Recipe: Tiella di Cozze (Mussel Casserole) and Yogurt Carrot Cake redux

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Recently we had my family over for an open house. We have been in our new place for a while now and not everyone had been here to see it. So we decided to do a luncheon. I had two ideas going into this party – I wanted to make something rustic and old-school hearkening back to the times that Italians stopped what they were doing to enjoy a nice lunch spread together out in the fields, on a big slab of wood turned into a table. Also along this theme, I really wanted to make something using ingredients that we already had at home.

Too many times when preparing for a party, I decide on a menu and then go and buy all the ingredients. This time, I wanted to challenge myself more and use what was around. We had been to the Farmer’s market the day before and had gotten our staples: potatoes, tomatoes, squashes, onions and beautiful bread. We also had a bag of frozen mussels in the freezer. So I decided to make a regional dish from Puglia, called Tiella di Cozze or Mussel Casserole – it is said to have descended from Spanish Paella. Since we were having a crowd, I also added some shrimp to the dish, which was topped off with a delicious bread crumb and parmesan topping! It was wonderful.

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We served it with a nice green salad,Garlic-Rosemary Foccacia from Maria, the bread lady at the Farmer’s Market and finished with a

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Yogurt Carrot Cake with Toasted Hazelnuts . Keep reading for the recipes.
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Finest Foodies Friday : Your Favorites!

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Okay, so the theme for today’s FFF is yours, the readers’ favorites. I have spent the last several weeks introducing you all to my favorites (and believe me, there are still more to come), but today I wanted to educate myself even more and feature blogs that you all have recommended, that I am not very familiar with. If you would like to nominate your favorite blog, please click here and write in your favorite blog. Remember the only rule for nominations is that the blog has to be a member of The Foodie Blogroll! With almost 2000 blogs, that can’t be too hard! If you have not joined The Foodie Blogroll, click here to join!

Now onto the blogs.

I know there are a lot of lovers of pork out there. There have been many discussions about this, the finest of meats, over in the forum. So this one is for you: Bacon Unwrapped. Now, sausage is personally my favorite way to joy in the pork, but I think the majority’s favorite is Bacon and Heather, who runs this blog must agree. It always impresses me to see blogs that are are so singularly minded – as it takes a lot of work to find material to write about all the time. So when you want to learn the latest trends in bacon, you gotta give this blog a try!

The next blog intrigued me to check it out based on the name:
Bake & Destroy!
I love the dichotomy here- baking is always associated with domestic living, while destroying is clearly a warrior quality! So I had to find out – what is going on over there?! This is a great blog devoted to the sweeter things in life, like cupcakes, chocolate and confections but with a punk rock twist. These are not your ordinary cupcakes either, my friend oh no, there are mac n’cheese cupcakes, and I understand there is to be a Boston Baked Beans cupcake coming up! Count me IN!
Here are some great quotes that give you a flavor for this blog: “My mom and my bosses at the bakery taught me a lot about the science of baking, but punk rock taught me to make it my own” and “The world is your cupcake, dudes! So make it rad.” Thanks for your rad blog.

Then there is Matt from Wrightfoods a blog devoted to local, seasonal eating in the Pacific Northwest. The Pacific Northwest has a lot of great local markets and that whole region of the US has a different way of looking at the world. It is pretty much cutting edge in the local eating revolution. Which of course, I am a big fan of. Which has made me a big fan of this blog. The recipes are down to earth, but with a real touch of class. I am sure if you have enjoyed my recent posts about local and seasonal eating, you will enjoy this discovery as much as I did.

Another great cupcake blog is Airy Fairy Cupcakes, by Sinead.
I really do love these blogs devoted to cupcakes. There is something childlike, sophisticated and whimsical all wrapped up in a cupcake. When you eat them, they make you feel like a kind again, but with people for a real passion for cupcakes, they decorate them beautifully to appeal to adult tastes as well. I am very much into the whimsy aspects of life and this blog has whimsy plastered all over it, from the name, to the look of the cupcakes themselves. A real artist’s touch – and the medium is cupcake.

And finally to end this with a punch, is Michelle‘s blog, Thursday Night Smackdown! Every Thursday night she dusts off one of her old cookbooks and her oven mitts and bends a recipe to her iron will! This blog is witty and real and will make you start feeling a little bold. I dare you to read a few entries and not laugh! But it isn’t just for the humor that this blog is written – there is a real love for food and a great cook to serve it up to you.

Just a reminder! You have only 4 more days to post your entry for this month’s Royal Foodie Joust! The ingredients are:
something from the sea, lime and coconut!

