Friday, August 29, 2008

Trader Joe's Indian Fare

I have made a discovery that is so fantastic that I want to share it with everyone—

Trader Joe’s Indian Fare.

This is a small box which contains a pouch of Indian entrée. Specifically, I am talking about Punjab Choley. I had my doubts when I purchased it because how good can something “in a pouch” be? And how healthy is it? However, when I read the nutritional information, I discovered that a serving contains 210 calories, 8g total fat, and zero grams saturated and trans fats, 610mg sodium (not bad for a prepackaged main course), 6g fiber, and 7g protein. Okay, now can it be good???

I bought a couple of packages and I came across them yesterday when, at 2:30pm, Jack asked if we were going to have lunch. This is his way of reminding me that I’ve become so immersed in something else that time has flown by, and that he is hungry. It happens often. :)

I had planned to make fried rice for lunch earlier in the week, and cooked and refrigerated the rice, but it was too hot on that particular day so I forgot about it (the container was shoved back into the never-never land of my refrigerator). When trying to decide what to make immediately (and now I was starving, too, but hadn’t realized it until Jack reminded me), I saw the box of Indian Fare and remembered the cooked rice.

Seriously, it took less than 7 minutes to make lunch. I sprinkled a little water on the surface of the rice, replaced the cover, and heated it for 2 minutes while I found a small casserole dish, opened the packet, and poured the contents into it. Then I stirred a little lowfat plain yogurt into the mixture and added some frozen peas, then the entrée went into the microwave for 3 minutes. I let it sit for a couple of minutes while I microwaved the rice a little more. Then, voila, lunch!

I knew that it was Trader Joe’s, and I love all things Trader Joe’s, but I didn’t expect this Indian meal-in-a-pouch to be so darn good.

The sauce, made a little creamier with my addition of yogurt, was tomatoe-y and quite spicy and fragrant with cumin and cinnamon. The chickpeas were a perfect texture, not mushy at all. If it had been a little less spicy, I would have not minded, but it was absolutely delicious. Now, for dinner this would have been a little sparse, but adding another side dish would make it more substantial, and for lunch it was a perfect amount.

The other variety which we bought was Madras Lentils. At $2.19 a box, how can anyone who enjoys Indian food, and is in need of a quick meal, go wrong? Rice can be prepared ahead of time, up to four days, and refrigerated (or frozen for longer, but it would take a few additional minutes to thaw).

I love Indian food, and I wouldn’t recommend this Punjab Choley if it weren’t great (and I cannot wait to try the Madras Lentils now). Is there anything that TJ's makes and isn't good? I've already raved about some of their other products, and I really do think that I need to do some comprehensive research. I'll be in that area next Wednesday... ;)

We will be spending the long weekend at the lake house and I will probably not be back to post here until the beginning of next week. I hope that everyone has an enjoyable holiday!

Edited to say that I have since tried many varieties of the Indian Fare, but my favorite is the Madras Lentil (with a large dollop of lowfat plain yogurt-- absolutely essential!).

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Jenni's Nutty Dollies

While I feel badly for those in the South who have dealt with tropical storm Fay’s deluge of rain, I am grateful that her remnants visited our area for a few hours last evening. Although it was predicted that we would receive a quantity of rain (the first in 2 weeks) yesterday afternoon, it wasn’t until after dark that I heard the lovely sound of raindrops on the roof. As of this morning, we received a full inch, and I am off garden-watering duty for a few days.

Our farm has spring water pumped into the house and also a cistern which is normally used for the garden. The cistern pump, however, died last month (and although my dear husband has many good qualities, timely repairs is not one of them) so I have had to use water collected in rain barrels. The rain barrels were dry as dust in the past week or so and I was watering the garden and flower beds with spring water. Since we were in a dry spell, the spring wasn’t flowing as freely as it had been during the wonderfully wetter-than-normal summer. So I resorted to reusing the rinse water from the washing machine, the bucket of water which collects in the dehumidifier, and even the bowl from the salad spinner after I had washed lettuce. Creative watering practices. I would love to someday figure out how to capture the rinse water from the washing machine in an easier way than stopping the machine, placing a watering can under the outlet hose in the laundry tub, turning on the washer, filling the can, turning off the washer… it has to be difficult on the mechanics of the washing machine, but so far it’s my best way to recycle large quantities of water.

Anyway, today a cool day (although humid) and I am going to bake. I haven’t baked bread since May.

My equation:
no air conditioning + large uninsulated commercial oven = no baking in the summer months for Vicci

I did bake a few sweets during the evening hours over the past couple of months, but I have been buying bread at Panera. Surprisingly, the cost of a loaf of whole-grain or honey wheat there is similar to what I find in the store and we both like it better than the in-store bakery at the local grocery chain. But I really can’t wait to have my own bread!

Now, my friend Jenni lives in a nicely air-conditioned house and bakes during the summer. I had given her a pan of coconut rum brownies earlier this summer, and she recently returned the pan. Filled. Now, isn’t that the best thing, to be returned a pan with something delicious inside??? And delicious it was.

My pan held 9 square inches of one of the most wonderful, moist bar cookies that I have ever had. And all of my favorite things were included—nuts, coconut, chocolate. It truly is with all of the willpower that I can possibly muster that Jack and I held ourselves to one bar per day for the past few days, then I froze them for treats later.

By the way, they still taste good frozen. Hey, I have hardly any willpower to begin with, and I just couldn’t resist!!! They are incredible, and very rich so one cookie should be enough to satisfy most people (not us, mind you, but most people!).

