Thursday, December 31, 2009

Breakfast Fritatta

Traditionally, Christmas morning at our house meant breakfast in the midst of opening packages.  We'd eat pull-apart cake, sometimes called Monkey Bread, with juice and coffee.

The night before the kids would shake pieces of biscuit dough in a brown paper bag filled with a mixture of brown and white cinnamon sugar and chopped nuts. Did this put visions of sugarplums in their heads. No. They simply piled the pieces into a tube pan and I added melted butter.

In the morning, the dish was placed in a pre-heated oven and when baked, inverted onto a serving plate.  The golden sticky cinnamon bun-like breakfast bread was torn apart by little fingers. Looked pretty and was caramelly luscious, but rather messy.

Toward the end of the gift giving extravaganza, I would sneak into the kitchen and bake a quiche or sausage strata, also prepared the night before,and serve with fresh fruit salad and Mimosas.

This year however, Laura, at 18, remained the only child at home.  She preferred to start the morning with a half bagel and later, when it came to eggs, asked if I could make something without a lot of cheese. Eighteen year old girls like to look good in those skinny jeans.

When shopping earlier, I'd received a flyer at The Fresh Market featuring a breakfast fritatta. The recipe sounded tasty and quick, except it included ham cubes and broccoli.  Laura does not eat pork or broccoli. Instead I whipped it up Christmas morning, substuiting cooked ground turkey.  The stovetop-to-oven concoction smelled delicious and came out with a nice golden brown sheen.  The taste was similar to a quiche, but lighter, no heavy cream or extra calories in a crust.  A healthier choice.

From now on, when I have overnight guests I will prepare this yummy fritatta.

Below is the simple recipe with easy clean-up-only a skillet and one bowl. And, by the way, leftovers are just as delicious the following day.

Breakfast Fritatta
Recipe from The Fresh Market and modified by Debi Lander

¾ cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 cup yellow onion, finely chopped
½ cup cherry tomatoes, halved
½ cup green bell pepper, chopped
1 Tbsp. Butter
8 eggs
¼ cup water
¼ cup Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves from stem
½ teaspoon oregano
¼ teaspoon garlic salt
1 cup fully cooked turkey sausage or ham, cubed
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded (I bought mine shredded)
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large oven proof skillet over medium heat, sauté mushrooms, onion, tomatoes and pepper with butter until tender.

Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, beat eggs, water, mustard, thyme, oregano and garlic salt until foamy.  Stir in meat and cheeses and pour over vegetable mixture in skillet.  Cook for about 5 minutes or until eggs begin to set around edges.  Place entire skillet into preheated oven nd bake 20-30 minutes or until eggs are cooked through.  Slice and serve immediately from skillet.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

My Thanksgiving: Pickled Watermelon Rind and Herbes de Provence

Thanksgiving brings the tantalizing aroma of down-home cooking: the woodsy blend of sage and thyme in the bread stuffing, the sweet scent of cinnamon and nutmeg in the pumpkin pie and the I-can't-wait mouth watering smell of a roasting turkey.

The no fuss, tried-and-true menu creates a traditional hit and this year was no exception. My sister-in-law brought sinful sweet potato casserole and pecan pie, along with fabulous yeast rolls made by her neighbor in Huntsville, Alabama. My ninety-year-old Mom made the cranberry chutney and green bean casserole. Since I purchased herbes de Provence in France, I used them to flavor the stuffing and sprinkle on the outside of the bird.

One of my family's favorites is found in the relish tray-- pickled watermelon rind. Yes, everyone agrees it is a perfect addition to turkey dinner.  I've never attempted to make it, why would you when the store-bought bottle is so terrific? Take my word on this one -- just try it and savor the yummy flavor.

My three-tiered server was stacked  with pecan, pumpkin and apple pies.  I hadn't made apple pie in quite a while and will claim a blue ribbon.  I think the mix of granny smith and gala apples did the trick.

Earlier in the week I made another annual dish, my grandmother's mushroom soup, featured in an earlier blog here. We lunched on it for a few days and now I am working on the turkey noodle soup.  Once again my house smells like Thanksgiving Day.  And that is a welcome thing.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Spooky Halloween Gingerbread House: A Fun Multi-Generational Project

My five-year-old granddaughter recently came for a visit, so I suggested we make a Halloween gingerbread house.  Shhh...don’t tell, but I knew there was a kit available at the local craft store.

