March 18, 2011

Date Delicacy

These delicious dates need no introduction, they speak for themselves and are perfect for any and every occasion. Make them and you'll see. Trust me, I'm a foodie. 

What You'll Need: 
  • 20 pitted dates 
  • 4-6 oz of cream cheese (or more depending on the size of your dates)
  • 2o nuts (pecan halves, pine nuts, almonds, and walnuts are all delicious)
  • 7 slices of bacon, cut into thirds
  • 2o toothpicks 
  • 1 plastic zip-lock sandwich bag
  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Place cream cheese in zip-lock bag.
  3. Cut a small hole in the bottom corner of the bag. 
  4. Stuff one nut into each date and top with cream cheese until they are full. 
  5. Wrap each date with 1/3 slice of bacon, and secure bacon with a toothpick. 
  6. Place dates 1" apart in a shallow baking dish.
  7. Bake 5 minutes, then turn dates with tongs.
  8. Bake 5 additional minutes, or until bacon is crisp. (Monitor carefully for burning.) 
  9. Remove from pan and drain on paper towel.
  10. Serve immediately.
  11. Develop addiction to bacon wrapped dates. 

March 1, 2011

Fabulously Quirky

I have always had an admiration for those who can compartmentalize everything in life. The ones who know where almost everything is at any moment in time. Every shoe, every purse, every penny, every piece of paper, or shirt has a place where it can always be found. My flighty organizational thought process in life more closely resembles that of Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I can find a clean sweater behind the couch, (yes, I knew it was there, no I didn’t pick it up until I put it on for work) or one shoe placed purposely on my dresser while the other one is in the front hall closet. Sometimes I can go months without finding an entire purse. A purse! I wouldn’t call our home a total disaster, I would however say that my personal belongings are scattered, misplaced, and unorganized. I’m sure this drives my husband crazy, but it’s who I am. Let’s just call it, “quirky.”

I do organize one part of my life. Of course you see where this is going darling reader, my kitchen. I wouldn’t say the items are grouped together by color or size or hell even type, but everything has a place, a drawer, a cabinet… a space of it’s own. The entire shelf of one of our cabinets is dedicated to items only purchased at Chicago Spice House and Old Town Oil.  (I may have a slight “over purchasing” problem in both shops.) Even when my pantry was unorganized up until Saturday afternoon, I knew where everything was. Yes, that 3/4 empty box of Lucky Charms on the top shelf was from my birthday in July but I knew it was there. Those two, one year-old cans of cheese soup were for a cheesy chicken crock-pot recipe  I never made. See, I know what I have and where it is, even if my oatmeal shares a space with dog bones from time to time. Everything has a place.

I also organize my grocery list like it’s going out of style.  (Because it is, didn’t you know? Hurry up, the bandwagon is leaving!) Growing up, my Mom’s grocery list had a menu on the bottom right hand corner. All items to be purchased were listed on the left in the order that they could be found in the store. This, to me, is normal.  Recently I had this conversation with not one or two,  but three different people, who don’t make a grocery list or a weekly menu, that just head to the store! Madness! I can hardly fathom my shopping trips without a list! (I’m certain these same people would think, “But Kayte, how did you find cookie sheets in the backseat of your car and why do you have an empty prescription bottle in your jewelry box?”) Damn it, I just need my list, I can manage the rest.

Everyone has idiosyncrasies that make them tick, mine just happen to be a mess of contradictions, and when combined with a helping of disorganization and a dash of ADHD they really just make me fabulously quirky me.

February 20, 2011

Go Fish

Last night I had the pleasure of hitting up a Whole Foods on an accidental shopping trip out in the suburbs. While I realize the prices are somewhat outrageous, this store has so many little gems that anytime I see one I can't pass up the opportunity to do a little shopping. 

Like most grocery stores the entrance is located next to the produce aisle. In most stores the produce section is one of my favorite things, so wandering around was obviously on my to do list. Smack dab in the middle of dark green avocado, fresh strawberries, and bright orange carrots was a counter with two attendants and a couple of huge ass fish. These giant fish were apparently Mahi Mahi. While I've seen plenty of fresh fish these were by far the largest I've seen in a market. Here is where I find it necessary to share the fact that I don't really like fish. It's one of the few foods I really don't find myself enjoying. Of course, if it has a shell, I'm in. (Who can resist lobster, shrimp, and crab?) I'm also a huge fan of sushi! It's just that plain old, run of the mill fish (even fried) just doesn't really appeal to me. 

