Saturday, November 24, 2012

Sweet Potato Cheesecake


I was going to wait and post this recipe closer to Christmas but after I got SO MANY requests, how could I resist?  Especially since this recipe has been a long time in the making.  Now I know there are tons of ways to make cheesecake and lots of options for ingredients but this is the recipe for you if:
  • If you like your cheesecake melt-in-your-mouth creamy.  
  • You're patient. (there's a 90 minute baking time and 24 hour chill time)
  • You want to incorporate your favorite holiday flavors like cinnamon and nutmeg into your cheesecake.
Having said that, if you're still interested in making this cheesecake, here are a couple of tips:
  1. Like with any cake, you should make sure all your ingredients are room temperature.  Take out your ingredients, including the eggs, 1-2 hours before you plan to bake.
  2. This cheesecake is best when allowed to set overnight, which is why I said it's for the patient cook.  For the best results, make it the day before you want to serve it.
  3. Sweet potatoes are called sweet because...they are! But some are sweeter than others.  I used 1 and a 1/2 cups sugar in this cake because my sweet potatoes weren't that sweet, but if you find those great, dark, super sweet ones, reduce to 1 cup of sugar.
  4. You will need special cooking tools to make this cheesecake.  These include: a spring form pan, a food processor, and a large standing mixer.
Ok I think that's it!  I have shared everything you need to know to make this recipe a success.  Enjoy!

6-10 Graham Cracker Squares, crushed
1/2 stick Unsalted Butter, melted
1 tablespoon Light Brown Sugar

2 Eggs
3 Egg Yolks
1 tablespoon Vanilla Extract
1/3 cup Heavy Cream
1 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon Ground Ginger
1/8 teaspoon Ground Allspice
20 ounces Cream Cheese, softened
1/3 cup Sour Cream
1 ½ cups Light Brown Sugar
2 cups Sweet Potato Puree (See recipe below)

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine crushed graham crackers, melted butter, and sugar. Press the mixture into the bottom of a spring form pan; pushing some along the sides as well.  Bake crust for 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow the crust to cool. Reduce oven temperature to 275 degrees.

In a small bowl, beat together the eggs, yolks, vanilla, heavy cream, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and allspice.  Set mixture aside.  Then, in a large mixer with a paddle attachment, beat sour cream, at medium speed, for 1 minute, then add in cream cheese, brown sugar and finally add the sweet potato puree.  Once everything has combined, gradually add in the egg mixture in 2-3 batches, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl before each batch.  Once, everything has combined, stop the mixer.  Pour batter over the graham cracker crust. 

Place the cheesecake in the middle of a large roasting pan.  Pour boiling water (about a tea kettle full) into the roasting pan around the cheesecake to create a steam bath (this promotes even cooking).  Bake cheesecake for 90 minutes and allow it to cool.  Once cheesecake is room temperature, transfer to the refrigerator and allow to chill overnight.  Gently remove from the spring form pan and serve.

Sweet Potato Puree

Ingredients: (makes 2-3 cups depending on size of sweet potatoes)
2-3 Large Sweet Potatoes
1 tablespoon Olive or Vegetable Oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place sweet potatoes on a foil-lined baking sheet, rub the skin with oil and roast in the oven until softened (about 60-75 minutes).  Remove from oven and allow to cool. Once cool enough to handle, peel skin off the sweet potatoes and put the flesh into a food processor.  Puree for 2-3 minutes and empty into a bowl.

Puree can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 3 months.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Maryland Crab Soup

It's been a bit since my last blog post, but I promise haven't been slacking!  In fact, I have written what I think is one of my best soup recipes and if you've been following this blog for a bit, then you know I've written ALOT of soup recipes.  But this one for Maryland Crab Soup will go down as one of my favorites.

In fact, I was so excited about this soup that before I posted it on my blog, I decided to send it to my editor at  Well, it's been posted on the site since November 5th, and besides the recipe being easy, healthy, and delicious, I also pay homage to my home state in my introduction.  So please click the link below to hop on over to to check it out!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Apple Brown Betty

Last night, I got the opportunity to cook live on my very first cooking show.  I was invited by Chef James Robinson who hosts an online cooking show every Wednesday at 9pm.  Yesterday, he had me on as his guest and I was asked to make a dessert that would compliment his Halloween inspired dinner.  I figured that I could have racked my brain to think of some kind of spooky dessert or I could keep it simple and classic and make Apple Brown Betty, a dish that I would venture to say was my Grandpa's signature dessert.  Plus, apples are in season so this dessert may not be a typical Halloween dish but it's definitely perfect for fall.

