Friday, April 8, 2011

Caprese Salad Kebabs

1 package marinated fresh mozzarella
1 package fresh basil leaves
1 package grape tomatos
25 Toothpics

Super Easy Directions:
Load toothpicks with Mozarella ball, basil leaf then tomato
Sprinkle with freshly ground sea salt if desired

Book Club #7

Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time

Book for May's Book Club Meeting!

Recipe's from last night's gathering to follow...

Black Bean & Corn Salsa

1 15-oz can Black Beans, Drained and Rinsed
1 8-oz can Mexican Corn, Drained and Rinsed (I also used regular corn)
1 8-oz can Diced Tomato
1 Jalapeno, minced
1/4 cup Cilantro
2 oz crumbled Feta Cheese
1 Plum Tomato, Diced

1. Mix beans, corn, canned and fresh tomato in medium bowl
2. Add jalapeno and cilantro, mix well
3. Add feta cheese
4. Serve with Tortialla Chips

Optional Add-on's
Sprinkle a bit of chili powder to spice it up!
Add Cayenne Pepper for a little bit of heat for your fiesta dip

This was an easy crowd pleaser!

Apricot Canapes


16 dried apricots
8 teaspoons crumbled blue cheese
2 ounces chopped shelled pistachios
1/2 teaspoon honey
Freshly ground pepper

1) Top each apricots with 1/2 teaspoon cheese. (Note: I used about a quarter teaspoon per piece)
2) Sprinkle with pistachios (Note: I pressed the crushed pistachios into the cheese which held it onto the apricot more easily)
3) Drizzle with honey; sprinkle with pepper.

Nutrition Profile
64 calories; 4 g fat ( 1 g sat , 2 g mono ); 1 mg cholesterol; 7 g carbohydrates; 2 g protein; 1 g fiber; 20 mg sodium; 170 mg potassium.

Original Recipe and photo credit:

Bacon Wrapped Dates stuffed with Goat Cheese and Almonds

20 large Medjool dates (you can find these in fresh produce)

2 oz. (1/2 of 4-oz. pkg.) ATHENOS Mild Feta Cheese
32 PLANTERS FLAVOR GROVE Skinless Almonds Sea Salt & Olive Oil (small 1.75 oz package)
10 slices OSCAR MAYER Bacon, cut in half
20 wooden toothpicks

  1. HEAT oven to 425ºF.
  2. CUT slit in long side of each date, being careful to not cut completely through date. Remove and discard pits. Cut cheese into 16 (1x1/4-inch) sticks. Stuff each date with cheese and 2 nuts.
  3. WRAP 1 bacon piece around each date, completely enclosing cheese.  Push toothpick through to hold bacon around stuffed date.
  4. Place on rack of broiler pan.  
  5. BAKE 14 to 15 min. or until bacon is crisp, turning after 8 min. Cool 5 min; transfer to plate. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Make Ahead tip:
Stuff and Wrap dates the night before. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
Recipe and Photo from Kraft Foods.


Salmon and Cucumber Bites

1 cucumber, sliced into 1/4" thick discs
1 package salmon lox, cut into 1" pieces
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup Greek strained yogurt (I prefer Athenos brand)
1 small package Fresh Dill

Mix sour cream and Greek yogurt in a small dish
Spoon sour cream mixture onto cucumber slices
Top with salmon
Garnish with sprig of fresh dill

Endive Boats with Sweet Potato

3 slices low sodium Oscar Meyer Bacon, sliced into 1/4" squares
1 small sweet potato, diced into 1/4" cubes
3 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
3 heads Belgian Endives
1/4 cup Sour Cream or Creme Fraische
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Pepper

1.Cook the bacon in a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until it has rendered some of its fat, about 3 minutes.

2.Add the sweet potato and 1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the sweet potato is tender and the bacon starts to crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in 2 Tbs. of the chives and season with more salt and pepper to taste. Let cool for a couple of minutes.

3.Slice the bottom 1/2 inch off the endives so some of the outer leaves break free. Cut another 1/2 inch off and break some more leaves free. Keep going until all the larger leaves are free. (You should have about 20.) If you like, trim the leaves so they're all the same length. Save the remaining endive for a salad.

