Friday, February 25, 2011

Prevention Magazine Best Easy Healthy Eating LIVE Chat

Are you like me, a busy mom, who wants healthy food for their family? Prevention Magazine has chosen their Best Packaged Food Awards 2011. I am partnering with them to host a LIVE Q&A about how to eat healthy, and live well. Join us March 1st, 12:30 pm ET. Bring your friends & your questions!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Thursday Night Pizza

In our house Father Dominic has become known as "The pizza making monk", my fault of course, but everyone now knows exactly who I'm talking about when I bring him up. There is so much more to Father Dominic than pizza, and that is evidenced by his first six books and public television show Breaking Bread with Father Dominic which ran for several years beginning in 1999. He's not only the chief pizza maker at the monastery and baker extraordinaire, he teaches religion and directs the plays at the academy and has also authored two plays. Very busy, very talented, very blessed.

His most recent book, however, is all about America's favorite food; pizza. The first question that came to mind when I saw the title of the book was, "Why Thursday night?" In our house, like so many others across the country, Friday night is the usual pizza night. The explanation is a rather easy one. Friday is a day of fasting and abstinence from meat when the monks at Saint Bede consume only one meal. While pizza can fit the meatless menu, it isn't very fun without the plethora of toppings available, so on Thursday night, or haustus night, they indulge a bit more knowing that the fast is coming the next day. It's also a community night when the monks get together to fellowship through conversations or games, whatever strikes their fancy that evening.

I read through this book rather quickly, it's a very easy read and I found myself drawn to the stories of Father Dominic's monastic life. The recipes are straightforward, but don't expect to see the usual pizza recipes here. Father Dominic feels very much the way I do about pizza, after the crust anything goes! He provides not just recipes for dough, but full explanations of the differences between them and exactly how they are to be prepared without being boring or tedious. Likewise, there is a chapter all about sauces before moving on to the pizzas themselves. In the monastery there is large garden tended by one of his fellow monks, Father Ron. The garden provides pizza topping inspiration and the pizza sauce is made from the heirloom tomatoes grown within. Now I'm looking forward to my own garden this year and can't wait to harvest and bake.

I took the opportunity to speak with Father Dominic about his newest book and would love to some day have to chance to meet and cook with him. I believe his closing sentiments to our conversation were the same. He was very fun to talk with and I really wish we both had more time to spend on the phone, I have a feeling we'd have talked for an hour or more easily. We talked a bit about his family and growing up baking, about drama and the fact that I have children who have been in theater and plays for quite some time. We even have similar loves for antique recipes and books.

Of the twenty pizza recipes offered (two are desserts!) I asked which was his very favorite. He did one better and gave me not just his favorite from the book, but his favorite all-time. His favorite from the book is the Four Cheese Tomato pizza and his favorite all-time is one from a pizza parlor in St. Louis named Thats'a Nice'a Pizza where they serve up a pizza called The Powerhouse which consists of a thin crust topped with sausage, pepperoni, extra cheese, hamburger, onion, jalapeno and chopped tomato. Wow! Father Dominic makes this pizza at the monastery as well with a few slight additions and variations. Either way, it's one I want to try for myself.

I have plans to make each and every pizza in this book, but for this post I made the Asparagus Mornay (see photos) and fell in love immediately. The flavors were so perfectly paired it was hard not to think that a gourmet chef had come up with the combination. I had three slices and don't feel guilty at all. If the rest of the pizzas in this book are as good as that one, we're in for some very delicious pizza nights at our house.

Pick up your copy of Thursday Night Pizza, Father Dominic's Favorite Pizza Recipes
by Fr. Dominic Garramone, O.S.B. at:

Reedy Press

Monday, February 07, 2011

Guest Post: Top Five Reasons Caviar is Awesome

Top Five Reasons Caviar is Awesome

by Anthony Portz of

I find that everyone knows what caviar is, but so few people have tried caviar, and even fewer people actually consume it on a semi-regular basis. I’ve pondered this phenomenon for some time and have found that people are immediately put off by caviar for two main reasons:

1) it’s too expensive, and
2) so few people are even exposed to caviar, therefore, they don’t try it due to Fear of The Unknown.

It is my hope that I can dispel these two myths while also giving you info on caviar no one will tell you, mainly, that it’s delicious, affordable and versatile. What follows is a list of my Top 5 Reasons to Love Caviar!

1. Caviar is a versatile ingredient in food preparation

Traditionally, caviar has been served with hors d’ oeuvres or as a garnish in continental cuisine. From early on the caviar market has been dominated by Russian or Iranian black caviar from the black sea basin. Did you know, however, that caviar is also widely produced and eaten in countries ranging from Greece and Italy to Sweden and Japan? In Greece, for instance, caviar is made from carp roe and made into a paste that is typically eaten with bread, called Tarama. In Japan salmon roe is used in many types of sushi preparation. And, in Italy, caviar is even used in a dish called Bottarga.

2. There are many types of caviar for many tastes

Some people, I’ve found, try one type of caviar one time and decide they hate all caviar. This need not be so because there are many types of caviar made from many types of roe from many different fish. The various types of black caviar, Beluga, Sterlet, Ossetra and Sevruga, come from the black sea basin from the various sturgeon species that live there. There are, however, many types of fish roe used for caviar production, such as salmon roe, lumpsucker roe, cod roe, whitefish roe, carpe roe and other roe from sturgeon species not of the black sea basin.

