Thursday, August 25, 2011



Here’s a beautifully crowned, hearty but light, moist muffin with interesting complex flavor.  Zucchini, pineapple, raisins, walnuts and spices all work together to create a memorable muffin experience.   Great for breakfast or snacks, this is a muffin you will make again and again.  You can even make these for dessert by adding a swirl of cream cheese frosting.


These are not going to be as fluffy and light as a vanilla or chocolate cupcake, nor as sweet.  After all, these are muffins.  But, for me, this one is a winner.


Whole Wheat Zucchini Pineapple Muffins
Rating:  9 out of 10
1-1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. sea salt or kosher salt
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1 jumbo egg
3/4 cup sugar, or sugar substitute (I used 1/2 cup sugar + 1 Tbsp. NuNaturals Stevia)
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3 Tbsp. Smart Balance 50/50 Butter Blend, melted and slightly cooled
1/4 cup vanilla nonfat Greek yogurt
1/2 cup raisins, soaked in pineapple juice to cover 1 hour, or overnight
1 cup grated zucchini (use big holes of box grater, then chop)
1/2 cup canned crushed pineapple, drained

For muffin tops:  1/4 tsp. cinnamon combined with 2 Tbsp. sugar

Heat oven to 350F.  Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray, or line with paper cups.  In medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, baking powder and cinnamon.  Stir in nuts; set aside. 

In large bowl, whisk together egg, sugar, vanilla, butter blend and yogurt till smooth and well combined.  Add flour mixture all at once to egg mixture, stirring with a spoon or spatula till just barely combined.  A few lumps are okay, as it’s best not to over beat.  Drain raisins, discarding any remaining juice.  Gently stir raisins, zucchini and pineapple into muffin batter. 
Divide batter evenly among 12 muffin cups, using about 1/4 cup batter for each.  Sprinkle each muffin top with about 1/2 tsp. cinnamon-sugar.  Bake 14-17 minutes, or  till a toothpick inserted in center returns with just a few crumbs.  Cool in pan 5 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.  Serve as is, with butter or cream cheese, or top muffins with swirls of cream cheese frosting.
Yield:  12 standard-size muffins

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


We're blessed here in eastern North Carolina.  Fish are abundant, especially flounder.  And there's no better way to cook flounder than on a cedar grilling plank.  Scary?  Sure, but only the first time.  After that, it's a breeze.  This method of cooking is very forgiving and provides superior results:  an unbelievably moist and succulent fish that you will want to eat again and again.  Read more...

Monday, August 22, 2011


choc cupcakes w wh choc cr ch frosting (2)

We need to sneak in whole grains wherever we can, and chocolate cupcakes make that easy.  While the finished product may be a tad coarser in texture than a cupcake made with all-purpose flour, they’re still light and moist.  And no one is the wiser…..unless you tell them.  You can make these even healthier by using a sugar substitute and nonfat Greek yogurt in place of the sour cream.  Every little bit helps.

choc cupcakes w wh choc cr ch frosting (4)

100% Whole Wheat Chocolate Cupcakes with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from Cook’s Country TV
Rating:  9.5 out of 10

1 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup boiling water
1/3 cup good-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup natural cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. instant coffee (decaf is okay)
3/4 cup sugar (or sugar substitute; I used 1/2 cup sugar+ 1 Tbsp. NuNaturals Stevia)
1/2 cup regular or lite sour cream (or nonfat Greek yogurt)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract (I used homemade)

Heat oven to 350F.  Set out a 12-cup muffin tin and line with paper cups.  In medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.

In large bowl, combine and stir 1/2 cup boiling water and bittersweet chocolate till chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.  Stir in cocoa powder, instant coffee and sugar.  Whisk in sour cream, oil eggs and vanilla till smooth and well mixed.  Gently stir in flour mixture with spoon or spatula, taking care to not over mix. 

Divide batter among paper  cups, using about 1/4 cup for each.  Bake about 16-18 minutes, or  till a toothpick inserted in center returns with just a few crumbs.  Cool in pan 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to finish cooling.  When cool, frost with white chocolate cream cheese frosting and dust with shaved bittersweet chocolate.  Yield:  12 cupcakes  (These freeze well.)


Friday, August 19, 2011


cherry sauce (2)
Sometimes having to use up pantry items can be a good thing.  As in the case of this cherry-glazed grilled chicken.  When Harris Teeter Traders’ Michigan Red Tart Cherry Old Fashioned Preserves went on sale, I couldn’t wait to buy some.  Then it got lost in my pantry and I forgot about it.  Thankfully, I found it before the expiration date and was able to make this fabulous sweet-hot fruity glaze.  It was delicious on brined, grilled, bone-in chicken breasts.  Admittedly, this is a bit of work, but it’s special enough for company, and the glaze can be made days ahead, making short work on the day of grilling.

P. S. This glaze is also fabulous on grilled pork chops!

Grilled Chicken with Spicy Balsamic Cherry Glaze (for two)
Rating:  10 out of 10

Spicy Balsamic Cherry Glaze (use for chicken or pork)
1/2 cup good-quality tart cherry preserves
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 tsp. mild honey
1-1/2 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1/4 tsp. fine Grey Salt (or kosher salt)
Big pinch cayenne pepper (up to 1/8 tsp. if you like it hot)

In small saucepan, heat all ingredients over medium.  Bring to boil, reduce heat to high simmer and continue to cook till slightly reduced, about 8-10 minutes. 

