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.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Favorite Artist Friday and Tea

The joys a Friday brings to my life. Naturally it marks the beginning of the weekend, and this Friday in particular is pay day! Having refrained from buying new music the past week, this newly acquired money is burning a hole in my pocket as iTunes beckons me to purchase music, music, and more music!
There are so many artists/bands out there today, many of whom I’m just discovering and enjoy sharing with you, that I hereby dub Friday posts as “Favorite New Artist Fridays”. This won’t necessarily mean that the featured beat is new to the music scene, but rather that it is new to me.

Case in point – Bat for Lashes has been around since 2008. The album Two Suns is haunting and beautiful, highlighting British singer/songwriter Natasha Khan’s talent. If the likes of Florence and the Machine or Frou Frou appeal to you, Bat for Lashes will be an instant favorite. Today’s beat is “Daniel” (see video below). Other songs I’d recommend by this artist: “Moon and Moon” and “Pearl’s Dream”.

The latter half of this week was spent seeing the film Black Swan and taking in the musical “Young Frankenstein” at the Orpheum Theatre. Consequently, my kitchen has been neglected and not produced new eats in two days. My time was spent otherwise - watching the classic Mel Brooks’ comedy performed on stage and a ballerina who loses her mind in strife for perfection as the Swan Queen. I’ve laughed and cringed a lot in the past 48 hours.

I have, however, been drinking a lot of green tea this week – for no particular reason outside of the general health/wellness related benefits. Did you know that tea is the second most consumed drink in the world, second only to water? It also surprised me to learn that all tea (white, green, oolong, black and pu'erh) comes from the same plant called Camellia sinensis. I have a small assorted stash of teas at work. It’s nice to have on hand for several reasons. The dose of caffeine helps to start my day. It also curbs my appetite after breakfast and before lunchtime. And for the afternoon, a cup of hot mint tea takes the edge off of any stress and calms the nerves.

In addition to building my own garden in the backyard, I’d like to blend my own teas some day. Here are links to great web sites for tea, if you’re interested. Be sure to check out the various tea pots and utensils on these sites as well:

May your weekend be filled with good eats and beats!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Jazz It Up with Bananas Foster

Bananas Foster
Last night the mood was right for a little sweetness to balance the savory jambalaya we had for dinner. The grocery store had bananas on sale for $0.52 a lb! I typically keep a small stash of bananas on the kitchen counter, grabbing one on the way out the door for work each morning. But what could I make with bananas that would rationalize my impulsive decision to buy 4 lbs? Enter in Bananas Foster - a dessert that originated at Brennan's restaurant in New Orleans. If you like banana splits, I imagine you would like Bananas Foster. Dark brown sugar, rum, vanilla ice cream, chopped walnuts...perhaps I should have a second helping having made my mouth salivate now.

I chose to feature a Jazz beat with today's eat. Jazz music has this ability to sound classic and hip at the same time - it can be both sophisticated and sexy in tone and lyrics. I'll admit that prior to her Grammy win for Best New Artist this year, I had not heard of Esperanza Spalding. The dark horse beat out Bieber, Mumford and Sons, Florence and the Machine, and Drake! Having listened to her latest album, Chamber Music Society, she is quickly becoming my go to artist for easy listening jams on the way to work and cooking in the kitchen.

Hearing her song "I Know You Know", visions of sipping Cosmopolitans at a chic lounge in New York City or Chicago fill my head. Or in this instance, the song accompanied me in Memphis as I made bananas foster. Other songs I'd recommend by this artist: Little Fly and Overjoyed.

Tonight I'm finally going to see the film Black Swan. Can't wait! Disclaimer: I will partake in a few cocktails before seeing a movie by director Darren Aronofsky. I'm fully prepared to be mentally disturbed and emotionally drained by the time I leave the theatre, so hopefully a little vino takes the edge off from the start.



1/4 cup butter

2/3 cup dark brown sugar

3 1/2 tablespoons rum (I used 1.5 tsp of rum to 2 tsp of water)

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3 bananas, peeled and sliced lengthwise and crosswise

1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

1 pint vanilla ice cream

In a large, deep skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Stir in sugar, rum, vanilla and cinnamon. When mixture begins to bubble, place bananas and walnuts in pan. Cook until bananas are hot, a few minutes. Serve at once over vanilla ice cream.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Mardi Gras Mac and Cheese

For the past week, my house has been without an Internet connection. Not as critical these days if your iPhone can check/send emails to loved ones, post status updates to facebook, read daily tweets from Charlie Sheen, and surf the World Wide Web for futile knowledge such as “Is the word doughnut considered a masculine or feminine noun in the French language?”Anyone know? Random foreign language fact: it’s masculine. Unfortunately, however, the lack of an Internet signal at home does create a barrier between me and the ability to update My Eats and Beats. But where there is a will, there is a way. We finally called Comcast!

This weekend was a good mix of rest and entertainment. The gloomy climate, with rain and chilly temperatures, lent itself to 11 hours of sleep on Saturday and Sunday. Amid grey skies, lunch on Sunday was about the only burst of color all weekend: mixed greens with baby carrots, chick peas, plum tomatoes and raspberry vinaigrette. I love meals that are thrown together within minutes, using items that are already in the kitchen. Resources are running scarce, and a trip to the grocery store is certainly in order today. Who wants to bet I walk away with a King Cake in my grocery cart? It’s Mardi Gras!

