Sunday, February 27, 2011

Pear and Prosciutto Quesadillas

An A-List Appetizer:
Ever since I can remember award season has been my favorite time of year. The glitz, the gowns, the glory... It's being able to bring that intangible Hollywood into your own home (via TV of course). On occasion I get a couple friends together to watch the Oscars, but I somehow always get caught up in the kitchen cooking to really sit down and enjoy myself along with my guests. To avoid missing the coveted Best Picture or Best Actress winners, I decided to do something a little more manageable but just as tasty this year. These quesadillas are packed with so much flavor, they could win an award for best appetizer! They are super easy to throw together and although they might be a little messy, most of my guests won't be worried about ruining thousand-dollar gowns. 

What you'll need:
  • 1 medium ripe pear, slivered
  • 1 medium yellow onion, sliced into rings
  • 2 whole wheat flour tortillas
  • 1/2 cup reduced fat mozzarella cheese (or mild white cheese), grated
  • 2 tablespoons of reduced fat cream cheese
  • 1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil
  • 4 slices of prosciutto
  • 3 tablespoons of fig jam
  • Salt and pepper
  • Cooking Spray

Recipe: Makes 2 quesadillas at 2-3 slices per person
  1. Heat a small skillet over medium-low heat with olive oil in pan
  2. Add onion slices and balsamic vinegar, caramelize for 2-3 min, set aside
  3. Heat a larger skilled over medium heat oiled with cooking spray
  4. Spread 1 tablespoon of cream cheese onto each tortilla and place in one in the bottom of pan
  5. Add 1/4 cup of mozzarella, several pear slices, 2 slices prosciutto, and caramelized onions to one half of the tortilla
  6. Allow tortilla to crisp and cheese to melt, about 1-2 minutes, before folding in half and flipping
  7. Allow to cook just 30 seconds on other side before removing from heat, repeat step 5 and 6 for second quesadilla 
  8. Allow to cool a few minutes before slicing into fourths and serving
  9. Place jam into a small serving dish and allow guests to spread some overtop or dip
  10. Accept the award for yummiest and easiest appetizer!

Tenacious Tips:
  • Serve alongside bacon-wrapped cream cheese dates, a recipe I made alongside my bff Ashley of Lovely Little Vices, which can turn your one appetizer into a tapas-type meal! 
  • I prefer the fig jam as a dipping sauce, but I picked up an awesome balsamic onion jam at World Market not long ago and it is pretty great with it also. Any fruit jam, preserves, or jelly which isn't too sweet would work. You don't want to overpower all the awesome flavors already in the quesadilla!
  • For extra flavor, instead of using separate skillets, I sometimes will caramelize the onions in the large pan and then fry the quesadillas in that oniony-balsamic leftover oil. 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Book Review: Farm to Table

Tenacious Rating: 
Last September my mom and stepdad went on a wine tour of the Pacific Northwest, namely Oregon and the Willamette Valley. In between touring vineyards and sipping some delectable pinots, my parents stumbled upon a sort of gift shop/market/cafe, that sold local jams, sauces, and other yummy tid-bits made by local chefs. The little place was called "Farm to Fork" and they boasted a totally local menu, gathering all that they needed within 200 miles of Dundee, OR, where they are located. She sent home to me some unbelievable goodies including: marionberry jam, habanero jelly, pinot noir vinaigrette and a pinot noir chocolate sauce! In addition, she picked up this awesome little cookbook for me, which couldn't have been more perfect as I had been doing extensive research in my graduate program on local food. 

A grocery bag my mom also picked up for me - it literally holds everything!

The Farm to Table Cookbook: The Art of Eating Locally by Ivy Manning, is the perfect new users guide to becoming a "locavore/locatarian" or  incorporating local food into your diet. Instead of being organized according to type of food or meal, Farm to Table is organized by season, the way any local food cookbook should be organized. If you want to try to eat locally, you have to be willing to eat with the seasons. It's definitely a transformation for most people, who have always had every ingredient at their disposal thanks to the advent of the modern grocery store and shipping all over the world. But the truth is, eating ingredients in season is eating food that is absolutely at its peak of yumminess and nutritional value. Not to mention, eating locally supports your local economy, reduces your carbon footprint, and is food as fresh as fresh gets! 

The book starts with a tribute to the local/organic movement that started as something very small and has since grown large enough that supermarkets around the globe now offer both options on their shelves. Manning also briefly explains the benefits of eating local and organic as well as a guide to navigate the farmers market -- my favorite tip: "take a stroll through the stalls before buying". Larger farmers markets can be overwhelming and many growers offer the same varieties, so checking things out first will help you to gain your bearings and also pick from whom you'd like to buy. 

