I felt the sauce itself was a little too powerful with lemon. In my opinion, just use the recipe for roasting the chicken, or only use one lemon versus two.

Engagement Roast Chicken:


1 (4 to 5 pound) roasting chicken

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 lemons

1 whole head garlic, cut in 1/2 crosswise

Good olive oil

2 Spanish onions, peeled and thickly sliced

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup chicken stock, preferably homemade

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Remove and discard the chicken giblets. Pat the outside dry. Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken. Cut the lemons in quarters, place 2 quarters in the chicken along with the garlic and reserve the rest of the lemons. Brush the outside of the chicken with olive oil and sprinkle the chicken liberally with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken. Place the chicken in a small (11 by 14-inch) roasting pan. (If the pan is too large, the onions will burn.) Place the reserved lemons and the sliced onions in a large bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Pour the mixture around the chicken in the pan.

Roast the chicken for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and a thigh. Remove the chicken to a platter, cover with aluminum foil, and allow to rest for 10 minutes while you prepare the sauce, leaving the lemons and onions in the pan.

Place the pan on top of the stove and turn the heat to medium-high. Add the wine and stir with a wooden spoon to scrape up the brown bits. Add the stock and sprinkle on the flour, stirring constantly for a minute, until the sauce thickens. Add any juices that collect under the chicken. Carve the chicken onto a platter and serve with the lemons, onions, and warm sauce

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Save the Last Parfait for Me

"You know what else everybody likes? Parfaits! Have you ever met a person, you say, 'Let's get some parfait,' they say, 'Hell no, I don't like no parfait'? Parfaits are delicious!"
- Donkey from Shrek

Springtime is officially here in Memphis, and the berries are beginning to make their big come back. I love this time of year. The days are getting longer; the nights are perfect for sitting out on the patio, enjoying the warm weather. And the grill found it's place once again in our week night dinner routine.

Monday I made parfaits. With instant vanilla pudding, angel food cake (store bought), strawberries and blueberries, this parfait is great for a light dessert after dinner. I feel very semi-home made with Sandra Lee on this one. The berries and vanilla flavors blend well together, and the consistency of the pudding and angel food cake together are deliciously smooth.

This dessert boasts bright berry colors, rich vanilla flavors, and a sassy presentation when served in a martini glass. My parfait mixes well with the smooth voice of Mr. Michael Buble. And the musical arrangement for his cover of "Save the Last Dance for Me" goes well with the martini glass presentation.

Bon appetit!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Pasta Salad and Avett Brothers

I’m obsessed the new Kindle. In all truthfulness, I purchased the Kindle as a gift to Stewart this Valentine’s Day. He’s the compulsive reader in our marriage – breezing through magazines, newspapers, and novels daily. One would say I’m quite jealous of his ability to speed read. But I had no interest in the Kindle, or any e-book reading device for that matter. I professed to be a lover of the printed page, wanting to “physically hold a magazine” and “turn the pages of a novel or newspaper”. To spend hours in a bookstore on Sunday afternoons is one of my favorite pastimes.

But about ten days ago my reading world was rocked by Amazon’s Kindle. This thing is amazing! I read Water for Elephants in record time and am already a quarter of the way into The Paris Wife. At this rate, I’ll be reading a new book each week! I won’t write the equivalent of a product review (don’t worry), but I would strongly encourage anyone to enjoys reading to purchase one. It has fueled the fire for my current reading frenzy.

This weekend I made another variation of pasta salad – one of my childhood favorites. All it takes is a box of bowtie or elbow macaroni (or the pasta of your choice), a bottle of Good Seasons Italian All Natural dressing and whatever vegetables you have in your refrigerator. Cook the pasta as usual, drain (don’t rinse) and mix in large bowl with the dressing and chopped vegetables. This dish will last you about a week in leftovers; and it’s even better the next day. I bought cherry tomatoes, zucchini, squash, carrots and bell peppers for pasta primavera. A week later, no pasta primavera and my vegetables were on the verge of being inedible. So this was a quick fix to save those veggies and make lunch!