Well, as it turned out the cooking show was the best environment for me to revive this recipe because we had an audience of about 15 people.  The Chef and I gave out all of the Apple Brown Betty that I made and everyone said that they liked it!  I even had one woman tell me she was thinking about making it for Thanksgiving.  Smart lady don't you think? ;-)

So I have copied and pasted my Grandpa's recipe below for those of you who are interested in trying this dish.  This is how I remember him making it, except I substituted graham cracker crumbs for bread crumbs.  I spotted some cinnamon graham crackers at the store and I thought they would compliment the cinnamon that I mix with the apples, but Grandpa always had plain breadcrumbs on hand so he would use those.

Anyway, I hope you all make it this fall while apples are plentiful and therefore cheap! And hopefully I will be able to update this with the video of the show soon!

 Ingredients: (Makes 5-6 servings)

1/2 Stick Melted Butter, divided
1 cup Graham Cracker Crumbs (approx. 6 graham crackers, ground) OR Plain Bread Crumbs
7-8 Medium Sized Apples, peeled, core removed, and diced
Juice of 1 Lemon
3/4 cup Raisins or Dried Cranberries
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 cup Brown Sugar
1 tsp Cinnamon
¼ tsp Nutmeg
¼ tsp Ground Cloves
½ tsp Salt


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Grease the bottom and sides of a medium sized, glass-baking dish using about ½ of the melted butter.  Then, in a small bowl, mix graham cracker crumbs or breadcrumbs with the remaining melted butter, until is becomes the consistency of wet sand, and set aside.

Add peeled and diced apples to a mixing bowl and add lemon juice and raisins and stir to combine.  (The lemon juice keeps the apples from browning so you may want to add it right after you dice the apples).  Next add the vanilla, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt and stir again to combine.  If mixture seems a little dry, feel free to stir in more lemon juice.

Next sprinkle 1/3 of the cracker mixture on the bottom of the dish and pour half of the apple mixture on top.  Sprinkle some more of the cracker mixture over the apples, then add the remaining apples and sprinkle the remaining third of the cracker mixture on top.  Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for approximately 30 minutes.  Then remove the foil, increase the oven temperature to 425 and allow to bake for another 15 minutes or until the top begins to brown and the apple brown betty is bubbling. (If you notice that the top is not browning, you could switch the oven to low broil for the last 3-4 minutes.)

Remove from the oven and allow to stand for at least 10 minutes.  Serve the Apple Brown Betty warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Roasted Tomato & Red Pepper Soup

Fall is officially here! I am not sure about you, but this is my favorite time of year and my latest recipe for Roasted Tomato & Red Pepper Soup is the perfect dish to welcome in autumn.  It's a spin on the classic tomato basil soup but instead of roasting just the tomatoes, I roasted the onions, garlic and I threw a roasted red pepper into the mix as well.

This soup is easy, delicious, comforting AND healthy.  It’s very low in fat and tomatoes and red peppers are excellent sources of vitamin C.  So if the change of weather has you feeling under the weather, this is an excellent soup to make.  Also, this is great for my fellow "Single Cooks."  The ingredients make about 2 entree portions or 3-4 appetizer or side portions.  So for all the ladies and gents who cook for 1 and hate a ton of leftovers, this is the soup for you! And if you're not cooking for 1 like me, simply double the recipe.  Enjoy!