This not-so-typical cookbook definitely continues with extraordinarily creative recipes, really playing up each section with the season's best. The seasonal sections even have mini tributes to certain ingredients that have a wide range of varieties, like spring greens, heirloom tomatoes, and winter squash. And some readers, such as myself, are not native to Dundee, Manning pays homage to the local growers that provide not only food for her plates but creativity to our palates. It certainly helps to form a new perception in readers minds about the average farmer and a new appreciation for the work they do. 

Check out Farm to Fork on the web at the Inn at Red Hills website. Also be sure to take a look at Ivy Manning's page for more information as well!

Recipes to try: 
  • Summer: Spice-Poached Peaches with Lavender Syrup and Mascarpone Whip
  • Fall: Butternut Squash and Bacon Stuffed Crepes
  • Winter: Sage-Braised Pork Shoulder with Herb Spaetzle
The Tenacious Winner: Spring: Brown Sugar - Sour Cream Ice Cream

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

One-Eyed Jacks

Bubba's One-Eyed Jacks:
When I was little, my older half-brother, Geoff (whom I affectionately called "Bubba") would make these amazing little treats for us for breakfast from time to time. I decided to update this childhood favorite by adding some wild berry sauce to give it an extra punch. This could be one of the simplest breakfasts in terms of ingredients, prep, and cooking. But, its also a more creative and fun way to eat that AM meal or even share with friends by serving it at brunch. 

What you'll need:
  • 2 pieces of your favorite organic whole grain bread
  • 2 extra large organic eggs
  • 2 tablespoons of wild berry preserves 
  • 1 tablespoon of water
  • 1 teaspoon of butter, plus extra for spreading
  • Salt and pepper
  • Powdered sugar (if desired)

Recipe: Makes 2 jacks
  1. Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat
  2. Remove about 1 1/4 in x 1 1/4 in circle of bread in dead center of slices
  3. Spread butter evenly over each side of the slices
  4. Place slices in pan and let toast on one side
  5. Flip slices and crack egg in center of each slice
  6. Immediately season and let egg cook to desired doneness, flipping once - I do mine over-medium
  7. Remove jacks from heat and cover with foil
  8. In a small sauce pan reduce preserves, butter, and water over medium-high heat
  9. Plate jacks and drizzle with sauce
  10. Start your day off right and enjoy!

Tenacious Tips:
  • I am completely obsessed with Mediterranean Organic's Wild Berry Preserves because of its rich and complex flavor. I put it on everything -- PB&J's, muffins, bagels, baked brie, oatmeal... you name it. Other good alternatives would be any interesting combination jams like peach-raspberry or plum-vanilla. Simple blackberry preserves would work great also, just make sure you strain out those seeds!
  • If you are a vegan or resistant to eating egg yolks, simply pour the desired amount of whites/substitute into the center of the toast and cook as normal. 
  • For an alternative way of serving, nix the sauce and instead top with a little creme fraiche and chopped chives. Pair with brown sugar and fig turkey bacon (recipe coming soon!) for a sweet accompaniment.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Apple of my Pie

Mini Personal Apple Pies:
Sometimes making a whole apple pie is just too laborious and risky for those on tight diets (i.e. leftovers!). These personal apple pies give just the right amount of sweet satisfaction following a savory meal. As of yet I do not know of any organic or all natural brands that offer frozen puff pastry, which I use in this recipe. So if approximately 36 hours hours of preparation is not for you (i.e. making your own from scratch), this would be an ok time to "cheat" a little. The frozen puff pastry that you can pick up in most supermarkets is super easy to work with and cuts a lot of cooking time out of the equation. This is a simple and fun recipe that will no doubt make you the apple of everyone's eye. 

What you'll need:
  • 1 pkg of frozen puff pastry (comes with two sheets)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon 
  • 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
  • Pinch of all spice
  • 1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice
  • 2 medium apples (I use organic Golden Delicious)
  • 1 teaspoon of honey
  • 1 tablespoon of brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of melted butter
  • 1 pint of vanilla bean frozen yogurt
  • Caramel sauce
  • 4 oven safe ramekins 

Recipe: Makes 4 small pies
  1. Pull puff pastry out of freezer and let thaw about 30 min depending on package instructions
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  3. Wash and chop apples into 1 inch chunks
  4. In a mixing bowl, combine apples with cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin spice, sugar, lemon juice and honey (reserve a pinch of brown sugar for later) and set aside for 5-10 min in refrigerator 
  5. Once the apples have marinated and oven is heated, remove apples from refrigerator and divide evenly amongst ramekins.
  6. Place one ramekin on top of pastry dough and cut a circle around the size of the bowl
  7. Perforate the dough with a fork and place inside each ramekin
  8. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with remaining brown sugar
  9. Place in oven for about 20 min or until pastry has browned
  10. Serve with frozen yogurt and caramel sauce if desired!