Jenni gleaned the original recipe for Nutty Dollies from Cookies by the Dozen and made enough modifications (to suit her taste and what she had on hand) that I have duly renamed them:

* Exported from MasterCook *

Jenni's Nutty Dollies

Recipe by: Jenni
Servings: 24

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------
8 tablespoons butter -- melted (in baking pan)
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup sweetened coconut flakes -- *
2/3 cup pecans -- chopped
1 can fat-free sweetened condensed milk -- **
1 tablespoon Nutella – stir into sweetened condensed milk before using
4 ounces Chocolatey Cats Cookies -- Trader Joe's brand (or another brand of chocolate cookie); crushed (1/2 cup crumbs)
1/2 cup sliced almonds
6 tablespoons cashews -- ***; lightly salted, chopped

Melt the butter in an 8x8 pan in the preheating oven. Tilt the pan so that the butter covers the bottom.

Layer the remaining ingredients in the order listed, making sure they are evenly distributed from edge to edge. With your fingers or a spatula, press down on each layer to eliminate air.

Bake about 20-25 minutes.

Cool completely on a wire rack.

Cut into bars when cold.

(Vicci's) Description:
"heaven in a bar cookie"

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Per serving: 161 Calories (kcal); 12g Total Fat (5g Saturated, 5g Monosaturated); (61% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; 10mg Cholesterol; 78mg Sodium
Food Exchanges: 1/2 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 2 Fat; 1/2 Other Carbohydrates


* I used unsweetened coconut flakes to counter all of the "sweet" in the other ingredients. Also note that my unsweetened coconut is in the form of tiny flakes that are much smaller than the standard flaked coconut. So using regular coconut will change the texture.

** I used lowfat sweetened condensed milk. Given the stick o' butter, I'm sure this made a world of difference! ha! AND...I mixed a tablespoon of Nutella into the sweetened condensed milk before pouring it over the layers, in an attempt to add chocolate-hazelnut flavor. I thought I was being brilliant, but I couldn't taste the flavor in the finished product. I will add more next time, and maybe some hazelnut extract.

*** I used chopped hazelnuts instead. But the concept of having a salted nut along with all of the 'sweet' flavors does intrigue me!

I have retained all of her changes/ comments. She had intended on making more of a hazelnut-flavored cookie but didn’t feel as though that flavor came through.

I will definitely be making these, but have already planned a few changes to make the bars a bit lower in fat. As Jenni remarked when we cut them “these could have used a lot less butter” and she is right. First, I will halve the amount to 4 ounces and add 2 tablespoons of canola oil in order to keep moistness but eliminate the saturated fat. If this works, I’ll subsequently eliminate the oil.

I don’t know how much it will save in the long run, but I only have the lowfat graham crackers on hand, so I will use these instead. And the nuts. The nuts, the nuts, the nuts…. the quandary about the nuts. We love them, and they are chock-full of healthy monosaturated fats, so instead of decreasing their quantity I will decrease the chocolate chips to ¾ cup. That should still give a nice, chocolatey flavor to the bars and keep that intense nutty flavor.

So, according to my calculations, eliminating half of the butter, using a little canola oil, and decreasing the chocolate chips a bit will drop the total fat to 10g, saturated fat to 3g, and keep the monosaturated fat at a decent 4g per bar.

It looks as though these are quite easy to put together, the only real prep time coming from crushing the graham crackers and chopping all of those nuts.

When we return from our beach vacation in mid-September the weather will be cooler and I will again be able to keep the oven on for baking, and I will make these. What a great way to begin Fall Baking Season!

And, as I look over my writing, I see that I could have been a bit more creative in naming these cookies.

Nutty Jenni’s, anyone??? :p

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Crustless Smoked Turkey and Spinach Quiche

I am making a valiant attempt to clear unreviewed recipes from my desk and so today, once again, we travel back to a Sunday in July…

Prep-wise, this was not my finest hour… I had misread the instructions and, as a result, breakfast wasn’t served until 10:45am. I had friends bring an assortment of bagels, I was going to put together a fruit salad and a quiche. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? However, I didn’t plan on also making the last few steps of the jar salads that we were to take on the boat, and which I had to assemble right after breakfast. All of this took time which I hadn’t anticipated or I would have been more prepared for the quiche. In hindsight, even though I had already chopped the onion (when I was making something else the day before that required onion), I should have also cubed the smoked turkey ham and the cheese and prepared the spinach leaves. Oh well. I had hoped that by now, entertaining groups of friends for a few days every summer, I would have known to do this.

In any case, the crustless quiche was quite good. I found the recipe in a recent issue of Cooking Light magazine and increased the quantities by 20% since I was going to make this in a 10” quiche dish rather than in a 9” pie pan which the recipe had specified. It was very good, not light-tasting at all, and I plan to make it again next year for a guest breakfast (providing I can remember to do so…). I love the combination of spinach and smoked turkey ham, and the Swiss cheese (I used emmanthaler) certainly took that combination over the top.

Photo: Randy Mayor; Styling: Cindy Barr

Crustless Smoked Turkey and Spinach Quiche

Sprinkle some of the Swiss cheese in the pie plate first before adding the ham and egg mixture. The thin layer on the bottom gives you another hit of flavor when you bite into a piece.—Wendy McMillan, Longmont, CO

Cooking spray
3/4 cup (4 ounces) cubed smoked turkey ham (such as Jennie-0)
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded Swiss cheese, divided
1 cup fresh baby spinach leaves
1 cup fat-free cottage cheese
1/2 cup evaporated fat-free milk
1/4 cup (1 ounce) shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese
2 large eggs
2 large egg whites
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (about 2 1/4 ounces)
1 teaspoon baking powder

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add ham, onion, and pepper to pan; sauté 4 minutes or until ham is lightly browned.

3. Sprinkle 1/4 cup shredded Swiss cheese in a 9-inch pie plate coated with cooking spray. Top with ham mixture.

4. Combine remaining 1/2 cup Swiss cheese, spinach, and next 5 ingredients (through egg whites) in a large bowl; stir with a whisk.

5. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour and baking powder in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add flour mixture to egg mixture, stirring with a whisk until blended. Pour egg mixture over ham mixture. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in center of quiche comes out clean.

Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 1 wedge)

CALORIES 152 (30% from fat); FAT 5.1g (sat 2.8g,mono 1.3g,poly 0.5g); IRON 1mg; CHOLESTEROL 68mg; CALCIUM 225mg; CARBOHYDRATE 11.2g; SODIUM 427mg; PROTEIN 14.2g; FIBER 0.5g

Cooking Light, JUNE 2008

Monday, August 25, 2008

Light Peach Tiramisu

Recently my friend Jan wrote to me about a peach tiramisu that she had made. Her description of the dessert was so mouth-watering I knew that I just had to make it before summer was over. This past Saturday night I had offered to bring dessert to dinner at a friend’s house and therefore had the perfect opportunity to do so. I asked Jan to send me the recipe but, oops, it wasn’t a Cooking Light recipe. Actually, it wasn’t light at all! Still, her description of this delicious creamy dessert was stuck in my head, and I wanted to make it.

The easiest part was finding the dry Italian ladyfinger cookies required-- I had a package of them in my pantry. The most difficult part of preparing to make this tiramisu was a split—finding a substitute for mascarpone cheese, and getting a couple of beautiful, yet rock-hard, peaches to ripen in 43 hours.

After visiting several websites, I chose to use the mascarpone substitute which I found on judyskitchen. I will not go into why I had no mascarpone, since the mega-grocery store a mere 15 minutes’ drive away carries it, but suffice to say I did not have any.

Judy directed to, for each 8 ounces of mascarpone required, use 8 ounces of cream cheese, 3 tablespoons of sour cream, and 2 tablespoons of whipping cream. She mentioned that this is only a substitute for mascarpone and doesn't taste like like the "real thing", but we liked it just fine.

As for the peaches, suffice to say that I became their Ripening Coach. I placed them on our black mesh patio table, moving them every couple of hours to keep them in the sun. When this wasn’t giving the quick results that I wanted, I popped them into a paper bag with a ripe banana and left them in the hot sun a while. I coaxed, I urged, I cajoled… every few hours I would visit my peaches and let them know how very important it was for them to be nice and ripe by 1pm on Saturday afternoon. It worked! They could have used another day, but were fine by the time I
was ready to use them.

The original recipe weighed in at 410 calories per serving, 24g fat, 13g saturated fat. The fat content was more that I try to eat in a day! So I worked on subbing for the two major culprits, the mascarpone cheese and the heavy cream (which was to be whipped). What I came up with was much better than I had dared hope. The cheese was light and fluffy, the ladyfingers, soaked in a mix of espresso and dark rum, were softened (not mushy) and there wasn’t an obvious “coffee” flavor. In fact, all of the flavors (rum, coffee, peaches) blended together quite well and I was pleased. I used neufachel cheese, light sour cream, and lowfat half & half and, in place of the whipped cream, Cool Whip Lite. It worked! :) The final recipe yielded 6 good-sized servings each containing 321 calories, 12g total fat, and 6g saturated.

The only thing that I will do differently next time is with my choice of serving dish. The original recipe called for an 11” x 8” dish and made 6-8 servings. Jan used a glass loaf pan to halve the recipe. I scaled the recipe down a little to allow for 5 very slightly smaller servings, so I thought I would use my 1-1/2 quart glass bowl with the little flowers. That would have been nice, but it was at the lake house, so I decided to use a slightly smaller, oval-shaped bowl. It was not a good idea. In addition to barely fitting everything in, the oval shape allowed for too many ladyfingers at each of the narrow ends, giving those servings more of a cookie-to-cream ratio than I would have liked. Also, a wide glass bowl or rectangular pan will give more presentable slices of the tiramisu, not the “scoops” which I ended up serving. It’s all in the presentation, remember? ;)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Not my best attempt at a food-photo, but we were on a dark porch and the camera flash burned out the

white tones too much to repair...

Light Peach Tiramisu

Recipe By : Vicci

Servings: 6

Preparation Time :50:00 (plus at least 6 hours of refrigeration)

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method

-------- ------------ --------------------------------

3/4 cup brewed coffee -- hot

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1/4 cup dark rum

3/4 pound ripe yellow peaches -- peeled and thinly sliced

8 ounces neufchatel cheese

4 ounces fat-free cream cheese

1/4 cup light sour cream

1/2 cup confectioner's sugar

2 tablespoons lowfat half & half

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups Cool Whip Lite®

4 ounces Italian ladyfinger Cookies -- dry; also named "savoiardi"

optional garnishes as desired: additional peach slices, mint sprigs, additional Cool Whip Lite

In a shallow bowl, dissolve the sugar in the hot coffee and cool to room temperature. Add the rum, stir, and set aside.

Prepare peaches, toss with a little lemon juice (or Fruit Fresh) to prevent darkening, and set aside.

Beat cream cheeses and sour cream with an electric mixer at medium speed for two minutes. Add confectioner’s sugar, half & half, and vanilla extract and beat for an additional minute, scraping down bowl frequently. Drop the Cool Whip Lite in several dollops onto the surface of the cream cheese mixture and use a spatula to gently fold in until blended. Set aside.

Dip half of the ladyfingers quickly (for just a second) into the coffee mixture and arrange on the bottom of a 1-1/2 quart serving dish or flat-bottom bowl. Spread with half of the cheese mixture. Top with an even layer of the peaches, then place the remaining ladyfingers, dipped in the coffee mixture, on top of the peaches. Finally, spread the remaining cheese mixture over all.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours but not more than 18 or the ladyfingers start to break down and become mushy.

Slice into serving pieces and garnish as desired.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Per serving: 321 Calories (kcal); 12g Total Fat, 6g Saturated; (44% calories from fat); 8g Protein; 25g Carbohydrate; 44mg Cholesterol; 315mg Sodium

Food Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 2 1/2 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 1/2 Fruit; 5 Fat; 1 Other Carbohydrates

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Pineapple Rum Cocktail

It’s no secret to those who know me (and many who don’t, since I've mentioned this many times before) that rum, in almost any form, is my favorite alcoholic beverage. Although I love daiquiris and mojitos, I like rum best mixed with seltzer over ice. Since we have been drinking rum in this way, Jack and I have evolved our palates and we now own a nice selection of top-shelf rums from several (mostly Caribbean, of course) countries. My favorite is a rum from Barbados, Rhum Barbancourt, mixed with a tiny bit of 99 Bananas, and seltzer. And lots of ice. Summer-in-a-glass!

