Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Creamy Spinach-Artichoke Dip

Tenacious Transformation: Creamy Spinach-Artichoke Dip
Spinach and artichokes are two of my boyfriend's absolute favorite veggies. Throw some cheese in there and its a solid bargaining chip to get some work done around the house! I've personally had some pretty incredible dips over the years, but I always find myself feeling so guilty for ingesting all that fat and calories. With March Madness in full swing and tons of tailgating and viewing parties already ensuing, a great way to avoid overloading on calories is to make this made-over luscious and still just as delicious dip! Everyone will love you not only for showing up to the party with a fabulous homemade appetizer but also for helping to watch their waistlines for them!

What you'll need:
  • 1 pkg of frozen chopped spinach, thawed, and patted dry
  • 1 can of artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup of low fat sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cup of shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup of shredded 2% white cheddar cheese
  • 2 packages (16 oz total) of low fat cream cheese, softened
  • 2 teaspoons of hot sauce (Tabasco, Crystal, Texas Pete, etc...)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt 

Recipe: Makes one 9 in round pie baking dish or 1- 1 1/2 quart square baking dish
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Combine 1 cup of mozzarella, 1/2 cup white cheddar, 2 tablespoons of parmesan, garlic, hot sauce, sour cream, cream cheese, artichokes, spinach, salt and pepper, in a large bowl until well blended.
  3. Spoon into baking dish and cover with remaining parmesan and mozzarella cheeses
  4. Bake for about 30 minutes or until top is bubbly and golden brown. 
  5. Enjoy with tortilla chips and a side of sour cream and salsa!

Tenacious Tips:
  • The key to this recipe is to thoroughly drain the spinach and artichokes. If you don't this recipe falls flat on flavor and has a strange consistency with the added moisture. 
  • You can omit the hot sauce, but my boyfriend loves things with a little spice and the sauce adds just enough flavor and heat.
  • One of my very few favorite chain restaurants (yes I know I said chain) Houston's serves their dip with a side of salsa and sour cream and I love to get all three onto one chip for the perfect bite! Otherwise, this dip is perfectly wonderful on its own. 
  • I prefer Snyder's all natural white corn tortilla chips, but there are tons of good organic and all natural varieties out there. I try to stick with white corn for this recipe because I think the yellow corn is too coarse and over powers the delicate creaminess of this dish.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Tenacious Place: Local Three Kitchen & Bar

Local Three, Atlanta, GA:
I don't get to spend as much time back home in Atlanta as I'd like to, so when I get to go back home I usually indulge in my tried and true favorite restaurants because I rarely get to go to them. However, because I always go back to the same places, I never really branch out to anything new because of the time constraints. Thankfully a couple weeks ago, I was able to spend some much needed extra time with my family in GA and suggested that instead of grabbing the same 'ol same 'ol, we try something totally new.

I whipped out my iPhone and jumped on my favorite app, Urban Spoon, to check out what were some of the new up and coming spots to grab some good eats. Local Three kept popping up as I scrolled through the pages and pages of restaurants in Atlanta's different burrows. I checked out the menu online and decided this would be the place.

Local Three is situated inside of a well-to-do office building (actually where my dermatologist is located) and looks almost like a private club or speakeasy from the outside. You almost would never know it was there. Stepping inside is like stepping into a whole different world. The layout is simple and there is a massive bar, illuminated with shelves and shelves of the best liqueur they could offer. The decor is simple and very dark but the lighting is relatively bright and cheery. It has a very welcoming feel. There is no uniform for the staff, which also gives Local Three a very down homey, place-down-the-street, comfortable ambience.

I would not suggest this place if you are on a tight diet, but Local Three does boast a very local and seasonal menu and their chef/owners especially promote their attention to quality and comfort, all a must in my book! Their menu items are all definitely inspired by the "southern comfort" that is naturally associate with Atlanta but they all pack exciting creative twists. Me and my parents decided we would take a "all or nothing" approach to this meal. We might as well dive in, instead of getting only a fragmented experience, governed by watching our weight. We decided to start with the duck fat fried hush puppies with a spicy aioli sauce that were nice and golden brown but fluffy in the center. We also tried the crispy brussels sprout leaves that were crunchy but still packed that wonderful cabbagey flavor that I so love.

