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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Good and Good for You: Limes

Continuing in a citrusy vein, I’d like to tell you a little bit about limes.

Like lemon, lime extract is used in aromatherapy (for energizing) and cleaning products (for that fresh, clean smell). Essence of lime gives off that Perk You Up kind of feeling. And apparently lime juice will help remove rust from clothing. Huh, who knew?

Lime adds a great accent to food and beverages and is a common ingredient in Southwestern cuisine as well as Thai, Vietnamese, and Mexican dishes. Lime juice make a great sour mix for cocktails and can be used for pickling cerviche too.

Similar to lemon, limes are chocked full of antioxidants and Vitamin C which is very important in the fight against many things like heart disease, cancer, arthritis, and scurvy. So if you are planning any 18th Century cross-Atlantic voyages, make sure to pack plenty of limes.

The coolest thing I learned about limes was how they got around. These little fruits have been around the block and then some.


Limes grow best in tropical and subtropical climates and are thought to have originated in Southeast Asia.

From Southeast Asia, limes immigrated to North Africa through Egypt via the Arab trade routes in the 10th Century.

In the 13th Century, the Moors caught on to how cool limes were and brought them home to Spain from North Africa.

Limes then hitchhiked their way from Spain to South America with Columbus in 1493 and found a friendly climate in the Caribbean to settle down and get planted.

In the 1590s, the British discovered limes and their wondrous scurvy-preventing properties and started taking them on voyages with them from the Caribbean. In fact, by 1790 drinking a mix of lime + rum became mandatory onboard British ships thereby landing all seafaring peeps of British descent with the nickname “Limey.” Blimey

Meanwhile, limes weren’t done yet. In the 16th Century they travelled north with the Spanish explorers who brought them to the Florida Keys where they settled in (precursors of Key Limes).

By the 19th Century, limes were part of the booming business of citrus that Florida is known for.

The End

So there are three types of “common” limes: Persian, Kaffir, and Key.

PERSIAN LIMES – are the best known variety and sold simply as “limes” in the U.S. They’re large with thick skinned, and seedless. They have a longer shelf-life than the other two types.

KAFFIR LIMES – are native to Indonesia and used in Southeast Asian cuisine. They are small in size and have rough, bumpy skins. The rind is used in curry paste (adds a certain astringency to the taste), while the leaves (both fresh and dried) are used often in Thai dishes.

KEY LIMES – are more tart and bitter than traditional limes. They also have a higher acidity, thinner skin, and a stronger aroma than the other two types.

When buying limes, you want those with firm, glossy, dark green skin and no brown spots. Limes will keep at room temperature for up to one week if kept out of the sun and for up to two weeks in the fridge if wrapped loosely in plastic.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Lemon Broccoli Chicken

Okay, here's another lemon recipe I wanted to share with you. (Did I mention I love lemon?)  This is one of my favs for when I don't want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen but want something filling and tasty for dinner.  It's great as leftovers too!

Lemon Broccoli Chicken

1 (10 oz) can Cream of Broccoli
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tbsp olive oil
1 lb thin chicken fillets
flour, for dredging
fresh cracked black pepper
sea salt
lemon slices, for garnish

In a small saucepan, whisk together Cream of Broccoli, milk and lemon juice.  Simmer over low heat.

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.

Mix some flour with cracked black pepper and sea salt in a shallow dish.  Dredge fillets and add to skillet with hot oil.

Cook for 1-2 minutes per side until browned.

Lower heat and pour soup-sauce over the fillets.

Heat for an additional 5-6 minutes, then serve.  Garnish with fresh lemon slices.


You can use regular chicken breasts instead of fillets.  If you do, make sure to cook chicken for 7-8 minutes or until no longer pink on the inside.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Lemon Spice Muffins

Couldn't pass up this one, lemon + tangy spices + baking = happy belly goodness.

Lemon Spice Muffins

2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp ginger
1 tbsp lemon zest
2/3 cup milk
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
1 egg

Sift all your dry ingredients in a medium-size bowl.  Add the zest and mix well.

In a small bowl, whisk together all your liquid ingredients.

Add your liquids to the flour mix and and stir together until your dry ingredients are just moistened (it's okay if the batter is lumpy).

Fill your muffin tins (lined with your favorite cupcake holders) until 2/3 full.