A few weeks ago we had dinner at my parents, and my mom bought a delectable king cake from Fresh Market. [Insert choir of angels rejoicing at the sight] After dinner my mom, dad, Stewart and I were each served a slice for dessert. Now, tradition states that whoever gets the tiny plastic baby inside the king cake is the king/queen for the day. And that person is then responsible for buying the next king cake. Four large slices, and half a king cake later, there’s no plastic baby in sight. This is just unacceptable. There has to be a baby in there. Five minutes passed, and an entire king cake was devoured by yours truly in search for the missing baby. Guess what? No baby! I felt gypped, and my stomach felt stout. Game over.

I wish I had planned in advance to make my own king cake today. Instead, I’ve posted a recipe for real macaroni and cheese. Kraft macaroni and cheese is a childhood (and adulthood) classic. But if you’re really looking to impress a dinner guest, try this recipe from the Lee Brothers. It’s a staple side dish for any season.  

And the cheese to my macaroni is Louis Armstrong singing "When the Saints Go Marching In". It is quintessential New Orleans/Mardi Gras music. I love the brass band and Louis' voice. A soulful voice to go with this soul food classic.

Macaroni and Cheese from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook

serves 12
total time: 1 hour
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

1 pound elbow macaroni

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour3 cups milk

3 bay leaves6 cups coarsely grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese (about 1 pound)

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, plus more to taste1 pound Gruyere or Swiss cheese, cut into 1/4-inch slices

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Fill a large pasta pot with water. Bring the water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon salt. Add the macaroni and cook until al dente. Drain and return to the pasta pot.In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Add the flour and stir together until smooth. Stir for 3 minutes. Add the milk, bay leaves, and 1 teaspoon salt and stir until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes. Add half of the cheddar cheese and stir until it is melted. Turn off the heat and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Pour the cheese sauce over the cooked pasta and stir until the sauce is distributed evenly in the pasta. Spread half of the macaroni and cheese in the bottom of a 3-quart casserole dish and flatten into an even layer. Sprinkle half of the remaining cheddar on top, then cover with half of the Gruyere. Add the rest of the pasta, flattening into an even layer, then cover with the remaining cheddar then the remaining Gruyere.

Bake in the middle of the preheated oven until hot and bubbly, about 30 minutes. If desired, transfer to the top rack during the last 5 minutes to brown the top.

Serve immediately.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Spicin' Up Black Bean Soup with Miss Lopez

Blast you New Year’s Resolutions! I’m pretty sure, judging by today’s date, that I have not posted three new recipes per week. But I have been keeping up with other resolutions, so that has to count for something. Right? And blast you Biebs! I’ve been listening to your song “Baby” today at work. Why?! Is it your profound lyrics: “Baby, Baby, Baby, Oh. Like Baby, Baby, Baby. No.” It’s just so darn catchy! Bring Luda into the mix, and I’m hooked. For those of you who may not be familiar with my feelings towards Justin Bieber – he is the reason I would dread having a 13 year-old daughter one day. And the scary reality is that I’ve been that 13 year-old girl with many a boy bands...back in the day.

Here’s my train of thought. The Biebs makes me think of the show Glee and their Bieber Fever episode from a few weeks ago. Consequently, Glee makes me think of the new OPI line of Glee nail polish colors. And I’m in love with the color “Slushied”! It’s this fantastic blue color for the spring/summer season. Go get it!

Spring fashion trends make me all too anxious to usher in warmer temperatures and say good bye to winter coats. As a fond, food, farewell to winter, I’m featuring a black bean soup recipe. This will most likely be one of the last soups I cook until fall arrives. This black bean soup is the first I’ve made, and it is delicious. There’s a lot of flavor in this pot of protein. It has bacon! Enough said. Check out the recipe below!

Don’t worry. I’m not going to publicly shame myself further and post a Justin Bieber video to my blog. BUT I would like to point out how bad Kim Kardashian's new single "Jam" is. It premiered today. Really? Really Kim? You think you can sing? Really? You know I have a love/hate relationship with you; so why did you give me reason to hate on your new song? I'll still watch your show on E! though. No buena muchacha. No buena. Listen here.

To spice up the black bean soup recipe, I chose Jennifer Lopez's new single "On the Floor". It's a real fist pumper. Speaking of Jennifer Lopez, I'm watching another season of American Idol. I swore I wouldn't once Simon Cowell left, but here I go again...

Black Bean Soup (by Dave Lieberman/Food Network)


• 10 slices bacon, finely chopped
• 2 medium onions, chopped (about 2 1/2 cups)
• 6 garlic cloves, pressed
• 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can reduced-sodium chicken broth
• 1 1/2 cups canned chopped tomatoes
• 2 tablespoons ketchup
• 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
• 1 tablespoon chili powder
• 4 (15 1/2-ounce) cans black beans, drained but not rinsed
• Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1 bunch cilantro
• juice of 1/2 lime
• Thinly sliced scallions, for garnish
• Sour cream, for garnish
• Grated cheddar, for garnish


Put the bacon into a large heavy pot and place it over medium heat. Cook until it starts to give up its fat, about 4 minutes. Stir in the onions and cook, stirring, until they start to turn translucent, about 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until you can smell it, about 1 minute. Add the broth, tomatoes, ketchup, Worcestershire, and chili powder. Stir in the beans, turn the heat to high and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat so the soup is bubbling gently and cook 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, pick off all the thick stems from the cilantro. Wash it and shake dry. Chop the cilantro coarsely and stir it into the soup when it has been simmering 10 minutes. cook until the soup is thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the lime juice. Serve with the garnishes.