March 30, 2012

Cafe Havanna - Sarasota, FL

Cuban was spot on and very reasonably prices, but the maduros were not quite ripe enough so they had a heavy starchy taste. Unfortunately, I question the health/cleanliness practices of the operation. The lady busing the tables was also the person making my sandwich and I never saw her wash her hands. Icky!  For that reason alone I will not be returning. That's definitely a bummer as its hard to find a good quality Cuban sandwich.

Cafe Havana on Urbanspoon

March 28, 2012

Oasis Cafe Mediterranean

Good for a quick, inexpensive bite of Mediterranean food (gyros, falafel, shwarma, baklava, etc.). Serving sizes are moderate so don't expect to leave there stuffed unless you order more than one sandwich or a side dish to accompany your sandwich. All the sides (except fries) start in the $3 range so your $6 lunch is now about the typical cost of lunch in Sarasota, but if you are looking for something besides the typical chains or a greasy burger I would recommend that you give Oasis Cafe Mediterranean a try.

Oasis Cafe Mediterranean on Urbanspoon

March 26, 2012

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread Bites

This recipe was somewhat adapted from what the author at calls "Breakfast Cookies."  These are nothing like the breakfast cookies I blogged about previously (oh, how I love those cookies!).  These taste more like chocolate chip banana bread than a cookie so I named them accordingly. They are not very sweet and to me need something else...maybe walnuts, coconut, both???  
1 large egg
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 medium ripe banana, mashed
1 1/2 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup old-fashioned oats
2 tablespoons flaxseed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons peanut butter, melted
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a bowl, mix flour, oats, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and flaxseed together, then set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk egg, sugar, vanilla, mashed banana, butter and honey together until smooth. Add in dry ingredients (flour through soda), mixing just until the batter comes together. Mix in melted peanut butter. Lastly, add chocolate chips and cranberries, mixing until distributed. Drop heaping tablespoons of batter, about 2 inches apart, onto a baking sheet lined with a silicone pad or parchment paper. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until set and golden around the edges and on the bottoms.

March 24, 2012

Demetrio's Restaurant & Pizza

Disappointing pizza. The center of the pie was soggy, the tomato sauce had little flavor and the crust was chewy and dense (also lacking flavor). On top of that, the eggplant topping was just paper thin sliced of fried eggplant!  I can't recommend the place nor will I be returning. Always a bummer to have a poor pie.

Demetrios' Restaurant & Pizza on Urbanspoon

March 22, 2012

Toasted Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies

These cookies received rave reviews from other testers. I am a big coconut fan so while I enjoyed them, I found that the coconut really faded into the background. It seemed to be more of a textural component than a flavor enhancer, though this allowed even the non-coconut fans to enjoy them. The recipe was originally published in Cooking Light in 2010.

1 cup flaked sweetened coconut, toasted
1 cup all-purpose flour 
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
2 ounces dark chocolate (70% cacao), chopped (semi-sweet chocolate chips work as well)

Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl; stir with a whisk until blended. Place sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Beat in vanilla and egg. Add flour mixture, beating at low speed just until combined. Stir in the toasted coconut and chocolate.

Drop by level tablespoons 2 inches apart onto baking sheets coated with cooking spray or lined with silicon mats. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes or until bottoms and tops of the cookies just begin to brown. Remove from pan, and cool completely on wire racks.

YIELD: approximately 20 cookies

March 20, 2012

Vegetable and Spicy Sausage Soup

We love this soup (adapted from a recipe by Ellie Krieger). It is healthy, flavorful and easy to make. The use of the sausage and cheese as garnish give you the flavor without taking over the soup while pureeing some of the beans with the veggies makes it super creamy without a bunch of fat. Enjoy!

4 oz pork sausage (recommended: hot Italian)
1 1/2 c chopped onion
1 1/2 c chopped zucchini
3/4 c chopped carrot
1/2 tsp kosher salt, divided
2 garlic cloves, minced
1- 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1/8 tsp ground red pepper
3 c chicken broth, divided
2 - 15.5oz cans cannellini beans, rinsed, drained, and divided
1/3 c half-and-half
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary (or 1/2 tsp dried)
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Grated parmesan or asiago cheese for garnish

Heat a large pot over medium high heat. Add sausage to pan, and cook for 4 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. Remove from pan and keep warm.

Return pan to medium heat. Add onion, zucchini, carrot, celery, 1/4 tsp salt, and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes or until vegetables slightly softened, stirring frequently. Place 1 cup vegetable mixture, 1/2 c broth, and 1 can of the beans in a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth. You can use a large bowl and an immersion blender instead of a food processor/blender if you prefer (I do...easier clean up). 

Return pureed bean mixture to pan. Add remaining 2 1/2 c broth, canned tomatoes, red pepper and remaining beans, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until vegetables tender. Remove from heat and add the half and half, rosemary, and   salt and pepper to taste. Serve topped with 1 TBS cooked sausage and a sprinkling of cheese. 

