Wednesday, June 29, 2011

How Cool! Key Lime Cooler Wafers

Key Limes and Key Lime Dough for Cooler Wafers
I love the Conch Republic, better known as the Florida Keys. Whenever I get the chance, I go down for the day to Isla Morada or for the weekend to Key West. It's laid-back environment can't be duplicated in Miami.

Along US1, in Isla Morada, is a place called The Rain Barrel, a community of artists. It's impossible to miss The Rain Barrel, because there is a monster-size lobster which sits in front of the shops.
At The Rain Barrel in Isla Morada
Attack of the Monster Lobster
There, you can buy anything from pottery, to paintings, wind chimes to baskets, jewelry to Key Lime coolers. And it is here where I have bought more than my share of Key Lime coolers.

On the Way, Key Largo
Now, it takes me at least two hours from Miami to get down to The Rain Barrel. It's a bit of a ways to go if I want some Key Lime coolers. So, I decided that it was time that I came up with my own Key Lime cooler recipe that I could make at home on days when a drive down to the Keys, no matter how tempting, was not in the cards. I turned the cookie into a thin wafer which is a crispy, delicious treat.

The trickier part is finding the Key Limes which are necessary for this recipe. Most of them come from Mexico, and while they are easy to get in Florida, it may be more of a challenge in other parts. My advice is, if you find them, try this cookie.

Key Lime Cooler Wafers

2 Tsps grated Key Lime, approximately 4 - 5 Key Limes

Lime juice from 1 Key Lime.

1 C Four (unsifted)

1 Stick of salted butter at room temperature

1/2 C Powdered sugar (unsifted)

Key Lime Powdered Sugar Topping

2 Key Limes

1/2 C Powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grate the rind of 4 to 5 Key Limes, careful not to eat into the pith (the white part of the skin). The Key Lime is very thin skinned and a slight amount of grating will reveal the pith immediately. Grate 2 teaspoons of rind and set aside. Squeeze 1 Key Lime into a bowl, careful to remove all seeds, and set aside.
Make Two Rolls Out of the Dough
In a blender cream the butter. Add the sugar, Key Lime juice, and the grated Key Lime rind. Mix until everything is well incorporated.

In parts, add the flour and mix. Remove from the blender and knead the dough on an unfloured board. It will be firm and fragrant with the aroma of Key Lime. Separate and make into two rolls.

Sliced Up Cookie Dough
Place in the dough in the refrigerator for at least an hour to have it firm up. This dough also keeps well and can be stored for a few days prior to baking.  Whether you wait for an hour or wait for a few days, it is best to make your Key Lime Powdered Sugar Topping at this time, because you want to give the powdered sugar time to absorb the Key Lime flavor and this will keep for a few days as well. That part of the recipe is explained below.

Flatten the Wafers So They Are all the Same Thickness
When you are ready to make the cookies, take the rolled dough out of the refrigerator, and cut it up into small, thick slices. Place the sliced dough on a piece of parchment paper and cover with a piece of wax paper. Use a rolling pin to flatten the dough. It is important that each wafer be the same thickness, otherwise, it will bake unevenly, with thinner wafers browning more than thicker ones.

Remove the wax paper and transfer the cookies on the parchment paper to a baking sheet.

"Are they Ready Yet?"
Kippy Wants to Know
Put the baking sheet in the oven on the middle rack and bake for 12 -15 minutes or until they are slightly toasted on the edges.

Keep your eye on these cookies. Since they are thin, you want to make sure they don't burn.

These coolers are some of my pups favorite cookies, and when I make them, there is a lot of activity in the kitchen from the boys. They love their Key Lime coolers!
Out of the Oven

When they come out of the oven, you'll want to eat them right away, but resist! They have a delicious tart taste to be sure, but you want to add the Key Lime Powdered Sugar Topping for the deliciously seductive contrast.

Key Lime Powdered Sugar Topping

"I'm Not Waiting for the Topping". Yeager Studies His Options

Place the powdered sugar in a plastic bag and set it aside. Grate the rind of two Key Limes, careful again not to incorporate the pith of the lime. With a mortar and pestle, crush the grated rind to extract the lime oil. You will smell the heavenly aroma of the Key Limes. Scoop out the rind  Mix the grated rind with the sugar in the plastic bag. Let it sit for at least an hour to let the flavors blend.

Dust the Cookies with Key Lime Powdered Sugar Topping

When the cookies have cooled, place them in the plastic bag and shake for a good dusting of Key Lime Powdered Sugar Topping. You want to be careful not to do this too hard in case the cookie breaks up. And we all know the old saying about the crumbling cookie...
You will find that when the cookies come out of the bag, the dusting of sugar will be minimal. It provides only a very light coat of sugar.

