Thursday, June 28, 2012

Apple Enchiladas!

The last week or so has been very busy. With work, family commitments, and the onslaught of tropical storm Debby, my blogging has taken a back seat. The dust (and rain) has settled and I have the time to blog more frequently.

While at work a few days ago, a coworker from Texas told me about a recipe for apple enchiladas. I was intrigued by the recipe and combination of Texas/southern cuisine. I'm going to try them this coming Saturday. Here's the link to the recipe!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Top 5 Foods for Beautiful Skin

Discovery Health recently released information pertaining to the best foods for one to eat if they seek beautiful, healthy skin. Healthy skin basically boils down to vitamins, nutrients, and a healthy diet of protein, vegetables, fruits, and whole-grains.

5. Seafood

Active components: Omega-3 fatty acids, zinc
Benefits: Smooth, clear and glowing skin

Increasing omega-3 intake can reduce dryness and inflammation. Inflammation can cause skin to age.

 4. Citrus Fruits

Active component: Vitamin C
Benefits: Smooth and taut skin

Vitamin C is a prime skin-care ingredient in tons of beauty creams. This vitamin aids in the body's production of collagen, a protein that forms the basic structure of your skin. In case you get tired of eating all that fruit, hot peppers, bell peppers and sprouts also have good amounts of vitamin C.

3. Red and Green Vegetables

Active components: Vitamin A, beta-carotene
Benefits: Bright and smooth skin

Orange-red vegetables are full of beta-carotene. Our bodies convert beta-carotene into vitamin A, which acts as an antioxidant, preventing cell damage and premature aging. In the case of vitamin A, you also get anti-acne benefits.

Spinach and other green, leafy foods provide tons of vitamin A, too, which helps your skin produce more fresh new cells and get rid of the old ones

2. Nuts

Active component: Vitamin E
Benefits: Young and soft skin

Vitamin E combats skin-aging free radicals, especially protecting skin from sun damage due to UV-sunlight-generated free radicals. Vitamin E also tends to help skin hold in moisture, relieving dryness and making skin look younger.

Almonds, pistachios and walnuts also provide a nice supply of omega-3 fatty acids, another great skin nutrient.

1. Whole Grains

Active components: Rutin and B-vitamins
Benefits: Clear and moisturized skin

Wheat germ provides the B-vitamin biotin, which assists cells in processing fats. If you don't have enough biotin in your body, your skin can become dry and scaly.Replacing your refined-flour pancakes with buckwheat pancakes is a good acne-reducing move. Incidentally, this would also help reduce your risk of developing diabetes

Not into buckwheat? Avocadoes and mushrooms can provide similar benefits.

Now, while oranges, buckwheat, oysters, spinach and almonds are great foods for your skin, achieving great-looking skin through dietary changes doesn't have to be so specific. A healthy body means healthy skin. Just feed your body good, healthy foods, get some exercise and keep your stress low, and your skin will reap the benefits.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Simplistic Coffee Makers The Way of The Future?

Like many people, I'm not a morning person. The idea of waking up and brewing coffee is second to me hitting the snooze button. Even the traditional machines with automated brewing still required programming and prepping. I recently purchased one of the Keurig Special Edition B60 coffee makers which has made my mornings not only more enjoyable, but delicious as well.

I've seen similar machines at local supermarkets so I was familiar with how they worked. For those who have never used one, the machine brews coffee/tea/hot chocolate from little pouches that you buy from the store (located in the coffee/tea aisle). Everything is self contained. The only thing you have to do is fill the machine with water. Whenever you want a drink, you place a pouch in the machine and press the button. The speed of service is incredible!

The only downside I'm considering with the machine is the cost of the drink pouches versus traditional coffee grounds. Regardless of cost, a few extra dollars is well worth those few extra minutes of sleep ;)

Smokey Bones National Burger Eating Contest!

I stopped by my local Smokey Bones for lunch today and found out the restaurant chain is holding its annual national burger eating competition later this month! I don't have the stomach for eating large amounts of beef in one sitting like I used to, but here's the information from Smokey Bones Facebook page if you're interested.

"Calling all Contenders, registration is now open for the Burger Battle, our National Burger Eating Contest. Devour your way through the rounds to take home the Burger Battle Title.