Of course, this does not preclude me from trying other rum-based drinks. I was invited to a friend’s house for dinner last night and she was making a pineapple-marinated flank steak as a main course and mentioned needing to find an appropriate cocktail. I just happened to see a recipe for Pineapple Rum Cocktails in last September’s Gourmet and asked if I could bring the fixings for that.

These were, obviously, a cinch to prepare. Blend mint, sugar, and some of the pineapple juice then add lime juice. Mix ½ cup of the pineapple juice with 3 tablespoons of gold rum in a glass.

This was very good, I loved the flavor of the gold rum (I used Appleton Special Jamaican) and pineapple, but the tiny bits of mint were distracting to me. And to Jenni. The others didn’t think the mint was a problem, though, so you all should mix up a batch of these and try it out for

Pineapple Rum Cocktails

Gourmet September 2007

32 ounces chilled pineapple juice (not canned, either frozen and reconstituted or, better yet, from a carton)
1 cup mint leaves
2 tablespoons sugar (I used brown sugar which probably darkened the gold color of the drink a bit, but I
like the taste of brown sugar with pineapple!)
¼ cup fresh lime juice
12 ounces gold rum

Blend 8 ounces of the pineapple juice with the mint and sugar until the mint is finely chopped. Pour into a pitcher with the rest of the pineapple juice and add the lime juice.

Chill. This step can be done 4 hours ahead of time.

Fill tall glasses with ice, add 3 tablespoons of gold rum to each, and top with ½ cup of the pineapple juice mixture.

Note: There was enough pineapple mixture left over for one serving. I took this home, refrigerated it overnight, then the next afternoon I strained out the mint pieces and prepared it according to the recipe. The result was a drink with the pineapple-mint flavor but without the mint bits floating through it. This drink will definitely be prepared again, and probably with the additional step of allowing the mint to soak in the juice for several hours, then straining it.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Pink Peppercorn Mahimahi with Tropical Salsa

It’s probably just my imagination, but the stack of recipes which I have tried and have yet to review here seems to be diminishing.

We’ll bounce forward and I will review dinner from just a few nights ago.

I wanted to try the frozen mahi-mahi which I picked up at Trader Joe’s a couple of weeks ago ($5.49/or so per pound). I started to flip through my more recent cooking magazines for inspiration and found it in Cooking Light’s August 2008 issue.

Pink Peppercorn Mahimahi with Tropical Salsa

I actually had most of the ingredients on hand for this except the pineapple. Well, I did have canned pineapple but no fresh, and I did have a ripe mango that needed to be used soon, so I subbed mango.

Other substitutions:

* unsweetened coconut for sweetened, flaked

* Pickapeppa sauce for the fresh jalapeno (which, until I was actually ready to chop it, I was positive that I had on hand). Note, the Pickapeppa, while contributing just a bite of heat and some of that wonderful Pickapeppa-flavor, is a thick, dark brown condiment and it darkened the salsa just a bit.

* chopped cashews for macadamia nuts

Now, one substitution that I made even though I had the ingredient on hand was that I used lowfat half & half and coconut extract (1:24, or thereabouts) for the coconut milk. I just didn’t feel like opening a can to use that small amount. Whereas I use a lot of light coconut milk in the cooler months (mainly for curries), I just don’t have need of it in the heat of summer.

This was a really flavorful fish recipe. Although I mostly grill fish in the summer, it was a bit cooler than usual and I turned on the stove for a little while (I can do that-- my restaurant-style stove has a gas shutoff valve at the wall where the line comes in, and with 13 pilot lights adding unnecessary heat into my un-airconditioned house, the stove remains off for a lot of the summer). I did, however, use the toaster oven to bake the fillets in after they were browned because it’s just silly to heat an oven to bake something for 10 minutes.

The only change I would make to the recipe (um, other than those already made by subbing ingredients!) would be to serve the salsa separately. The cashew-and-panko crust was wonderfully crunchy, but soon after the salsa was spooned over it became soggy. Still very good, but soggy…

I also think that the salsa would go well over plain grilled fish fillets to dress them up. In fact, I used the entire recipe of salsa for our dinner even though I only prepared half of the amount of fish called for because it was that good. And more fruit cannot be a bad thing...

Although I actually had pink peppercorns on hand, I have never used them whole and this was a revelation. I thought that it may be the same as black peppercorns which I occasionally bite into whole and they bring tears to my eyes, but this was not the case with the pink variety. They crunched and added a little of the pepper flavor, but it was as a mild, sweetish note. Quite interesting!

As a side, I made rice and pigeon peas, using 1/12 cups water, ¾ cup parboiled rice, ¼ cup Goya sofrito tomato cooking base (which contains tomato, bell peppers, onions, garlic, and cilantro), ½ teaspoon smoked paprika, and 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro as a garnish. Quick, good, and side-dish appropriate… ;)

Now, a photo of my "accidental melon patch". :)

I haven't planted cantaloupe in years, ever since I coddled a single plant and, in one short night, a mouse nibbled a hole in all 3 of the fruits and snacked from the inside out.

I planted my garden late this year, because we were on vacation for the last 2 weeks of June and to put anything in before leaving would just invite the local wild animals in for a meal. So when I was finally ready to do this, a couple of recognizable plants were already growing. What I thought were 3 squash plants, in a relatively straight row, turned out to be these. There are a total of 14 on the 3 sets of vines-- wish us luck!

These are most likely seeds from cantaloupe which I used last year and put in the compost, which was spread in the garden early this spring and tilled in. And I may have a honeydew, but it's too early to tell.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

No Croutons Required Challenge-- Creamy Avocado Dressing!