The Avett Brothers’ Bella Donna is a great song to accompany this dish. Something about the tune and its simplicity feels like springtime: sunshine, a cool breeze, fresh fruits and vegetables, and late afternoons sitting on the patio.


Friday, March 18, 2011

Oh Land and Vin Chaud

Hands down my favorite new artist this Friday is Oh Land. The Danish native currently lives in New York City. The daughter of an opera singer and organist, Oh Land was originally a dancer with the Royal Swedish Ballet until a spinal injury lead her to a career in music.

This twenty-five year old has model looks, killer fashion sense and mega musical talent. She just performed this week at SXSW in Austin, TX, and is headed to Dallas and Denver later this month.
Check out her video for "Sun of a Gun" below. Side note: I'd love to see the cast of Glee cover this song. If they ever do, you heard it here first!  

To see/hear more of Oh Land, click here. Other songs I'd recommend by this artist are White Nights, We Turn It Up and Lean.

Calling all wineos!

And now for the most amazing hot cocktail I've ever laid lips on - the vin chaud (hot wine). All joking aside, the first words out of my mouth, when I tasted this drink, were "Oh sweet Jesus". It's that good.

After the St. Pat's day cupcake fiasco, my eyelids were feeling heavy around 9 pm last night and my tummy was in the mood for a little night cap. I've read several different recipes for mulled wine, and the one below is my adaptation - given the ingredients I had on hand.

Vin Chaud (Hot Mulled Wine)
*1 serving

1 1/2 cups of red wine (I used Boxhead cabernet sauvignon)

1/4 cup water
1/8 cup sugar
1 lemon, sliced
orange zest (I used just a smidge)
pinch of ground cinamon (about 1/8 tsp)
Heat the wine, water, sugar and cinamon in a pot over medium low heat. Stir occasionally until it simmers (not boiling) and a foam forms. Add the orange zest. Pour the wine into the glass while it's hot. Serve with a slice of lemon.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Cupcakes on Impulse for St. Pat's


The luck of the Irish clearly does not apply to Lebanese girls. At 11 p.m. last night I was picking green frosting out from beneath my fingernails. My cheeks were smudged with dry patches of chocolate cake batter, and the hard wood floor was splattered with butter cream.

My kitchen had transformed into a war zone over the course of two hours, and all from an impulsive decision at 8 p.m. to make rich chocolate cupcakes and green butter cream frosting (both from scratch) for St. Patrick’s day.

As I gazed upon my sweet creations, perfectly aligned in rows of four (one's missing in the photo because I ate it), the moment couldn’t help but be bitter sweet. I was happy to be done with baking and so unhappy to see the pile of dishes stacked in my sink. Never the less, I now know how to make my own butter cream frosting! The cupcakes are most rich in chocolate/cocoa. So if you’re a chocoholic, this batter has your name written all over it. I, candidly, can't get through one of these cupcakes before I need a tall glass or milk.

I love St. Patrick ’s Day. Truth be told, I love about any holiday that encourages people to dress festively and drink profusely in the good company of friends and family.

For an Irish beat, I chose Galway Girl sung by Steve Earl and Sharon Shannon. For my Gerard Butler fans out there, this is the song he sings at the pub in P.S. I Love You.

I hope you’re wearing green today to avoid getting pinched!

Rich Chocolate Cupcakes:
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 1/4 sticks of butter, softened
2 large eggs

1 - preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tin with paper baking liners.
2 - combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, combine milk and vanilla. Set both aside.
3 - In a large bowl, with mixer at low speed, beat sugar and butter together just until blended. Increase speed to high; beat 3 minutes, or until mixture is light and creamy. NOTE: use a heave-duty mixer with whisk not paddle.
4 - reduce speed to low and add eggs in one at a time, beating well after each addition.

5 - add flour mixture alternately with milk mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat just until combined.
6 - spoon batter into muffin-pan cups, filling each about half way full. Bake 20-25 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center of cupcake comes out clean. Immediately remove from pans and cool completely on wire racks.
7 - Prepare frosting and frost cupcakes.