2 lbs Tomatoes
1 Red Bell Pepper
1 Small Yellow Onion
1 Head of Garlic
1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper (to taste)
1 large handful of basil leaves (plus more for garnish)
2 cups Vegetable (or Chicken) Stock
Parmesan Cheese (for garnish)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with aluminum foil.  Quarter the tomatoes and arrange them in one layer on one baking sheet.  Then, cut the bell pepper in half, remove the ribs and seeds and place the halves on the second baking sheet. Peel and quarter the yellow onion and place them on the second sheet as well. (see below)

 The next step is to prep the garlic for roasting.  You only need 2-3 cloves for this recipe but I found that roasting the garlic while it’s still in the paper gives it so much more flavor.  So what I did was cut a 3-clove cluster of garlic from the entire head.  Then I cut about ¼ of an inch off the top of the garlic cloves. I poured a few drops of extra virgin olive oil onto the top of the cloves and added it to the pan with the onion and pepper. (see left)

Now toss the tomatoes, bell pepper, and onion in extra virgin olive oil (about 1/3 of a cup), season everything generously with salt and pepper and place the pans in the preheated oven for 30 minutes or until the vegetables (especially the bell pepper) have begun to get a nice char. (see pictures below)  Then, remove both sheets from the oven and, using tongs, immediately put the bell pepper in a Ziploc bag and seal it. 

Allow the pepper to steam and the other vegetables to cool for 10 minutes.  Then, remove the pepper from the bag, peel the skin off of the pepper and add it to a food processor or blender.  Add the tomatoes, onion and 2 roasted garlic cloves (they should pop right out of the paper) to the processor or blender and pulse until ingredients have been blended and combined.  Next add the basil leaves and pulse a few times more. Then add a bit more salt and pepper to taste.

Blended soup w/ stock added
Pour all ingredients into a medium sized soup pot and turn the heat on to medium high.  Stir in the stock, bring to a simmer and allow to cook for 10 minutes.  Check the seasonings one more time and then ladle the soup into bowls.  Top with parmesan cheese and a chiffonade of basil leaves. (Chiffonade means to thinly slice, but torn basil pieces work too!)

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Pineapple Upside Down Cupcakes

It's been forever since I wrote a dessert recipe.  This is mostly because I eat so much already that the last thing my waistline needs is dessert lingering around the house.  But the inspiration for this dish came when I was trying to think of a dessert to take to an outdoor summer picnic.  I wanted something that could stand up to the heat and that screamed summer.  As my mind was churning, it just came to me! Pineapple upside down cake is tropical and colorful and there's no icing! So no melting and no mess.  And honestly, I got the idea to turn them into cupcakes because I've been putting everything in cupcake pans lately.  Some of you may remember my Mini-Meatloves and I learned then that when food is cooked in a cupcake pan, it cooks faster and the results are individualized, elegant and fun at the same time.

So here's my recipe for Pineapple Upside Down Cupcakes! After I posted the pictures a while back, I've gotten a few requests for this recipe.  I hope someone out there tries it and sends me pictures! :-)

Ingredients (Makes 24 cupcakes):
Non-Stick Cooking Spray
1 Can Diced Pineapples
12 Maraschino Cherries
1 Box Golden Cake Mix
2 Sticks Butter, divided
1 cup Whole Milk, at room temperature
2 Eggs, at room temperature
4 tbsp Rum, divided (preferably a spiced rum i.e. Captain Morgan or Myers)
1 cup Light Brown Sugar
Special Tools: 2 Cupcake Pans


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray cupcake pans with non-stick cooking spray and set aside. First prep your fruit by cutting the cherries in half to make 24 halves.  Then (depending on the brand of canned pineapple you use) halve the pineapple cubes so that they are about the same width as the cherries. 

Next prepare your cake batter.  Begin by melting and cooling 1 stick of butter.  Then in a bowl, combine the cake mix, melted butter, milk, eggs, and rum.  Mix with an electric mixer for 2-3 minutes until all ingredients are combined, being sure to scrape the sides and get any ingredients lingering at the bottom of the bowl.  Set batter to the side while you make your caramel sauce.

In a small frying pan, melt the remaining stick of butter over medium heat.  Once it’s completely melted, add the brown sugar and stir until sugar is completely combined.  Increase the heat slightly, and stir the mixture constantly until it begins to bubble.  When the mix begins to get lighter in color, almost frothy, remove the pan from the heat, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of rum, and stir to combine.

Spoon about 1 teaspoon caramel sauce into each cupcake round.  Then press a cherry in the center and 2 pineapple chunks around the cherry.  Lastly pour the cake batter evenly into the cupcake pan, trying to only fill each round ¾ of the way full (if you pour too much your tops will round and remember your tops become your bottom!)