3. Caviar is more affordable and available than you think

Traditionally, black caviar and its high market value, which is mostly due to the early Iranian and Russian control of the market, has fueled the mythos of caviar’s hefty price tag. True, Russian and Iranian black caviar, and even some Italian fish roe, can be very expensive, however, there are many other caviars from many other places that are more affordable. And, don’t think that just because it’s cheaper it must be inferior, because caviar from various other fish and other countries can be just as good (if not better) as black caviar from the black sea basin. Golden caviar from the N. American great lakes region, for instance, is widely consumed while also enjoying a relatively low market price.

4. Caviar has health benefits

Due the fact that most caviar enjoys little processing it retains most of its vitamins and minerals while also remaining low in calories. Many say, as well, that caviar is also healthy for your heart and skin because it’s full of omega-3 fatty acids. Though caviar can be healthy it is unhealthy to consume too much of it, as well as other fish, due to the trace amounts of mercury present in virtually all commercial fish products.

5. Caviar makes for the perfect hors d’ oeuvre

It’s healthy. It’s affordable. It’s versatile. It’s delicious. What else is there to say? Caviar is the perfect non-fried appetizer so you won’t feel heavy and weighed-down after eating it. Caviar is also affordable so no matter what your budget you should be able to find fine caviar for your event. And, caviar is so versatile that you’ll be able to find the perfect kind for your hors d’oeuvres, whether it be Mediterranean, Russian or even Japanese-themed cuisine. There are also many new ideas for using caviar in various fusion dishes these days; it only takes a little research. For more info on caviar and it’s amazing character check out!

Post text and images property of by Anthony Portz of

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Harry Potter and the Stuff of Dreams

In July, 2007 the entire world was gripped in Potter-mania. Not only was the final book in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, due out, it was also the month the 5th movie, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was released. For any Potter fan it was pure Potter bliss.

I was caught up in it as well; hard to miss with seven children and all the older ones being HP fans at that point. My editor at Disney and I were discussing it all in a phone call one afternoon and the idea to come up with my own versions of Harry Potter themed foods and post about them hit us.

I was more than willing and as I have a habit of looking for food references in everything I read, I already had several ideas. I chose the usual suspects that everyone knows about and two others that weren't so well-known. Writing up the posts was very fun and something I didn't think I'd get the chance to do, so I threw myself into it and came up with several posts and recipes. Being asked to do something like that was truly a dream come true for a recipe developer. The posts, sadly, have had to be removed from for legal reasons, but I was given permission to share the recipes here.

The first I'll share is the recipe for onion soup served by Molly Weasley in the middle of the night when Dumbledore drops Harry off at the Burrow in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

"She tapped the pot again; it rose into the air, flew toward Harry, and tipped over; Mrs.Weasley slid a bowl nearly beneath it just in lime to catch the stream of thick, steaming onion soup.

"Bread, dear." "Thanks, Mrs. Weasley." She waved her wand over her shoulder; a loaf of bread and a knife soared gracefully onto the table; as the loaf sliced itself and the soup pot dropped back onto the stove, Mrs. Weasley sat down opposite him."

English onion soup is not French onion soup, though it can be similar. It may be served with the typical crouton and melted cheese on top, or, as Molly Weasley likely did, without. I'm assuming this because directly after pouring Harry's soup, she offered him bread, and the thickness of the soup being mentioned also led me to believe it is more a creamy onion soup than the standard beef-stock-based type.

I also drew from the fact that the Weasley's are quite poor. Most creamy English versions of onion soup contain an equal mixture of Stilton and cheddar cheeses. The Weasley's would most likely not be using the more expensive Stilton, so I made this recipe with cheddar only. They also had a large garden and would have had onions growing of various types. Try to use as many varieties as possible for the best flavor.

Harry Potter-Inspired Onion Soup
Yield: 4-6 servings
Printable Recipe


3 large onions, peeled and sliced thinly
2 large leeks, white only - cleaned well and sliced thinly
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
6 cups beef, vegetable or chicken stock
1 cup half and half
4 oz. finely shredded white cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper to taste


Heat a large pot over medium-high heat and add a tablespoon or so of oil.
Add onions and leeks and cook until wilted and just beginning to brown.
Add garlic, stock and bay leaf. Simmer until onions are softened, about 30 minutes.
Add half and half and thicken well with a *beurre manie.
Stir in shredded cheese just until melted, remove bay leaf and serve.
Season with salt and pepper once the soup is thickened to your liking.

*Note- Beurre Manie is French for "kneaded butter". It consists of equal parts four to butter. Combine flour and butter and knead until well combined. Add a small amount at a time to a simmering liquid and whisk until smooth. Add more as needed.

Harry Potter books and movie references are the intellectual property of J.K. Rowling and Warner Bros. I am not nor will be compensated in any way for this post.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Super Bowl Worthy: Chicken and Cheese Dip

This was a happy accident I needed to share. Getting food ready for the playoffs this year, I had a few ingredients on-hand that I wanted to whip into something easy to serve. This dip was just the ticket. It was devoured faster than I thought it would be, and it will most certainly be on the menu for the Super Bowl this year (Go Steelers!).

Chicken and Cheese Dip
Makes 2 cups
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3 cups water
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 can (4 ounces) diced green chiles - undrained
1/2 cup salsa
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1. In a small skillet combine chicken, water, cumin, garlic powder and salt. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low.
2. Cook until chicken is easy to shred, about 45 minutes. If water cooks out, add more, a cup at a time.
3. Remove chicken from water and shred or chop fine. Reserve 1 cup of cooking water. If there is not enough, add water to make 1 cup.
4. Mix chicken with salsa, green chiles, cooking liquid and cheese. Cook over low heat until cheese is completely melted.
5. Serve with corn chips, keep warm or reheat as needed.