Sprinkled with Key Lime Powdered Sugar Topping
Move your wafers to a serving dish and then sprinkle the additional Key Lime Powdered Sugar Topping over the cookies. It will look like snow... Florida snow. Beautiful and totally delicious.

This can also be served with a jam on the side. Any berry jam is a lovely complement. My mother has made blackberry jam as an accompaniment for these coolers and it sets off the lime flavor beautifully.

And as for my boys, each of them had more than one cooler... A lot more! It was a feast for all.

Lauren in Key West
I love the Florida Keys, and I go down there as often as I can, but now I know that if I want to have a delicious Key Lime cooler, I don't have to go all the way down to The Conch Republic. All I have to do is go into to my kitchen. But I'll find another excuse to get myself there... soon. Key Lime pie, perhaps? 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

It's Alive! Yogurt!

It sounds like something created in Dr. Frankenstein's laboratory, but by now, we've all heard about the benefits of live yogurt cultures to our digestive systems. This intrigued me because, I am the groupie of self-improvement, and thought, Why not benefit my digestive system? It sounds like a really good idea! And so I began to experiment with a lot of products in the market. I tend to go for the organic selections first, but I was suckered into trying one of the mainstream products which holds itself out as THE go-to active cultures concoction of all time and promised to set my system right in just a few short weeks. It wasn't organic and after three days, I dropped it. I hated the texture and the taste of the thing. Perhaps it would have done wonders for my digestive system, but it wasn't doing diddly-squat for my palette, so it had to go.

From there, I went on to a number of organic yogurts, but I was put off by the watery consistency of many. Okay, you can mix them or drain them, but even after doing so, they're still way too wet and again, the texture isn't right. In truth, they lack the correct viscosity. The flavors of these alternatives were definitely better and, in a pinch, I would buy them again. But really, I wasn't smitten until I found Organic Valley's Live Organic Lowfat Yogurt. It comes in a bottle and you pour it out like any other drink. It is a creamy, dream-like yogurt. It comes in three flavors: plain, berry, and vanilla. I love the plain version, and I drink it every day. Shake the bottle really, really well, add some fruit, honey, or jam, and it's perfection! My preference is to add a couple of spoonfuls of homemade jam. Since I make the jams, I can control the sugar in the mix. I add, cherry jam, strawberry jam, or Mungo's Mango Jam. Here's a link to the recipe for Mungo's Mango Jam for all you who missed it: . Mango lovers out there will find the combination is simply delicious!

Mungo's Mango Jam
To find this product, you can go to the Organic Valley website at: When I shop for Organic Valley's Live Organic Lowfat Yogurt, I go to my local Whole Foods store. In fact there are two stores that are pretty close by. And often times, I have to scour both stores to find the plain version of the yogurt. According to stocking sources at one of the stores, the plain is the most popular. However, it's the one they seem to carry least of! I'm sure Organic Valley's other flavors are equally good, but since I like to add my own fruit and enjoy using it as a base for other recipes, I go for the plain. Someone needs to tell the Whole Foods people there is a hole in there inventory and they need to fill it.

A terrific way to jazz up a salad is to use Organic Valley's Live Organic Lowfat Yogurt as a base ingredient in salad dressing. I love Ranch dressing and this is a great lowfat (notice I did not use the "D" word) alternative:

Quick Lowfat Ranch House Yogurt Dressing

1 package Hidden Valley Original Ranch Mix

16 oz of Organic Valley's Live Organic Lowfat Yogurt

Mix the two ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate overnight to let the flavors get to know each other and marry. If you can't wait this long, then try to let it stand for at least two hours. All great relationships need a little time to develop. Pour this over your favorite green salad and eat up. Low fat and delicious! Something that's for the books is that 8 ounces of this ranch dressing have 110 calories and 2.5 grams of fat. A truly tasty, guiltless dressing at last!

What a Croque, Monsieur!

When I was in high school, I was enamored with the French language. So much so, that I took four years of French, went to Paris, and to this day continue to read and practice the language - badly. In fact, my French friends have often told me that I can bastardize the language like few people they know. Now that's quite a compliment, since to most Parisians, at least, just about everyone but a Parisian defiles the language. So, to be in the hall of fame of people who cannot pronounce French is quite an accomplishment! At least I standout for something notable with the français.