I took a leap the other day and entered a food blogging “contest”.

I have been reading No Croutons Required since its inception this past February and have found an incredible amount of inspiration (and recipes!) in this vegetarian food blog challenge.

August’s theme is Salad Dressings and, since I love my Creamy Avocado Dressing so, I decided to enter it into the fray. But the other 14 challengers have contributed some awesome-sounding recipes (I’ve already copied three to use in the immediate future) as well.

*Exported from MasterCook *

Creamy Avocado Dressing

Recipe By: Vicci

Servings: 6

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method

---------- ---------- --------------------------------

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic -- increase to 2 teaspoons for a real garlicky punch!

6 ounces avocado -- chopped (approximately an 8-ounce avocado minus pit and peel)

1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt

2 tablespoons (or more) skim milk

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper

In a blender or small food processor, process all of the ingredients until creamy. Taste and adjust for seasonings. Add more skim milk if a thinner texture is desired.

If not using immediately, this will keep, in a tightly-covered glass container, for 3 or 4 days. "Fruit Fresh" can be added (about 1/2 teaspoon) to prevent darkening.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Per serving: 46 Calories (kcal); 3g Total Fat (1g saturated); (59% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 3g Carbohydrate; trace Cholesterol; 106mg Sodium

Food Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates

Okay, wanna get hungry? Go to the list of salad dressings at No Croutons Required

read, drool, whip up a few, and then and vote for your favorite!

Asparagus Fritatta, Rustic Walnut and Fig Bread, Greek Vegetable Salad

Today, let’s enter the “WayBack” machine and return to 5 weeks ago…

(I certainly hope that at least one other person reading this remembers the WABAC machine…)

… and one final post about our cooking weekend at the lake house. As I mentioned before, my friends Jenni and Nancy joined me at our lake house for a couple days of cooking and talking, talking, talking. :) This last post will review breakfast and lunch.

I took the easy was out for Saturday breakfast and put together a fresh fruit salad as my contribution. In no other time of the year is it as pleasurable to do so than in mid-to-late summer!

Nancy made a knockout Asparagus Frittata from Sunset. Eggs are my absolute favorite breakfast food (I eat them at least 4 breakfasts per week and, since I am careful to eat mostly whites, my cholesterol has remained between 130-140 for the past 8 years or so).

Wow, was this frittata good! Of course, anything with shredded Gruyere is good, and when I make it again I will still use the full-fat Gruyere but I will probably cut it by a third.

The cheese taste was pleasurably intense and I am sure that, even with less, it would still be delicious (and with less saturated fat). The recipe prepared as written contains163 calories, 11g total fat, 5g saturated fat. A couple of basic substitutions, replacing one of the eggs with 2 egg whites, and reducing the cheese to ½ cup, cuts out 4g total fat, 2g saturated. The recipe is very low-calorie and loaded with protein, and it remains so even after the changes are made.

I know, I know-- some of you reading this (and I know who you are!) think that I can get a little picky with this sort of thing. It’s only 4 grams of fat, 2 saturated that is saved. Why should it make a difference?

Look at the percentages: 64% less total fat, 40% less saturated fat. Now, doesn’t seem to be a more substantial savings to make those substitutions? It’s cumulative too. Little savings add up!

Back to the frittata. The combination of gruyere and asparagus is an incredible taste combination. Certainly, it’s great for breakfast or brunch, but it is also the sort of quick supper that would leave you feeling satisfied.

Look at this photo. Don’t you want to dive into the whole thing?!?!?

Jenni is quite an accomplished bread baker and she provided a rustic fig and walnut yeast bread for our breakfast enjoyment. Our utter enjoyment! I am a big carb fan, and bread is my favorite carb of all. Jenni was not pleased with the appearance of her bread since, even though she followed the directions to implicitly, the figs and walnuts were clustered in “bands” rather than being dispersed evenly throughout the loaf. Pooh. Yes, the figs and walnuts were having a nice little get-together in certain areas of each slice, but that in no way detracted from this bread! It was light, with a nice crumb, and the flavor combo of figs and walnuts was just so good.

She very kindly allowed me to take the leftover slices and I finally found a use for that jar of fig-and-chocolate spread that I picked up at Whole Foods a few months ago. YUM!

Following is the recipe. Jenni used chopped figs instead of walnuts, and she thinks that chopped dried cranberries would be nice to use for fall baking. So do I. But can I get her to make me a loaf (hint, hint!)???

Italian Walnut-Raisin Whole-Wheat Bread
From "The Bread Bible" by Beth Hensperger

2 ½ cups warm water (105-115 degrees)
2 tablespoons (2 envelopes) active dry yeast
pinch light brown sugar or 1 teaspoon honey
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup honey
1 tablespoon salt
4 cups fine-grind whole-wheat flour, preferably stone ground
1 ½ -1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 cups (10 ounces) dark raisins, plumped in hot water 1 hour and drained on paper towels )
Scant 2 cups chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons whole-wheat flour, for sprinkling
2 tablespoons, wheat bran, for sprinkling

In a small bowl, pour in ½ cup of the warm water. Sprinkle yeast and sugar over the surface of the water. Stir to dissolve and let stand at room temperature until foamy, until 10 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl (or in the work bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine remaining 2 cups warm water, olive oil, honey, salt and 2 cups of whole-wheat flour. Add yeast mixture. Beat vigorously until smooth, about 1 minute. Add remaining whole-wheat flour, 1/2 cup at a time. Add unbleached flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until a soft dough that just clears the sides of the bowl is formed. Switch to a wooden spoon when necessary if making by hand.

Turn dough out onto a very lightly floured work surface and knead about six minutes, until soft and springy yet resilient to the touch, dusting with flour only 1 tablespoon at a time as needed to prevent sticking. Dough should retain a smooth, soft quality, with some tackiness under the surface, yet still hold its shape. Do not add too much flour, or loaf will be too dry and hard to work.