Whole Foods with their display of these large and even beautiful dead fish, managed to coax me out of my box once again, so I picked up a pound. Rumor has it fish is healthy and should fit perfectly into this "diet" I'm working on.  I also found some spicy mango and coconut marinade that I think will compliment it perfectly. 

Eating and cooking are both about experimentation and trying new things. I'm not sure how I'm going to cook this Mahi Mahi, or how it's going to taste, but the point is, I'm stepping outside of my comfort zone to try something new, and you should as well! 

February 17, 2011

Memories of Helmet Nachos and Pork Chops

Sometime between New Year’s Eve and Opening Day I get overwhelmed by winter. The dark days, dirty snow, and cold air are enough to make me more than a little stir crazy. Today Chicago is lucky enough to have a “heat wave” of 60 degrees. Once I saw this, of course, I decided it was appropriate to sport my Cubs shirt to work and play a continuous loop of Country music on my Pandora. 
Today was one of those days… if I turned my radio up loud enough and squeezed my eyes just tight enough I could smell, feel, and taste summer. With Billy Currington crooning, “I’m pretty good at drinkin’ beer,” in the background I could almost taste a Chicago-style hot dog at the ball park or smell a charcoal grill preparing for some steak that has been marinating for hours.  I  could distinctly remember the feeling of a hard day’s work planting and tending to “Bruce.” In the summer every omelet on Saturday mornings had an array of just plucked veggies and ice cold beer was a staple with any array of grilled meals during the work-week. 
I have appreciation for each season. I am lucky enough to experience them in full every year but it’s the touch of warmth on days like today where I am reminded why summer has been, and always will be, my favorite.

February 16, 2011

Fake Fancy Pants

As many of you may have figured out from my last post, I love cheese. (No shit, Sherlock.)  Obviously to those who know me this is no grand revelation. It should come as no surprise to anyone who reads this that no matter how much of a “diet” I may be on, I simply refuse to give up indulging in certain things. This list includes but is not limited to good cheese, wine, beer, and red meat. (I sound like such a healthy dieter, I know.) I don’t understand those who deprive themselves all day, every day. Victoria Beckham with her salads and plain white fish morning, noon, and night will never cease to appall me. I firmly believe that indulgence  is part of what makes the life we have grand, even if it has to be in moderation, (at least for now.)

Below is a Fig and Blue Cheese-Stuffed Pork Tenderloin recipe that sounds much more elegant and complicated than it actually is, (and of course it includes blue cheese for those of us who need a little indulgence now and again.)

 What you’ll need:

  • 1 (1 lb) pork tenderloin, trimmed
  • 1/2 cup dried figs, chopped
  • 1/2 cup crumbled good quality blue cheese
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp. apple jelly, melted
  • Cooking spray
  • Butcher’s twine
  • Foil


  1.  Preheat oven to 450. 
  2. Slice the pork in half lengthwise, cutting to, but not through, the other side.
  3. Open the halves, laying pork flat.
  4. Place pork between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; pound to 1/2 inch thickness using a mallet or small, heavy skillet.
  5. Sprinkle figs and blue cheese over pork, leaving a 1/2 inch margin around outside edges.
  6. Roll up pork, jelly-roll fashion, starting with long side.
  7. Secure pork at 2-inch intervals with twine.
  8. Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper.
  9. Place pork on a foil-lined jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray.
  10. Bake pork at 450 for 20 minutes.
  11. Brush melted jelly over pork.
  12. Bake an additional 5 minutes or until thermometer registers 160, (meat will be slightly pink.)
  13. Let stand for 10 minutes.
  14. Discard twine and cut pork into 12 - 1 inch thick slices.

Tips, Tricks, and Mishaps:

I realize there appear to be a lot of steps to this meal. Rest assured it’s much easier than the number of instructions may lead you to believe.  

  • If your “stuffing” falls out, stuff it back in. Try to refrain from leaving blue cheese crumbles and figs all over your baking pan. Figs contain sugar which tends to burn much faster than meat – cheese has a tendency to do the same.
  • I turned my tenderloin halfway through the cooking process so that both sides looked the same. (Clearly as a photograzer I feel the need for food to be aesthetically pleasing.)
  • If you are worried about a, “jelly-roll” style when rolling your pork, I suggest consulting this clip to ease your mind. There is no need to watch the entire video, just get yourself through the rolling and you should be all set. 