Bake at 400 degree for 20-25 minutes or until lightly golden.


One regular-sized lemon will yield 1 tbsp of zest. 

Since you had to go ahead and zest your lemon, use the fresh lemon juice.

Makes a dozen muffins.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Lemon Fettucine with Peppery Shrimp

This recipe is based on one from one of my all-time favorite cookbooks, Citrus: A Cookbook (1992).  It's a very light tasting dish.  The lemon of the fettucine and the butter of the sauce make a nice complement to the shrimp.

Lemon Fettucine with Peppery Shrimp

Lemon fettucine

1 cup semolina flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 tbsp grated lemon zest
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice + extra as needed

Using a mixer with the bread beater, blend all the ingredients.

If the mixture is too dry add additional lemon juice, 1 tsp at a time.  Blend for 5 minutes after each teaspoon you add.

Roll the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for a few minutes until the dough is fairly smooth.  Dust with additional flour as needed if the dough is still sticky.

Wrap the dough in plastic and set aside for 30 minutes.

I used a manual pasta maker to make the fettucine. If you are using an electric pasta machine, follow the manufacturer's instructions.  Process the dough through the machine.  Will yield 1 lb of pasta.

I rolled out small segments of the dough to make it easier to feed through the machine.

To prepare pasta, bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add the fettucine, 1 tsp of salt and 2 tbsp of oil to the water.

Stir the pasta gently until the water returns to a boil. Boil for 1-2 minutes, or until al dente.  Drain.

Peppered shrimp

4 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 lb large shrimp (approx. 16-18), shelled and deveined
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 jalapeno, finely chopped
sea salt, to taste
fresh cracked black pepper, to taste

Put the olive oil and butter in a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat.  Add garlic to the skillet and saute a few seconds.

Add your shrimp to the skillet and saute for 1 minute on each side.

Add the peppers and saute for another  2 minutes or until the shrimp is opaque. Remove from the heat.

When the pasta is ready, spoon the peppered shrimp on the pasta.  Garnish with some additional black pepper and lemon wedges if you'd like.


My pasta dough was very dry.  Both climate and humidity will factor into how well you mix comes together.  I ended up adding about an extra 2/3 cup of liquids (I used lemon juice, oil and water) and I probably still could have added a bit more.

I was thinking that if you wanted to serve the fettucine as a pasta by itself, you could add about 1 tbsp of cracked black pepper to the mix to make a nice lemon pepper pasta.

The shrimp was very light and simply prepared.  If you wanted to zazz it up a bit, I was thinking you could throw the shrimp on a grill and brown them up then add them into the pepper-butter sauce to coat them.  It would give the dish an extra layer of flavor depth. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Good and Good for You: Lemons

Oh lemons!  Who hasn't enjoyed a cool, refreshing glass of lemonade on a hot summer day or dug into a tasty slice of lemon meringue pie?  Okay, maybe some of you haven't, but you really should try it.  Lemons are not only delightfully refreshing, they can do good things for you too.

So it is believed that lemons and other citrus fruits sprang up in India or Mesopotamia (near the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers) some 80+ centuries ago. Lemons traveled the Trade Routes west from Asia to North Africa and eventually to the Mediterranean region where they thrived. Lemon trees like a slightly drier climate and are more resistant to frost than other citrus trees.

Lemons were grown for their beauty and scent, but were often put to other uses as well – as an embalming agent (leave it to those crazy Egyptians), as an aphrodisiac, and, of course, for medicinal purposes. Lemons were used to cure fever or colic and as well as to protect against poisons.

Of course, in the Dark Ages, things got a little reversed. They thought eating fresh fruit was bad for you and considered lemons to be particularly poisonous. But that phase eventually passed and everyone got on board again with lemons. Even today the essential oils found in lemon zest are used in medicine, household products, and cosmetics.

Lemons are a pretty amazing fruit and so very versatile. You can use lemon to enhance both savory and sweet dishes while lemon peel will add flavor to whatever you are making.

And the good for you part?

All parts of the lemon contain valuable antioxidants and nutrients; first and foremost they are an excellent source of Vitamin C.

Lemons also have strong antiviral, antibacterial, and immune-boosting powers.