Brine for Bone-In Chicken Breasts
1-1/2 cups water
2 Tbsp. Morton coarse kosher salt
2 Tbsp. light brown sugar
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1/4 tsp. coarse ground pepper
1/2 tsp. whole cloves
12 oz. can frozen apple juice concentrate
2 Tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
1 cup ice cubes
2 bone-in chicken breasts, preferably organic, no salt solution added

In 3-quart saucepan, combine water, salt, sugar, thyme, pepper and cloves.  Bring to a boil; cook 2-3 minutes; off heat.  Stir in juice and ice; cool thoroughly.  Add chicken; cover; refrigerate 2 hours or up to overnight.  (Note:  if you use regular store-brand or Perdue chicken, skip the brining, as they've already done it.)

To Cook and Serve
Rinse  chicken thoroughly under cool running water and drain on paper towels.  Pat dry.  Lightly brush with 2 Tbsp. olive oil and 1/2 tsp. black pepper.  Grill chicken on a 400-425F grill over a  turned-off burner (using the grill like an oven) till juices run clear, about 30-35 minutes, or till a meat thermometer registers 165F.  Remove about 3 Tbsp. glaze to small cup and use to brush chicken during last 10 minutes.  Let chicken rest for 10 minutes before slicing.  Serve remaining glaze in a small bowl to accompany chicken.  Any leftover chicken makes great chicken salad or sandwich the next day.
Yield:  2 servings

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


garlic herb grilled lamb

Loin lamb chops are as good as better than steak, IMHO.  It surprises me that so many people are afraid of them.  Just pretend they’re mini Porterhouse steaks. 

My favorite way to season them is with Grey Salt and black pepper.  But, recently, I thought I would try something new.  Fresh oregano, garlic and lemon zest minced together made a flavorful paste that seasoned the chops as they warmed to room temperature on the counter.  I have to say these were quite tasty and were a nice change.  Grey Salt and pepper will remain my go-to chop seasoning, but I'll season with herbs when I want a change.

(Why Grey Salt?  It’s loaded with minerals that impart a deep natural flavor that just can’t be described.  So, besides being good for you, it also tastes great.  Yes, you can substitute kosher salt, but you will lose that special flavor.)  Please note that fine grind Grey Salt is not as superfine as table salt.  

Herbed Grilled Loin Lamb Chops
Rating:  8.5 out of 10

FOR EACH LOIN CHOP:  Fine grind Grey Sea Salt (or Morton coarse kosher salt)
1 tsp. minced fresh oregano leaves
1/2 garlic clove, minced or grated
1/4 tsp. lemon zest
Big pinch black pepper

Wipe chop(s) with damp paper towel.  Sprinkle bottom(s) and top(s) lightly with salt, using about 1/2 tsp. per chop.  Combine oregano, garlic, lemon zest and pepper on cutting board and chop together to form a coarse paste. 

garlic herb grilled lamb (2)

Rub over top of chop.  Leave at room temperature for 1 hour. 
garlic herb grilled lamb (3)

In the meantime, heat grill to 475F - 500F, leaving one burner off.  Place chop on hot burner to sear, about 2-3 minutes per side till grill marks form. 
garlic herb grilled lamb (4)
Transfer chop to turned-off burner.  Cover and finish cooking to desired doneness.  (Lamb, just like beef, tastes best when it’s rare to medium-rare.)

Monday, August 15, 2011


Of all places to find a crab cake recipe, AARP Magazine was not on my list.  The brief story in the April 2009 issue written by author Pat Conroy's wife, Cassandra King, drew me in.  They met over food, they romanced with food, and, in her words, "Pat said his crab cakes were so good I would want to marry him after tasting them.  They were, and I did."  With that kind of endorsement I just had to try the recipe, even though I was a skeptic.  How could these be good with so few ingredients?  Where would the flavor come from?  As my hubby, The Crab Guy, and I took our first bites, we understood completely that old adage, "less is more."  The flavor?  It comes from the crab meat, enhanced by a minimum of additives.  This is the best crab cake recipe ever.

The Conroys serve their crab cakes over arugula, tossed with extra-virgin olive oil and champagne vinegar.  Sounded lovely, maybe next time.  This time, we had fresh spinach sauteed lightly in olive oil and just-picked corn on the cob.  It was a meal to die for.

Get the recipe for these unforgettable crab cakes:  Crabcakes at the Conroys'.

Sunday, August 14, 2011



In cooler temperatures, steaming hot oatmeal is a comforting breakfast.  During summer months, not so much. 
A cool smoothie is my preferred morning repast for the uber-hot weather we’ve been having.  But I still want my oatmeal.  I decided to try making a smoothie that incorporated all the elements of my morning oatmeal and was amazed that it worked!  Thanks to modern blenders, you can trasform a bowl of nutritious oatmeal into a creamy, fruity, thick and delicious milkshake.  It only takes a few minutes, and there’s nothing to cook.  How great is that?

Oatmeal Breakfast Smoothie
Rating:  10 out of 10
INGREDIENTS (per serving):
1/4 cup Old-Fashioned oats
2 to 3  tsp. ground flaxseed meal (Bobs Red  Mill Golden Organic Ground)
1-1/2 Tbsp. ground toasted walnuts (or other nut of choice)
1/2 medium banana, sliced
1/4 – 1/2 cup berries of choice, fresh or frozen
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 Tbsp. Flax Oil (Barlean’s Lemonade-flavored Flax Oil)
1/2 – 3/4 cup low-fat soy milk, cold (may use dairy or  coconut milk if desired)
3/4 cup crushed ice
Sweetener of choice, if desired (taste first to see if needed)

Combine everything but ice and sweetener in blender or food processor.  Blend or pulse  till smooth.  Add ice and process till smooth and creamy.  Taste to adjust sweetness, adding sweetener of choice if needed.  Yield:  1 serving.