Place the cupcakes in the oven and bake until golden brown 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of a cupcake. Once cooked, take cupcakes out of the oven and place on a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes.  Once cooled slightly, invert cupcake pan over a large cookie sheet.  Tap the tops of each cupcake round to ensure that the cupcakes come out.  Gently lift the cupcake pan and you should be left with your upside down pineapple cupcakes on the sheet. 

Place cupcakes on a nice plate or platter and serve with vanilla ice cream.  If some fall apart, it’s ok, simply piece them back together or use the crumbles as an ice cream topping.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Grandpa's Gazpacho (Revisited)

My family caters and every summer it's almost tradition to make gazpacho when it gets hot.  A few weeks ago my Uncle made it, which then inspired my mom to make it.  He used a recipe he found online and when I tasted it, I thought it was good but it wasn't my Grandpa's gazpacho.  This was when I decided to make gazpacho and I knew it had to be Grandpa's.  I remembered that I posted a copy of his recipe on this blog, completely forgetting that it was my very FIRST blog post!  It was 2010 and you can see the original post HERE.

Before I get to the recipe, I just wanted to share what an amazing process it was to go back and reread my very first post. I couldn't believe how far I've come! When I saw the picture the first thing I thought was, "I can do better than that!"  As I read the recipe, I realized I wouldn't change a thing, but then I got to my serving suggestions.  I knew even back then that this soup would be great with seafood and avocado, so this time around I would follow my gut, literally.  I decided to combine shrimp, crab, and avocado to make a seafood garnish and I must say... It was perfect.  

I have reposted my Grandpa's Gazpacho recipe below and I've added the recipe for the Seafood Avocado Garnish.  Make it while it's hot! Outside ;-)

Ingredients: Makes About 6 servings
7 Plum Tomatoes (seeds removed)
1 Green Pepper (ribs and seeds removed)
1 Cucumber
1 Small Red Onion
2 Ribs Celery (wipe off any dirt with a damp cloth)
2 Cloves Garlic
1 Lime (juiced)
3 ½ Cups Low Sodium V8
2 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 tbsp. Apple Cider Vinegar
2 tbsp. Salt
1 tsp Black Pepper
1 tbsp. Tabasco Sauce
1 tbsp. Flat Leaf Parsley
Seafood-Avocado Garnish (find recipe below)

FINELY dice the first 5 ingredients and put them into a large bowl or pot. Next using a micro plane, grate the garlic on top of the vegetables (finely chopped garlic is fine too) and add the V8. Then add the extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, limejuice, salt, pepper, and Tabasco sauce.  Stir to combine and chill the soup in the refrigerator overnight or for at least 4 hours (the longer it sits, the better). Right before serving, stir the fresh chopped parsley into the soup and serve in chilled bowls or cups.  Finally, top each cup or bowl with a few spoonfuls of the seafood-avocado garnish.

Seafood-Avocado Garnish
Ingredients (Makes About 2 Cups):
½ cup cooked shrimp (roughly chopped)
½ cup lump crabmeat (picked over)
¼ cup freshly squeezed limejuice (approx. 2 limes, divided)
1 tbsp. chopped cilantro
2 tsp. minced canned chipotles in adobo, including sauce, or 1 teaspoon Chipotle Chile Powder
Salt to taste
1 ripe avocado

In a bowl, add the first 5 ingredients, a pinch of salt and gently stir to combine.  Allow this mixture to chill and marinate for at least 20 minutes or even overnight.  Then, right before you are ready to serve, cut the avocado in half and remove the seed.  Scoop the flesh of the avocado out of it’s skin and chop into small pieces.  Toss the avocado with the remaining limejuice and then gently fold it into the seafood mixture.  Check the seasoning here, and add a little more salt if necessary.  To serve, scoop approximately 2 tablespoons of the seafood mixture over each serving of gazpacho. 

This mixture can also be served with tortilla chips or served in chilled martini glasses for a refreshing shrimp and crab cocktail.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Baked Ziti - Lightened Up

"So what, no freaking ziti now?" was all I kept thinking as I made this baked ziti and that's because baked ziti is not a dish that I usually make. In fact, this was my first time making it so I associate ziti with The Sopranos! But I decided to make it because my roommate's parents gave us a box of ziti a while back, and as I was cleaning out the pantry I decided that we needed to use it up.