Tenacious Tips:
  • My local alternative grocery store offers several varieties of organic and all natural caramel sauces, but if you don't have that available you can make your own! Ina Garten's recipe, I have found to be the best! Just substitute organic ingredients!
  • I use organic Golden Delicious apples for this recipe. They have a mild sweet honey flavor that melts in your mouth but other good types are Granny Smith and Pink Lady varieties that carry a bit more of a punch. 
  • For the honey, try to find a local brand in your supermarket. Local honey can help combat airborne allergies! I use tupelo honey that is made just 10 miles down the road from me.
  • I am partial to Stoneyfield's organic frozen yogurt, but a great non-dairy alternative is SoDelicious. They make both soy and coconut varieties that taste just like the real thing!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Shrimp Cabbage Tacos

Tenacious Transformation: Shrimp Tacos
Mexican has to be one of my guiltiest pleasures. The cheese, the spices, the carbs... enough said. But, its also a type of food that can elevate those calories and fat to astronomical levels very quickly. You can start with a simple healthy taco but destroy it in seconds by pounding on the cheese, sour cream, etc... the toppings are endless! Enter Tenacious Taste to rescue the day with a better for you taco that still packs tons of flavor and leaves you full and satisfied!

What you'll need: 
  • 1 lb of medium size shrimp, peeled, de-veined, and tails removed
  • 1 small can of corn (or fresh if you prefer)
  • Fresh cilantro, chopped
  • About 1/4 cup of spring onions chopped
  • 1 head of green or red cabbage or butter lettuce
  • About 1/3 cup of low fat sour cream
  • 1-2 fresh limes
  • 2 cups of cooked quinoa 
  • 1/2 cup of fresh sliced cherry tomatos
  • 1/4 cup of plain tomato sauce or strained tomatos
  • Shredded colby-jack cheese or Mexican cheese blend, if desired
  • 1 package of organic Mexican spice blend (taco or fajita seasoning) OR use the following blend of spices in varying degrees depending on taste (chili powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, cumin, crushed red pepper, paprika, onion powder, and dried oregano)
  • Cooking spray

Recipe: Serves 4 at 1-2 tacos per person
  1. Heat skillet or grill pan to medium-high heat and grease with cooking spray
  2. Season shrimp liberally with taco seasoning and place in grill pan or skillet, 1-2 minutes on each side
  3. Pour cooked rice into a small sauce pan on medium-low heat and add tomato sauce.
  4. Add about a 1/2 tablespoon of the seasoning to the rice and reduce until rice is thick and somewhat sticky
  5. Add corn to a saute pan over medium-high heat with cooking spray, season with salt and pepper, and saute until corn begins to char just a little bit
  6. Remove shrimp from heat and immediately squeeze lime over them
  7. To prepare taco:
    1. Take piece of cabbage and spread on a dab of low fat sour cream
    2. Add a spoonful or so of the stewed spiced rice/quinoa 
    3. Add two to three shrimp, depending on length of cabbage piece
    4. Sprinkle down corn, tomatoes, onions and cheese (if desired)
    5. Top off with a squeeze of lime and chopped cilantro
  8. Enjoy!

Tenacious Tips: 
  • If you're on the coast try and buy fresh local shrimp! Stay far far FAR away from anything imported from any of the Asian countries. Their regulations are (for a kind way of putting it) very lax and the FDA only inspects a mere 1% of the nearly 1 billion pounds of shrimp imported into the U.S. [see orionmagazine for more details]. If you have to buy frozen as a last resort then that's ok, just make sure they are from the U.S. Be on the look out for an upcoming article about shrimp safety and environmental impact!
  • To cut time out, I use a microwavable organic quinoa/rice mix from Seeds of Change, found at most markets that offer organic products. They have several varieties like basmati, plain white, and other whole grain blends. Any will work, just stick to one with mild flavorings.
  • I used cabbage in the recipe because that's all that was available at the market that day, however a nice butter lettuce would work also. The cabbage does give it nice flavor and probably holds up the best as far as structure is concerned.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Book Review: Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey

Tenacious Rating: 
Valentine's day, more so than any other holiday in my opinion, is the perfect day to let your diet take a day off. It's not like Thanksgiving or Christmas where there will be tons of leftovers and thus expanding waistlines for days. Valentine's is just one day out of the year where you can say "I am going to have some chocolate and I'm not going to feel bad about it!" I picked up this decadent book in a little shop in Thomasville, GA in fall 2008 and couldn't help but salivate as I turned the pages. Even though my first sentence, according to my dad, was "Chocolate always makes me so happy!", the little health nut inside of me is always begging me to have a little mercy. So with this book, I always try to find my own healthy little shortcuts so both the devil and angel on my shoulder are satisfied.