 That said, while I may make the French language sound like nails on a chalkboard, I can assure you that I make one very Crunchy Mister, or Croque Monsieur... And what is a Croque Monsieur if not some ham and cheese on a baguette slathered with butter and grilled? Well, there are crocks and then, there are croques... and I think there are a couple of things that make the taste of a Croque Monsieur pop. Some recipes already include a Mornay sauce, and I think that is essential. But to me, the perfect ham for this dish is sweet Serrano ham, which is Spanish ham. Am I bastardizing the French sandwich with a Spanish ham... ah oui/sí! The sweetness of the ham just blends beautifully with the Gruyère cheese and the nutmeg in the Mornay sauce. Here's how I do it:

Croque Monsieur With Mornay Sauce and Sweet Serrano Ham

1 Large French Baguette

1/2 pound sliced Gruyère or Swiss Cheese

1/2 pound sliced sweet Serrano ham (Make sure you get the sweet Serrano, and not the salty type. It makes a HUGE difference to the taste of the end product and you will have a crock monsiuer on your hands if you use the wrong ham.) If you cannot find sweet Serrano ham in your area, use a sweet ham.

1 to 2 tbs Soft or melted butter

Mornay Sauce

In this version, I use more Gruyère cheese than is usually called for in the recipe. I like a thick sauce to apply to the bread, and it melts very well on the grill.

3/4 cup Gruyère or Swiss cheese. You can either grate the cheese or tear the slices up into small pieces.

2 tbs flour

2 tbs butter

1 cup warm milk - As soon as you see bubbles forming around the sides of the pan in which you're warming the milk, it's time to take it off the fire.

Salt and White Pepper to taste (I usually don't add salt, since the cheese has enough saltiness for me, but you can add white pepper if you like. I usually skip the pepper too.)

Adding Extra Cheese to the Mornay Sauce Makes Thick
Nutmeg - a pinch. (I love the flavor of nutmeg and find that it complements this dish really well, so I add a pinch plus!)

You can make this sandwich in a panini grill or by using your stovetop and broiler. Begin by heating up your panini grill to 300 degrees or medium high heat, or preheating your broiler, if you're going to prepare your croque by way of stovetop. If you can invest in a panini grill and love toasted sandwiches, it's the way to go. For me, the stovetop method is just not as convenient as the grill.

For the sauce, begin by melting the butter in a medium sized pan over medium-high heat until it's just hot. Then add the flour and stir until the roux is a light yellow, careful not to let it get brown. About 1 minute. It will also have a nutty aroma. Next, slowly begin to whisk in the warm milk, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens and comes to a boil. Reduce to low heat, so the sauce simmers and add the nutmeg, salt and pepper. Allow the sauce to simmer for another 2 to 3 minutes. Continue to stir. Now you're ready to add your cheese. Mix in your cheese until melted. Set the sauce aside.

Cut the baguette into approximately six equal pieces and slice open each one, leaving a hinge. Here is where there is a difference in the way the sandwich is put together, depending on whether you're using a grill or the stovetop.

Right Before Grilling in a Panini Gril
Panini Grill

Open up the bread and spread the Mornay Sauce on both sides. Place 1 slice of cheese on each side of the bread, over the Mornay sauce. Place 3 to 4 slices of the sweet Serrano ham in the middle of the sandwich. Close the sandwich. Before beginning to grill, slather on soft or melted butter on the tops and bottoms of the sandwiches. Winslow Dog's Notes: The reason you want to put the cheese on the outside of the sandwich closest to the bread, and not in the middle is that if you have a panini press which heats on both the top and bottom sides, then your cheese will melt better as it is closest to the heating source. If your grill heats only on the top, then you'll want to turn the sandwich. That is a tip that has helped me avoid the "cold hard cheese in the middle" trap. Place the sandwiches on the grill. Leave to grill for about 4 minutes or until the bread is crispy and the cheese is melted. Remove the sandwiches from the grill and serve immediately.


Prepare the sandwiches the same as above, except do not apply the Mornay sauce to the inside of the bread. In a heavy skillet melt 1 tablespoon of butter on low heat. When hot, add one sandwich at a time and cook until a the bread is golden brown, about 2 minutes. Then flip the sandwich and repeat with the other side. Move the sandwich to a baking sheet. Do the remaining sandwiches the same way. When all the sandwiches been cooked on the stovetop, spoon on the Mornay sauce over the sandwiches and, if you like, add grated Gruyère cheese to the top. Place the baking sheet in the broiler until brown, about 1 to 2 minutes depending on the broiler. Keep an eye on it though! You'd hate it to burn it at this stage!! For the stovetop version, it may be easier to eat, if you use slices of bread instead of a baguette for the sandwich, but the taste will be affected.

Now, that's a Crunchy Mister!