March 18, 2012

Penne with Pancetta and Spinach

This recipe is slightly adapted (more spinach, asiago cheese instead of parmesan, and panko instead of homemade breadcrumbs) from one published by Cooking Light in 2007. It received rave reviews online, but I was very disappointed as it was really lacking in flavor - it tasted mostly like a thick roux with very little of the pancetta or garlic coming through. Just goes to show that you can't always rely on other people's opinions. 

3/4 cup (3 ounces) chopped pancetta
3/4 cup chopped onion 
2 teaspoons minced garlic 
1/3 cup all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 ounces) 
3 3/4 cups 2% reduced-fat milk, divided 
1/4 cup half-and-half 
6 cups packed, chopped fresh spinach 
1/2 cup grated fresh Parmesan (or Asiago) cheese
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper 
1 lb cooked penne pasta 
1 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup butter, melted 

Preheat oven to 425°.

Heat a large nonstick saucepan over medium-high heat. Coat with cooking spray. Add pancetta, onion, and garlic; sauté 5 minutes or until onion is tender. Place flour in a small bowl; gradually add 3/4 cup milk, stirring until smooth. Add flour mixture, remaining milk, and half-and-half to pan; bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat, and simmer 2 minutes or until thick, stirring constantly. Add spinach; cook 1 minute. Remove from heat. Stir in cheese, salt, and pepper, stirring until cheese melts.

Place pasta in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Add sauce mixture to pasta; toss well. Combine breadcrumbs and butter; toss well. Sprinkle over pasta mixture. Bake at 425° for 6 minutes or until crumbs are lightly browned. 

March 16, 2012

Gateway to India

I was excited to try their lunch buffet as it was recommended to us. We arrived shortly before noon and were promptly taken to a table. We didn't waste any time getting up to dig into the buffet - which is a good thing because they don't keep all items well stocked (specifically the meat dishes). While some of the food, such as the lentils and the chicken masala, was wonderfully seasoned, the majority of the food was only mildly flavored...too mildly so for me. The naan was really thin and lacked flavor as well. Overall, the food was good, but not great. If I were to return I would order a meal instead of the buffet and would stick to a dish such as the boldly flavored masala.

Gateway to India on Urbanspoon

March 14, 2012

Breakfast Cookies

Love these cookies loaded with fruit, nuts and coconut...I couldn't stop eating them! This recipe is adapted from one published in the Penzey's catalog. I halved the recipe, but kept the original amount of flour (by accident) and used 1/3 whole wheat flour - what a great accident. They held their shape when baked and had a wonderfully chewy texture that I love. Enjoy!

  • Ingredients 
    1 sticks butter
    1/2 cup brown sugar
    1/4 cup sugar
    1 egg
    1/2 tsp pure almond extract
    1/2 tsp vanilla
    1 cup flour
    1/2 cup whole wheat flour
    1/2 tsp baking soda
    1/2 tsp cinnamon
    1 1/2 cups oats, regular or quick cook
    1/2 cup raisins
    1/2 cup dried cranberries
    1/2 cup flaked sweetened coconut
    1/2 cup sliced almonds

    Preheat oven to 350. Cream butter and sugars until fluffy. Add eggs and extracts and beat well. Add dry ingredients and mix. Fold in remaining ingredients. Spoon by the tablespoonful onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment or a silicone baking sheet. Bake for 14-16 minutes or until lightly golden brown.

March 12, 2012

"Fresh" Homemade Salsa

I am almost always disappointed with store bought salsa, even some of the freshly made ones found in the refrigerated section so I was excited to try this recipe. Well...I was not disappointed. By using a mixture of canned tomatoes and fresh ingredients such as onions, garlic and cilantro you really end up with something that tastes fresh and homemade (or like the stuff served at your favorite Mexican restaurant). It is also a bargain as it makes about 4 cups for less than $3 and with the way we go through salsa in my house that is important. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do. 

1- 14 oz can diced tomatoes (I recommend using fire-roasted tomatoes)
1- 10 oz can original Rotel (really any Rotel will work, why not mix it up for different flavors?!)
1/2 small onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2-1 jalapeno, seeded 
1 teaspoon honey (more is not better here as it tames the heat and mellows the rest of the flavors)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4-1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1-2 handfuls of cilantro (I love cilantro so I used 2 handfuls)
juice of 1 lime

Put all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and pulse to combine until all the ingredients are finely chopped (15-30 seconds) and your desired consistency is reached. Do not over-blend; you'll end up with something more like gazpacho than salsa.  Taste and adjust seasonings accordingly. 

Adapted from "Easy Blender Salsa" at 

March 10, 2012

Pasta with Spicy Tomato Sauce and Shrimp

This recipe is adapted from Giada's "Penne with Spicy Tomato Sauce."  Very similar to a puttanesca, but with a heartier, spicier tomato sauce. Enjoy! 