Like I said, I wasn't familiar with this pasta, so the first thing I did was read the recipe for baked ziti on the box. With the POUND of mozzerella cheese listed, plus ricotta cheese, plus parmesan cheese, I thought "It's bathing suit season April and after that lasagna you made a few weeks back, you cannot do this!" Then, I immediately thought of Anthony Jr's line from the very 1st Sopranos episode "So what, no freaking ziti now?"  And I responed to myself (only in my mind because clearly I'm not crazy!) "YES THERE WILL BE ZITI!"  Just a lighter, more figure friendly version.

So here's my recipe!  I only used 2 cups of cheese, added a lean(er) meat, some colorful, vitamin-rich veggies and what I created was a lighter version of the classic Italian dish that was still comforting and still satisfying.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion
2-3 cloves garlic
1 yellow bell pepper
What a handful of basil and parsley looks like
1 orange bell pepper
salt and pepper (to taste)
red pepper flakes (optional)
1 lb hot Italian turkey sausage (Casings Removed)
1 handful of basil
1 handful of parsley
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 6 oz can tomato paste
1 box ziti pasta (1 lb)
1 cup mozzarella cheese
1 cup parmesean cheese
non-stick cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large pot, cook the ziti according to package directions (don't forget to generously salt the pasta water). You want the pasta to be just shy of "al dente" because the pasta will continue to cook in the oven.

While the pasta water is boiling, chop your vegetables.  Finely chop the onion and garlic.  Then remove the seeds and ribs of the bell peppers and chop into strips that are about as wide and as long as the ziti pasta.  Next heat the olive oil in another large pot, add the onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds.  Add the bell peppers, salt and pepper to taste, and sauté for another 3-4 minutes.  Then add the turkey sausage, breaking it up with the edge of your spoon or spatula. If you like a little extra heat, you can add a couple pinches of red pepper flakes here.

When the turkey sausage has browned, add the crushed tomatoes and tomato paste.  Roughly chop the basil and parsley and stir it into the sauce.  Allow the sauce to come to a boil, reduce the heat to simmer, and allow the sauce to cook for another 15 minutes.

Once your pasta is cooked and throughly drained, add it to the sauce and stir to combine.  Mix the 2 cheeses in a small bowl and set aside.   Then spray a casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray, pour half of the pasta/meat sauce into the dish, and then cover with half of the cheese.  Pour the other half of the pasta into the dish and cover with the remaining cheese.  Place the pasta dish onto a baking sheet, in case some bubbles over, and bake uncovered for 30 mins.  Remove the ziti from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes, (if you can resist) and enjoy!  You can garnish with extra parsley and just a sprinkle of parm.  Serve with bread for mopping.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Summer Sides: Grilled Corn Salad

You guys know that morally sound chefs and cooks DO NOT take credit for other people's work right? Well it is for this reason that I have to give my roommate Susan credit for this one.  She made this corn salad last summer and it quickly became everyone's favorite side dish.  This summer I decided to make it with grilled corn (instead of frozen) and it was a big hit with my family.  And since I already began a "Summer Sides" series, I decided I had to type Susan's recipe up, with my own little spin, for you all to enjoy.

Next time I will put the steak on top! :)
And enjoy it you will! This salad is healthy, colorful, flavorful, and something DIFFERENT! I know I've said this before but the same macaroni and potato salads at cookouts are getting old!  Instead try this yummy summer side at your next outdoor gathering.  It is especially delicious with crabs, under sliced, grilled steak or along side a cheeseburger or hot dog fresh from the grill.  In the pic you see how I paired it with grilled flank steak! I devoured that plate!

Ingredients (Makes 8-10 servings):
Non-Stick Cooking Spray (Olive Oil Flavor)
8 Ears Fresh Corn (Shucked) OR 1 Bag Frozen Corn (Defrosted in Refrigerator Overnight)
1 Can Chickpeas (Drained and Rinsed)
1 Pint Grape or Cherry Tomatoes (Halved)
1 small Red Onion (Finely Chopped)
1/2 Cup Parsley (Finely Chopped)
1/4 Cup Olive Oil
1/4 Cup White Wine Vinegar
Salt & Fresh Cracked Pepper
Parmesan Cheese Shavings for Garnish (optional)

Preheat indoor or outdoor grill to high.  If using fresh corn, spray each cob with non-stick cooking spray. Place the corn on the hot grill and char each side, 2 to 3 minutes per side (You will hear the kernels start to pop when they're ready to be turned). You want the corn to get great char marks (see picture)! Once the corn has charred, set aside until cool enough to handle. Then, stand each ear up, stalk end down, in a wide, shallow bowl or serving dish and, using your knife, slice the corn kernels off the cob.