Foods That Make You Fat and Skinny

The Harvard School of Public Health has come out with some interesting conclusions based on three studies regarding what lifestyle behaviors and foods make you gain weight or lose it over time.

According to the Harvard School of Public Health, the most useful dietary metrics for preventing long-term weight gain appear to be:
•Focus on improving carbohydrate quality by eating less liquid sugars (e.g. soda) and other sweets, as well as fewer starches (e.g. potatoes) and refined grains (e.g. white bread, white rice, breakfast cereals low in fiber, other refined carbohydrates).
•Focus on eating more minimally processed foods (e.g. fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, yogurt) and fewer highly processed foods (e.g. white breads, processed meats, sugary beverages).

The biggest winner in battling weight gain is yogurt and the biggest loser is the potato, or starches. So, the idea is increase your intake of the good stuff and lower your consumption of the bad ones. I have always been a subscriber of fruits and nuts, but I will confess that I do love a great baguette and potato... and yes put on the butter. So, while I may refrain from indulging as often as I would like, the "bad" food items will not be entirely off the menu or this blog.

You can check out the study from the New England Journal of Medicine by going to: or visit the website for the Harvard School of Public Heatlh at

For more on the same studies, play the video by clicking below to hear directly from lead author, Dariush Mozaffarian:

Interesting tweaks to our diet appear to make a "fat" difference over time.

Something's Fishy! South Florida Lime White Fish

First, for all of you who are not familiar with Sea Food Watch, it is a service provided by the Monterrey Bay Aquarium which lists the best fish to eat so as to prevent overfishing. As of this writing, Sea Food Watch has apps for iPhone and Android. They also have a terrific website.

Recently, I purchased Pacific halibut from my local Whole Foods Store. It is a beautiful meaty fillet, which is absolutely perfect for this dish. According to Sea Food Watch, Atlantic halibut is to be avoided, but Pacific Halibut is a good alternative.
The Sea Food Watch website, is a great place to visit for more information.
During the summer, the heat reduces appetite... Okay, not always, and not successfully and I'm not using the "D" word in this blog, so let's not go there...But for days where you want something light, tangy, and very South Florida, this simple white fish recipe fits the bill. It is packed with lime flavor, much of it derived from the grated lime rind which is incorporated into the marinade. Together with butter, it makes for a rich, delicious, easy-to-make meal which will leave you feeling satisfied, without being stuffed.

Winslow Wants to Know What's For Lunch
South Florida Lime White Fish

1 pound of white fish - Pacific halibut, tilapia, or mahi mahi

2 Persian limes - the conventional lime you get in most grocery stores

Grated lime peel from 2 limes

1 1/2 to 2 tablespoon melted butter


Sea salt and ground pepper to taste

1/3 cup of white wine (optional)

Garnish with parsley

Melt the butter in a saucepan or in a microwave oven and pour it into a baking dish. Grate two limes, careful not to add any part of the pith of the lime. The pith is the bitter white part of the skin. Squeeze the juice from the two limes into the baking dish, careful to remove any seeds. Grate a touch of nutmeg and mix the marinade. Add sea salt and pepper to the fish and place it in the baking dish. Thoroughly cover the fish in the marinade and let it stand for at least thirty minutes to absorb the flavors. If you like, you can add white wine as well, although I prefer it without. For me, the joy of this dish is the delicious, unadulterated lime/butter flavor.

Baked to Perfection
Bake at 350 degrees uncovered for about 15 to 30 minutes, depending on how thick the fillet is. You'll know it's done when the fish flakes effortlessly with a fork.
Garnish with parsley and serve! Great side accompaniments are mashed potatoes or sauteed zucchini. Mashed potatoes are perfect for this dish because they soak up the delicious butter/lime sauce. A scrumptious, simple, and healthy (yes, I think some butter is healthy) meal to serve friends. They'll love it!
To give this dish a uniquely Keys flavor, you can substitute the 2 limes for 3 to 4 Key Limes. Key Limes tend to be a bit more acidic, intense, and aromatic than the regular Persian lime, so less packs more. Also, careful when grating the Key Lime. It has a thin rind, and you will find that you will reach the pith without too much effort when grating the skin. However, it makes for a real Key's experience. You'll feel you're on Duval Street in Key West!

Mungo's Mango Jam

Mungo's Mango Jam
A recent op-ed column from James Carroll at was titled, "A solstice approaches, unnoticed". Well, obviously Mr. Carroll is not into cooking or eating. The coming of summer brings so many delightful fruits into season: blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, cherries, boysenberries, cantaloupe and for us in South Florida, Mangoes! Yes, that delicious vitamin A and C packed goodie. And while so many outside our region see it as an exotic fruit, truth is most of us down here have been eating it since we were born.