We bought one and I was impressed that the eight-dollar package included everything. Well, almost everything. The box contained the directions, a base, the house sections and two envelopes for making green and orange icing.  The kit also included a small liquid packet of black coloring.  I suppose I was to add this to either of the frostings, but I would have appreciated some guidance.  Just what quantity of black icing did I need?

Fortunately, I keep a stash of cookie and cake decorating accessories and found I had a can of black frosting.  Problem solved; I used it as mortar to cement the house pieces together.

As always, gingerbread buildings require adult construction and also need time to set and dry.  Kids never like this period of waiting...they want to get right into the candy application.

Nonetheless, I put the house together and eventually Kyra added the candy corns, gumdrops and helped with the roof icicles.  She seemed happy enough and I rather like the spooky little house. 

Too bad she wasn’t able to take it home on the plane. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

It Happened at the Hofbrahaus

Thought I’d tell this story during October since the month makes me think of Germany and Oktoberfest.

Near the end of our trip to Europe last summer, my 18-year-old daughter and I arrived in Munich. By the time we reached our hotel, it was late and we were hungry. We decided to dine at the Hofbrauhaus, Munich’s world famous beer hall. Laura and I had been there a few years earlier and enjoyed the high-charged atmosphere and traditional beer garden.

We walked in and headed straight back through the raucous, decorative shrine, past endless rows of tables and the German oomph band. We turned left at a kiosk selling steroid enhanced-sized pretzels, a wall flaunting hundreds of beer mugs, and stepped outside.

The open-air restaurant interspersed with chestnut trees and fountains packed a partying crowd. Waitresses, dressed in blouses and full dirndl skirts with aprons, hoisted huge steins in one hand-- up to three at a time. Impressive when you realize one stein holds the equivalent of three bottles of beer. A second German band played traditional polkas in the courtyard and everyone, young and old, locals and tourists, seemed to be having fun. We circled the garden but found no empty chairs.

We returned inside, where the volume cranked up a few decibels as did the aroma of sausage, sauerkraut and spilled ale. Many seats were available at picnic style tables (seating capacity near 5,000). We sat down and made meal selections from the menu. I promised Laura she could have a Radler- half light beer and half lemonade. After all, she was old enough to legally drink in Germany.

Only problem—this chosen area seemed to be minus employees. A server from across the cavernous room noticed our predicament and motioned us over. We moved to his  section, bustling with diners and reveling drinkers, choosing to sit at a table with one young man.

“Mind if we join you? I asked.” The custom of sitting at a partially open table is encouraged.

“No, please do, I’m waiting for a friend,” he said.

A conversation started between us. “Where are you from? I asked.

Florida,” he said, needing to raise his voice over the noise.

“We are, too. Jacksonville,” I replied.

A wide grin appeared on his face--seems he was also from Jacksonville. Now, what are the odds of meeting a stranger from your hometown in Germany’s bustling beer hall?

“What brought you to Munich?” I asked.

“Attending a medical workshop on orthopedics,” he answered.

Hmm, I thought. Let’s play the name game. “Any chance you know a Dr.Yant,” I asked? Bob Yant, a Jacksonville physician, happens to be the father of Laura’s boyfriend.

“Why, of course I do,” responded our new friend. And so we uncovered many mutual friends.

Before long Dr. Stan Longenecker showed up, finding his colleague conversing with us. We revealed the chance meeting and delighted in establishing more common bonds. We raised our mugs in a toast (“prosit”) to Jacksonville and continued to chat.

Stan told us Chris Luzar, the young man we originally joined, was a former Jaguar- the NFL football team from our mutual hometown. Wow, Laura was impressed. She had never met any of the pro players.

We noticed a solemn Japanese couple near our table. (The Hofbrauhaus attracts a vast international crowd- a meeting place for the world.) They seemed baffled by how to eat their meal presentation of white sausage and we were entertained by their antics.

Stan proudly showed us the items he purchased for his wife and daughter: a crystal beer stein and another one in delft. Chris opened his shopping bags and took out a darling traditional German dress for his baby daughter and an authentic pair of lederhosen for this young son. So cute!

We laughed with the group of jubilant Italians nearby (“Oans, Zwoa, Gsuffa,” they shouted) and eyed an older woman dancing with a member of the band, an odd couple in the center of this bubbling cauldron. The experience was all too much fun, meeting these Floridians on one of our last nights in Europe. Like most tourists (and this joint is a must- see) we stopped at the gift shop on the way out and purchased a few mementos.

The happenstance in the Hofbrauhaus brought an unexpected good time, one Laura and I will never forget. Upon returning to the states, Laura’s boyfriend explained that his Dad heard about our beer drinking in Germany. Seems the story traveled home quicker than us. But, I’m serious about this-- we only had one beer.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Color Coordinated Sandwich Wraps Add Festive Flair

My daughter-in-law Amy throws a terrific party and once again proved herself at Kyra’s 5th birthday party. The age-appropriate theme- Pinkalicious. Guests dressed in various shades of rose, and all decorations and food had a pink tone.

As hostess, Amy chose to serve sandwich “wraps” as the luncheon entrée. But, she didn’t leave them in the plain paper as prepared by the deli. Amy cut scrapbook paper to the size of a wrapper, added the pieces around each sandwich, and secured with a toothpick. The assorted colors added a festive flair to the table. What a terrific tailgate idea- surround “wraps” in bold school colors.

Amy and Kyra baked individual cupcakes in place of a large birthday cake,. They frosted them, coated with sprinkles, and then topped each with a bright Maraschino cherry. A fun mother-daughter activity and very pretty!

Kyra, the pinkalicious star reigning over the event, was truly delicious. She delighted in celebrating with friends and family.
Happy birthday princess!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Le Cafe Marley (by the Louvre in Paris)

Café Marley sits under the arcades of the Louvre, no more than fifty feet from the glass pyramid. In fact, the terrace provides an elevated vantage point giving diners one of the best views in the city. At sunset the scene is all aglow; glass and metal shimmering against the surrounding basin of water.

The posh bistro serves Continental cuisine, although you can order only cocktails or a light lunch. Tourists and Parisians alike drop in to rest after wandering through the vast art collections.

I was introduced to the fashionable restaurant by an American friend living in Paris. She accompanied my daughter and me to dinner. We arrived, during what photographers call the magic hour, when the sunlight is low. My, what a glamorous first night in Paris.

We started with what Lisa called a traditional French aperitif: Kir Royale (champagne and cream de cassis.) Although I recall my seafood entrée was scrumptious, I was so taken with the location I cannot remember what type of fish I ate. We sipped amber wine and listened to stories of Lisa’s escapades in Europe.

Now, when it comes to dessert, I retain vivid memories-- priorities please. Laura and I chose the chocolate lava cake- oozing a molten center. Lisa picked a pink macaroon with fresh raspberries in the middle. Pure bliss.

After dinner we posed for photos in the Louvre courtyard, walked through Carrousel’s Triumphal Arch, the Tuileries Garden and into Place de la Concorde. Lisa left and we continued up the Champs Elysées, all the way to the Arch de Triomphe. Laura and I caught a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower dazzlingly illuminated like a giant sparkler. Little wonder Paris is called the City of Light.

Le Café Marly is on the pricy side but well worth the splurge.
Address: 93 Rue de Rivoli , Cour Napoléon du Louvre
Open every day from 8am to 10pm
Phone : +33 (0)1 49 26 06 60
Metro/Bus Stop: Palais Royal - Musée du Louvre
No website available.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Restaurant Recommendations around Sevierville and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Dine on Down Home Cookin’

I recently made a trip to the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and hate to admit I dug in like a hungry bear. I sampled fried green tomatoes, fried gator, fried shrimp, fried okra and well…fried you name it. I put aside the knife and fork for barbeque ribs and finished plenty messy. Breakfast favorites became blueberry pancakes, syrup and apple fritters

Both towns of Sevierville and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee rest near the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. And both towns claim Dolly Parton as their own. The folks in these parts take pride in their country heritage. You can’t help but notice that music, food and family are the heart and soul of the people.

Tourists to the area will find numerous restaurants to choose from. Most proudly serve good-ole down home southern cookin.

Here is a list of restaurants I can recommend for casual dining in Sevierville:

Flapjacks, 1018 Pkwy, Sevierville, (865) 774-5374
Pancake houses are very popular in this area and Flapjacks draws a crowd. They offer a breakfast bonanza of delights from personal egg skillets to all varieties of pancakes. Endless cups of coffee and fast friendly service. Their cute country décor is just that --cute, not tacky or overdone.

Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant, Apple Valley Road Sevierville 865-428-1222
Each diner at Applewood is greeted with an apple julep (apple juice/mint combo), an apple spice muffin and apple fritters with apple butter. Folks come from all over for these treats. The restaurant serves southern style food from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. When you are finished eating (or waiting ‘cause there’s often a crowd), walk over to the Apple Barn Complex, the Cider Barn, gift shop, bakery or winery. You’ll find more “apple” items here than flies in a barn and I bet you end up taking something home.

English Mountain Trout Farm, 291 Blowing Cave Rd, Sevierville (865) 429-5553
If you’re itchin for something different, venture over and catch your lunch at the English Mountain Trout Farm. Kids love this place. Proprietor Charlie will fry it up lickety split, then serve the dish along with coleslaw and hush puppies. “You Hook Em’, We Cook Em.” reads their sign.

Damon’s Grill, 1640 Pkwy, Sevierville, (865) 428-6200

Damon’s specialty is ribs and they are indeed special. I do declare their ribs are as juicy as gossip; why the meat fell off the bones. The pulled pork was the best I’ve ever tasted; made me go hog wild. Patrons at Damon’s enjoy a lovely mountain view.

KT’s Bar & Grill, 1641 Parkway Drive, Sevierville (865) 428-1991

KT’s dishes firecracker shrimp to die for. Spicy but not over the edge, tangy and still moist. The fajitas are a flavorful sizzling sensation. Portions are way more than one person can eat. Fortunately I saved just enough room to nibble the Bananas Foster, best dessert on the yummy menu.

The Chop House, 1649 Parkway Dr, Sevierville (865) 774-1993
The ambiance of the Chop House feels like a cut above and the food certainly is. The restaurant showcases a clean open kitchen and inviting atmosphere. I sampled the petite filet which cut as easy as sliding off a greased log. My piece of steak was the tenderest selection grilled to perfection. The side dishes are plentiful- baked sweet potato, parmesan creamed spinach, fries, loaded baked potato, rice pilaf, burgundy mushrooms, sugar snap peas, baked cinnamon apples, steamed broccoli, green bean medley and asparagus. The cobbler looked luscious but I was stuffed.

Islamorada Fish Company Restaurant, 3629 Outdoor Sportsman’s Pl, (865) 932-5500

Enter this restaurant through the Bass Pro Shop and face a stunning 13,000 gallon salt water reef aquarium, a whole wall behind the bar. As you might guess, they’re hooked on seafood. I sank into calamari and gator tail as an appetizer. Both were lightly fried with a crunchy batter. My friend ordered the sushi-grade black and blue tuna that looked gorgeous. The Cajun pineapple salmon made a pretty plate, a zappy blend of sweet and spice; another diner’s fish & chips came piled a mile high. Warning: the desserts are decadent but delicious.
Outdoor patio dining available.

No sir, you surely won't go hungry in Sevierville.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Plan a Lunar Party to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Moon Landing

As a child I remember being told the moon was made of green cheese. Come to think of it, I was told a number of tales, but anyway, one evening my Mom took me outside to show me the night sky. Looking up, she said, “See those funny dents in the moon? They’re holes in the moon’s cheese.” And with a little imagination, I believed the lunar surface was casting a moldy Swiss-cheesy glow.

Now, I’ve got news for you. Today, you can taste a soup that’s been all the way to the moon, and it’s not made with cheese. Yes, Moon Soup, a heavenly cream-based verdigris broth is as scrumptious as a starry night. The recipe is condensed and sold in cans. I’ve seen them stocked in gourmet shops around the country or you can order online.

Back in the late 1960’s, astronauts often flew small planes to Lake Wales, Florida. They would land at the private airstrip of the Chalet Suzanne Inn and enjoy a home cooked meal.

Lunar Module pilot, Jim Irwin, grew particularly fond of the Inn’s romaine soup and chose it for his space menu. NASA freeze-dried the creamy green broth and carried it aboard Apollo missions. Chalet Suzanne then renamed and marketed their velvety mixture as Moon Soup.

Visit Central Florida like I did and take a taste. Better yet, spend the night at Chalet Suzanne Restaurant and Inn, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The family run facility offers 27 guest rooms and operates its own cannery, producing Moon Soup among thirteen varieties and three sauces.

July 20, 2009 marks the fortieth anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s first step on the moon. Those of us who were around can certainly remember that out-of-this-world historic moment. To celebrate and reminisce, why not plan a lunar party? Serve Moon soup, Moon Rocket Chicken and astronaut ice cream for dessert. In case you don’t know, astronaut ice cream is also freeze-dried and comes in air-tight packages.

Take one giant step and plan a summer space party now.

Moon Rocket Chicken

Cut uncooked chicken breasts into pieces, about 1 ½-2 inch squares. Place the pieces of chicken on heavy aluminum foil, each with enough for one serving. Top each serving with about a teaspoon of butter and a tablespoon of half and half cream. Add a few sliced mushrooms or very thinly sliced green pepper. Then seal the aluminum foil rolling and making it into a rocket shape. Give it a pointed nose at one end.

Bake at 350 degrees for one hour, then serve in foil to retain the juices. Each guest can unwrap their own rocket.

Add a side of long grain and wild rice to complete the meal. You’ll have to order the space ice cream ahead of time, unless you live near the Kennedy Space Center or National Air & Space Museum.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Pop Rock Shrimp

Lang's Marina Restaurant

307 West St. Marys Street

St. Marys, Georgia

Remember Pop Rocks—the tiny colorful candy nuggets that came in tightly sealed packets? You placed a few kernel-sized pieces on your tongue and they detonated in your mouth with a sizzling sound. I always thought the candy left a tingling sensation on my tongue.

Biting into a fried rock shrimp at Lang’s Seafood Restaurant in St. Marys, Georgia is very similar. The small shrimp are covered in a thin batter and briefly fried. They puff to the size of a cotton ball, but should not to be confused with popcorn shrimp.

The preparation results in a burst of lobster-like flavor. The pieces literally explode in your mouth and then, more or less, dissolve on the tongue. The texture is definitely not chewy; the taste mellows on the palate like fine wine. Dip them in a bit of cocktail sauce to add tang, but don’t overdo. These babies are scrumptious.

Rock shrimp (Sicyonia brevirostris) have a hard, spiny shell more like a lobster rather than typical shrimp. The shell is "hard as a rock," hence the term rock shrimp. I think they are the rock stars of the shellfish world. From now on I’ll follow the seasonal catch like paparazzi.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

How to tell if your produce is genetically modified

Know the Numbers

Cathy Ruff, my friend and former neighbor in New Jersey, sent me this helpful tip. She came across it in the Newsletter of the Garden Club of New Jersey, and for those who don’t know, New Jersey is known as The Garden State.

To determine if your produce was genetically modified, look at the numbers on the tags of the produce you buy. My carton of fresh raspberries has a sticker that reads 5137 and underneath 3969 DSA1. Therefore, I am assuming the berries were conventionally grown on a bush, but not on an organic farm.

• A four-digit number means the produce is conventionally grown.
• A five digit number beginning with 9 means organic
• A five digit number beginning with 8 means it is genetically modified (GM).

Now you know the clue to reading produce labels.

Thanks Cathy.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A Summer Sensation-- Lemongrass Mint Gin and Tonics

Tea Forte Cocktail Infusions

Summer’s here. “Time for a G and T,” I say.

My husband, Jay, makes a great Tanqueray and tonic. Like every mixologist, he starts with gin over ice and tops it off with tonic water. But then-- he squeezes a section of fresh lime into the cool liquid, letting the tart and tangy juice add some zip. After that, he runs the oozing fruit piece around the glass lip before plunking it into the cocktail. Swizzle a little and you’ve got an outstanding mixed drink.

Just recently I came across a new product which offered a twist on tradition and some experimental fun—Tea Forte cocktail infusers; a method to combine an extraordinary blend of tea with alcohol.

The product comes in a three-inch colorful pyramid shaped box. Each package contains a similar shaped tea bag, topped with a tiny signature leaf. Honestly, this is the most elegant tea bag I have ever seen. In fact, the packaging is so pretty, you want to put them on display.

Place the tea infuser in your hi-ball glass and pour two ounces of alcohol over, letting it brew or steep- as strong as you prefer. I let my mixture turn a golden amber color.

Next, add ice, a little simple syrup (mixture of water and dissolved sugar) and some tonic. Wish I’d had a spring of mint to garnish, but I used a lime instead.

Taste Test

On my first sip I noticed the tea flavor, an unusual but delicious citrusy ice tea taste. On the second sip, I picked up the mellowness of the gin, a fine, smooth blend producing a perfect summer refresher. And by the third sip, well… I was hooked on this refined make-over for an old favorite. Surprisingly delightful.