To make the corn salad, add corn kernels (fresh or frozen) to a large bowl.  Then add the chickpeas, grape tomatoes, red onion, and parsley to the bowl.  In a small bowl whisk together olive oil, vinegar, a generous pinch of both salt and pepper, and pour over the corn mixture.  Stir everything to combine and finally shave some parmesan cheese right on top to garnish.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Summer Skewers on


Who doesn't like food on a stick?  It's usually easy to make, impressive on a platter, and can be enjoyed with no muss and no fuss!  Keeping this in mind, I decided to create an entire summer meal on a stick simply because there's no better time than the summer to keep it simple and light.

When I was developing my meal on a stick, had already made the Fresh Fruit Skewers for a catering gig, and everyone loved them so I thought they would be a nice, refreshing ending to a meal.  Then I remembered the Caprese Skewers I made one year at Christmas.  I got the idea from a Christmas cookbook, and I feel that the colors are just as festive in the summer as they are during the holidays.

Then, the idea for the shrimp and pineapple skewers came when my Aunt Debbie made them recently for Mother's Day.  She used a Wegmans Honey Mustard Marinade which was delicious but I decided to create my own that involved some heat.  I added chipotle in adobo and lime to honey and mustard, and the result was a delicious sauce that I think it would go great on salmon and sandwiches too!

So now that you have the whole story behind my series of "Summer Skewers" please hop on over to to view the recipes!

The recipes were posted along with the colorful pictures of the platters that you see above, but I show you how to make the Shrimp and Pineapple Skewers below!

The sauce is honey, dijon mustard, course ground mustard, chipotle peppers, and lime!

Mix the shrimp and pineapple with the chipotle honey mustard. Let marinate for a bit.

Get them ready for the grill!

After 5-10 mins on the grill you're finished! Who wouldn't want to devour these at a cookout?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Summer Sides: German Potato Salad

Not too long ago I catered a small dinner party and one of the older, female attendees came up to me and said she loved the shrimp scampi I made. "I get so tired of chicken, collard greens, and macaroni and cheese!" she said. All I could think of to say was "Me too!"

This exchange got me thinking that maybe it is time to serve something different!  Often we assume people only like this or they only eat that because we haven't given them something else to try.  And as I learned at my catering gig, some people are dying to try something new.  This is why my "Summer Sides Series" makes over classic dishes to inspire you to bring something different to the table; ESPECIALLY this time of year when standard cookout and picnic fare can get really old really quick!

My first Summer Side recipe was for Apple Slaw and this second is for German Potato Salad.  This version of potato salad leaves out the mayo and uses red skin potatoes, making it a bit healthier than the classic creamy version.  However, I can't call this dish light because there is bacon involved.

But even though I cannot call this side dish healthy, unlike classic potato salad, it is ok to serve in the heat.  In fact, this potato salad is best warm or at room temperature! So please do something different summer and give this side dish a try!

Ingredients (makes 4-5 servings):

1 lb. Red Skin Potatoes (Sometimes called Red Bliss)
1 Large Onion
1/4 lb. of Bacon (about 4-5 strips, chopped into small pieces)
3 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Course Ground Dijon Mustard
1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard
1/4 Cup Vegetable Oil
3 Scallions (chopped)
Salt and Pepper


Chop potatoes into even, bite sized pieces and add them to a large pot.  Peel and cut the onion in half.  Add half to the pot and set the other aside.  Then cover the potatoes and onion with cold water.  Place pot on the stove and bring water to a boil.  As soon as the water starts boiling, add 2-3 tablespoons of salt to help flavor the potatoes.  Allow the potatoes to boil for an additional 7-8 minutes or until fork tender.  Then discard the onion, drain potatoes and set aside.