One thing is for sure, author Jill O'Connor sure knows how to bring out the kid in all of us. She sets up her book by taking you back to the days of Willy Wonka and Candyland. Specifying that sometimes food should be toe curling, lip licking, over-the-top, want to bathe in it is so good. She dives into all the wonderful stories many of us knew growing up, Little Women, Winnie-the-Pooh, Charlotte's Web, and The Secret Garden, highlighting the wonderful meals dreamt up by these authors that made Jill and probably most of us want to jump right into the stories and eat with the characters. We often don't think about how purely luxurious food can be even if we don't live in a world of luxury. Food for many of us has become purely a part of the day, what we can afford, what we have to eat. But Jill makes is clear that it doesn't have to be that way, especially in the dessert department. We can make our own luxury right in our kitchens and it doesn't have to break the bank and it doesn't have to break our belts either.

Jill is clearly a creative creature when it comes to sweets but she doesn't leave you out to dry when it comes to the technical stuff. She goes into great detail about the different ingredients she uses like the best chocolates to buy and the different percentages of cacao as well as extracts, flour, spirits, dairy, and sugars to use. She also makes sure you are covered in the appliance department both with basics and some interesting special buys like blowtorches and candy thermometers.

Though her book doesn't boast health, most of her recipes can be adapted to any lifestyle by substituting in organic, vegan, or light ingredients. However, you want to be careful and know the personalities of the ingredients you substitute so as not to deter from the original flavor or texture of her recipes. You just got to know what you're working with.

Now for the good stuff! Though I have been on quite a chocolate kick, Jill covers all sweet teeth with other sinful delights. Everything from puddings to cookies, cakes, and brownies; from fruity to chocolate and vanilla. She makes sure every taste is satisfied. There is something quite elegant and sophisticated about her recipes as well, always adding in gourmet touches that bring her food to a whole new level. She also takes commonplace desserts and elevates them with unique twists. For example, her "All-Grown-Up Smores", a flourless chocolate mouse-like cake with a graham cracker curst, topped with a marshmallow fluff meringue, definitely makes me feel like sitting by a campfire but without the camping part! YUM!

Regardless of how strong your sweet tooth is, this desserts-only cookbook truly brings out the kid in all of us. If you aren't necessarily a lover of sugar or you have certain health concerns regarding sugar intake, these recipes are still ones to share with loved ones and little tykes. Be sure to check out Jill's website and other books, including a special version of Sticky, Chewy... just for kids!

Recipes to try: 
  • Chocolate Mascarpone Cheesecake Pots with Shortbread Spoons
  • Everything-but-the-Kitchen-Sink Cookies
  • White Trash Panini
  • Sticky Pear and Walnut Upside-Down Gingerbread

The Tenacious WinnerDark Chocolate Soup with Cinnamon-Toasted Pound-Cake Croutons

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Send a Tenacious Valentine ♥

Valentine's Chocolate Bark:
I almost always put together a big fancy dinner for my boyfriend on Valentine's Day, but this year I decided to take a break. Instead, we're going to let someone else do the cooking for a change and enjoy a romantic dinner in the next city over, Thomasville, on a sort of "staycation". Although I'm taking a load off this year, I still wanted to do a little something for Matt and my close friends. Sending Valentines seems to be a dying art if you aren't in pig tails and in the 4th grade. I say let's bring back this childhood tradition and show some love to our friends and loved ones. Making chocolate bark is incredibly simple and has endless possibilities in the creativity department. Its also really easy to package and makes you look like a "pro" chocolatier! I decided to try two different combinations, including two different flavors of chocolate. Whether you make one or both, you'll be channeling Jacques Torres "Mr. Chocolate" and surprising all your friends with these tasty treats!