Jam-Packed Post: Friends From Faraway, Birch Ice Cream Recipe and a New Foodie Blogroll Update!

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I can honestly say I am overwhelmed daily by the generosity of the Food Blogging Community. People are supportive of new ideas, helpful when you ask, and it doesn’t take long to feel like you have a whole world of friends out there. One day I have dreams of traveling around the world, and meeting up with all my friends from the community of foodies I have met online. So what does this have to do with this picture of ice cream? We will get to all of that, in due time…

It is almost a year since I began this journey into food blogging and it is one of the best things I ever did with my time. It has helped me re-affirm my passion for food and has made me realize that food and networking with other foodies is where my future lies.

I am getting married in less than a month, so I will continue to post regularly until the first week in April (- after which I am taking a 3 week hiatus), but I may not be able to make my normal rounds to all my favorite blogs. Just know that it is nothing personal and I can’t wait to see you all again in May! Thanks for your support! :) Also be sure to read the end of this post with an update about The Foodie Blogroll! :)

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Anyway, back to the point of my post…making friends in the blogosphere…so a while back, if you are a regular reader of Valli’s blog, More Than Burnt Toast(and if by some crazy stretch of the imagination, you aren’t a regular reader of her blog – GET ON OVER THERE!) you will have read that she and I did a little foodie exchange. I was enamored of her birch syrup (my favorite tree) and she wanted to try tamarinds. So we decided to have a little exchange! Well I gave her the wrong address and so it took a while for the birch syrup to get here – but it did, along with some delicious maple sugar – I love that stuff!!! Recently my mom gave Roberto and I a Cuisinart Ice Cream maker as an early wedding present (THANKS, MOM!)– so I decided to christen the ice cream maker by making Birch Ice Cream (recipe to follow).

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Then the next day, the postman comes a knocking AGAIN (– he must wonder what in the world we are up to at our house!). I am looking at this package and I see a familiar name: Nuria! A package all the way from Spain – and inside a wonderful apron with an octopus on it (I LOVE THEM – how did she know???) and a vacuum sealed package of her prized Iberian Acorn Ham. If you don’t know Nuria’s blog, Spanish Recipes (and again shame on you!!!) check it out and you will see how much she loves this stuff! But she sent this wonderful surprise to Roberto and I as a wedding present! I think we are going to enjoy it best this way.

So thank you Nuria and Valli from the depths of my heart! You two really made my week!
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Farmer’s Market Costs vs. Grocery Store Costs

I love veggies! Roberto took this picture of me showing off my newest farmer’s market find – this beautiful head of green cabbage that was a dollar. Roberto loved the expression of “pure joy” on my face, showing off the latest foodie find! I am a HUGE geek.

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Okay, as you all know I am a big, huge fan of the Farmer’s market here in Saint Augustine, Florida. I am beginning to feel like their poster child because I talk about it so much on this blog! Roberto and I go at least twice a month and have produce for the whole month.

Lately, we have been eating very little but vegetables and fruit. We supplement with beans and grains from the store, of course, but with anticipation of spring and summer we are eating less and less meat. Plus with food costs going up we are trying to make the best of our food budget, especially with our wedding coming up in a few weeks!

So I decided to do a geeky Farmer’s Market experiment…after the market, we went to the grocery store, our local Publix supermarket and compared prices. Here is the breakdown for you (first price is Farmer’s Market price and the second is the Grocery Store):

Item: Farmer’s Market: Grocery:

Beets: $2.50 per bunch (including greens) VS.  $5 (2 beets)

Spinach: $2.50 (plastic grocery bag full) VS.  $3.29 (salad bag)

Brussel Sprouts: $2 (1 lb.)  VS.  $3.26 (1 lb.)

Romaine Lettuce: $2 (huge head) VS.  $3.99 (3 tiny hearts)

Sweet Potatoes: $2 for 3 large VS.  $.99/lb

Red Potatoes: $3 (about a lb) VS.  $4/lb

Vidalia Onion: $1 (one LARGE) VS.  $1.29/lb

Roma Tomatoes: $2 (basket of about 6-7) VS.  $2/ lb (about 6-7)

Cantaloupe: $3 VS.  $3.49

Cubanelle Peppers: $2 for 3 peppers VS.  $2.99/ lb (about 5 )

Spring Onions: $2 bunch (with 3 large onions) VS.  scallions .99 for about 12

Radishes: $ 1.50 bunch (with greens) VS. Couldn’t find them at the grocery

Not only are there price differences, but for the items that are similar in price, I would still go for the Farmer’s Market products because:

1) I am supporting my local community, economy and farmers.