Place dough in a greased deep bowl or container. Turn once to coat the top and cover with plastic wrap . Let rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, 2- 2 1/2 hours.

Grease or parchment-line a baking sheet. Sprinkle whole-wheat flour and wheat bran on the baking sheet.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface without punching it down. Pat it into a large oval and sprinkle even with half the drained raisins and half the walnuts. Press nuts and fruit into the dough and roll dough up. Pat dough into an oval again and sprinkle it evenly with remaining raisins and walnuts. Press in and fold dough in half, sealing ends.

With a dough cutter, divide dough into 2 or 3 equal portions. Shape into 2 tight right round loaves or 2 baguettes about 14 inches long. Gently pull surface taut from the bottom.

Place loaves on prepared pans. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, 45 minutes-1 hour.

Twenty minutes before baking, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using a serrated knife, slash the loaves quickly with 2 parallel lines and one intersecting line no more than ¼ inch deep.

Place baking sheet in oven and bake until loaves are brown, crusty and sound hollow when tapped with your finger, 35-40 minutes for round loaves, 25-30 minutes for baguettes.

Transfer to a cooling rack and cool completely before slicing.

Okay, now for lunch.

This was planned to be lunch on our boat, anchored upriver with gorgeous scenery to gaze upon as we ate. I had planned a nice salad for that, but it was not to be. Last year when we installed our boat lift, even though Jack measured and remeasured the lake depth where our dock is, the lift was assembled in an area which is too shallow to take the boat off when the water level is low (and the water level varies since there is a hydroelectric dam at the end of the opposite side of the lake). That day, there was apparently an order for electric power and lots of water was let through the dam. As a result, although we cranked the boat as low as it would go, it was still too high to launch. Mostly undaunted, we climbed aboard. Yes, we had lunch on the boat but we didn’t leave the dock!

Jenni made a Greek salad for this meal, and it was packed full of wonderful flavors. My mouth waters just reading about it, and I think I’ll have to make it for lunch tomorrow. Aside from the chopping, it really was easy to put together and tasted fantastic.

Greek Vegetable Salad

1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 medium tomatoes, cut into wedges
1 small cucumber, sliced
1 small zucchini, peeled, halved, and cut into thin strips
1/2 small purple onion, sliced and separated into rings
1 (14-ounce) can artichoke heart quarters, drained
14 pitted Kalamata olives, halved
1 (4-ounce) package crumbled feta cheese
Lettuce leaves

Whisk together first 6 ingredients in a large bowl. Add tomato and next 5 ingredients, tossing well. Chill at least 2 hours. Sprinkle with feta cheese, and serve on lettuce leaves.

Yield: Makes 8 servings

Southern Living, AUGUST 1999

Sorry, no photos of this one… I had the camera on the boat, but it totally slipped my mind. Was it, perhaps, because of the wine???

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Key Lime Pie

This summer, I "celebrate" something fairly odd. :) For the first 25 years of my life key lime pie, to me, was identical to lemon meringue pie with the simple substitution of lime. The crust was pastry; the filling was cooked on the stove, prepared from lime juice, egg yolks, cornstarch; then it was all topped with meringue and baked. And the filling was green (the shade depended on how carefully the food coloring was poured from the tiny bottle). And for the past 25 years, I have thought of key lime pie in a totally different way.

In 1983, Jack and I were on vacation in South Carolina and went out for dinner. I ordered key lime pie for dessert, assuming that I would get the same pie which I had grown up thinking was key lime pie. Wrong. What appeared at my place had a graham cracker crust, was yellow-green in color, and served with dollops of whipped cream on top. Not wanting to appear unsophisticated (because, at age 25, I liked to think of myself as worldly), I ate it and enjoyed this pie tremendously. Maybe a year or two later, I was asked to make a key lime pie for a family picnic and I made the one which I had grown up with (straight from the pages of Betty Crocker). I asked a few of the people who complimented me on it if they had ever had a key lime pie that wasn’t green, and wasn’t covered with meringue. Nobody had. So I decided that this kind of pie may be common in our area of the country when, closer to Key West (closer to the origin of the Key lime), their version of key lime pie was much more authentic.

However, actual key limes were almost impossible to get in this area of Pennsylvania 25 years ago (20 years ago, heck, even 10 years ago!) so it wasn’t until the past several years that I found actual key lime juice in specialty stores then, in the past couple of years, key limes started to appear in WalMart, of all places.

I was surprised at how tiny these key limes are, and I opt to make pie from the bottled juice rather than attempt to squeeze these bitty citrus ping-pong balls.

First, RealLime (the little brother of RealLemon) is not what I mean. I buy Nellie & Joe’s Key Lime juice (if this were unavailable, I would juice regular Persian limes because key lime pie is not deserving of RealLime juice in its filling!)

The pie which I made is easy. Super easy. I use Keebler Graham Cracker Ready-Crust (lowfat version, of course) because, after you mess with crushing the crackers, then add the butter and sugar, then press it into the pan, to me it’s just worth the cost to buy it already prepared!

The filling could not be simpler—egg whites, whole eggs, fat-free sweetened condensed milk, key lime juice. Some grated lime rind, if you are so inclined. No coloring added. And with some thawed Cool Whip Lite dolloped on top, it’s the taste of summer.

Okay, when I posted this on my laptop the photo looked fine-- now (viewed on my desktop) it has an odd greenish cast. What does everyone else see???

* Exported from MasterCook *

Key Lime Pie

Recipe By: Vicci
Servings: 8

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------
2 large egg whites
2 large eggs
1/2 cup Key lime juice
1 teaspoon grated lime rind (optional)
14 ounces fat-free sweetened condensed milk
1 reduced-fat graham cracker crust
1 cup Cool Whip Lite® -- thawed
1 large Key lime -- optional, sliced thinly into 8 "center cut" slices (simple, impressive finishing touch)

Preheat oven to 350F.

