Monday, February 23, 2009

Caffe Baci Veggie Fusion

Last week we drove up to Chicago. It was just 6:30 a.m. and we were eager to get some breakfast. Across the Millenium Park, Caffe Baci was the only place that was open at that hour. We walked in and the welcoming smell of coffee wafted from the kitchen. They had all sorts of wonderful goodies (muffins, cookies, cinnamon rolls, pizzettes, gelato and a variety of pastries) in the display counters by the entrance. They also had all types of Italian and local fruit juices and bottled beverages to choose from.

We were too early for the Gourmet salads, Italian and Grilled Panini, Baci Wraps and Specialty Soups. So, we settled for made to order freshly cooked breakfast from the Colazione (Breakfast) Menu. We had Veggie Fusion and Belgian Waffles for about $5 each and Strawberry Smoothie for less than $4. The Veggie Fusion was an egg white omelet with sauted, low cal cheese, spinach, tomatoes and mushrooms and was served with whole wheat toast and fresh fruit salad. The Belgian Waffles was warm and crispy, served with maple syrup, whipped cream and fresh strawberries...it was delicious! I can't wait to try their soups and paninis next time!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Strawberry-Banana Smoothie

This smoothie is an easy to prepare breakfast---packed with vitamins and minerals, high fiber and refreshing too. Come to think of it, it's good any time of the day. Here's the recipe:

1/2 cup frozen whole strawberries
1/2 cup milk or strawberry yogurt
1 ripe banana
4 Tbsp sugar (or according to taste)
1 tsp milled flax seed

Place everything in a blender and puree till smooth. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Banana-Date Muffins

This morning, breakfast for teen son was Banana-Date muffins and Strawberry-banana smoothie. I had very ripe bananas waiting to be made into banana bread but decided at the last minute to bake the batter in silicone muffin cups. It turned out very moist when I added molasses to the brown sugar. Here is the recipe for Banana-Date Muffins:

2 large very ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 eggs
2/3 cup melted butter
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 cups cake flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp bead molasses
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup chopped dates

Preheat oven to 350 F. Puree banana, yogurt, eggs, vanilla and melted butter. Set aside.
Sift cake flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and kosher salt. Slowly add banana mixture and blend at medium speed till fully mixed. Fold in chopped dates.
Pour batter into silicone muffin cups and bake until muffins are done. A toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake should come out clean. Remove from the oven and cool completely. Yum!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tater Tot Casserole

I rarely make casseroles and when I do, my standbys are Three Cheese-Onion Casserole or my version of the Duggar Family Tater Tot Casserole.

I first heard of the Duggars a year ago when Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar were expecting their 17th child. The baby was born on August 2007. This family from Tontitown, Arkansas had another baby on December 18, 2008, for a total of 18 children!!! I checked their official website and found it had tips for financial success and house guidelines plus lots of practical recipes ranging from Layered Ice Cream Cake to Homemade Liquid Laundry Soap!

The Layered Ice Cream Cake recipe looked really tempting but I did not have everything I needed in my pantry so I settled for the Tater Tot Casserole. The original recipe is
here. I modified it by adding a bag of frozen mixed veggies and a topping of sliced cheese to make it more nutritious and pretty at the same time.

1 lb ground chuck, seasoned with salt and pepper
1 small bag frozen mixed vegetables (carrots and peas only)
2 lb bag tater tots
1 can cream of mushroom
1 can cream of onion
1 1/2 cup fresh milk
6 slices American pasteurized cheese

Brown the meat in a skillet and add frozen vegetables. Combine milk with cream of mushroom and cream of onion soup. Mix this into the meat and vegetables. Gently stir in frozen tater tots and transfer the mixture into an oven-safe dish. I used two small cake pans. Top casserole with sliced American cheese and bake at 350 C for about 1 hour or till the cheese begins to brown at the edges. The casserole is best eaten a day later after allowing the flavors to blend while in the fridge. To serve, microwave casserole till warmed through. This is great with a salad.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Kim's Ramen Noodle Cabbage Salad

About two weeks ago at church potluck, my friend Kim N. made her special Ramen Noodle Cabbage Salad. It's so pretty and delicious and is always at hit-- even with the kids. It is delightfully crunchy, spicy, sweet and tart at the same time. Kim has always been so generous with her recipes...my son thinks she also makes the best cheese dip and crock pot meatballs! She gave me the go signal to share her recipe here. Thank you Kim!

Here is the recipe:
2 bags of shredded cabbage
2 bunches of green onions, sliced, use the green part also
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup toasted almond slices
2 pkgs "oriental" ramen noodles, uncooked
Break up uncooked noodles and toss with remaining ingredients. Pour dressing over salad just before serving.
1 cup oil
2 Tbs vinegar
4 Tbs sugar
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 ramen noodle seasoning packet
Note from Kim: I usually substitute blue agave for the sugar. When doing so, you may need to add more than 4 Tbs to make it sweet enough. You may also try to substitute one of the regular bags of shredded cabbage with one bag of shredded red cabbage. I have also made it with shredded brocolli.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Super Bowl Buffalo Wings

Part 2 of my Super Bowl Menu is Buffalo Wings. The first time I had Buffalo Wings was in Buffalo, New York. I had just returned from a visit to the U.S. side of Niagara Falls. With only a few hours left before I was to cross the Rainbow Bridge on my way to Toronto, Canada, the lady at the hotel concierge recommended a visit to the home of the Original Buffalo Wings. So, I headed to The Anchor Bar where Teressa Bellissimo served the first Buffalo Wings in 1964. You can read the story here. I opted for the original version of the famous wings and got hooked. Of course I bought bottles of "Hotter" Wing Sauce to bring home to hubby and son. The sauce was a hit with my hot & spicy food loving family. Here is the Anchor Bar recipe for their wings.

Our local stores don't carry the
Original Anchor Bar Wing Sauce so I use Texas Pete or Louisiana Hot sauce when I make the hot wings at home.

Here's the basic recipe I use but feel free to add more hot sauce if you wish:

5 lbs chicken wings (drummette and winglet)
oil for frying
1/2 cup butter
1 cup Texas Pete or Louisiana Hot sauce
1 small pack of celery sticks
your favorite Blue Cheese Dressing

Deep-fry chicken wings at 375 F for 10-12 minutes or until the wings are crispy. If you prefer, you could also spread the wings in a single layer on a sheet pan and bake at 450 F for about 35 minutes.

In a microwave-safe dish, stir together hot sauce and butter. Microwave till the butter melts and mix well.

Place cooked wings and butter-hot sauce mixture in a large covered bowl. Shake gently to evenly coat the wings. Serve immediately with a side of celery sticks and Blue Cheese Dressing.