Honeyed White Chocolate - Apricot - Golden Raisin - Pistachio

What you'll need:

  • 5 bars of organic white chocolate
  • 1/3 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1/3 cup dried golden raisins
  • 1/3 cup chopped salted pistachios
  • 1 tablespoon of honey

Dark Chocolate Caramel - Cherry - Raspberry

What you'll need:
  • 2 bars of 50% cacao dark chocolate, 1 bar of 70% cacao dark chocolate, and 2 bars of 50% cacao raspberry dark chocolate
  • 1/2 cup of chopped caramel candies or about 1/4 cup of caramel sauce
  • 1/3 cup chopped dried raspberries
  • 1/3 cup chopped dried cherries 

Recipe: makes 15-20 pieces of bark per flavor
  1. Chop chocolate and add-ons into small pieces to prepare
  2. Heat double boiler (or glass bowl inset in a sauce pan with boiling water) over medium-high heat.
  3. Set aside a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper
  4. Add chopped chocolate to bowl and whisk until melted and smooth
  5. Pour chocolate into cookie sheet and spread to about an eighth of an inch thick
  6. Immediately drizzle in honey/caramel sauce into chocolate in small ribbons and use a utensil to draw lines perpendicular through the chocolate to create ripples
  7. Drop in dried fruit and/or nuts and place into the refrigerator for 1-2 hours until set
  8. Break chocolate using a knife and hands into small pieces for serving
  9. Get lots of kisses for your hard work!

Tenacious Tips:
  • There are so many different combinations you can try for this simple easy dessert! Its good to at least have one type of dried fruit, one variety of nut, and then some extra sweetener especially if the chocolate is extra dark. 
  • I omitted nuts in the dark chocolate because of nut allergies so you can always have some bark for those that cannot enjoy nuts. Adding toffee, crushed cookies, or chopped pretzels can also add a nice crunch instead of nuts. Special Tip: sprinkle in some thick sea salt or gray salt for texture and for sweet and salty lovers!
  • The honey and the carmel can get pretty sticky so make sure the chocolate is extra cold before serving, that way the honey and caramel have a little firmness and wont get all over the place!
  • You can also mix chocolate flavors together. Melt them separately first, then you can either layer them on top of each other by pouring in one flavor then letting it cool and then pouring the other on top... OR you can pour down one flavor then drizzle in the other and cut through the ribbons to make the ripple design!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Putting the "Ape" in Apricot

Grilled Apricot and Balsamic Salad:
Apricots can be a little mushy and bland when ripe, but grilling them not only brings them back to life but adds a tangy punch. I find that apricots are a highly underrated fruit, mostly finding their place in jellies and preserves. But because of their small size and meaty texture, I thought they were the perfect way to spruce up a seemingly boring salad. The combination of the sweet yet sour balsamic dressing and the rich bite from the fruit takes this salad from zero to hero. Adding candied pecans, dried cranberries, and goat cheese also didn't hurt!

What you'll need: 
  • 2 small ripe apricots
  • 1 teaspoon of honey
  • 1 package of baby spinach 
  • 1 package of spring mix (typically a combination of baby lettuces and greens, sometimes endive, radicchio, types of romaine, dandelion... ingredients vary)
  • 1/2 cup of dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup of candied pecans
  • Small package of mild goat cheese
  • 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 cup of olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon each of fresh ground black pepper, dried basil, and oregano
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of dijon mustard
  • Dash of salt and pinch of brown sugar (both optional)

Recipe: Yields four small side salads
  1. Heat grill or grill pan to medium-high heat and grease with cooking spray
  2. Cut apricots into small wedges and place on grill, about 1-2 minutes on each side
  3. Pull off grill and drizzle lightly with honey
  4. In a large salad bow, mix the spinach, spring mix, cranberries, and pecans together.
  5. Combine vinegar, oil, spices, brown sugar, garlic, and mustard in a small bowl and whisk heavily
  6. Pour dressing over salad and toss lightly
  7. Serve the salad onto plates, drop in little bits of goat cheese, and place the honeyed apricots on top to finish
  8. Enjoy!

Tenacious Tips: 
  • Any meaty fruit will work in this salad. Pineapple, peaches, and nectarines are all really good choices to throw on the grill. I chose apricots because of their size and ripeness!
  • If you aren't a goat cheese lover, a feta or even a pungent blue cheese would also be nice.
  • Be light on the dressing. The apricots pack a little extra juice and you don't want to overwhelm the flavor of the apricots with thick dressing. Whatever dressing you don't use, just cover with plastic wrap and throw in the refrigerator.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tenacious Place: Eataly, NYC

Eataly Italian Market:
I have been a fan of Mario Batali since his "Molto Mario" days on the FoodNetwork. I have also been lucky enough to see him in person on two occasions: once at The Metropolitan Cooking Show in Atlanta, GA and then again when I visited his swanky Italian eatery, Babbo, in Greenwich Village in NYC. Both experiences were incredible "once in a lifetime" types because I got to see this Italian expert in action. Last November, I decided to visit a girlfriend of mine in NYC for a weekend and my mom had told me about this neat new Italian market, in part created by Mario Batali, that I just couldn't miss. So when we had a little down time, we headed over to 200 5th Ave to check out what Eataly was all about.