While the potatoes are boiling add the bacon pieces to a non-stick frying pan and fry until golden brown and crispy.  While this is happening, dice the other half of your onion.  Then, remove the bacon bits with a slotted spoon and place them on a paper-towel lined plate.  Immediately add the diced onions to the hot, rendered bacon fat and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.  Carefully add the vinegar, and allow to reduce for 2-3 minutes, scraping up any bits from the bottom of the pan.  Next whisk in both mustards and the oil, and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Remove the vinaigrette from the heat and allow to cool slightly.  Afterward, add the potatoes to a large bowl, pour the vinaigrette over the potatoes and gently stir to combine.  Then gently fold in the scallions and bacon pieces.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

This German Potato Salad was the perfect side to a perfect summer meal!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Summer Sides: Apple Slaw

Memorial Day is quickly approaching which means that summer is here, the pools are opening, and bathing suit season upon us.  Therefore, my next several posts will be recipes that are perfect for summer and they have your waistline in mind.  Now don't worry, I know I haven't given you a dessert since February so I will have some summer sweets as well.  However, some of us may be working hard to look good in a bathing suit, and instead of starving ourselves, why not make food that is tasty AND light?

My first summer side, Apple Slaw, fits that description perfectly.  Cole Slaw is a summer staple but the cabbage and carrots are usually soaked in mayonnaise, causing some people to think they are getting a healthy serving of veggies, but they are really getting a healthy serving of fat.

Instead, make my Apple Slaw.  It's a combo of fruits and veggies tossed in a light vinaigrette and if I could describe it in one word, it would be refreshing! But it's also healthy.  All of the colorful fruits and veggies make this a high fiber, vitamin rich side dish that you and your family are sure to enjoy whether you are poolside, beachside, or at home table-side.  Enjoy!

3 Large Granny Smith Apples (cored, skin on, julienned or cut into matchsticks)
1 cup Shredded Carrots
¼ Cup Candied Walnuts (roughly chopped)*
¼ Cup Dried Cranberries (roughly chopped)*
2 Tablespoons Fresh Mint (finely chopped)
1 Lemon (Juice Divided)
1 Tablespoon Honey
2 Teaspoons Apple Cider Vinegar
2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
1 Tsp Grated Ginger Root or 1/4 Tsp Dried Ginger
Generous Pinch of Salt
Generous Pinch of White Pepper
* I found this cranberry/walnut combo in the salad section! Helped cut the cost of the ingredients.

First core and chop the apples into matchsticks.  The best method is to use a mandolin to slice the apples into 1/8 inch thick slices, stack the slices on top of each other and then chop lengthwise into sticks (see pic to the right). After your apples are chopped, add them to a medium sized bowl and toss them with the juice of half of the lemon, just to keep the apples from browning.  Then add the shredded carrots, chopped walnuts, cranberries, and mint to the bowl.

To make the vinaigrette, squeeze the juice from the other half of the lemon into a small bowl.  Next, add the vinegar, honey, oil, ginger, salt, and white pepper and whisk vigorously.  Pour the vinaigrette over the apple mixture and give everything a light toss. Garnish with some torn mint leaves right on top.
Refrigerate until ready to serve.

I served the apple slaw with a delicious BBQ rubbed, grilled pork chop.  It complimented it beautifully!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Blackened Shrimp & Grits on

I have been so lucky to have 5 of my recipes posted to!  
The latest one is a recipe for Blackened Shrimp & Grits!

If you follow the blog, you know that I had huge success Easter Sunday making Leigh's Shrimp & Grits.  My family loved it but when I posted the pictures and recipe, I was getting constant kudos from friends and followers, proving that shrimp and grits REALLY is a hot dish right now!

Therefore when I was sent McCormick Grill Mate Packets from Ebony, to incorporate into a dish, I still had shrimp and grits on the brain and BAM my Blackened Shrimp & Grits were born!

You can read more about my inspiration for the dish on but I strongly suggest you make this. It really gave a whole other dimension to a plate that was, what I thought, already perfect.

Click HERE to view the recipe on and scroll below for pictures of the process!

Here's how it can be served family style!

I poured the gravy on top of the creamy grits, added a nice pile of shrimp and the result was this gorgeous plate!

After the shrimp were cooked, I began the gravy...

I pan fried the shrimp, it took me a couple batches, but the cast iron skillet REALLY made a difference in the flavor and color!

I took the time to make sure every shrimp was coated with the rub.

It all began with these. The Smokin' Texas BBQ works best in this dish. (It did try both)