Just about anything fried in duck fat has to be amazing right? We then moved onto our entrees, which consisted of chicken pot pie, venison with peppered spaetzel and huckleberry sauce, and a deep marinated short rib with kimichi.

Chicken Pot Pie
Venison in a Huckleberry Sauce with Peppered Spaetzel
Asian Inspired Braised Short Rib with Kimichi
After dinner we were totally stuffed to the rim. We had all so enjoyed each of our meals and each others, but when it came down to a vote, the simple chicken pot pie definitely triumphed over the other dishes. It was so light but packed full of succulent chicken and veggies that it just felt like home. Even though we knew we couldn't possibly fit in anything else into our tummies, we could not pass up the chance at one of their amazing sounding desserts. We chose the banana creme brulee topped with banana bread and served with a side of ice cream. What a delicious way to end a truly warming and comforting meal!

 If you are ever in the Atlanta area, please check out Local Three Kitchen & Bar. They are located in the Buckhead area just off of 75N. Please also visit their website and learn more about their menu and creators!

***Please excuse the quality of the photos as per taken by my iPhone :)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Honeyed Fruit Pizza

A Sorority Gal Favorite:
During my undergad at FSU, I was an active member of the sorority Alpha Delta Pi. One of the most coveted desserts we looked forward to at meal times was the famous fruit pizza. It was so popular that other houses on campus started making this amazing dessert as well. Our dear staff member Miss Joyce always made this recipe with cream cheese icing, which although divine, packs a lot of extra calories. I found an amazing organic cool whip spread that works just as great and saves some of the guilt as well! Every time I make this dessert it is gone in seconds and it will always remind me of my days as a sorority girl at FSU! 

What you'll need:
  • 1 package of organic refrigerated sugar cookie dough 
  • 1 package of organic low-cal whipped cream 
  • 1 cup and half of chopped fruit such as bananas, strawberries, blueberries, and kiwis
  • 1 tables spoon of honey

Recipe: Makes about 12-15 slices
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Roll out cookie dough to desired thickness (the thinner the better- about 1/4 in)
  3. Place dough onto greased cookie sheet and bake on middle rack for allotted time on package (a little less if you thin out the dough)
  4. Pull out dough and let cool for 15 minutes in refrigerator 
  5. Slice fruit into small pieces and toss with honey
  6. Spread a generous amount of whipped cream on top of cookie, about half the tub.
  7. Sprinkle fruit atop the cream and slice into square pieces
  8. Serve and enjoy!

Tenacious Tips:
  • I am totally in love with Immaculate Baking Co.! They have a slew of all-natural and organic refrigerated baking goods like cookies, croissants, and biscuits that are really delicious. They can be found in most organic/natural markets and Publix carries them now too! 
  • I also found an amazing natural low-cal "cool whip-like" whipped cream that is simply to die for. It's called TruWhip and its only 30 calories for 2 tablespoons! 
  • This dessert/snack is extra yummy when the dough is just a tad under-cooked. Pay attention to the directions on the cookie dough label in congruence with how much you've thinned out the dough. 
  • This is also a great dessert recipe for the Independence Day, as you can easily make a great American flag out of blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries! 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Roasted Vegetables - 3 ways

Very Veggie Dinner Plate: 
Sometimes, usually after eating tons and tons of chicken for weeks because its easy and cheap, I get such a strong craving for veggies. I think some of the most hearty and yummy veggies are winter vegetables and because of the substantialness a plate full of them is usually plenty for dinner. The easiest way to get all the veggies to come out at the same time is to roast them at the same temperature in the oven, just placing them in at different times. Also, so that each veggie seems like its own dish, I prepare them differently, with varying ingredients, spices, and herbs. This dish also really revs up your energy and makes you feel good about yourself in general. So when you feel like you've been eating badly or just want a break from the meat in your life, this is a good go-to dish!

What you'll need- Sweet Potato:
  • 1 medium sweet potato
  • 2 tablespoons of light sour cream
  • 1 pinch of cinnamon 
  • 1 dash of maple syrup
  • Salt to taste

Recipe: Makes 1 potato
  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees 
  2. Wrap sweet potato in foil and place on center rack in oven for an hour or until tender
  3. Mix together sour cream, syrup, and cinnamon and dollop on top of sliced open potato, enjoy!