Using an electric mixer on medium speed, whip the egg whites until foamy. Add the whole eggs and beat for 2 minutes. With the mixer running, gradually add the sweetened condensed milk and lime juice, then lime rind and beat until well-blended (about 2 minutes). Pour into crust and bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until the center is almost set (the tip of a knife, inserted into the center, will come out clean). The pie will jiggle, but it will firm up as it chills.

Cool pie on a wire rack until no longer warm. Cover loosely, then refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Cut into pieces, serve with a dollop of whipped cream and, if desired, a lime "twist" made from the key limes.

*** Key lime twists-- make a cut in each lime slice from the center out to, and through, the rind. Hold at each side of the cut and twist one side one way, the other side the opposite way. Place in each individual dollop of whipped topping.***

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Per serving: 281 Calories (kcal); 6g Total Fat (1g Saturated); (18% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 48g Carbohydrate; 47mg Cholesterol; 200mg Sodium
Food Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 1/2 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1/2 Fat; 1 1/2 Other Carbohydrates

Total, fifty years of key lime pie (which may not be totally accurate since I cannot remember what type of key lime pie I ate when I was a young child, if I did eat key lime pie, but I’m betting on the meringue-topped one.). Life could be a lot worse!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The recipes which I would like to review here keep piling up, and I am trying to get the older ones posted first, but I absolutely must review a couple of more recent ones now since they are definitely “summer” recipes.

About a month ago, I posted 2 recipes from the August issue of Gourmet which I had made for a “boat picnic”. These were salads, one Indian-style, one Greek-style, layered in glass jars for portability. They were both very good and the concept of salads-in-a-glass was so interesting that I expanded on it this past weekend. And came up with a winner! It's so exciting when an idea becomes even better than expected.

In the Gourmet article was a recipe for a Mexican-inspired salad in a jar. However, it didn’t interest me as much as the Indian and Greek-style salads did, so I went off on my own. And this is what I did:

The first layer I made a fresh tomato salsa because tomatoes are so wonderful right now. I have discovered that it is important to keep the most “juicy” salad on the bottom. This salsa was very basic, comprised of tomatoes, sweet onion, jalapeño, lime juice, and cilantro.

The second layer was comprised of shredded cooked chicken. I simply rubbed chicken breasts with Penzey’s Northwoods Fire seasoning (an excellent all-purpose mixture containing ground chipotle peppers) and grilled them. This was done the day before, and it made the pre-lunch assembly all the simpler.

Next on tap was a grilled corn and black bean salad which has been a staple around here for the past several summers. Originally gleaned from Southern Living magazine, I’ve made a few adjustments. This salad is excellent just made by itself, though. The mixture of corn, black beans, avocado, and tomato, dressed with lime juice and spiced with a little jalapeno, is just so summery and flavorful!

On top of these layers I added chopped romaine and, finally, a sprinkling of crumbled quest fresco cheese and served with baked tortilla chips.

This was incredible, even better than I had hoped. Each layer both added to and complimented the other, and it received rave reviews from everyone. As much as I adore Indian food, this Mexican salad has supplanted the Indian-style salad-in-a-jar it as my favorite. We had two salads leftover which, aside from a slight textural change, were just as good for lunch the following day, so this recipe is great for assembling ahead of time (since anyone who knows me knows that I try to do too much in a short period of time and end up flying all over, trying to accomplish all of my “to do” list items, and invariably drive myself, and Jack, crazy!).

Also, if you leave out the chicken and increase the salsa and black bean salad, it’s a great vegetarian lunch; omit the cheese, and it’s vegan!

* Exported from MasterCook *

Southwestern Salad-in-a-Jar

Recipe By: Vicci

Servings: 6

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method

-------- ------------ --------------------------------

Roasted Corn and Black Beans (recipe follows)

20 ounces boneless skinless chicken breast

1 teaspoon minced jalapeno pepper -- include seeds (or increase quantity) for more heat

3 medium garlic cloves -- minced

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 1/2 cups chopped tomato

1/2 cup chopped sweet onion

3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

2 cups chopped romaine lettuce

3 ounces queso fresco -- crumbled

Prepare the Roasted Corn and Black Beans

Prepare grill, then cook chicken breasts. If desired, rub with a seasoning (such as Penzey's Northwest Fire or Chicken Taco) before grilling. Allow to cool, then shred. Set aside. This can be done up to 2 days ahead of time (refrigerate).

In a medium bowl, mix the jalapeno pepper, minced garlic, lime juice, and salt. Add the chopped tomatoes, onion, and cilantro. Stir gently to combine; set aside. This can be done up to 6 hours ahead of time (refrigerate).

Let's assemble! :D

Place 6 wide-mouth quart-sized canning jars on the counter. Divide salsa between the jars (about a rounded 1/3 cup of salsa). On top of the salsa, divide the shredded chicken breast. On top of the chicken breast, scoop a rounded 1/2 cup of the Roasted Corn and Black Bean Salad. Now, tamp down the layers a bit and access the space remaining in the jars. There should be about 1-1/2" left for the lettuce and the cheese. If there is room, add some extra of the salad (otherwise, refrigerate the remaining salad for another use). Then divide the romaine between the jars, the top with the crumbled queso fresco. Place the lid on top and close tightly. Refrigerate for at least one half hour, and no more than 24 hours.

Remove from the refrigerator and allow to stand at room temperature for about 15 minutes before serving.

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Per serving: 361 Calories (kcal); 15g Total Fat (3g Saturated); (36% calories from fat); 27g Protein; 33g Carbohydrate; 55mg Cholesterol; 942mg Sodium

Food Exchanges: 1 1/2 Grain(Starch); 1 Lean Meat; 1 1/2 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates

NOTES : Use wide-mouth quart canning jars

These can be made up to 24 hours in advance.