Butter cream frosting:
2 sticks of butter, softened
2 tsp vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
4 tbs milk

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and vanilla. Blend in the sugar (1/2 cup at a time), beating well after each addition. Beat in the milk and continue mixing until light and fluffy. Keep icing covered until ready to decorate.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Pesto and My Devils in Disguise

For Lent I gave up cookies. Sounds easy? Think again. Cookies, if you don’t know already, are my ultimate weakness. There's never an "I'll just have one" cookie moment. Does a chain smoker “just have one” cigarette a day? I think not. And I’ve yet to come across a cookie I didn’t like.

Coincidentally, do you know what also makes its annual appearance during the Lenten season? What stalks the doorways of every grocery store within a 10 mile radius of my house? What appears to have the face of girl empowerment and leadership but is truly out for my demise? Girl Scout cookies!

Right when I’m at my most vulnerable state, boxes of Thin Mints, Caramel deLites, Do-Sis-Dos, and Shortbread stare me straight in the face. I want desperately to buy cases of cookies and put smiles on all the little Girl Scouts’ faces. Yet, the exact opposite occurs. My method of avoiding these seven year olds is to walk in the grocery store right on the heels of someone else, so they won’t approach me. Or there’s always the hope of a side entrance.

My feelings towards these tempting cookie peddlers can only be summed up by the late great Elvis Presley’s “Devil in Disguise”.

Keeping with the theme of all foods green, I'm featuring a great recipe for home made pesto today. This pesto is a favorite of my mom and mine. And although it’s made fresh, you can place it in your freezer until you’re ready to use it! This pesto is perfect to use when making a Panini, bruschetta, pizza or pasta. Get creative and have fun with the versatility of this basil spread.



Ingredients:1/2 Cup pine nuts
2 Cups fresh basil
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 Cup of Parmesan cheese (fresh grated)
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/2 Cup of olive oil
Roast pine nuts for about five minutes in a pan over low heat. Remove pine nuts and place on paper towel or wax paper to cool. Add all ingredients to Cuisinart mixer and pulse until you have the right consistency.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Pistachio Cake and Adele

Here's to the start of a new week. Can you believe it's already mid-March? No doubt the years pass by faster as I get older. But here we are; another Monday and another work day no less. Due to my lack of self control around desserts, the pistachio cake I made now finds itself a new home at work on the 13th floor's break room. We'll see how this plays out. I got the cake out of my house. Good job. But now it is with me at work - within sight and smell!

Sunday afternoon I spent a few hours sifting through cook books, online recipes and food magazines, searching for new eats to make this week. Forget vegetables, fruits, and lean protein. I was on the hunt for butter, sugar, flour, etc. In other words...desserts.

Last Thanksgiving I had my first slice of pistachio cake and have been in love ever since. So I was thrilled to find a quick and easy recipe for pistachio cake in a cook book my mom gave me years ago. Even if you're skeptical, I encourage you to try it! This recipe, in particular, takes all of 5 minutes to throw together and won't require a huge time commitment in the kitchen.

The one word I would use to describe this cake is one I can never seem to speak out loud. There are few words that make me want to scrub my mouth clean as much as m-o-i-s-t does. Blah! There. I spelled it. And m-o-i-s-t it is! With it's light lime green color on the inside and golden brown coating on the outside, this cake is a great dessert to put together when you're in time crunch.

Adele's new single "Rolling in the Deep" has been on repeat, blaring through the speakers of my iPhone. She is a perfect pair to this pistachio bunt cake. I can't get enough of this song or this cake. Thankfully Adele's song won't add unwanted lbs to the hips no matter how many times I listen to it. The cake on the other hand...not so much.

Bon Appetit!

Pistachio Cake

1 white cake mix
1 cup oil
1 cup 7-up or Sprite
3 eggs
1 package instant pistachio pudding
1 teaspoon almond extract

Mix all ingredients together well. Grease and flour Bunt pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes.