Appetite for Life: You say potato …

With a food that is a perfect blank canvas for any flavor profile, why is it so hard to come up with new ways to make potatoes?  We’ve all done them mashed, whipped, fried, baked, scalloped, and julienned.  We’ve made them from a box, from a frozen food bag, and from fresh potatoes.  So, when I decided to enter the Tasteful Selections™ Simply Amazing Flavors Recipe Contest, I really didn’t hold any hope of placing in the contest.  I just wanted to enjoy the experience of developing a new recipe and competing for the first time.  It was something new for me as a foodie and food writer, so I sat down one night to come up with the recipe that follows.
I had previously whipped up a lovely recipe for mashed potatoes that called for shallots and blue cheese, but the recipe for this contest could not have previously been published anywhere else, so that was out.  As I pushed my cart through the store that night, I was just not feeling inspired whatsoever.  That led me to grab random things and toss them in the cart.  (Note: this is how I normally shop, but one would think with such an auspicious task at hand, I would have gone in a little more prepared.)
When I got home, I started grabbing ingredients, not really measuring or taking note of what I did.  It’s very hard for me to make myself take notes while I’m developing a new recipe, because I just don’t cook that way.  I finally relented and jotted down the basics and was really happy with how the potatoes turned out.  Luckily, the judges for the contest did, too, and I took first prize.
Give this recipe a try during the holidays if you’re looking for something new.  Stop by and let me know if you liked the recipe or if you’d change something about it.  I love getting feedback from my readers, especially if it helps me become a better cook.

Potatoes Sarafina


1 ½ lbs. fingerling potatoes
2T butter
2 red bell peppers, diced small
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 cup heavy cream
6.5 oz. Garlic & Herb Aloutte Cheese
2/3 oz. fresh chives, chopped
2 t seasoned salt
2 t black pepper

  1. Scrub the potatoes and place in a pot with 6 quarts of water.
  2. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are fork-tender.
  3. While the potatoes are cooking, sauté the bell peppers and garlic in 2 T of butter.
  4. Drain the water and return the potatoes to the pot.
  5. Using a potato masher or fork, start breaking the potatoes apart into smaller pieces.
  6. Add the Aloutte and heavy cream and continue mashing the potatoes.
  7. Gently stir in the chives and add salt and pepper to taste.

Appetite for life: History of garlic reaches back 6,000 years

Wednesday, September 7, 2011 | Special to the Citizen

A staple in Mediterranean cooking, a member of the onion family and a well-known way to ward off vampires, garlic’s long history can be traced back to Asia more than 6,000 years ago. Used for culinary and medicinal needs, garlic has been a staple plant in many cultures, including the ancient Egyptians.
In the culinary world, garlic is used to flavor oils, it is grated or chopped for garlic bread and it is added to Italian pasta dishes. It can be used raw, sautéed or roasted. Roasting it makes it softer, sweeter and milder. It can even be pickled and served with Italian giardiniera as an appetizer. Some chefs use the leaves and shoots of the garlic plant in stir-fry dishes.
Along with garlic’s uses in cooking, it also has medicinal values. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, garlic can be use to prevent heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and it may protect against cancer. Garlic is also known to be high in antioxidants which block free radicals that can damage cell tissue.
So, whether you are making lasagna, protecting yourself against disease or just have some pesky vampires annoying you, integrate garlic into your life and make it an ingredient you always have on-hand, and experiment with it in multiple recipes and preparations.

Note: This can be used in many, many recipes, like my recipe for Stuffed Hatch Peppers found on my blog,


  • 2 heads of garlic
  • olive oil for drizzling

1. Preheat your oven to 250 degrees.
2. Slice the very top of each head of garlic off, revealing the cloves below.
3. Gently remove the loose skin, leaving only the skin around each clove.
4. Pour a small amount of olive oil over each head of garlic, allowing the oil to soak in, before repeating a second time.
5. Wrap the heads of garlic in aluminum foil, into the shape of a pouch.
6. Roast in the oven for one hour.
7. Allow them to cool and remove them from the foil.
8. Separate the cloves and dice or mince as needed.

Appetite for life: Christmas food gifts

I can hardly believe that another holiday season is upon us. While some of my holiday gift shopping is already done, I still have a lot to do. I’ve been contemplating what to get my friends this year. None of my friends “need” anything, and I just can’t bring myself to give them yesterday another bath product basket or candle wrapped in pretty cellophane. I want to give everyone something more personal that’s from the heart.
My heart is in the kitchen. It’s where I retreat after a long day at work, it’s where I’m starting to teach my son to cook and it’s where I can recreate memories of family holidays from when I was a child. So, it makes perfect sense to me that I make gifts of food to give to my loved ones this year.
I’ve been pouring over cookbooks, magazines and websites, trying to find new and tasty treats to create and pass along. Below is a recipe I found in Dotty Griffith’s “Texas Holiday Cookbook.” This has become a resource I go to every year for new ideas and old favorites. I rarely pay much attention to the food gift section, but it’s where I’m getting inspiration this year. This Texas Trash makes a great gift that everyone loves and can enjoy for up to a month after it’s made. It’s a perfect snack to finish the football season.


Texas Trash

1 (15-oz) package round oat cereal
1 (12-oz) package crispy waffle rice cereal
1 (12-oz) package crispy waffle corn cereal
1 (9-oz) package pretzel sticks
2 cups pecan halves
1 cup cashews
2 cups peanuts
2 cups (4 sticks) butter
½ – ¾ cup Worcestershire sauce, or to taste
3 t garlic salt, or to taste
1-2 t red pepper sauce, optional

• In large bowl, toss together cereals, pretzels, and nuts.
• Heat oven to 325 degrees. Place butter in a large roasting pan with sides. Melt butter in oven. When butter melts, remove from pan and stir in Worcestershire sauce, garlic salt, and red pepper sauce, if desired.
• Stir cereal mixture into melted butter, tossing to coat each piece. Place in oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until cereal is golden brown and crisp.
• Store in airtight container for 30 days.
Makes 3 to 3 ½ quarts.

Appetite for life: 10×40 update

Wednesday, October 5, 2011 | Special to the Ledger

Back in December, I wrote about the list of 10 things I wanted to learn to cook before turning 40. The first item on the list was Spaghetti Carbonara.
I am here to announce that not only did I make this, but it was also a huge success. I have to give credit where it’s due. To the lady who inspired me eight years ago to be brave in the kitchen, and that taught me good meals could be made in a short amount of time, Rachael Ray. Her recipe for Carbonara is very easy, and it takes the “scrambled egg drama” out of the equation. It also adds an untraditional ingredient: green beans. I love when all of my food groups are covered in one dish. It’s also an easy way for me to get my 2-year-old to eat more vegetables.
I had hoped to have more things done on my 10×40 list in the past year, but I’m proud that one of them can be marked off. I love lists, but I love them even more when items are crossed off.
For more of my recipes and cooking adventures, visit my blog at

Green Bean Spaghetti Carbonara


  • 1 lb. spaghetti
  • 3/4 lb. green beans, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1/2 lb. bacon, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper

Cook pasta according to package directions, adding beans halfway through cooking time; drain, reserving 1/4 cup cooking water. Brown bacon in large skillet over medium heat; add onion and soft en; deglaze with reserved cooking water. Whisk eggs with cheese. Off heat, add pasta, beans, eggs and cheese to skillet and toss; season with salt and pepper.

Appetite For Life: Copykat Recipes

So, this published back in March, but I just now found that it was published in the Leander Ledger’s sister publication, the Cedar Park Citizen.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 | Special to the Citizen

As I sit at my desk, having just finished a rather unsatisfying dish from our building cafeteria, I find myself flipping through a recent cookbook I picked up, “Dining Out At Home.” Written by long-time food blogger Stephanie Manley, “Dining Out At Home” offers a variety of her “copycat” recipes from favorite restaurant dishes. Craving some Cheddar Bay biscuits from Red Lobster? How about coconut cream pie from Luby’s? With “Dining Out At Home,” you can make these dishes for yourself any time!
The recipes are easy to follow and are categorized by meal course and include icons such as, “Dinner For One,” “Make Ahead,” and “Quick and Easy”. My favorite category is “Tailgating,” which offers recipes perfect for your favorite sports event or any party. Combine that with a beverage from the “Cocktail Party” recipes, and you’ve got one heck of a celebration!
Cooking your favorite restaurant recipes at home offers a more budget-friendly option, gives you the opportunity to cook with your kids and family and lets you make your dream restaurant menu. As Stephanie says in the book’s introduction, she can “make a salad dressing from Sweet Tomatoes, combine it with her favorite pasta dish from the Olive Garden, and finish with a dessert from The Cheesecake Factory.” How fun is that? I’m thinking my menu would include a Sonic Cherry Limeade, Chili’s Skillet Queso, Joe’s Crab Shack Coconut Shrimp, and La Madeleine Strawberries Romanoff.’s Red Lobster Crab Alfredo
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons cream cheese
2 cups (1 pint) half-and-half
½ to ¾ cup Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon garlic powder
8 ounces dry fettuccine pasta
4 to 6 crab legs
1 teaspoon salt

In a saucepan, melt the butter, then add the cream cheese. When the cream cheese is softened, add the half-and-half and the parmesan cheese. Add the garlic powder and stir well. Simmer the sauce for 15 to 20 minutes on low heat. You may wish to season it with a little salt and pepper. Prepare the pasta according to the package directions. Prepare the crab legs by cooking them in a large pot of boiling water seasoned with 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook the crab legs for 5 to 7 minutes, then remove them from the pot of boiling water. Crack open the legs, lightly dry off the excess water with a paper towel, and place the crab on top of the Alfredo sauce and pasta.
Yield: 4 servings

Appetite for Life: Easy as Cupcakes

For those who have read my past columns or read my blog, you know that while I love to cook, baking scares the bejeezus out of me. There’s far too much measuring and rule-following for my taste. It’s not that I can’t follow a recipe, but I like having the flexibility to “wing it” and change things to taste.

All that being said, for my son’s second birthday this past weekend, I decided to take one for the team and make his birthday cake myself. My talented aunt is normally recruited for this task, but I wanted to try to be Super Mom and do it by myself.

After talking to my very professional and very talented chef friend, Juli, she suggested I do what she did last year and do cupcakes. You can put them all together on a single tray and give the illusion of a cake, but everyone can have a pre-portioned serving and there’s less room for error.

So, I purchased my lemon cake mix, lemon icing, cupcake wrappers, and red sprinkles, and set out to create Elmo for the party.

Below are the steps I followed. You could easily do this for any shape or theme. And, hey, if I can do it, you certainly can!

Elmo Cupcake Face

  • 1 box of cake mix, flavor of your choice
  • 1 can of whipped icing
  • Coordinating cupcake wrappers
  • Cupcake baking tins (enough for 24 cupcakes)
  • 1 – 16” round tray/platter
  • Print-out of Elmo’s eyes, nose, and mouth (printed on heavy cardstock)
  1. Following the directions on the box of cake mix, make 24 cupcakes (this is standard for one box of mix).
  2. Let them cool completely.
  3. While waiting for them to cool, print out Elmo’s eyes, nose, and mouth proportional to the tray and size of cupcakes you are using.
  4. Once the cupcakes have cooled, spread on the icing, making sure each cupcake top is covered completely.
  5. Next, take a plate (to catch the loose sprinkles) and place each cupcake on it individually and add the sprinkles.  Be sure to shake off the loose sprinkles before placing the cupcake on the tray.
  6. Once the cupcakes are all complete and placed on the tray in the shape of Elmo’s face, using icing to place the eyes, nose and mouth on top of the cupcakes.

Appetite For Life: Bermudian Adventure

What can I say?  I love food.  So, as I look over our vacation pictures from Bermuda, I have to chuckle at how many of the pictures are of food.  The food pictures were just as important to capture as those of the Bermudian sites.  I even had my husband taking pictures of his dishes.  Thank goodness he appreciates and tolerates my obsession.
The food in Bermuda is not as tropical as I imagined it would be.  While lots of fresh seafood and fruit are used, it’s combined in a fusion that goes beyond its tropical locale.  Asian and Mediterranean flavors prevail.  If you are not that adventurous, there are burgers and steaks in abundance.  As they say, something for everyone.
As we ventured around the city of Hamilton, I had a prepared list of restaurants I was dying to try.  None of them let us down.  The Hogpenny, Pickled Onion and Lobster Pot – all offered different and delectable options.  The Hogpenny introduced Dustin to the British staple steak and kidney pie and me to roasted pork belly.  We also had a round of the famous Bermudian fish chowder.  We completed the meal with sticky toffee pudding.
Below is a recipe for the fish chowder.  Among its complex flavors are Bermudian Dark Rum and Sherry Pepper Sauce.  I am hoping this recipe will be as close to the Pickled Onion’s version as possible.  If not, I may start an email campaign to their head chef, pleading and groveling for the recipe.  One final note – if you don’t like fish, don’t pass this recipe by.  The fish used is very mild and is almost impossible to detect in the chowder.

