Three Healthy Dinners

by Cathy on October 16, 2012 · 0 comments

in Food

We spent the weekend at Iowa State visiting our youngest and realized that Ames, Iowa has some very decent restaurants. We ate, went to the football game, ate, went shopping, went to a pancake feed at her sorority and … ate. And I don’t regret a single bite. This week, however, we are paying the piper. But eating healthy doesn’t have to be a sacrifice. Here are three healthy meals to prove my point. I’ve also included the source for each healthy recipe.

Dinner #1

Foil Baked Fish With Black Beans and Corn from Pink-Parsley


Baked Parmesan Cheese Tomatoes from Eat Well

Tossed Salad

Dinner #2

Turkey Ranch Club Wrap from Skinny Mom’s Kitchen

Zucchini Boats with Roma Tomatoes from Proud Italian Cook

Fresh sliced fruit

Dinner #3

Tandoori Chicken Burgers from Baked Bree

Quinoa Salad with Black Beans, Avocado and Cumin-Line Dressing from Eating for England

Sliced Melon

Dinner is served!




Easy Graduation Party Idea

by Cathy on May 20, 2012 · 2 comments

in Food,Ideas

I’m not sure how it is where you live but in my hometown, high school graduation can be a bit over the top. This past month has been an endless stream of awards banquets, senior picture photo sessions (Can you say “expensive”?) events, ceremonies … and then we have the graduation parties. I, however, am not an over-the-top gal. I’m all about family, friends, warm memories. I’m not out to impress anyone. This girl just wants to have fun. So for my daughter’s graduation party last weekend, we did our own thing and it WAS fun.

We hosted a dessert and champagne/sparkling cider open-house at our home with two other families. It was much simpler than providing a whole meal, was very casual, and filled with great conversations and laughter. I saw people who were dear to me but didn’t know each other before the night engaged in lengthy conversations. A lot of people came but it was very relaxed. Best of all, my daughter was blessed. So if you haven’t planned your child’s graduation party yet, go easy on yourself. And did our guests have fun? All I know is that most of them spent the entire evening at our house.

Here is a look at our table decor and links to some of some of the dessert recipes. (I’m guessing on some of the recipes since the other families also baked.) My daughter added some fun touches, such as the mason jars tied with ribbon that held the silverware and the chocolate-dipped pretzel rods. She is both girly and artsy so the pink with black/white color scheme suited her perfectly.

Cake Pops
Lemon Bars (a mix)
Oreo Truffles
Cookie Dough Dip with Graham Crackers
Chocolate Cupcakes (a mix) with Buttercream Frosting
Easy Pretzel Buttons
Plus Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries and Pretzel Rods



This Week’s Recipes and More Cooking Blogs

by Cathy on September 19, 2011 · 0 comments

in Food

My previous post that listed the week’s recipes and some great cooking blogs was a big hit. So, for you foodies, here is this week’s addition.

Lemon Chicken from Annie’s Eats

Creamy Shrimp and Mushroom Pasta from Chaos in the Kitchen

Slow Cooker Mexican Pulled Pork from Can You Stay For Dinner?

For dessert? Two Ingredient Pumpkin Cake with Apple Cider Glaze from Big Red Kitchen

Bon appetit!



Cute Easter Ideas!

by Cathy on April 20, 2011 · 4 comments

in Food,Ideas

We’re planning Easter around here. I asked my college-age daughter what she wants to do this weekend and she said Easter crafts! Then my sister, also a creative type, and my crafty other daughter want in on the action. So now I’m planning, and boy is it fun! Here is a collection of inspired Easter crafts, decorating and tasty goodies.



I had forgotten that Washington DC is truly an international city until I took that first bite of dinner our first night there. We weren’t in a quaint Georgetown eatery. We were transported to Spain in a crimson and black restaurant pulsating with the music of flamenco dancers as food was served on small plates. Dinner was a parade of rich seafood and tasty vegetable dishes washed down with goblets brimming with sangria and fruit. La Bodega marked our first night. (See the details below for what we ordered for all three meals.)

The second night took us to India, where pungent curries and spicy stews greeted us at the doors of Rasika. The waiter assured me that the Chicken Tikka Masaala really wasn’t spicy. I begged to differ as I dove for a glass of ice water, though it was good.


Alas, I saved the best for last. Zaytinya, a Greek/Turkish restaurant, was simply amazing. The steady parade of dishes were mouth watering. From the piping hot, fresh pita delivered with a tray of three savory spreads, to the platters of lamb, vegetarian dishes and don’t even get me started on the dessert: fresh apricots marinated in liquor topped with creamy yogurt, a dollop of rich ice cream and crusted with pistachios. You would really have to taste it to believe it.

Zaytinya was created and is directed by celebrity chef Jose Andres, host of the PBS cooking show “Made in Spain,” author of numerous cookbooks, creator of many of DC’s most innovative restaurants and czar of a food empire. Yet, he was both humble and friendly as he stopped to chat with all the dinner guests and shake our hands. I was a bit starstruck!

The details — If you are in Washington DC and want to visit these restaurants, here is what we ordered and would recommend.
La Bodega: Sopa de Pescado con Fideos (Traditional Seafood Broth with Clams, Mussels and Fideo Noodles), Sopa de Lentejas  (Lentil Soup With Chorizo Sausage), Ensalada de Peras y Nueces (Field Green Salad With Pears, Walnuts & Goat Cheese In A Light Honey Vinaigrette), Tortilla Espanola, Spanish Tortilla (Potato, Onion & Egg Omelet), Gambas al Ajillo (Shrimp Saute?ed in Garlic, Piri-Piri Pepper & Crismona Olive Oil)

Rasika: Naan (traditional Indian bread), Chicken Tikka Masaala (a flavorful chicken stew served with rice), Lamb Roganjosh (a lamb stew with curry and chilies served with rice), with a side dish of Eggplant Kozambu (eggplant, tomatoes and curry)

Zaytinya: Pita with three spreads (htipiti — marinated roasted red pepper, feta and thyme; hummus and Tzatziki — Greek yogurt with cucumbers and dill), Crispy Brussel Afelia (crispy brussel sprouts with spices and garlic yogurt), Hunkar Begendi (Turkish braised lamb shank with spices) and for dessert, marinated apricots with yogurt, ice cream and a pistachio crust.




Two Cupcakes: One Clever and One Tasty

by Cathy on February 16, 2011 · 1 comment

in Food

My daughter is being mentored by a wonderful graphic designer at a large company in Kansas City. On the side, this designer creates adorable bath fizzies. But these aren’t just any bath fizzies — they are shaped like cupcakes and come in “flavors” like raspberry truffle! Also, check out the designer’s adorable, truly inspired blog, Dirty Laundry. So cute!

And if you are looking for the tasty kind of cupcake, my daughters and I baked several batches for our three separate New Year’s Eve parties. They all turned out well but my favorites were these carrot cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.

Here’s the recipe from one of my favorite cooking blogs, Gimme Some Oven:

Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe
(Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated)


Cupcake Ingredients:

  • 2½ cups (12.5 oz) all-purpose flour
  • 1¼ tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. grated nutmeg
  • ½ tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 lb. (6-7 medium) carrots, peeled
  • 1½ cups (10.5 oz) granulated sugar
  • ½ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1½ cups canola, safflower or vegetable oil

Frosting Ingredients:

  • 12 oz. cream cheese (not softened)
  • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 cups powdered sugar, sifted


Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line cupcake pans with 24 paper liners.  In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt; whisk together and set aside.

In a food processor fitted with a shredding disk, shred the carrots (you should have about 3 cups).  Add the carrots to the bowl with the dry ingredients and set aside.  Rinse out the bowl of the food processor and fit with the metal blade.  Process the sugars and eggs until frothy and thoroughly combined, about 20 seconds.  With the machine running, add the oil in a steady stream through the feed tube.  Continue to process until the mixture is light in color and well emulsified, about 20 more seconds.  Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl.  Stir in the carrots and dry ingredients until incorporated and no streaks of flour remain.

Scoop evenly into the prepared cupcake liners, so that each is about 2/3 full.  Bake for about 20-24 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cool in the pan at least 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the cream cheese and butter on medium-high speed until well combined and smooth, about 2-3 minutes.  Mix in the vanilla extract.  Gradually beat in the powdered sugar until totally incorporated, increase the speed and then beat until smooth.  Frost cooled cupcakes as desired.


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In Kansas City, we are snowed in so I had extra time to bake something tasty for breakfast. I adapted the following recipe from Foodily, the new social media food site, to make it more healthy. (As an aside to you fellow techies, check out Foodily It has millions of recipes — as opposed to the 50,000 recipes found on — and it has social media features similar to Facebook. Fun!)

If you too are surviving a blizzard, which makes  a trip to the grocery store impossible, note the recipe variations below. You can make yummy muffins with whatever you have on hand. Enjoy!


    • 1 large eggs, beaten
    • 1 cup buttermilk (You can substitute with one teaspoon of white vinegar added to one cup of regular milk.)
    • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
    • 1/4 cup margarine, melted
    • 1/2 cup of applesauce (If you don’t have applesauce, then increase the margarine to 1/2 cup)
    • 1 cup quick-cooking oats, uncooked
    • 1 cup all-purpose flour (To make them more healthy, use 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour and 1/2 cup of white flour.)
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1 cup blueberries, mixed with 1 tablespoon of flour. If using frozen berries, don’t thaw. (You can substitute 1 cup of pealed and chopped apples.)


  1. Combine egg, buttermilk, brown sugar and margarine; beat well.
  2. Mix in oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt just until moistened.
  3. Fold in blueberries.
  4. Fill greased muffin tins two-thirds full.
  5. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes.


There’s a conspiracy going on in Asheville … to make the food scene in every other U.S. city dull in comparison. It probably isn’t intentional but it makes my own city, known for its BBQ, nothing more than a big yawn.  We sampled the delicacies of this fair city in January when we could no longer take the subzero tundra of Siberia … er the Midwest. Yes, it was a bit too chilly in Asheville to ski but it was warm enough to walk the downtown, putting ourselves into a food coma.

The interesting thing about Asheville, NC isn’t just the restaurants themselves but the food ethos of the town. This was one of the first cities to hop on the farm-to-table bandwagon. It traces its roots back to the 1800s when the community served as the regional drovers’ stopover where farmers brought livestock and produce to sell.  Today, the unique restaurants have teamed up with local farmers to bring the freshest produce and free-range meat to their customers.

Here are our four favorite eateries and the thinking behind their menus:

You will never miss the meat at the Laughing Seed Cafe in Asheville.

Laughing Seed Cafe: Who knew that meals minus the meat could be so amazing? Our palates traveled the world tasting Tico Burritos, the Indian Thali Plate and the Carribean Empanadas. The restaurant began 20 years ago as a juice bar. Some of the produce and herbs used in the recipes are grown on the farm owned by chef Jason Sellers and his partner Laura. At, Jason explained the concept behind the restaurant: “It’s necessary to grow food, both as a means of assuring quality and to protect our right to do so. Local products feeding local people and the pursuit of civil rights — that’s our concept.”

Early Girl Eatery: Located on a quaint curving street of shops, this place does breakfast right. Think pumpkin ginger bread and the  Sausage/Sweet Potato Scramble. Yum! Owner Julie Stehling is religious in her support of food grown on small local farms. She notes:

  • Food grown locally is tastier since it doesn’t travel far and is therefore fresher.
  • Locally grown food doesn’t cause as much pollution since it doesn’t travel far.
  • Spending money locally keeps the community thriving.
  • Using local foods makes the flavors more authentic.
  • Small, local farmers tend to use fewer chemicals.

The Early Girl Eatery will make a breakfast believer out of you.

Tupelo Honey Cafe serves new southern cooking including shrimp and grits, buttermilk pork chops, mashed sweet potatoes and fried green tomatoes. Chef Brian Sonoskus brings eco-cuisine to the restaurant table by growing much of his produce on a neglected farm he is bringing back to life with the help of local volunteers. He keeps his restaurant supplied in winter with a large greenhouse. He also composts the restaurant’s eggshells, coffee grounds and other scraps on the farm. The restaurant stocks local microbrews, rather than beer by the bottle, to support local businesses and avoid the need to recycle the bottles.

Sunny Point Cafe also excels in all things breakfast related. The homemade granola with yogurt and breakfast biscotti was a hit at my table. The restaurant is known for its orange cornmeal hotcakes with blackberry butter. When owners Belinda Raab and April Moon Harper opened the restaurant in 2003, they envisioned a sleepy neighborhood place. Instead, the waiting time usually stretches well beyond an hour.

“What makes Asheville restaurants unique is that they support local producers of food products,” Belinda said. “At Sunny Point Cafe, we aspire to have a neighborhood eatery that is affordable and fresh, with a local focus.  We like to have fun with our menu, always remembering that it’s just a great meal, not life or death. Our restaurant is also involved with the slow food movement and we have hosted some slow food events.”

In addition Asheville’s Foodtopia Society offers forest-to-table harvesting and cooking adventures, cooking classes and will soon offer culinary vacation packages.

Serious dieters, don’t even stop in Asheville. Keep driving fast and furious down the highway!

Fellow foodies: What is your favorite city for its restaurants and food culture?



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