What you'll need- Brussels Sprouts:
  • 10-15 medium sized brussels sprouts
  • 2 slices of turkey bacon or meatless bacon substitute
  • 1 tablespoon of grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 sweet yellow onion, sliced
  • cooking spray
  • salt and pepper to taste

Recipe: Makes 2-3 servings
  1. Boil brussels in a medium pot for 2-3 minutes or until bright green and dump into an ice bath
  2. Once cool, slice brussels into halves and place into a baking dish lined with foil and cooking spray
  3. Cook turkey bacon in microwave or on stove top until almost done and crumble over the sprouts
  4. Carmelize the onion slices with a little oil, salt, and pepper and then place in baking dish
  5. Toss the ingredients with the parmesan cheese, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and place into the 400 degree oven for about 20-25 minutes

What you'll need- Carrots and Parsnips:
  • 2-3 large carrots, chopped
  • 2-3 large parsnips, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of butter 
  • 1 teaspoon of thyme, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon of brown sugar
  • Salt and pepper

Recipe: Makes about 2 servings
  1. Melt butter in microwave and toss with carrots, parsnips, thyme, brown sugar, salt and pepper in a foil lined baking dish
  2. Place in 400 degree oven for 45 minutes

Tenacious Tips:
  • Sometimes its nice to make more than what you'll need for this dish so that you can easily reheat one of them for another meal during the week. Maybe a nice filet with a side of carrots and parsnips... or stir in the brussels to some cooked pasta with a little lemon and olive oil! 
  • Its nice to stay as seasonal as possible with your veggie plate, the flavors usually work really well together if you stay in season. Since Spring is pretty much already here, try roasting artichokes, asparagus, or grilling some lettuce. Instead of baked sweet potatoes, roast some new potatoes, another Spring favorite. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Honey Bread Pudding with Cinnamon-Orange Blossom Ice Cream

"Honey Cakes" and Ice Cream:
FoodNetwork Magazine's February issue challenged readers to a "secret ingredient" cooking contest involving honey. My mind immediately began reeling with ideas about the best honey dish to submit. I knew that whatever I chose, the flavor of honey had to be at the forefront. At first I really wanted to incorporate the fruit honey dew because of its obvious natural honey flavor and its light and fresh taste, but I was afraid I wasn't going to be able to bring it all together so that the honey dew didn't seem like the secret ingredient. I finally settled on these delightful bread puddings that completely seep honey flavor and taste. I even decided to incorporate honey into the ice cream to accompany this decadent but dense dish. The winner has yet to be announced, but keep you fingers crossed! I could be the next FoodNetwork secret ingredient winner!

What you'll need (the cakes):
  • 4 medium stale croissants
  • 3 plain stale cake donuts
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/3 cup fat free sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of tupelo honey
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon of allspice
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • Cooking Spray

What you'll need (the ice cream):
  • 1 pint of vanilla ice cream 
  • 2 tablespoons of orange blossom honey
  • 2 teaspoons of cinnamon

Recipe: 4 cakes in 6-7 inch ramekins
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Pull ice cream out of freezer and let melt in medium sized bowl until almost soupy
  3. Break up the croissants and donuts into small 1/2 inch chunks into a medium sized bowl
  4. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs, condensed milk, sugar, honey, vanilla, all spice, cinnamon, and salt until smooth
  5. Spay cooking spray generously into each ramekin and pack in the croissant and donut crumbs tightly in. 
  6. Pour the egg mixture into each ramekin until the crumbs are spongy and soaked thoroughly
  7. Sprinkle a little sugar and drizzle a little orange blossom honey on the tops of the cakes 
  8. Place the ramekins in the oven's center rack for about 35-40 min, or until the tops spring back at touch and are golden-brown in color
  9. While cakes are in the oven, stir in orange blossom honey and cinnamon into the melted ice cream, place back into the carton and into the freezer to re-harden.
  10. Pull cakes out of the oven and let cool for at least 5 minutes
  11. Remove cakes from oven, add a scoop of ice cream on top, and enjoy!

Tenacious Tips:
  • This recipe can be made with all organic ingredients, excluding the fat free sweetened condensed milk. However, you can make your own organic condensed milk with a little powdered fat free milk, sugar, and water. Simply combine 1/2 cup water and 1 1/3 cup of fat free powdered milk to make a paste. Heat in the microwave until piping hot, but not boiling, about 45 seconds. Then, stir in 1/2 cup of sugar. You may also make this sugar free by substituting in 1/3 cup of stevia in the raw!
  • This recipe can be used for many other types of bread puddings! Just substitute the honey for an extra tablespoon of sugar and use any combination of flavors in lieu of the spices and vanilla. Chocolate can be amazing or you may want to add dried fruit like Apricots or Raisins!
  • If the ramekin cakes turn out to be a bit too much food, as they might be, you might try using muffin tins. They turn out a surprisingly small but nice height cake and smaller portion if need be. Or for another option, you may want to bake in one large dish and cut out pieces for your guests at the table!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Lent 2011

Photo courtesy of Chocolate Note

Me VS Chocolate:
"Chocolate makes me so happy..." - My famous first and last words. My dad always likes to tell the story of my first real sentence when I was sitting in the front of his black Porsche with my face covered in a melted Hershey's bar circa 1990. Ever since chocolate has been my absolute guilty pleasure and if I am truly being honest with myself, I realistically indulge in it every single day. Whether it be a handful of Brookside's dark chocolate blueberry acai morsels (which are beyond amazing by the way) or a spoon full of Ben & Jerry's chocolate fudge brownie froyo after dinner, I am always craving that rich smooth flavor of chocolate. I am also non-discriminating when it comes to flavors. I adore the fruity, vanilla-y, creaminess of white chocolate just as much as I crave the decadent, deep, coffee-tinged taste of dark chocolate. I am also definitely not a "chocolate-snob, indulging in everything from hand-crafted cocoa-coated truffles from a gourmet chocolate shop as well as that truly sinful Reese's Peanut Butter Cup I slipped into the freezer for an hour or two. The love affair I have with chocolate can only end in utter despair.

Though I am not a devout Catholic, or a truly active Christian (in a church sense), I always give up something for Lent to test my commitment and ability to follow through with something responsibly. I believe it reveals my weaknesses so that I can build myself to have stronger character and conviction. Even if you are not a Christian, practicing Lent can be a very cathartic and rewarding experience. Traditionally Lent is practiced for around 40 days, beginning Ash Wednesday (3/9) and lasting until Easter Sunday (4/24), but many people continue long after to see how strong their endurance is or simply because they feel the change should be a more permanent one.

The reason I bring up lent for your reading pleasure is not because I decided to give up chocolate, but because according to, food is the #1 thing people tend to give up during this time (alcohol was #5). I think we often times feel guiltier about what we eat/drink versus other habits because their effects are less visible to us. When we eat or drink we feel the effects both immediately and later on. Whether its the instant pleasure of the taste of something or the lbs we put on later from eating it, we recognize the effects of eating and drinking because they are so observable. We don't always readily see the consequences of our actions, like swearing, texting and driving, spending too much time on social networking sites, or even something as small as being tidy, though these are also popular omissions for lent. We tend to obsess over the food in our life first. With that said, lent is the perfect time to let go of a comforting familiar food and force yourself to try something new in its place. Last night, I chose a butter-pecan milkshake instead of chocolate and my world was illuminated. I had never tasted butter-pecan flavoring before and my taste buds exploded with delight. Of course I realize I traded one hunk of calories for another, not entirely the point of Lent, but I realized that instead of moping around about not getting chocolate, I could choose to explore new tastes in its place, maybe some not even sweet.

So now I ask you, what are you giving up and why? How are you going to stay strong and make it through? What has worked in the past and what hasn't?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Please Excuse...

My week-long sabatacle! I have been in the beautiful cities of Scottsdale, AZ and Atlanta, GA soaking up the sun and enjoying some pretty amazing eats! Pretty soon I will post tons about the food, the fun, and the fantastic places I visited. I can't wait to share more with you all very soon! I appreciate your understanding :)