2) It is FRESHER. Have you ever heard of lettuce or spinach being fresh and crisp after 2 week in the fridge? Well this stuff is- it lasts double time at least, because it is not being transported on trucks or in planes across the country or even from from another country altogether. And it is not sitting there on a grocery store shelf for who knows how long before it is purchased.

So frankly, I’d rather support my local farmers. Some of the stalls are not organic produce, but I would rather get local non-organic certified (most of them practice organic methods) produce than organic produce from California that is full of petroleum after being transported across the country and wilted from sitting on the shelves and in transport.

Finest Foodies Friday – New Favorites!

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It never ceases to amaze me how many interesting food blogs are out there. You could try a recipe every day from every single blog on The Foodie Blogroll and it would take over 4 years! As it grows it will take longer and longer and with blogs hailing from all over the globe there is an education to be had out there!

Every week there are new blogs that join The Foodie Blogroll that are so interesting, so I have decided to take a little break from highlighting old favorites to talk about some new favorites this week. Next week, I am going to feature 5 blogs from the Nominations List. Remember to nominate your favorite Foodie Blog-rollers and if you haven’t joined The Foodie Blogroll yet, what are you waiting for?! Join us today! It is a great way to network with foodies from all over the globe, learn about new styles of cooking and cuisine and chat with them on our Foodie Forum.
Remember to be featured in The Finest Foodies Friday, you must be a blogroll member!

Now on to this week’s picks!

Ewa‘s blog Third World Gourmet really struck a chord with me this week. She is Polish/Australian and together with her Japanese boyfriend lives in Sierra Leone. She writes about all of her food finds and using her flexibility and creativity to create wonderful meals from the local ingredients. For a Foodie and Anthropologist, this blog is just a feast for the mind for me. It hearkens back to the days I spent in Navajo Country that really made me think about the world in a whole other way. Made me learn to see people for people – not rich, poor, white, brown, what have you. It was one of the times in my life that I felt the most alive! I told Ewa, I have always dreamed about doing what she is doing and reading her blog has inspired me to never say never!

Another blog that spoke to my heart this week was Drew‘s Blog How to Cook Like Your Grandmother. As any regular reader of this blog knows, I am not shy about letting people know I learned everything I know about cooking from my Grandparents and my mom. They were a huge influence on what has become my cooking philosophy and style. So I love this blog because it gives a shout out to The Grandmothers of all cultures and walks of life. It is about respecting the older generation and what they taught us. Common sense things – like making things that taste good, using real ingredients, not chemicals, making things from scratch and not packages and using up you LEFTOVERS!

Next is Tiffany and Schaefer a couple from San Francisco who write The Guerrilla Gourmet. It is all about their journey from eating decent food that didn’t require much effort , that filled their bellies, but not their souls, to creating delicious, high quality, gourmet food at home “radically cheap”. I love everything about this concept and the need to feed the soul. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next! This is their journey to better, soulful food.

Next is Gumbeaux Gal of Gumbeaux in the Kitchen. She is a Louisiana girl living in Southern California! Her blog features great New Orleans classics like Shrimp Po’ Boys, Crawfish Etouffee and Muffalettas but using her techniques to lighten them up for a more health conscious crowd. Her blog is spunky and witty and full of spark. Like Gumbeaux Gal says: “you can take the gal out of Louisiana, but you can’t take the Louisiana out of the gal!”

Then we have Angela from Angela’s Food Love.Given the e-book I just wrote, The Secret Energy of Love Through Food, this blog really spoke to me. She is all about the ritual of cooking and eating. She has beautiful pictures on her blog and I was especially touched by her story about going to Kyrgyzstan to write about the people there who are claiming their right to land under a U.S.-assisted land reform program. It is a very interesting article and the food looks amazing!

Product Review: Matisse and Jack’s Bake at Home Energy Bars and Snacks

I have a confession to make….I forgot to do something…and I feel really bad about it….

I get a lot of offers to do product reviews for a variety of different companies whose products either are or relate to food in some way. Some products I just refuse right away because I cannot support the ingredients – either they are not healthful or just full of preservatives. Then there are the many that I do try that just aren’t very good – either once I get the product I realize it is full of nasty ingredients or the taste is just bad– so I won’t feature them on this blog because it is not fair to you, my faithful readers. :)

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But there has been one very strong exception to the rule, and here is my confession. I received 2 boxes of Matisse and Jack’s Bake at Home Snacks a loooong time ago and I tried them and LOVED them. But for some reason the first box I made, we forgot to take pictures and then it took me a while to make the second box – which I did do very recently.

