Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Fourth of July Desserts

Here is an article I wrote for Tampa Food Examiner on festive dessert ideas for Fourth of July. In full disclosure, I haven't actually made these yet, but they should work and I plan on making the flag cookie cake for my celebratory events. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Chicken Tostados with Fresh Salsa

My husband and I love the blackened chicken tostados at Tijuana Flats, so I thought we should try making them at home. I must say, our first attempt was pretty successful. My husband did a great job blackening the chicken and making fresh salsa, but I was the mastermind behind the whole thing!

What you’ll need:
Olive oil
Corn tortillas (about 2-3 per person)
1 lb chicken cutlets
Blackened seasoning (we used a combo of cumin, chili powder, cayenne pepper, garlic powder and salt and pepper)
1 can refried beans
Queso Fresco (a Mexican crumbling cheese that I have only seen at Super Walmart) or you could substitute Monterey jack cheese
Toppings: hot sauce, salsa (see our recipe below), sour cream (my favorite condiment in the whole world), guacamole, jalepeno peppers, green or red onion

How to make them:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

With a basting or pastry brush, lightly coat both sides of the tortillas with olive oil and season with kosher salt. Place evenly on a baking sheet and place in the oven for about 15 minutes, until crispy, turn halfway through.

Meanwhile, season the chicken cutlets with the blackening spices - cumin, chili powder, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Place in a cast iron skillet if you have one or you can use a nonstick skillet with the just a little bit of oil. Preheat the skillet to medium-high to high. Cook on both sides until cooked through, about 8 minutes total. Remove from the pan. Let cool slightly, then chop up.

Heat the refried beans in a saucepan on the stove. When the tortillas are done, spread a little refried beans on the tortillas, top with some chicken, crumbled queso and additional toppings of your choice.

What you’ll need for the salsa:
4 vine ripened tomatoes, cut into smaller chunks
Half a large white onion, cut into smaller chunks
2 garlic cloves
Salt and pepper
A handful of fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
If you like it spicier, add a jalepeno, remove the seeds and ribs

How to make it:
Place the tomato chunks, onion, and garlic (and jalapeno if using) into a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse until it reaches the consistency you like. Season with salt and pepper, add the cilantro and pulse a couple of more times to incorporate.

You could also use ground beef, ground turkey or sirloin instead of blackened chicken.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Father's Day Gift Ideas

Check out my latest Tampa Food Examiner article on gift ideas for your foodie dad. Hopes this list helps some of you who haven't found a gift for dad yet.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Tampa Food Examiner

I am now writing on as Tampa Food Examiner. is a Web site made up of community journalists writing on a variety of topics. I, of course, will be writing about food and all that entails. I'll share recipes and write articles on local restaurants, markets, festivals, homegrown products and how-to's.

I just posted my first article on my experience at Datz Deli and making butter. I hope you'll check out my page frequently and become a subscriber. It's easy to subscribe; just click on the plus sign next to subscribe and enter your email address.

My hope is to post articles at least three times a week. If you know of any cool foodie events, festivals, new restaurants or any ideas you think I'd like to write about, please e-mail them to me at

Thanks for reading!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

I know a lot of people that love P.F. Chang's chicken lettuce wraps. Apparently Food Network does too because after P.F. Chang's wouldn't share the recipe, the Food Networks chefs recreated the famous chicken lettuce wraps and posted the link on their Facebook page. I saw it today and thought I would share it with all of my friends in case they ever wanted to make them at home. Here is the recipe:

Paula's Peach Upside Down Cake

You might remember my excitement a few days ago when I received my Paula Deen's Best Desserts magazine in the mail. Well, I have tried out a few of the recipes and so far the overall consensus is excellent, especially this peach upside down cake I made for a barbecue yesterday. Peach desserts are quickly becoming my favorite type of dessert. See the Easy Peach Shortbread Tart and the Peach Crisp I made last year. Not only do I love the flavor, but you don't have to worry about finding perfectly ripe peaches. If they are still firm, it doesn't matter because when they cook they will soften and the great flavor will come out.

1/4 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 firm ripe peaches, peeled, pitted and chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger (I actually left this out because I am not a huge fan of ginger, but absolutely use it if you like it.)
1/2 cup butter, softened at room temperature (I always prefer to use unsalted butter for baking)
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 and 3/4 cup cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt (omit if you use salted butter)
2/3 cup whole buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-inch round cake pan with nonstick spray.

Pour melted butter into prepared pan. Sprinkle evenly with brown sugar. Top with peaches and ginger, if using; set aside.

In a large bowl or the bowl of your standing mixer, beat 1/2 cup softened butter with sugar at medium speed with a mixer until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt; sift twice. Gradually add to butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture, beating until just combined after each addition. (So add a third of the flour, then half the buttermilk, a third of the flour, the rest of the buttermilk and finish with the rest of the flour.) Pour over peaches in prepared pan.

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. (Mine took about 45 minutes, but it all depends on the oven.) Let cool in pan for 10 minutes. Run a knife around edges of cake to release sides. To flip seamslessly, place a serving plate upside down over the cake pan. Holding the two together, flip over and pull off the cake pan. It should come loose with no problem. Serve cake warm, I recommend a la mode.

Here's the cake right out of the oven.

Here's the finished product, upside down.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Making Butter

When I joined the group High Hopes in High Heels, I won a free "lunch box" from this great restaurant/market in South Tampa called Datz Deli. They hold these lunch boxes often and what they consist of is a three-course lunch plus a cooking instruction. So yesterday a few friends and my husband joined me at our lunch box where Datz's chef Nikki and cheese expert Travis fed us a delicious three course lunch and showed us how to make fresh mozzarella, ricotta and butter.

As an avid cheese lover this experience was incredible and Datz (it was my first visit) is one of the best places I have ever been. I wish I could work there, no I wish I could live there. Not only can you eat there, drink there and learn something there, you can buy awesome baked goods, cheeses, beers, wine, olive oil, vinegars, honey, pasta, coffee, etc., etc., etc. The owners really have something special going on.

Alright, so cheese and butter making. I never realized how easy it is to make fresh butter. But now that I do, you can be sure I'll be making it all the time now. To make fresh butter, you just take a jar. I'd start out with a small one. Fill it with ultra heavy cream, leaving a little space on the top. You can add a little sea salt if you'd like. Twist the lid on the jar and shake, shake, shake. It takes awhile, so keep shaking until it separates, forming into a solid. I would say it takes about 20 minutes. Your arm will be tired, but trust me, it is soooo worth it.

Our three course lunch consisted of panzanella salad, an easy salad that you can throw just about anything in, but typically it uses old bread, tomato and basil. We also had some of our fresh mozzarella and cucumbers in it. Our second course was a wonderful meat and cheese platter with different cheeses, cured and fresh meats like salami, candied walnuts, olives and various other items. Our final course was a cheese dessert. They took the fresh ricotta we made and served it with fresh blueberries drizzled with a lemon honey. So simple, yet so delicious.

It was such an amazing Saturday afternoon that I won't soon forget. Great friends and great food. Doesn't get much better.