I removed my infuser before drinking, but the label suggests leaving it in for an intriguing conversation-starter garnish. How fun is that??

Jay said the tea bag would be way too fou-fou for men, but thought that guys might enjoy the tea-alcohol combination. For a true test, I need to make up a pitcher and serve them to guests around the pool. My guess is the icy concoction would be a hit.

According to Tea Forte’s literature, the infuser I used is a blend of lemongrass, spearmint and lemon myrtle. Alternative alcoholic beverage creations include Wild Mint Mojitos and a Bali Breeze.

The company also offers Lavender Citrus and Silkroad Chai blends. I’m going to try the Cosmo de Provence next because I’m headed to France. But really, do I need an excuse?
The Cosmo is made using an infuser with white tea, lavender, lemon balm and bergamot. When the tea bag is steeped in vodka, a dramatic violet color appears (watch for an upcoming post-- I will take photos.)

Cheers to happy hour. Turn a dull afternoon into something extraordinary. Cocktails with tea for me!

Check out the website:

Friday, May 22, 2009

My, My -- Key Lime Pie

Every US state boasts an official state flag, motto, flower, bird and song. But, did you know many states have an official dessert? Twas news to me, until I wrote the blog post on Boston Crème Pie and discovered it was the Massachusetts state pie.

So, I got to wondering; does my state, Florida, have an official dessert? Well… my, my—it’s Key Lime Pie. Sure enough, my husband’s favorite sweet. He likes it so much; he requests it instead of traditional birthday cake.

The secret to great taste is using freshly squeezed Key limes. The process is a little tricky because key limes, as compared to typical Persian limes, are small-- smaller than a golf ball. Took 12 of those babies to yield the ½ cup of juice needed for the recipe. But, the result is worth the effort.

Overall pie preparation is very easy; simply mix together a few ingredients. If you cannot find Key limes, you can substitute bottled juice; I prefer Nellie and Joe’s brand. Do not, however, juice Persian limes, the typical bigger green variety; the outcome is just not the same.

For home baked goodness, you should make your own graham cracker crust, but a store bought one works in a pinch. Your final creation should be smooth and creamy, no lumps, like a good pudding. The taste should have some zing, tart and sweet, but not too sweet. A bite of pie should dissolve in your mouth.

The history of the Key limes pie is closely linked with Florida and the development of canned milk. You see, neither cows nor fresh milk, refrigeration or ice were available in the Florida Keys until the 1930’s. When the Overseas Highway opened, tank trucks began delivery. But before that, canned products were brought in by ship, and later train. So, local cooks relied on canned sweetened condensed milk. When this milk is combined with lime juice, the acid from the juice causes the mixture to solidify.

Where did the Floridians get Key limes? From the early Spanish explorers who picked them up in Malaysia and brought them to what was then the New World. The fruit is not indigenous, but the thin-skinned yellow-green citrus thrives in the climate.

Many people swear Key lime pie originated in Key West, the little island resting at the southern-most tip of the United States. Legend, among residents known as Conchs, says the pie was first served by “Aunt Sally,” the cook for William Curry, who made his fortune as a “ship salvager” in the mid-1800s. Today, the staff at the Curry Mansion Inn in Key West still crank out the pies.

I had the opportunity to visit the Curry Mansion Inn while on the island a few years ago. The place is a lovely B & B type lodge, with one terrific widow’s walk. Indeed, I confirm they serve an excellent pie. But, is theirs the best??

I’m very happy with my recipe and offer it now. Heed this one warning, however, if you add the concoction to your repertoire. Never add artificial coloring. As a matter of fact, never eat a green key lime pie. Opt for the real thing. The lemon yellow color comes from authentic key lime juice and egg yolks. And these days for safety, the pie is baked for a few minutes to kill the possibility of salmonella from uncooked egg.

Florida Key Lime Pie

Crust- Graham Cracker Crumb Crust

1 ¼ cup graham cracker crumbs

3 Tablespoons sugar

1/3 cup butter

Melt the butter (microwave) in a bowl, then mix in the crumbs and sugar.Pack into a 9-inch pie pan and press firmly to bottom and sides.

Chill for an hour before filling—OR—bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes, then cool.