Don’t be afraid to try new things when cooking. Tonight I’m replacing the figs with pitted, dried dates (which are killer delicious with blue cheese.)  With just 270 calories for 3 slices of this fancy pants pork it’s defiantly worth giving the 14 steps a shot.

February 9, 2011

Damn That's Gouda

There is something about the creamy deliciousness of smoked Gouda cheese which literally makes my mouth water and quite possibly gives me goose-bumps. The smokey essence in combination with a buttery texture gives it an almost indescribable richness. Of course I realize that sounds ridiculous, but it's true. Pair it with a good beer, ripe fruit, or add it to any panini and I promise you won't be disappointed. (And if you are, well, you're a jerk.) Unfortunately, now that I'm a sometimes food-blogger on a diet, (more on that later... maybe,) I find my chances to indulge in smoked Gouda to be few and far between. Below is a recipe that not only satisfied my overwhelmingly unhealthy cravings, it was also easy on the waistline and absolutely delicious.

What you'll need:
  • 8 oz uncooked ziti
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 cup onion
  • 1 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano (drained)
  • 1 10 oz can Italian seasoned diced tomatoes (mostly drained)
  • 4 cups baby spinach
  • 4 cups baby spinach
  • 1 1/4 cups shredded, smoked Gouda cheese, divided
  • Cooking spray
1. Preheat oven to 375°.
2. Cook pasta according to package directions.
3. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. 
4. Add onion and pepper to oil; sauté 5 minutes. 
5. Add garlic to pan; sauté 2 minutes or until onion is tender. 
6. Stir in tomatoes & bring to a boil. 
7. Reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
8. Add spinach to pan; cook 30 seconds or until spinach wilts, stirring frequently. 
9. Remove from heat. Add pasta and 3/4 cup cheese to tomato mixture, tossing well to combine. 
10. Spoon pasta mixture into an 11 x 7-inch baking dish lightly coated with cooking spray
11. Sprinkle evenly with remaining 1/2 cup cheese. 
12. Bake at 375° for 15 minutes or until cheese melts and begins to brown.

Tips, Tricks, and Mishaps: 
  • I decided that what this was missing was just a little bit of meat, (shocking.) I added one hot smoked turkey sausage (casing removed) when my onion,pepper, and garlic were almost tender.
  • As I've stated before, with any softer cheese, put it in the freezer for a bit to make shredding that much easier on yourself. (God forbid you have to waste any because it breaks off and falls on the floor because it's too soft... 5 second rule, anyone?)
  • I used a higher fiber penne (Ronzoni) as it seems my grocery store has never carried ziti... seriously, ever. 
There are 5 servings in this dish with 382 calories per serving, (without any changes of course!) 

January 12, 2011

Carb Loading for the Big Race

It seems as though every time cold weather comes around carbohydrates are my food of choice. Not that I don’t indulge in other cold weather comforts such as spicy food, red wine, or coffee, I just find carbohydrates do the trick to fill me up.
This past Saturday morning I found myself out of Bisquick with a carb-loading style craving for pancakes. I am more of a savory breakfast person, however, rather than healthy egg whites or turkey bacon, I though – why not pancakes? I’ll skip lunch. (Cut to me eating a burger and fries around 2PM…)
So while searching my pantry and the web for some sort of Bisquick substitute I came across the below recipe for pancakes from scratch. They were easy to make and certainly satisfied my craving for carbs.
What you’ll need:
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
1. In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Add milk, egg and melted butter; mix until smooth.
2. Heat a lightly buttered griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Brown on both sides and serve hot.
Tips, Tricks, and Mishaps:
There were a few simple things I changed about this little gem of a recipe but not many.
  • I used Splenda rather than sugar. I also used Egg Beaters rather than eggs and skim milk rather than 2%. (Don’t worry I still used real butter. After all, there is nothing that can replace butter. Ever.)
  • The batter is very thick. I added a little bit of water to it prior to the frying pan process to make it more pancake-batter-ish rather than muffin-batter-ish. (Helpful, Kayte, real helpful.)
  • I also must recommend sugar free syrup. While it does not have as thick of a consistency as regular syrup and it does have a higher price to boot, it cuts a lot of the calories, as well as the sugar content of pancake indulgence and tastes just about the same.
Happy Carb-Loading!