3 cups simple tomato sauce
2 oz can anchovy fillets packed in oil, minced
3/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
2 tablespoons drained capers
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 lb uncooked, peeled and deveined shrimp
3/4 pound penne or rigatoni pasta
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley (optional)

Place the minced anchovies, and some their oil in a medium, heavy skillet. Stir over medium heat until the anchovies melt, about 2 minutes. Add the olives, capers, remaining 1/4 tsp black pepper and red pepper flakes. Saute until the olives are heated through about 2 minutes. Stir the sauce into the olive mixture and simmer over medium heat until the flavors blend, stirring frequently, about 10-15 minutes, adding the shrimp in the last 5 minutes (they are cooked when they are no longer translucent). Season with salt to taste.

Meanwhile bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, stirring occasionally to prevent the pasta from sticking together, about 10 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water. Add the penne to the sauce and toss to coat, adding enough of the reserved pasta water to moisten. Serve immediately with a sprinkling of parsley.

March 7, 2012

Chicken Tortilla Soup with Lime

This recipe if adapted from one by Rachel Ray. I was not overly impressed with the flavor of the dish...just seemed like something was missing. I added a bit of ground chipotle pepper to my bowl before serving and that seems to help. For the left overs my husband is going to try adding a slice of cooked bacon and some mushrooms to really jazz things up;-)

1 TBS olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 jalapeno, minced
1/2 TBS cumin
1 TBS coriander
2 cups yellow corn tortilla chips, crushed
1 lb rotisserie chicken meat, chopped
1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
2 tsp hot sauce
1 quart chicken stock
1 lime, zested and juiced
3/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped plus more for garnish
sour cream or Greek yogurt for garnish

Heat a soup pot over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. The add the garlic, bell pepper, onions, jalapenos, cumin, coriander, salt and pepper. Cook for 3-5 minutes, until softened. Add the crushed tortilla chips through the cilantro. Bring to a simmer for 15 minutes. Serve with garnished with more cilantro and dollop of sour cream or yogurt. 

March 4, 2012

Yeasted Corn Muffins

I love the addition of yeast to corn muffins!  It adds a great smell and airiness not found in the typical corn muffin (dense and sweet). These muffins are lightly sweetened with brown sugar, which goes nicely with hearty dishes such as chili.  I veered from the original recipe in that I used stone-ground cornmeal which adds a bit of crunchiness due to the large grain size. If that doesn't appeal to you, use a fine ground cornmeal. Enjoy!

  • 1cup whole or low-fat milk, heated to 110 degrees
  • 4tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 1/2teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
  • 1large egg
  • 1 3/4cups all-purpose flour
  • 1cup cornmeal (I used Bob's Red Mill Stone-ground Cornmeal)
  • 1/4cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1teaspoon salt
  • 1. WARM OVEN Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 200 degrees. When oven reaches 200 degrees, turn it off. Grease 12-cup muffin tin.
  • 2. MIX BATTER Whisk milk, butter, and yeast in large liquid measuring cup until yeast dissolves, then whisk in egg. In bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix ½ cup flour, cornmeal, brown sugar, and salt until combined. With mixer on low, add milk mixture in steady stream and mix until dough comes together, about 1 minute. Gradually add remaining flour until incorporated. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until batter is thick and elastic, about 3 minutes.
  • 3. LET RISE Using greased ¼-cup measure, transfer batter to muffin cups. Cover loosely with greased plastic wrap and place in turned-off oven until batter reaches rims of muffin cups, about 1 hour.
  • 4. BAKE MUFFINS Remove muffin tin from oven and heat oven to 375 degrees. Discard plastic and bake muffins until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool in tin for 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack. Serve. (Muffins can be stored in airtight container at room temperature for 3 days.)

Recipe obtained from Cook's Country magazine

March 2, 2012

"Rumble Cakes"

This recipe is adapted from one posted on Trader Joe's Website. They are good, but still have a "box brownie" flavor that doesn't appeal to me.  I love the incorporation of the cookie dough with the brownies so I would try doing something similar again, but with homemade brownie batter. 

1 stick Unsalted Butter
2 Eggs
1 box TJ's Truffle Brownie Mix
1 box TJ's Frozen Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

Preheat the oven to 350. Bring the butter to room temperature and combine the
eggs with the butter. Slowly add in the brownie mix. 

Lightly grease a 9x9x2 pan and place the chunks of cookie dough sporadically around the bottom
of the pan (there may be a few pieces of cookie dough left). Pour the brownie mix over the cookie dough pieces; don't worry if the batter doesn't fully cover all the cookies, it will spread out as it bakes. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until you can stick a toothpick in the center and it comes out clean. For moister cakes, cover with aluminum foil while baking. Enjoy!