Here is why I love these products:

1) They are all full of good for you ingredients that are all natural.

2) They are customizable – meaning you add your own goodies to them, and they give you plenty of suggestions – you can even make them vegan.

3) They are as easy to make as a prepared cake mix – you just add wet ingredients (like yogurt or applesauce) to the dry, mix and bake. It could not be easier.

4) Best of all – they taste great – perfect for breakfast, snack or dessert with a bit of ice cream for an a la mode.

5) They are helping the environment by reducing waste that usually comes with conventional energy bar packaging.

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So finally here is a great product line that I can support, and feel good about! They are full of good ingredients with a wonderful taste AND a mind for helping control environmental waste! There is just so much to love about these products!
I am just so sorry I took so long to do the write up and let everyone know about these delicious bars!

(I hope the great folks at Matisse & Jack’s can forgive me! :) )

My NEW E-book: The Secret Energy of Love Through Food!

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I would like to announce the launch of my new e-book called
The Secret Energy of Love Through Food.

As many of you have noticed lately, I have been talking about more esoteric food related subjects in my blog posts, and this book expands upon those ideas. It is a guide for a truely new way of looking at food and food preparation.

As we all know, we are made of up energy, as is everything else on this planet. You can transform this energy in your food creations to add an unexpected twist. This guide will show you how to focus your energy to put your intention and love into your food, winning you high praises and giving each dish that extra special ingredient of LOVE.

This book includes 28 recipes and secrets to help bring more love into your life. There are great recipes and tips for the expert and novice alike.

All of the ingredients in these recipes you probably have in your pantry or refrigerator, or are easily gotten from your grocery store. The flavors may be exotic to entice a little intrigue, but the ingredients are very domestic. Many of these recipes are suitable for all of the loved ones in our lives – parents, children, siblings and friends. All are great recipes to be enjoyed for any occasion. Not only that but all the recipes in this book are heart healthy – because what is love without the heart?

For more information please visit the My Books page.

The Secret Energy of Love Through Food

The Secret Energy of Love Through Food Cover - ebook by Jenn DiPiazza aka The Leftover Queen

The Secret Energy of Love Through Food.
(or, you really can win a lover’s heart through their stomach).
Including 28 recipes and secrets to help you bring more love into your life.

This is the perfect guide you need to not only win your lover’s heart through their stomach, but bring more love into your life. Everyone has heard the old adage, but how can you make it happen? By reading this simple yet thorough guide. It is a guide for a truly new way of looking at food and food preparation.

As we all know, we are made of up energy, as is everything else on this planet. You can transform this energy in your food creations to add an unexpected twist. This guide will show you how to focus your energy to put your intention and love into your food, winning you high praises and giving each dish that extra special ingredient of LOVE.

This book includes 28 recipes and secrets to help bring more love into your life. There are great recipes and tips for the expert and novice alike.

This guide will also give you easy step by step recipes as well as a description for each recipe and why certain ingredients are chosen based on their properties, all of which enhance your ability to win your lover’s heart and bring more love into your life.

I have spent many years cooking and showing people how I feel about them through the meals I cook. I love cooking and enjoy entertaining. I learned a lot about energy and energy medicine when I worked for a holistic doctor for several years.

It was a transformative period in my life and through this that I began to see the world in a different way – how energy moves from person to person and how I could apply those lessons in other areas of my life, like food preparation!

I also lived on the Dine’ (Navajo) Reservation for a period of time and they are very particular about who they allow to cook meals – because they too understand about energy and how it can be transferred from one energy body to another. So with all these ideas, I decided to experiment with them in the kitchen for a positive outcome.

I am a food writer and creative cook who enjoys bringing a little magic into my kitchen. My passion is for food and helping people learn to be creative with food and share that love and passion with others whom they care for. I have taught culinary classes and have a blog dedicated to food. But it was through applying these lessons that I also won my heart’s desire! :)
Food is one of the things we enjoy together and has continued to play a big role in our lives.

All of the ingredients in these recipes you probably have in your pantry or refrigerator, or are easily gotten from your grocery store. The flavors may be exotic to entice a little intrigue, but the ingredients are very domestic. Many of these recipes are suitable for all of the loved ones in our lives – parents, children, siblings and friends. All are great recipes to be enjoyed for any occasion. Not only that but all the recipes in this book are heart healthy, because what is love without the heart?

You can purchase this book for $9.99. This includes all the recipes, photos, tips and secrets about food and energy.

Enjoy and best of luck!