Bermuda Fish Chowder
By Edward Bottone (from

4 qts water
2 lbs fish fillets (Rockfish, Sea Bass) or 5 lbs Grouper heads
1 tbs fresh thyme
6 bay leaves
20 peppercorns
¼ tsp ground cloves
2 tbs butter
2 tbs olive oil
3 large Bermuda onions, chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 stalk (8 ribs) of celery, chopped
2 green bell peppers
28 oz can of whole tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1½ cup chicken broth
1 cup catsup
½ cup parsley, chopped
2 tbs Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 lbs potatoes peeled, small dice
6 large carrots peeled, small dice
Freshly ground pepper to taste
2 oz Gosling’s Black Seal Rum
4 tbs sherry pepper


  1. In a large pot bring the water to a boil and put in the fish fillets, salt and spices. Lower flame and simmer for 45 minutes. In another cauldron large enough to contain all of the ingredients, melt the butter and oil together and sauté the onions and garlic until just golden.
  2. Add the celery and green peppers and sauté another few minutes. Add the tomatoes and broth and simmer for 30 minutes. Now strain the fish stock into the cauldron. Pick out the fish and add it to the pot as well, discard the spices. Add the remaining vegetables to the pot and simmer partially covered for two hours.
  3. The soup should be thickened, but not thick, and be a dark reddish-brown and very aromatic. If not thick enough, you may resort to a little cornstarch and water, stirred into the boiling soup, I won’t tell.
  4. At the end of the cooking time, add the sherry peppers sauce and Black Seal Rum. Serve immediately, or allow to cool and keep a day for more intense flavors. At serving time pass cruets of additional Black Seal Rum and sherry peppers sauce for the brave.

Appetite for Life: Healthier resolutions

Appetite for Life: Healthier resolutions
Wednesday, January 26, 2011 | Special to the Ledger

By Meagan Warncke

Jan. 1: I hereby resolve to eat healthier in the New Year. I will take my lunch to work every day. It will be a salad, soup or healthy sandwiches. I will make them fresh every morning.
Jan. 2: I am so glad I have been taking my lunch to work. It’s so nice to have a homemade meal and I don’t have to fight lunch traffic.
Jan. 5: I’m getting a little tired of the same things every day. I’d really rather go out and get a bowl of pasta from that little Italian place.
Jan. 15: I had a burger and fries for lunch today. I overslept and just didn’t have time to make my lunch.
How many of us go through this every January? By the middle of the month we’ve already slipped or given up on our New Year’s resolutions. For a lot of people, their biggest resolution is to eat healthier, lose weight or both. However, when our busy, hectic lives get in the way of that, we easily fall back into our old habits of take-out and less healthy food options.
The good news is — thanks to a little invention called the Internet — we have a huge selection of websites offering easy and healthy recipes that can help us stick to our resolutions to eat better in the New Year. There are many ways to make the dishes we love better for us. A healthy meal doesn’t have to take an hour to make and doesn’t have to taste like cardboard. Healthy food is tastier and leads to much less guilt.
My personal resolution is to try to reinvent my favorite dishes into healthier, easier recipes for me and my family. I believe by that small step, I will be healthier and maybe even a few pounds lighter. I want to teach my son that healthy food tastes good and that it’s easy to prepare a home-cooked meal. Along with that, I hope to teach him that it’s OK to indulge in rich foods from time to time, as long as it’s in moderation. If we deny ourselves those foods all the time, we will end up on a road to overeating and bad food habits.
So, my New Year’s gift to you is a healthy pasta recipe that will satisfy and not leave you feeling guilty afterwards. I hope you all have a wonderful start to the New Year.

‘Healthified’ Fettuccine Alfredo

Prep Time: 40 min
Start to Finish: 40 min
Makes: 8 servings
1 lb uncooked fettuccine
2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon Gold Medal® all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
Dash freshly ground black pepper
Dash ground red pepper (cayenne)
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
2 oz 1/3-less-fat cream cheese (Neufchâtel)
2/3 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1. Cook fettuccine as directed on package, omitting salt. Drain; return to saucepan. Cover to keep warm; set aside.
2. Meanwhile, in medium bowl, stir milk, flour, salt, black pepper and red pepper with wire whisk until smooth. In 2-quart saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly (do not burn). With wire whisk, stir milk mixture into butter mixture in saucepan. Cook and stir over medium heat 6 to 8 minutes or until mixture thickens and boils.
3. Stir in cream cheese until melted. Stir in Parmesan cheese until melted. Pour over fettuccine; toss to coat. Sprinkle with parsley.