The fastest national time wins $2,500 cash. The fastest time in each restaurant wins a $200 Smokey Bones Gift Card.

$10 entry fee. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to Homes for our Troops."

Since every Smokey Bones has a different contest date, be sure to contact your local restaurant for information!

Handmade Caramel Dragon Lollipop!

We're fortunate to have readily available sweets in America, but nothing compares to the artistic ability and beauty of this Chinese street vendor making a caramel lollipop for a child! Check out this video! Wouldn't you love to have one?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

"Let's Pizza" Vending Machines Rolling Out in US Fall 2012

Test marketed throughout Europe for the last few years, the "Let's Pizza" vending machine will be making its American debut this coming Fall. After customers make their selection, they will pay approximately $6.00 for a 10.5'' pie that will be ready in 3 minutes.

There's something to be said about the quality of a pizza made from a chain of restaurants, let alone one that comes from a vending machine. Personally, I prefer my pizzas made by hand.

I believe these will be popular in certain regions of the US, perhaps near universities or businesses that are open late. What do you think?

Top 5 Worst Fast Food Meals For Children

This past week, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) released a report detailing the worst fast food meals for children. What's even more shocking is some fast food restaurants are marketing their products as "Healthy" choices. While I do not completely agree with fast food restaurants bending the truth, I certainty cannot agree with some parents blaming corporations for their own negligence. Today, there are 16.9 million obese children in the United States. Knowing this, legitimate parental awareness, involvement, and action is necessary if childhood obesity rates are to decline.

1. Chick-fil-A Kids Grilled Nuggets Kids Meal

Nutrition facts: 570 calories, 19 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 75 milligrams of cholesterol, 1,150 milligrams of sodium, 23 grams of sugars

Nutrition shocker: Contains the same amount of cholesterol as a Big Mac

2. McDonald's Cheeseburger Happy Meal

Nutrition facts: 520 calories, 20 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 50 milligrams of cholesterol, 920 milligrams of sodium, 22 grams of sugars

Nutrition shocker: Contains more sodium than 13 orders of McDonald’s kids fries.

3. Sonic Kids' Jr. Burger Meal

Nutrition facts:
550 calories, 17 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 35 milligrams of cholesterol, 715 milligrams of sodium, 42 grams of sugars

Nutrition shocker: Contains more sugar than two Twinkies.

4. Burger King Hamburger Kids Meal

Nutrition facts: 380 calories, 10 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 40 milligrams of cholesterol, 615 milligrams of sodium, 24 grams of sugars

Nutrition shocker: Contains almost as much cholesterol as six slices of pork bacon.

5. Denny's Build Your Own Jr. Grand Slam

Nutrition facts: 332 calories, 11 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 40 milligrams of cholesterol, 570 milligrams of sodium, 30 grams of sugars

Nutrition shocker: Contains almost 100 more milligrams of sodium than the government recommends children consume at breakfast.

My Recent Summer Vacation

I recently took a trip with my family from Florida to Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina to visit my stepfather's parents. During this time, I ate at several different restaurants and enjoyed all kinds of foods and treats: traditional and new alike. :)

Driving through Georgia, I stopped at a local favorite among people from my hometown, "Cheddar's." Cheddar's is a casual restaurant that offers some wonderful food at low prices. Even though they're sparsely located throughout the south-east U.S., the quality of the food makes up for the scarcity.

I recommend starting your meal with the onion rings, which are stacked high and served with two different dipping sauces: ranch and a spicy, southwestern flavored sauced. The batter is very light, making these tasty, but not too filling.

Highlands Smokehouse
595 Franklin Rd.
Highlands, NC.

I made it a personal goal of mine to seek out the best North Carolina BBQ I could find while visiting the state. Having stopped at several locally recommended places that offered less-than exceptional food, I was starting to believe that the "First in Flight" state was the last in smokey cuisine. Thankfully, everything changed when I visited "Highlands Smokehouse."

Nestled on the side of a mountain, 4,000 feet about sea level, this small establishment offered big flavor. While the entrees were incredible (I had the beef brisket with au jus), the BBQ Pulled Pork Nachos appetizer was a delectable delight, combining salty nachos, baked beans, BBQ sauce, and tender pulled pork for a hearty start to a wonderful meal. If you're ever in the area, stop by and check it out!