* Exported from MasterCook *

Roasted Corn and Black Beans

Recipe By: Vicci

Servings : 8

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method

-------- ------------ --------------------------------

2 cups corn kernels -- (about 3 ears of fresh corn; thawed frozen corn kernels can also be used)

1/3 cup lime juice -- divided

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup finely chopped onion -- (red onion)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

2 teaspoons chopped jalapeno pepper

2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce

3/4 teaspoon brown sugar

1 small garlic clove -- minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

15 ounces canned black beans -- drained and rinsed (will yield approximately 9 ounces)

1 cup chopped tomato

1 medium avocado -- diced

Preheat broiler.

Line a baking sheet with foil and arrange corn kernels in a single layer.

Broil corn about 5" from heat source until lightly browned, stirring once (about 8-10 total minutes, forbroiling about 5" from heat; or 4-5 minutes if 3" from the heat source; watch carefully to make certain that the corn doesn't burn). Remove from oven and allow to stand for 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup of the lime juice through ground black pepper. Add the cooled corn kernels, black beans, and chopped tomato. Stir. Lightly toss the cubed avocado with the remaining lime juice; add to the corn mixture. Mix gently. Cover and chill until ready to serve.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Per serving: 161 Calories (kcal); 8g Total Fat (1g Saturated); (41% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 20g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 335mg Sodium

Food Exchanges: 1 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates

NOTES : Roasting the corn intensifies its sweetness and also makes the kernels a little “chewy” (but in a good way!).

Can also add lightly sautéed (or broiled w/ corn?): colored bell pepper, zucchini.

This may be made up to 12 hours ahead of time.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Grilled Nectarines and Plums with Vanilla Bean Syrup

Ah, the last installment of Dinner with Jenni, Nancy, & Vicci…. Grilled Nectarines and Plums with Vanilla Bean Syrup.

This is a Cooking Light recipe which Jenni had made before to rave reviews, and it’s easy to see why. Grilling the fruit concentrated its flavor and brings out its sweetness, plus adds a touch of that wonderful “grilled” flavor. Served with a generous drizzle of vanilla cream, which contains a very slight tart note because of the mascarpone cheese, and a sprinkling of toasted, slivered almonds-- it is one excellent way to end a summer meal. Jenni cut the fruit into smaller pieces after grilling, which made it easier to eat.

Hmmmm, not the best photo but please remember that the lighting was dim, it was about 11pm, and there was rum flowing freely...

Of course, dinner was not the only meal that we made together. Recipe reviews from breakfast and lunch will be posted soon!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Trader Joe's Naan (and some really good chicken!)

I probably should plan more “cook once, serve twice” meals, but I just never think of it. Why, I have no idea. But sometimes I stumble into it. Last week I made grilled chicken breasts, marinated in a yogurt-and-spice sauce. By the time I got the seasonings to what I wanted, there was an awful lot of marinade. I decided to prepare twice the amount of chicken and then find some use for the leftovers. And, wow, what a “leftover” meal this became!

First, back to my ravings about my trip to Trader Joe’s. I mentioned that the tandoori naan was excellent, and I meant it. For lunch one day I heated the naan, served with the marinated chicken breasts, drizzled with the yogurt sauce, and topped with chopped tomatoes. It would have been even better (for me) if I had thought to sprinkle it all with chopped cilantro but, in any case, this was one amazing lunch.

I don’t like to waste anything. Heating a big ol' oven to 400F in order to cook 3 naan is crazy so, instead, I heated the outdoor (propane) grill, first placing a baking stone on the grill surface. It took about 8 minutes of preheating, and I cooked the naan for 1½ minutes on one side, ½ minute on the other. Yes, one of these had little charred spot in the center, so I will cook a bit less next time.

I wanted to make sandwiches with the sliced marinated chicken and toppings, but Jack talked me out of it. And he was right—the sauce and tomatoes would have made the naan soggy while, the way we ate this, the bread stayed nice and crispy on the outside.

It was wonderful. The chicken was very moist and tender and just as flavorful as the day I grilled it. The yogurt sauce seemed to have become a bit more garlic-y as it sat for a few days in the refrigerator, and as I mentioned before, I would only change this by adding cilantro and serving with wedges of lime to squeeze over the chicken. YUM.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Grilled Tandoori Chicken/ Basmati Rice Salad

Time for a long-ago recipe post. Well, maybe not so long ago! I can’t believe that it has only been a month since we made this dinner.

In mid-July, my friends Jenni and Nancy joined me at our lake house for a couple days of cooking, talking, and relaxing. I really look forward to this yearly event because I enjoy their company so much, and because we do a lot of cooking together and talking about cooking and recipes.

This year, I chose an Indian menu for dinner. The Grilled Tandoori Chicken ( and Basmati Rice Salad ( were found at the Food Network website; and I asked Nancy to provide an appropriate vegetable, while Jenni contributed dessert.

You would think that, with three people cooking in the kitchen, dinner would be speedily prepared. No such thing happening in this kitchen! We talked, laughed, caught up on each other’s lives, and generally had such a good time that we didn’t sit down to dinner until 9:30. It was great fun.

The tandoori chicken was tandoori style, because I have no tandoor oven, but it was still very good, very flavorful. It was marinated several hours ahead, making the prep quite simple. A bit messy on the grill (the sauce...), but in my opinion it was worth the extra clean up.

The basmati rice salad was a little bland but was a really good base recipe, though. I plan to add more garlic (perhaps twice as much) and cayenne (again, 2x) next time. I also have to ask what the heck Emeril was thinking-- 1/2 cup clarified butter or vegetable oil? Not needed. I used 2 tablespoons of canola oil and a nonstick saute pan to cook the onion and it worked just fine. The salad "held" very well in the refrigerator-- leftovers a few days later were just as good as it was that evening.

Nancy made Curried Cauliflower which we all just loved. I cook a lot of Indian-style recipes and this cauliflower recipe is a fantastic side dish-- one of the best veggie sides I've found. I especially enjoyed the tang of the yogurt contrasting with the smoothness (???) of the cauliflower. There was a little of this leftover and I ate it a couple of days later-- a bit on the soft side but the taste was still terrific!

I will post about the dessert next...