Not only was the market packed with ungodly amounts of gourmet Italian food and products, it was crawling with people, resembling what happens when you disturb an ant hill. I was so surprised by the sheer largeness of the space, especially in NYC. It was of comparable size to many of the markets I encounter down here in Tallahassee! It was sectioned off like any other market with your typical sauce isles, meat counter, and sweets, but what was really neat was the fresh pasta bar.

Fresh pasta! MMM!

What really puts the "eat" in Eataly, is the fresh-to-order, cafe style sitting area. There is a panini bar, salad buffet, and even a small menu to choose from with other small plates and pastas. Unfortunately, it was so difficult to move because of the mass of people flooding all areas of the market that I had to transform into a serious power shopper to get in and get out unharmed. I managed to navigate passed the towers of panettone and mile long line for fresh gelato to get to the non-perishable area of the store.  Nearly everything has been imported directly from the motherland which makes makes this place incredibly special, but also a little bit pricier. If you don't want to shell out the cash to make a truly authentic Italian meal (or don't live in NYC), you can always gather a couple of small but unique non-perishable ingredients (like their amazing tomato jam) to take home with you or put in a gift basket for someone special, like I did! 

Merry Christmas Mom!

I picked up a couple of fresh pastas in shapes not normally found, some interesting jams with different flavor combinations, a really nice package of extra virgin olive oil varietals, a jar of peaches marinated in moscato wine, Italian green tea with different Italian honey varieties, and a small jar of really good pesto. An interesting packing situation and a hefty fed ex expense and I was able to get it all back to my hometown of Atlanta intact. I prettied up the goodies in a rustic wicker basket and snuck it under the tree last Christmas for my mom. Needless to say she was completely surprised and has since almost used her entire basket!

So, if you're ever in NYC be sure to check out Eataly, a truly one of a kind experience that brings you the closest to eating in Italy that I've ever seen. But if you can't make a trip soon enough to the concrete jungle or if you don't feel like braving the cold weather in the city, Eataly lets you shop online at the website for a good deal of their merchandise. Check out Eataly Online!

A little blurry... but quick shot in front of the market
in between the swarms of people entering and exiting!

UPDATE: Check out the latest FoodNetwork Magazine for a more comprehensive write up about Eataly and all it has to offer!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Super Bowl - Super Dish: Baked Chicken Wings

Baked Honey-Garlic Wings

Tenacious Transformation - Chicken Wings:
My boyfriend and I have been frying our wings to absolute perfection for the last three years and they got even better when Matt received a "Fry Daddy" for Christmas last year. Although deep frying makes just about anything taste good, it obviously packs a ton of fat and calories into your food. Wings are definitely one of our favorites and not something to pass up on Super Bowl Sunday! Thankfully, I've found a way to cut out some of the bad stuff and still retain that delicious crispyness that makes them so irresistible. Even better, here's a double dose of yummy: wings two ways! The classic Buffalo style "hot" and a sweet garlicy twist! Be sure to make lots, they surely won't last long!

What you'll need:
  • 4-5 lbs of chicken wings and drumettes 
  • Cooking spray or parchment paper for baking pans
  • 2 sealable tupperware bowls, for saucing

For the "hot" wings:
  • 1/3 cup of your favorite hot sauce (Matt prefers Frank's)
  • 3-6 tablespoons of butter, depending on tolerance for "hotness"
  • Dash of garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and black pepper to season wings

For the honey garlic wings:
  • 1/4 cup of soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of garlic
  • 3 tablespoons cup of honey
  • 1/3 cup of chicken broth 
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 2 teaspoons of brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon of powdered mustard
  • 1/2 tablespoon of sesame seeds
  • Dash of garlic powder, salt, and black pepper to season wings

Recipe: Serves 5-7 people at 6-10 wings per person (rough estimate - depends on size of wings in package)
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Divide wings into two piles, one for the hot and one for the honey-garlic
  3. Season each pile with respective seasonings
  4. Separate wings onto greased pan or parchment paper in pan 
  5. Place on middle rack in oven and bake for 15-20 min 
  6. While wings are in the oven, heat both sauces over medium heat. Allow honey-garlic sauce to reduce for about 10 till semi-thick. For the hot sauce, the butter just needs to be melted and incorporated into the sauce, no reduction needed.
  7. Pull the wings out of the oven and elevate temperature to 425 degrees.
  8. Brush wings with either sauce on all sides and place wings back into the oven
  9. Bake for another 15-20 minutes or until crispy.
  10. Pour remaining sauce into tupperware bowls and shake wings inside to fully coat
  11. Secretly set aside your portion because these little guys will go fast!