The summer solstice is a celebration of the sun and a harnessing of its power to give us strength. One way to celebrate this new season, it has been suggested, is to reflect upon an area of our lives in which we need strength and to capture that energy from the sun. And here, the sun is so hot, that you can feel its power beating down. Yellow/orange like the sun is the mango's ripe flesh, perfect for Mungo's Mango Jam. Mungo, another of my dogs - a true kindred spirt - was the inspiration of this spread, since he loved mangoes and he would have delighted in the rich flavor of this jam. In looking at other recipes for mango jam, I have found that many add ridiculously large amounts of sugar. A good mango is naturally sweet and needs little, if any, added sugar when turning it into a jam. The following recipe is really easy and one that has been very well received by friends and family alike.

Mungo's Mango Jam

12 ripe mangoes (this makes A LOT of jam)

1/4 cup organic sugar

That's it. No pectin, no water. Now, comes the dirty, rotten part of the job. The part that makes you wonder whether it's all worth it. It is. Peel and cut the mangoes. I found that an ice cream scooper does a terrific job of getting the flesh out of the bigger slices of mangoes. The tricky part is getting the meat off the pit. That is no mean feat. You may find that initially cutting it with a knife works well, but then you'll need to dig into it with clean hands to get as much pulp as you can.

Next, put the mango pieces in an oversized pot. Add the sugar. Put the flame on medium-high and begin stirring. After a while, the mango will begin to break up and will seem to liquefy. Continue stirring until the mango mush (it's an accurate description) begins to simmer. At that point, lower the heat to a high low (you want it on low, but you want it to continue to simmer and cook). Let it cook, stirring from time to time. This is the second nasty bit. You do have to be on top of it and stir it fairly often. Taste the spread. It should be sweet enough if your mangoes were ripe and sweet. But you can add additional sugar to taste if you find that it is not sweet enough. In the process of making jams, I have found that if the fruit itself is not sweet, and has an acid flavor, it is very difficult to get rid of that by adding sugar. It's never really masked. Also, too much sugar makes the preserve overly sticky and too sweet. So make sure you use the sweetest mangoes available.

After about an hour or so, when your arm is about to fall off, carpel tunnel syndrome means more to you than an entry in Wikipedia, and you are seriously considering whether this was a good idea in the first place, your mango spread will reduce and become thick. Take it off the fire and let it cool. The spread will also get a bit thicker as it cools.

Some people like to add pectin. I do not use this preservative, as I tend to eat the jam rather quickly after making it and I always refrigerate. But for those who like to use pectin, that is an option.

Transfer the jam to properly prepared Mason jars .... assuming it gets there and is not eaten in the process... and enjoy!

An interesting set off of flavors for those of you who like cream cheese is to serve the pure jam over a bit of cream cheese. This can be spread over water crackers or eaten pure. It is delicious! Other types of cheese may work well too. Experiment and let us know!

Love to Eat

This is a blog about food - baking, cooking, and most of all eating... Guiltless and fun. Diet is not a word to be used on this blog and anyone even uttering this discouraging word will be banished from this site forever by the food gods, or goddess in my case.

I was recently introduced to a new acquaintance, an accountant, who told me that he had taken a cooking class. Immediately, I perked up and grilled him on all the fine things he had discovered on his journey. He replied that the most important thing he had learned from the whole experience was to be organized.... My eyes flew open and immediately I knew this budding friendship could not last. I started doing my analytical thing and thought, if this is all you got out of a cooking class, you are seriously lacking in emotion, passion and the very essence of life: joy! But I should not have been surprised for after all, this was an accountant and a very good one at that. I was quite struck by the way that an accountant could account in a kitchen. My response was that the most important things to be learned from a cooking class were to enjoy the process of creating and devouring the food you made. For food is a passion that inspires, confounds and leaves you breathless. Cooking, like all art, is the expression of emotion. In my opinion, there is no room for just simple organization. Inspiration is what is key! And while I did try to explain this and he quickly agreed, I don't think he got it, if for no other reason than he was still into measuring, quantifying and classifying ounces and liters... No, no, no.

That said, I am not suggesting that you throw out the measuring cups with the sink water. But play is good. I am not a professional cook. I am simply a person who likes to create and enjoys the process of selecting food items to combine. I also live to check out farmer's markets, bakeries, chocolatiers, and anything else that might be food related. And from time to time, perhaps search out something which isn't, if it strikes my fancy. I would love to hear from others as to things that inspire them in the kitchen or take their taste buds to the next level. So welcome to this blog and let's eat!