4.Set the endive leaves on a large platter. Spoon the sweet potato mixture near the base of the leaves. Top each with a dollop of the creme fraiche and then sprinkle with the remaining chives. Serve immediately or let sit for up to 20 minutes before serving.
A tip for making ahead
You can prepare the bacon/potato mixture the night before. Allow to cool, then cover and refrigerate.  Reheat over medium heat in skillet until mixture is warm and continue from #4 above

Original Recipe and Photo credit:


Ernie and I found our way into a nearby new 'bakery' just around the corner from us.  Cassava was opened by Jorge, who spent much of his life in Ecuador.  He opened Cassava as a tribute to the plant.    With flour made from this plant, he's re-created the traditional Cassava Bread known as Pan de Yuca in Ecuador.

The best way to describe this bread is that it looks like a little doughball, about the size of a golf ball.

The outer crust is warm and flaky kind of like a bagel crust but not as crusty. The inside is chewy, similar to a favorite Asian treat of mine, mochi!

We tried 6 delicious flavors from jalapeno, to chocolate, to greek with feta cheese and olives.  It was tough to pick a favorite... so we may have to go back for more sun dried tomato flavored or one of Jorge's latest creations.

I also indulged in a cranberry muffin.  OH my goodness, this was the BEST gluten-free muffin I have ever tasted in my life!  I savored every moment and Ernie could only sneak in for a tiny bite.

I can't wait to try the new empanadas stuffed with grass-fed beef, cheddar cheese and sauteed onions!!!

All in all, Cassava is definitely a place to try for some gluten-free specialty items. I'm not sure I would call it a bakery because they don't have the traditional breads, bagels, cookies, pasteries, etc. that would qualify it as a bakery.   The inside also has a look and feel like a small cafe with their wireless internet and several college students gathering around their laptops. 

Cassava stashould position the place as a cafe rather than a bakery and offer more menu items that are hearty enough for lunch or dinner.  That way, the right target audience stops in rather than someone looking for a crusty baguette.

3338 N Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60657

Thursday, April 7, 2011 Commercial

I saw this commercial on TV and had to take a picture of my TV.
CBS Cares about celiac, we love CBS!!!

Le Colonial

Le Colonial was our pick for Ernie's birthday dinner this year. I had heard such great things about this place from several people and finally decided to give it a try when I saw their gluten-free menu online. 

I had apparently walked by this restaurant several times before and had never really noticed it. We were seated by the windows in the front. The insides had a very French Colonial feel to it with dark wooden panneling on the walls, extraordinarly high ceilings with detailed moulding.  The wait-staff was dressed in traditional Asian Kung-Fu suits made of cloth rather than silk.

We heard this place was a Vietnamese-French fusion place.  I'm not sure that it was anything more than Vietnamese food served in a French influenced decor with French wine on the list.  Either way, we ordered a white wine from the Loir Valley to start. 

As an appetizer, Ernie and I shared a salad #14 Goi Bun So.  The grilled sea scallops were so delicious, fresh and juicy.  The rest of the salad was just mesclun greens tossed with some rice noodles. I did like the vinagrette but the salad was pretty straight-forward.

For our main dish, we both ordered #40 Sup Do Bien.  The menu says: "Bouillabaisse of coconut saffron lemongrass broth, lobster, mussels, shrimp, scallops, & whitefish, with vermicelli noodles & aromatic herbs"  It was DELISH-ious!  There was a hearty amount of seafood, at least 3 pieces of lobster and more yummy scallops. The soup was light but filling and I love adding the fresh cilantro to the hot soup. 

While the food was great, and the final bill was worthy of a special occasion, I'm happy we experienced it but not sure I'd be returning anytime soon.  There are lots of Vietnamese places north of us that would be significantly less costly and probably equally as delicious (though they may skimp on the quality and quantity of the seafood).  I was also a bit turned off by the waitstaff and their seemingly snotty attitude towards us, like we weren't the upper echelon crowd that would normally dine there. 

The best part of the meal was eaves-dropping on the couple next to us that had to be the most painful first date ever.  The guy spent the majority of the time on his cell phone leisurely talking to his friends while the gal waited patiently with her hands folded in her lap. Then their food came, neither talked during the meal as they shoveled the food into their mouths. The guy asked for boxes to go and that was it!

Le Colonial
937 N Rush Street
Chicago, IL

Book Club #6

Room: A Novel

Tonight is book club! April's book was "Room" by Emma Donoghue.  It was a GREAT pick for the month. I don't want to give away too much becuase you should really read this one for yourself. While it discusses an extremely disturbing situation, Emma does a fantastic job of getting into the mind of a 5 year old boy and brining to life this certainly unordinary situation. 

I'm hosting this month's meeting and have made a variety of appetizers for the girls! I'll be posting recipes of the fun little finger foods after tonight!