Kilwin's Chocolate & Ice Cream
370 Main Street
Highlands, NC.

Kilwin's is a wonderful establishment that offers exceptional quality chocolate and ice cream guaranteed to satisfy any sweet tooth. I had never set foot in a Kilwin's until I visited Highlands North Carolina. It was raining and dreary the day I visited, but the quality of the food and service made up for the nasty weather. As to be expected with all elegant chocolate stores, you can spend a lot of money if you buy by the pound. I bought 4 different pieces for around $5.00. Unlike other chocolate stores like Godiva or Lindt, Kilwin's chocolate had a broader range on my palate. I was able to taste the contrasts between the milk and dark chocolates more distinctly than the aforementioned companies.

Unique to Kilwin's are its milkshakes, malts, and ice creams. The chocolate milkshake with added malt is made from fresh whole milk and cream with chocolate made in the store. Thankfully, there are many Kilwin's establishments throughout the United States. Check out their website for the closest one near you!

Noisy Oyster
24 North Market Street
Charleston, SC.

When you visit Charleston, it's not too hard to see the importance of seafood in the community. From the bustling main street filled with local patrons riding their bicycles to the harbor, to the local restaurants preparing fresh seafood, the city thrives on tourism and the sea. Even though I only spent one day there, the local's dedication for preparing delicious seafood was obvious.

Being a Florida native, I know what quality seafood tastes and smells like. I'm not picky by what I eat, but I do have a standard with seafood that's a bit higher than other food, especially when I'm going to pay market price. I came across this place called "Noisy Oyster." I noticed that the outside windows where removed, allowing people sitting in booths to see main street directly outside. I took a chance with the place and sat down to order.

Next to seafood, chicken is one of my favorite meats. While considered a template to build upon, chicken's taste is an excellent compliment to other flavors. Knowing this, I was intrigued to see several combinations of seafood and chicken. However, the Baked Chicken Neptune really caught my eye. The dish is prepared by stuffing a chicken breast with blue crab stuffing and topping it with sauteed mushrooms and a rich cream sauce.

Unlike some places that will skimp patrons on the more expensive ingredients, the dish was literally stuffed with blue crab meat. The flavor was incredible. Very rich and filling.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Truffles: The Most Expensive Food in the World

For those of you who have never cooked with truffles, they're a truly unique addition to your culinary dishes. While on the expensive side (approx. $20.00 US per ounce), truffles compliment other flavors, while at the same time adding dimension to one's dish. I would categorize the smell as very earthy, rich, bold, and slightly pungent.

This recent documentary showcases the harvesting of French truffles and the illegal trade of the precise fungi on the streets of China, as well the personal loss truffle farmers and restaurant owners have faced due to robbers stealing their product. I was shocked to learn that people will pay in upwards of $40,000 euros for 2kg of truffles on the black market!

Burger King Bets on Bacon Summertime Sundae!

For a limited time during summer, Burger King is modifying its menu to include a sundae that's topped with hot fudge, caramel, bacon crumbles, and a piece of bacon. In addition to the salty-sweet dessert, the restaurant chain is adding several new items to its already impressive menu, as well as modifying some traditional choices for the summer crowd.

In case you're wondering, the BK Bacon Sundae has 510 calories, 18 grams of fat, and 61 grams of sugar. Nothing beats a summertime dessert clocking in at more than a quarter of one's suggested daily calorie intake.

Burger King's summer menu also includes:

- Memphis Pulled Pork BBQ Sandwich

- Carolina BBQ Whopper or Chicken Sandwich

- Texas BBQ Whopper or Chicken Sandwich

- Sweet Potato Fries

- Frozen Lemonade

Free Denny's for Life?

I recently read an article from "" that discussed how patrons can win a lifetime supply of "Grand Slam" meals from Denny's if they visit at least one Denny's restaurant in all 50 United States. The contest will last one year. To enter, patrons simply have to download the Denny's app to their smartphone and check-in to at least one Denny's in each of the 50 U.S. states.

The first person to successfully complete the challenge will win the "Grand" prize. Additionally, if a patron completes the challenge after the grand prize has been claimed, he/she will still win a one-year supply of "Grand Slam" meals. I applaud Denny's for this marketing strategy and wonder who will step up to the plate?