Lemons also make a great weight loss program addition because lemon juice has liver cleansing properties and can be used as a digestive aid.

And for those people who suffer from poor appetites, adding lemon to their food will help stimulate the taste buds.

Lemons contain a high level of potassium.

You want to make sure to either buy unwaxed lemons or wash your lemons thoroughly before using the zest for cooking or baking.

Lemons are rich in pectin so useful in thickening up jellies and jams.

Lemon juice makes a great substitute for vinegar in salad dressings.

Learned something new – if you want to get more lemon juice from a lemon, just put it in hot water, or the microwave, for a few seconds; fyi, heavier lemons will yield more juice.

Because lemon juice is very acidic though, it should always be diluted before drinking (you don’t want it eating away at your tooth enamel).

So there you go, I hope that those of you who weren't lemon enthusiasts before will now give them a chance now. I don't think you'll regret it.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Gnocchi con Salsa al Pomodoro

Fun with potatoes.  In Italy, gnocchi (those delicious nummy bits of potatoey goodness) are traditionally served on Thursdays, but I'm not much for tradition so for your any day enjoyment here is a nice simple gnocchi recipe.

Gnocchi con Salsa al Pomodoro
(potato dumplings with a light tomato sauce)


1-1/2 lbs potatoes
2 eggs
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

salsa de pomodoro

1 tbsp minced garlic
2 tsp olive oil
15 oz. can crushed tomatoes
fresh oregano
pepper and salt, to taste

Boil the potatoes with their skin on.  Drain and peel while still hot, the peels will come off very easily.

In a medium bowl, mash the potato then add in eggs and most of the flour.

I started with one cup of flour, mooshed it in really good and then added a second cup.

You may not end up using all of the flour, it will really depends on how absorbent your potatoes are.

Mix until it forms a slightly stick dough then roll out onto a floured surface.

Add more flour if necessary until the dough forms a malleable ball.

Slice off a piece of the dough and roll into a long thin log, then cut into 1" pieces.

To cook, gently drop the gnocchi into a pot of salted boiling water.  You want to cook them in small batches (15-20 pieces).  After a few minutes they will rise to the top of the water.  Let them continue to cook for another 1-2 minutes then remove with a slotted spoon.  Set them aside in a heated serving dish until all of the batches are done.

To make the simple tomato sauce, cook the garlic in olive oil over medium-high heat.  Once the garlic is browned, add in tomatoes and oregano.  Continue to cook over medium-low heat for 5-10 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.


You can top with your favorite sauce.  Would go well with pesto or a nice meaty Bolognese sauce too.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Potato

Since I'm still rolling with a vegetarian bent these days, I thought I'd do some didyaknow research and tell you a little something about our friend the Potato.

Potatoes are considered a friendly face and comfort food the world-round. You can bake it, boil it, stew it, fry it, roast it, toast it, steam it and microwave it.  You can slice and dice it, mash and grate it, scallop and peel it or serve it whole and skin-full  It's so very versatile and gets along with so many other foods, it's the kind of vegetable you'd like to take home to meet mom and dad.

Historically, the potato has a keen association with the Irish because of that big famine and stuff, but potatoes actually originated in the Andes of South America.  They were first domesticated in Peru between 8,000-5,000 BC.  It was only within the last 600 years they were introduced outside the Andes Region.  The Spanish brought the tubers home with them, where it is surmised that they planted their roadtrip leftovers from the return voyage and thus started potato cultivation in Europe around the late 16th century.

It took a while for the potato to catch on but by the 19th century they were everywhere.  Because of their slow spoilage rate, because they were bulk fillers (took away the hunger and made you feel full), and because they were so cheap to grow, they became the staple of many a poorer community throughout Europe.

Nowadays worldwide, there are 5,000 varieties of potatoes and 3,000 of them are found in the Andes Region alone.  This doesn't include the 200 wild species that exist.

One of the things I found interesting in my research is that the reason the blight that took out the potato crops in Europe in the mid- to late 1700s was so devastating is because potatoes were an imported crop.  Because they were imported there wasn't the genetic diversity or variety of potatoes at the time that might allow some crops to survive as others fell to disease.

Well that's not a happy note to end on so here, for your edification and amazement, are some interesting things I found out about potatoes.