Tenacious Tips:
  • Instead of serving fries or other fatening dips, cut up some fresh carrots and celery. They help cut the spicy flavor in your mouth. Also, you can make your own light organic ranch dressing! I have been able to find an organic dressing mix at my local organic grocier and I substitute in light ingredients. If you can't find a premaid mix, here's a simple recipe: 1 tablespoon of dry parsley, teaspoon each of garlic powder, onion powder, and dry dill, 1/2 teaspoon of sugar and salt, 1/4 teaspoon of pepper and celery seed, mix the dry ingredients with 1/2 cup of low fat organic milk, 1/4 cup of organic light sour cream and 1/4 cup of light mayonnaise. Make it vegan by using 1/2 cup low cal plain milk substitute and 1/2 cup of light canola oil mayo! 
  • For even richer taste, I use a chicken demi-glace instead of straight chicken broth. The kind from Williams-Sonoma is what my mother calls "liquid gold". Its really easy to store in your refrigerator and make your own chicken "broth" whenever you need it, instead of letting those huge boxes go to waste if you just need a little. If you are finicky about organic, Dartagnan, has a duck and veal demi-glace that would also work just fine. 
  • To cut time, you can serve your wings right out of the oven instead of "double dipping" them. I coat them twice because we like ours wet, but if you prefer them on the dryer, less messy side you can nix this step.
  • UPDATE: After making these last night, I found that some of the wings drained a little fat onto the pan when I took them out of the oven after the first 20 min. Its helpful to drain that off if you can before sticking the wings back in the oven so they aren't just wallowing in calories. Also, because the honey-garlic wings contain a good amount of sugar, be careful not to sauce them too much before sticking them back in the oven. At the high temperature, the sugar starts to burn and get really sticky-- gross! So, just a light brush will do. Finally, it can also be helpful to turn the wings at least once while cooking, maybe when you take them out the first time, just so that all sides can get extra crispy!

Baked Buffalo "Hot" Wings

Friday, February 4, 2011

Book Review: Skinny Bitch

Tenacious Rating: 
Back a few years ago, I thought I was a "skinny bitch". Buying everything non-fat, half fat, sugar free, half the calories, I thought I had truly mastered a healthy lifestyle and in some ways I had. I was at a happy weight and I never felt hungry or deprived. But what I didn't know was that this "healthy" lifestyle was actually in many ways detrimental to my overall health. Though I was saving myself a lot of fat, sugar, and calories, I was dumping in many dangerous chemicals, additives, hormones, and artificial ingredients that were doing more harm than help. After doing a little research and some hard hitting advice from Kim and Rory's book Skinny Bitch, my eating and cooking regimen took a drastic turn. While I am certainly no vegetarian or vegan, eating all natural and organic foods has become an absolute in my life. I also recognize the importance of cutting down on animal products and byproducts in my diet. Now with Kim's new cookbook, I can try and incorporate many meat-free and vegan recipes into my weekly meal repertoire.

The cookbook begins with more than just Kim's tough love and quick wit. She tackles everything from sustainability and buying local, to a closer look at harmful food additives and ingredients as well as information on what types of brands to buy. Even if you have absolutely no intention of eating vegan or even vegetarian, this cookbook at the very least offers an extremely vital education in green eating. I especially like her advice on different types of vegan products such as butter, milk, cheese and egg substitutes. Even if it doesn't become an absolute for you, replacing some animal ingredients with vegan ones from time to time is better than not at all and she offers some really great tips as to what to buy. She also provides an extensive list of which produce is dirty versus clean in the pesticide department, deeming them the "dirty dozen" and "clean fifteen". This is helpful when not all organic varieties are offered where you shop and you can decide where its best to save some money and when to splurge for organic for the sake of your health.

She attributes many common health ailments and even some of the more serious ones, such as cancer and Alzheimer's, to the way we eat and what we put in our bodies. Trust me this "bitch" knows her stuff and her knowledge comes from years of research and personal experience. Her advice is not just limited to food but extends into cookware and utensils as well, suggesting different types of essentials in the kitchen and different brands that are good in the green arena as well as durable and high quality options. She goes even further by proposing ways to get the whole family involved in the cooking process and the lifestyle. And that's just the first third of the book!!!