5 Tasty Summer Recipes

I've lived in Florida my whole life and know how hot, humid, and downright fun summer can be for myself and others. I spend some of my time inside, preparing wonderful Summer-themed dishes for my family and decided to post some of my favorite recipes for you to try.

1. Hawaiian Chicken Kabobs

3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons sherry
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
8 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - cut into 2 inch pieces
1 (20 ounce) can pineapple chunks, drained

In a shallow glass dish, mix the soy sauce, brown sugar, sherry, sesame oil, ginger, and garlic powder. Stir the chicken pieces and pineapple into the marinade until well coated. Cover, and marinate in the refrigerator at least 2 hours.

Preheat grill to medium-high heat.

Lightly oil the grill grate. Thread chicken and pineapple alternately onto skewers. Grill 15 to 20 minutes, turning occasionally, or until chicken juices run clear.

yields 8 servings

2. Baked Lobster Macaroni & Cheese with Truffle Oil

1 box of medium pasta shells, cooked
1.5 lbs cooked lobster meat (tails and claws)
3 cups of milk
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 stick of butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
12 oz. shredded gruyere
9 oz. shredded extra sharp white cheddar
2 oz. shredded extra sharp yellow cheddar
2 oz. shredded fontina
White truffle oil
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1 1/4″ slice of pancetta, diced
1 whole nutmeg
Fresh black pepper
Kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook pasta al dente according to package directions, drain and drizzle with truffle oil to prevent sticking.

In a large saute’ pan, cook the pancetta until brown. Set aside and reserve the fat. Cut the lobster meat into bite-size pieces and squeeze excess water from it.

In a medium saucepan, heat the milk and heavy cream, not allowing it to boil. In a large heavy pot, melt butter along with 2 tablespoons of the truffle oil. Whisk in the flour and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly for 2 minutes. (Chef’s note: “In the past, I’ve made the roux with true truffle butter, but time constraints forced us to improvise with the butter/oil mixture”). Still whisking, add the hot milk and cream and cook for another minute or two until it’s smooth and thickened. Fold in the gruyere and white cheddar, mixing well, until you have a smooth, creamy sauce.

Grate in about 3/4 of the nutmeg and about a teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper, mixing well. Add the pasta, stirring well, then fold in the lobster. Lightly coat the inside of a 9 X 13 casserole dish with oil and pour in the mixture. Sprinkle the top with the shredded yellow cheddar and fontina.

In a small bowl mix the panko with the cooked pancetta and its cooking fat. Top the casserole with the bread crumb mixture and bake uncovered for 25 minutes or until brown and bubbly.

3. Scott Hibb's Amazing Whiskey Grilled Baby Back Ribs

2 (2 pound) slabs baby back pork ribs

Coarsely ground black pepper

1 tablespoon ground red chile pepper

2 1/4 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 cup minced onion

1 1/2 cups water

1/2 cup tomato paste

1/2 cup white vinegar

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 1/2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

Teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 1/4 teaspoons liquid smoke flavoring
2 teaspoons whiskey
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1/ 4 teaspoon paprika
1/ 2 teaspoon onion powder
1 tablespoon dark molasses
1/ 2 tablespoon ground red chile pepper

Preheat oven to 300 degree F (150 degrees C)

Cut each full rack of ribs in half, so that you have 4 half racks. Sprinkle salt and pepper (more pepper than salt), and 1 tablespoon chile pepper over meat. Wrap each half rack in aluminum foil. Bake for 2 1/2 hours.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook and stir the onions in oil for 5 minutes. Stir in water, tomato paste, vinegar, brown sugar, honey, and Worcestershire sauce. Season with 2 teaspoons salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, liquid smoke, whiskey, garlic powder, paprika, onion powder, dark molasses, and 1/2 tablespoon ground chile pepper. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat. Simmer for 1 1/4 hours, uncovered, or until sauce thickens. Remove from heat, and set sauce aside.

Preheat an outdoor grill for high heat.