Nutritional Information
1 Serving: Calories 330 (Calories from Fat 110); Total Fat 12g (Saturated Fat 6g, Trans Fat 0g); Cholesterol 70mg; Sodium 310mg; Total Carbohydrate 42g (Dietary Fiber 2g, Sugars 4g); Protein 13g Percent Daily Value*: Vitamin A 8%; Vitamin C 0%; Calcium 20%; Iron 15% Exchanges: 3 Starch; 0 Other Carbohydrate; 0 Vegetable; 1/2 Lean Meat; 1 1/2 Fat Carbohydrate Choices: 3

*Percent daily values are based on a 2,000-calorie diet.
Recipe courtesy

Richness of Life through Antioxidants

Richness of Life through Antioxidants

These days we are constantly bombarded by the media with the latest health crazes and buzz words. One that has prevailed over the last few years is “antioxidants.” We are supposed to eat more foods full of antioxidants to improve our quality of life. But what exactly are antioxidants and which foods offer these mysterious molecules?

According to an article in “Experimental Physiology”[1], an antioxidant is a molecule capable of inhibiting the oxidation of other molecules. They can, therefore, stop chain reactions between molecules that can damage cells. Because of this characteristic of antioxidants, it is widely believed that they can prevent diseases such as cancer.

Antioxidants can be found in many dietary supplements, but they are also naturally found in a variety of foods. According to[2], three major vitamins high in antioxidants are beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E. Some of the common foods that are high in these vitamins are broccoli, carrots, and dark greens such as mustard and turnip greens. However, there are other tasty options such as cantaloupe, mangoes, and strawberries. Other antioxidants can be found in zinc, such as that found in seafood, and selenium, which is found in foods such as poultry and whole grain breads. Science Daily[3] recommends artichokes and beans as the foods to put at the top of your antioxidant food list, along with Russet potatoes, pecans and even cinnamon. The United States Department of Agriculture[4] (USDA) has a thorough list of over 300 foods if you need more inspiration on foods you can add to your daily diet that are high in antioxidants.

One of my personal favorites of all of the foods rich in antioxidants are blueberries. One of my close friends makes an excellent blueberry pie which I will share with you. Instead of his traditional pie crust, I’ve included a Whole Wheat Pie Crust recipe which will boost the antioxidant power of this pie. So, sit back, dig in, enjoy…and don’t feel bad about going back for seconds!

Blueberry Pie

· 5 – 6 cups blueberries

· 1 1/2 cups sugar

· 1/2 cup flour

· 1/2 tsp cinnamon

· 2 tbsp butter

· 2 (9 inch) pie crusts

1. Line a pie pan with an unbaked pie crust of your choice. (See below for the recipe for a Whole Wheat Pie Crust.)

2. Next, mix the sugar, flour, and cinnamon in a bowl.

3. Then place about half of blueberries level in the pie shell.

4. Top berries with half of sugar mixture.

5. Place rest of the blueberries in the pie shell, then the rest of the sugar mixture.

6. Scatter dots of butter evenly over the top.

7. Place top pie crust on top and seal with the bottom.

8. Cut 8 slits or so in the top of the pie.

9. Sprinkle the top with a light layer of sugar.

10. Bake at 425°F for 15 minutes, then turn heat down to 350°F for another 60 minutes.

11. Let the pie cool for 15-20 minutes. You can serve it warm, but the filling will be runny. If you let it cool completely, the berry filling should “set”.

Whole Wheat Pie Crust[5]

Makes one (9-inch) pie shell

· 1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour

· 1/8 teaspoon salt

· 7 tablespoons very cold butter

Mix flour with salt in a medium bowl or food processor. Add cold butter and cut in using a pastry blender, or pulse in food processor. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons ice water, 1/2 tablespoon at a time, until dough forms into a ball. Gather up and pat into a disc. If possible, cover and refrigerate dough for 30 minutes before rolling out. When ready to use, roll dough out on a lightly floured surface into a 10-inch circle. Gently fold into quarters using a little flour as needed to prevent sticking. Place dough in pie plate and carefully unfold, fitting loosely and then pressing into place. Trim the edges and crimp for a decorative crust.

[2] Antioxidants and Your Immune System: Super Foods for Optimal Health


[3] American Chemical Society (2004, June 17). Largest USDA Study Of Food Antioxidants Reveals Best Sources. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 11, 2010, from


[4]Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) of Selected Foods, Release 2 (2010)



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