Pie Ingredients:

4 large of extra large egg yolks

1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

½ cup fresh key lime juice

2 teaspoons grated lime peel, green portion only

Pie Filling:

Use an electric mixer and beat the egg yolks until they are thick and turn a light yellow color. Do not overmix. Turn the mixer off and add the sweetened condensed milk. Stir it in by hand, a few strokes. Turn mixer speed to low and add half the lime juice. Once incorporated, add the other half of the juice and the sex. Mix just a few seconds until blended.

Pour the mixture into the pie shell and bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes. This kills any salmonella in the eggs. Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate.

Some folks like to add meringue topping; others choose to top with whipped cream. I prefer to serve mine plain and pass whipped cream.

An interesting footnote: The hurricane in 1926 wiped out the key lime plantations in South Florida. Eventually growers replanted with Persian limes because they are easier to pick and transport and yield more juice. But in Key West, the lime trees that remained are said to be “ferocious” in nature.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Kitchen Shower Idea: The Ironing Board Lady

My walking partner, Debbie, told me about the cutest gift idea. The Ironing Board Lady makes the ideal kitchen shower present.

Purchase the bride an ironing board and dress in a bib style apron. Get creative with building her upper body: perhaps a splatter cover for her face, rolled towels for her arms, dishwashing gloves for her hands, mop hair and plastic scrubber pad eyes.

A heart cookie cutter becomes a clever mouth and she carries a bouquet of kitchen tools in an upside down grater. Use cheese cloth or netting, the kind that would cover a dish at a picnic, as her veil.

This little lady will be the life of the party and all her parts will come in handy when setting up a home.

What a fun gift to give and receive.
Special thanks to Debbie and her sister Donna for this tip.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Boston Creme Pie: The Official State Dessert of Massachusetts

I’ve visited Boston a few times, but can’t recall ever tasting the official state dessert- Boston Crème Pie. The dish looks like it would be perfect for a pie-throwing contest; firm enough to throw and not fall apart, but gushy enough to make a sloppy mess.

The pie is actually much more a cake: two layers of sponge cake with custard filling in the middle, similar to donut crème. There is no crust. The top is frosted with a thick chocolate glaze, like a ganache. When served, the dessert is cut into wedges.

Naturally I was curious about the pie’s history. Apparently early American colonists lacked cake pans and used pie tins to make pudding-cake.

The Parker House Hotel, now the Omni Parker House Hotel, claims to have served the pies since their opening in 1856. The story says that French chef M. Sanzian, who was hired for the hotel’s opening, created Boston cream pie. But, his cake was originally served by the names Chocolate Cream Pie or Parker House Chocolate Cream Pie.

Back in 1996, a civics class from Norton High School sponsored the bill to name a state dessert. Boston Cream Pie was the winner: the official Massachusetts State Dessert. Interestingly, the pie beat out the toll house cookie and Indian pudding. Can surely understand the latter.

Anyway, here I was shopping in Sudbury, a Boston suburb (with the zipcode 01776) and the freshly baked pie-cakes were being put on display. I decided the time had come for a taste test.

Debi’s Taste Test

I made myself a cup of tea, choosing Orange Pekoe over English Breakfast- just didn’t feel right or patriotic recalling the Boston Tea Party. Then cut myself a slice and photographed it.

The chocolate frosting was smooth and yummy, pretty much overpowering the cake. The sponge layers, which resembled yellow cake, were very moist but didn’t have much flavor. And, honestly I didn’t taste much of the crème filling either.

Being one who has a savage sweet tooth, yet still tries to watch calories, I’d forgo Boston Crème Pie in the future. The concoction just wasn’t delicious enough compared to other New England specialties: cranberry bread, apple pie or cobbler. Ah-hem. Pass me some Florida state pie, please. That would be Key Lime.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

How do you eat your Easter Marshmallow Peeps?

Where would Easter candy be without Peeps? Nearly everyone’s Easter basket contains a package of these sugar-coated marshmallow fluff pieces.

As a child, I never liked Peeps, but year after year they appeared along with plastic eggs and a big chocolate rabbit.

I must be in a minority because an astonishing number of Peeps chicks and bunnies are eaten at Easter--enough to more than circle the Earth’s circumference. Peeps are the best selling non-chocolate Easter candy.

Some people eat the candy frozen or stale- which means rock hard. Others like to stretch them apart or bite off their heads. My daughter and I like to microwave Peeps and watch them grow! They expand like the marshmallow man in the Ghostbusters movie and make a gooey mess.