Idaho potatoes are gluten-free.
Potatoes contain both simple and complex carbohydrates.
A potatoes contains almost half of your Daily Recommended Allowance of Vitamin C (47%).
▪ The fiber content of potatoes is similar to that of grain breads, pastas and cereals.
The nickname "spud" is believed to have been derived from the instrument used to dig up small potatoes, a short dagger called a "spyd" or "spad" (which is the Latin root word for sword).
Blue potatoes have purple skin and flesh that turns blue when you cook them.
Cooking swells the starch granuals in potatoes and that's what makes them edible.
Chocolate drizzle and coconut are the most popular additions to potato candy (made from a mixture of mashed potatoes and confectioner's sugar).

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Veggie Pot Pie

I love pot pie, but have never (before now) made an all-veg version. And may I just say Yummmmm!  I included all of my favorite vegetables so would recommend doing the same for yourself. It will just make it that much more tasty if you have all the things you love in one place...surrounded by crust.

Veggie Pot Pie

2-1/2 cups vegetarian vegetable broth
1 tbsp cornstarch
2/3 cup small peas, frozen
2/3 cup yellow corn, frozen
2/3 cup carrot, small dice
2/3 cup zucchini, small dice
2/3 cup yellow squash, small dice
1 tbsp olive oil
2/3 cup fresh cut green beans
8 small fingerling potatoes
1 tbsp parsley
fresh cracked sea salt
fresh cracked black pepper
2 (9") premade pie crusts

In a medium-size pot, bring the vegetable broth to a boil.  Once boiling, remove 2 tbsp and blend with cornstarch.  Pour the mixture back into the pot and continue to boil for 2-3 minutes.

Reduce to a simmer (medium-low heat) and add in peas and corn.

In a small skillet, heat olive oil and cook diced carrots over medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring often.

Add in diced zucchini and yellow squash, and continue to cook over medium heat for 7-8 minutes or until veggies are softened.

Add carrot-zucchini-squash mix to the broth pot.

Rinse and small cut fresh green beans.  Steam beans until they are soft to the bite.  Add to the broth pot.

Rinse and scrub fingerling potatoes then microwave uncovered for 2 to 2-1/2 minutes.  Remove from microwave and rough chop with skins on.  Add to the broth pot.

Add parsley and salt and pepper to taste.

Line the bottom of a 9" pie dish with first crust.  Pour in veggie-broth mix.

Cover with second crust and vent with a paring knife.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until lightly browned on top.

Serve immediately.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Check It Out: Veggie "Crumblers"

I'm not a vegetarian, but even as a meat-n-potatoes gal, I really like the challenge of finding non-meat dishes that I can enjoy at home.  And that I can date back to my ACC culinary school food show.  Somehow (still not sure exactly how), I ended up competing with a vegetarian meal which was both fun and tricky because you had to be able to provide a proper balance of protein in your meal to make it a valid food show entry AND make it colorful and delicious too!

Over the years, as I have found myself more and more in the company of non-meat eaters, I've continued my vegetarian exploration.  For monetary, health, and environmental reasons it really does makes sense to eat more veg-friendly foods.

One of the things I discovered and have been using for about seven years now are the Morningstar Farms® Meal Starters® Grillers® Recipe Crumbles™ (or “crumblers” as I call them).  These make a great ground meat substitute and have allowed me to convert many a meaty recipe into a vegetarian meal (one 12 oz. bag of crumblers = approximately 1 lb. of pre-cooked ground meat).

I've used it for chili, for pot pie, and for a lil veggie pizza topping, but hands down my favorite thing to use it for is taco "meat" for my vegetarian taco salad (see below).

So if you are feeling adventurous and want to try something new, I highly recommend this product.  I give it an enthusiastic two forks up!

K2's Veggie Taco Salad

taco "meat" for one
1/2 cup frozen "crumblers"
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin

red leaf lettuce, shredded
cheddar cheese, shredded
yellow corn chips, broken into bite-sized pieces
green olives, whole or sliced
spicy ranch or zesty Italian dressing (really depends on my mood)

In a small skillet, heat up the "crumblers" with the chili powder and cumin.  Heat until "meat" is darken, about 3-4 minutes.

Toss all your ingredients in a decent-sized bowl with your mood of dressing and eat eat eat!

Es muy delicioso!