In the recipe department she continues to shine, taking on everything from baking to bar-tending!  And although meat substitutes definitely aren't for everyone, many of the soups, salads, desserts, and sides are certainly do-able for those loyal carnivores.

Recipes to try: 
  • Lavender Shortbread Cookies
  • The Pink Fizzy
  • Veggie Pot Pies

The Tenacious Winner: Banana and Cinnamon Muffins 

*Please visit the Skinny Bitch website for more information regarding Kim's cookbook and other books by Kim Barnouin and Rory Freedman 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The "Gusta" Pizza

The "Gusta" Pizza, A Little Backstory:
Last June, I went to visit my boyfriend, Matt, in Florence, Italy. He had been spending his summer there in a study abroad program where he was learning the wonders of Tuscan wine and rich Florentine history. My first day finally in Florence was spent frantically seeing the whole city in one day, as Matt began finals the day after and wouldn't be able to be my travel guide. After seeing the Loggia, the Duomo, hiking all the way up to San Miniato and the Piazza Michelangelo, tossing coins off the Ponte Vecchio, and nursing some serious blisters on my heels, Matt finally decided it was time to eat some authentic Italian cuisine. Tucked away across the river Arno in a narrow alley way was Gusta Pizza, a tiny little pizzeria swarming with tourists and Florentines alike. I let Matt order for us in his broken Italian and picked up two sort of cold sodas. After what seemed like the longest wait of my life, our pizzas were finally ready for devouring. They were bubbling hot and Matt instructed me to pour what looked like lava oil a top my pie. I have never finished a whole pizza in one sitting until that day, when my tongue met the taste of the Gusta Pizza. The simplicity of the ingredients and the thin crispy crust couldn't have been a better reward for such a packed day. In honor of that wonderful pizza, here is my recipe that's a pretty good alternative to the real thing.

What you'll need:
  • Fresh Dough for at least 1 14" pizza 
  • 1 package of spicy salami or hot soppressata 
  • 1 14 oz can of strained tomatoes or tomato sauce 
  • 1 package of fresh mozzarella in water
  • 1/2 teaspoon each of dried basil, oregano, thyme, onion, and 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1-2 cloves of fresh garlic, chopped
  • Fresh Basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon parmesan cheese
  • Cooking Spray
  • Red Chili Oil 

Recipe: Makes two medium or one large pizza
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees
  2. If using fresh dough, pull out of refrigerator and let rest for 10 min
  3. Pour desired amount of tomato sauce into small pot and heat over medium, about 1/2 - 3/4 cup
  4. Add basil, oregano, thyme, onion, red pepper flakes, and garlic to sauce and stir
  5. Once mixed and thoroughly heated, remove from heat and set aside
  6. Spray small amount of cooking spray onto pizza stone or cookie sheet
  7. Work dough out into a very thin layer by gently spreading dough apart with fingers and lay gently onto stone or sheet *Be careful not to overwork dough it will become very tough
  8. Spread sauce evenly over dough, leaving small strip along the outside clean
  9. Arrange the salami or soppressata generously on top of the sauce 
  10. Drop small balls, about 1/2 in, of mozzarella all over the top
  11. Sprinkle parmesan cheese around outer layer of crust
  12. Slide stone or sheet into oven and bake for about 20 min, depending on how thin the dough is
  13. Once pizza is out of oven, sprinkle with fresh basil and drizzle chili oil over top
  14. Enjoy!

Tenacious Tips:
  • For the meat, I use Applegate Farms Hot Soppressata -- Applegate is a great brand for processed meats because there are no nitrites or nitrates added! They also do not use any antibiotics, raise animals sources humanely, and feed them vegetarian diets!
  • Reserving a little mozzarella to plop on after you take the pizza out of the oven, makes for an even cheesier and creamier bite!
  • If you can't find red chili oil or don't want to spend the extra money, you can make your own! Just take salad dressing bottle, clean it, fill with extra virgin olive oil and a good bit of red chili flakes, or small red chilies if you have them,  and let sit for a few days. The chilies will infuse the oil for a spicy kick! (You can do this with many other spices and herbs!)
  • Less is more... The more you crowd the pizza with cheese and toppings, the more they over power the natural flavors from the crust and sauce. You want to make sure every part of the pizza is given room to shine!

Gusta Pizza -- Florence, Italy