Have fun with your Peeps and Happy Easter.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Try a scintillating salad from The Tudors Royal Feast

Beet Orange Salad with Toasted Walnuts and Goat Cheese

A tour guide at Hampton Court offered a quick and easy way to remember Henry VIII’s six wives and their fates. She said, “Divorced, Beheaded, Died, Divorced, Beheaded, Lived.” Makes sense, doesn’t it?

The Showtime network has been airing “The Tudors" for two years. Each episode makes me feel like I’d been invited into the King's court. The cast is superb and need I mention, gorgeous, and costuming worthy of a museum exhibit.

Trumpets, please: ta-da-ta-da-ta-da. The new season of premiere's tonight, April 5th, on Showtime.

To publicize the long-awaited event, Henry’s wedding to Lady Jane Seymour, a royal feast was created by Sara Moulton, formerly of the Food Network and now PBS. I saw the scrumptious photo spread in Gourmet magazine, also at and immediately set to work duplicating the salad. (Also helps that I adore beets.)

This dish has the vibrancy of a diamond tiara with the ruby red beets and bright naval oranges glimmering like gems. I’ve decided to change the name in honor of Jane Seymour, because she truly sparkles on the show. Don't you agree?

The salad is worthy of a sovereign and would add a crowning touch to a summer cookout or a formal dinner party. The preparation is easy, but set aside about an hour to roast the beets.

If you enjoy the taste of this vegetable, you must try this recipe. Be forewarned, cravings arise after just one bite.

Here's another noble gift--You can see the first episode of season three now if you visit my Thoroughly Modern Mimi blog.

Seymour Salad of Beets and Oranges with Toasted Walnuts and Goat Cheese

2 bunches fresh beets* (1 ½ pounds without greens)
½ cup walnuts
3 naval oranges
2 Tablespoons minced shallots
2 Tablespoons fresh orange juice
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¾ cup canola, vegetable or olive oil
5 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled
Chopped chives or parsley for garnish

* I could only find red beets, but the addition of golden beets would enhance the glamour.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Wrap beets in foil and roast in the middle of the oven until tender, about an hour. (I placed them on a tray) Unwrap beets and cool. Slip skins off and slice into rounds.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Put walnuts in a small shallow baking pan and bake for 10 minutes. Let cool and coarsely chop.

Cut peel and white pith off the oranges and slice into rounds.

Combine shallots, orange juice, vinegar, mustard, salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste and whisk until salt is dissolved. Whisk in oil in a stream.

Decoratively arrange alternating slices of beets and orange rounds on a large platter. Drizzle some dressing over them, then sprinkle the walnuts, cheese and chives on top. Serve the rest of the dressing on the side.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Something different for Easter: Why not Purple Potatoes?

“What (strong accent) are those” asked my daughter?

Purple potatoes,” I said.

“But, why” she continued?

“Why not” I answered?

My eye caught sight of this small bag in the grocery store. I picked it up. Hmm…Klondike petite purple Idaho potatoes? Wonder what would happen if I mashed them; would they turn lavender?

I returned home and opened the bag, keen to see inside. I sliced open a small spud and found a gleaming royal gem!

To cook, I decided to cover and boil the potatoes until tender, then cut into chunks; forget mashing. Afterward I slathered on butter and a pinch of salt and pepper. Amazing. The potatoes glimmered like jewels.

“Hey, these don’t taste purple, said Laura.

Yeah, they’re actually good,” said my husband.

And there you have it—the perfect vegetable for Easter. Oh, did I mention these taters are loaded with antioxidants?


For fun check out The Spud Syllabus .

Here’s a recipe I discovered on Smitten Kitchen, a food blog, after I winged my own. Thank you Michael Anthony and New York Magazine.

Directions and ingredients are very similar to mine, but substitute olive oil, sea salt and lemon juice. Next time I’ll try Michael’s recipe.

Michael Anthony’s Fork-Crushed Purple Majesty Potatoes

New York Magazine

Serves 4

1 lb. Purple Majesty Potatoes, washed

4 small shallots, minced

2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice

6 tablespoons good extra-virgin olive oil (the food blogger used half)

Sea salt to taste

White pepper to taste

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

In a large pot, cook potatoes with skins on in heavily salted boiling water until tender, approximately 15 minutes. Remove potatoes from pot, and peel them while still warm. Place potatoes in a large bowl and, using a fork; gently smash them, maintaining a fairly chunky consistency. Fold in minced shallots, lemon juice, olive oil, sea salt, and white pepper. Finish with parsley.