Remove the ribs from the oven, and let stand 10 minutes. Remove the racks from the foil, and place on the grill. Grill the ribs for 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Brush sauce on the ribs while they're grilling, just before you serve them (adding it too early will burn it).

yields 4 servings

4. Summertime Delight Lemon Raspberry Cheesecake

Pecan Crust:

1 cup(s) (about 25 wafers) crushed vanilla wafers
1 tablespoon(s) granulated sugar
1/2 cup(s) toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoon(s) melted unsalted butter


3 ounce(s) white chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup(s) whipping cream
3/4 cup(s) granulated sugar
3 strip(s) lemon peel, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 1/2 pound(s) cream cheese, softened
1 cup(s) sour cream
2 tablespoon(s) fresh lemon juice
4 eggs
1 cup(s) medium toasted pecans, chopped
Fresh raspberries

White Chocolate Frosting:

2 tablespoon(s) whipping cream
2 ounce(s) white chocolate, chopped
4 ounce(s) cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon(s) lemon zest

Raspberry-Grand Marnier Sauce:

16 ounce(s) fresh or frozen raspberries
1/3 cup(s) granulated sugar, add more to taste
2 tablespoon(s) orange liqueur (such as Grand Marnier)

In a food processor, finely chop vanilla wafers. Add sugar and pecans; chop fine. With the machine running, pour in butter. Press the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Refrigerate until firm.

Place white chocolate in small bowl. Gently warm cream and pour over the chocolate. Let stand, stirring often, until chocolate is melted. Cool slightly.

Place sugar and lemon peel in a food processor work bowl fitted with a metal blade. Process until the lemon peel is very fine, about one minute.

Add softened cream cheese and process until smooth, about 30 seconds, scraping the sides of the bowl several times. Mix in white chocolate, cream, sour cream, and lemon juice. Add eggs, one at a time, and process until smooth, another 30 seconds.

Pour half of the mixture over the chilled crust, and drizzle with 1/4 cup of the Raspberry Sauce. Top with remaining batter.

Place the cheesecake in a baking pan about 2 1/2 to 3 inches deep and wide enough so there is at least an inch of room around the cheesecake. Pour boiling water into the baking pan to about half way up the sides of the spring form pan.

Bake in the center of a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes. Turn oven off and let the cheesecake remain in oven, with door closed, for another 60 minutes. Remove from water bath and cool in the pan, away from drafts. When cool, remove from pan and refrigerate.

To finish dessert, cut a piece of parchment or wax paper in a six-inch round, using a saucer as a guide, and place in the center of the cheesecake. Frost the sides and top, around the paper, with White Chocolate and Cream Cheese Frosting. Press chopped pecans into the frosting. Remove paper and chill until frosting is firm, about one hour. Spoon Raspberry Grand-Marnier Sauce into the center and garnish with fresh raspberries.

To make the frosting: Place whipping cream in a small bowl and gently heat. Add white chocolate to cream and stir until melted. Cool to room temperature. With electric mixer beat cream cheese and lemon zest together. Add white chocolate and cream; whip until smooth. If frosting is too soft, refrigerate until it is thick and creamy.

To make the sauce: In a saucepan, heat berries until just warm, and juice is released. If using fresh berries, add 1/4 cup water. Force the mixture through a sieve or juicer. Return juice to saucepan; discard solids. Add sugar to taste. If using fresh berries 1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar should be adequate. If using pre-sweetened berries, little or no additional sugar may be needed. Cook over medium high heat until liquid is reduced by half. Remove from heat, add orange liqueur and cool.

5. Ginger Glazed Mahi Mahi

3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger root
1 clove garlic, crushed or to taste
2 teaspoons olive oil
4 (6 ounce) mahi mahi fillets
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

In a shallow glass dish, stir together the honey, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, ginger, garlic and olive oil. Season fish fillets with salt and pepper, and place them into the dish. If the fillets have skin on them, place them skin side down. Cover, and refrigerate for 20 minutes to marinate.

Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Remove fish from the dish, and reserve marinade. Fry fish for 4 to 6 minutes on each side, turning only once, until fish flakes easily with a fork. Remove fillets to a serving platter and keep warm.

Pour reserved marinade into the skillet, and heat over medium heat until the mixture reduces to a glaze consistently. Spoon glaze over fish, and serve immediately.

yields 4 servings