Cooking Club: Sandwich Soiree

We host a monthly Cooking Club at our house with 10 couples/families. Each month we pick a different theme and all bring ingredients. The ladies generally do the cooking and the men help with the eating and cleaning. Kids pitch in too or cook up their own concoctions in my daughter's pretend kitchen. This afternoon we had a "Sandwich Soiree" and shared decadent sandwich recipes. We thought we'd share some of the healthy ones with you...

Italian Paninis
Healthy BLT with a Twist
Spinach Salad with Pears and Goat Cheese
Chocolate-Strawberry Ice Cream Sandwiches

1 loaf sourdough bread, sliced
1 package Italian pepperoni
1 package provolone cheese, sliced
Olive oil

1. Assemble sandwiches with cheese and pepperoni on inside.
2. Brush outsides of bread with olive oil.
3. Grill on panini pan, sandwich maker or George Foreman grill until golden brown and grill marks show. Serve.


1 loaf oatmeal flax bread made in breadmaker (recipe to follow)
2 tomatoes, sliced
2 avocadoes, sliced
Baby greens
1 package turkey bacon, fried
1 bottle goddess salad dressing

1. Slice bread and vegetables.
2. Spread goddess dressing on bread.
3. Assemble sandwiches with tomatoes, avocadoes, turkey bacon and greens.
4. Cut into quarters and use toothpicks to hold them together. Serve.

Dorina's Oatmeal Flax Bread
in the bread maker

1 1/4 cups water
3 tablespoons raw honey
3 tablespoons raw milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup uncooked oatmeal
1 cup Bob's Red Mill unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups Bob's Red Mill white whole wheat flour
1 package active dry yeast
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
2 tablespoons sunflower seeds or other seeds (add later)

1. Add all ingredients to your bread maker in order.
2. Select the Whole Wheat setting on your bread maker and begin.
3. When bread maker beeps before the end of the last kneading, add the sunflower seeds.
4. Remove bread from bread maker and cool on rack.


1 package/bunch baby greens lettuce
1 container blue cheese
1 bosc pear, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon pomegranate juice or lime juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon rosemary
1 teaspoon poppy seeds

1. Assemble salad with baby greens, blue cheese and pears.
2. Add oil, vinegar, juice, salt and rosemary to a small mason jar and shake.
3. Pour vinaigrette over salad and toss. Serve.

Double Chocolate Strawberry Ice Cream Sandwiches

For cookies:
10 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons whole wheat pastry flour
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup organic evaporated cane juice
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
3 large cage free eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 ounces (1 cup) semisweet chocolate chips or grain sweetened chips

1 container strawberry organic ice cream (Or, make your own if you feel inclined. We mix up raw milk, strawberries and honey in our Vitamix blender and then freeze it for a healthy strawberry ice cream treat.)

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Melt bittersweet chocolate in double boiler or in a glass bowl on top of a small pot of boiling water. Whisk until smooth. Set aside to cool.
3. In a mixer, blend butter, evaporated cane juice and eggs until light and fluffy. Add vanilla.
4. Add dry ingredients, including cocoa powder, baking powder, salt and whole wheat pastry flour.
5. Mix just to blend. Add chocolate chips.
6. Use 1/4 cup to scoop portions. Form into balls and flatten onto parchment paper.
7. Bake approx. 15 minutes until little cracks form on top. Cool.
8. Scoop large spoonful of softened ice cream on one cookie and press another on top. Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze to hold shape or serve right away.


Restaurant Review: Sierra Restaurant at Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite

Over the last five years I've developed a new creative muse: food.

I'm a writer. When I have writer's block, I head for the kitchen. When I need a little inspiration, I twirl my spice rack. When I'm ready to paint, I take out a plate. My blank canvas. Ericlee and I recently celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary. We headed for Tenaya Lodge in Yosemite where we were married on a snowy April Sunday. We celebrated by eating at the Sierra Restaurant and recounting our last five years together. The evening was romantic. The food was dynamic. It was one of those experiences I'd like to taste again and again.

Our meal commenced with the Mulligatawny soup made with madras curry, root vegetables and coconut milk. The Indian flavors melded into a surprisingly smooth, yet complexly flavored stew. This was comfort food with a twist. Ericlee said he wanted to whole meal to be soup.

Sierra has a "culinary credo" printed in their menu. Chef Frederick Clabaugh uses locally grown sustainable products whenever possible as a "commitment to the land and the sea and our environment." Pretty impressive and right in line with our family's quest to find healthy, fabulous-tasting foods. (We happen to think the two are not mutually exclusive.)

Ericlee ordered the Special - a Roasted Mahi Mahi with an artful display of vegetables served on a bed of plump Israeli Couscous. This is the kind of dish that wows me with colors and textures and even aromas. My husband, however, was still talking about the soup.

I ordered the Line Caught Pacific Halibut with a Macadamian nut crust, tropical salsa and vanilla bean butter served on a bed of coconut risotto. This was, indeed, the show-stopper. The salmon looked better - more bursts of colors perhaps - but the halibut was a fireworks show of flavors in my mouth.

Please understand: I don't usually order fish in restaurants. I'm not a seafood lover. I make lots of dishes with mahi mahi at home or grill up a nice filet of salmon for my brother when he's in town, but I don't *choose* fish. It's rarely appealing to me. I have a new appreciation for fish after this Sierra meal.

The halibut was tender - perfectly coupled with the tropical salsa made with tiny cubed melon and mango. The coconut risotto was a creative twist to complete this meal. Risotto-making is an art. One has to keep a close eye on the rice in the pan and add just the right amount of liquid. My compliments to the chef who mixed this one up just right. This fusion approach adding coconut milk (often used in Asian cuisine) to the traditional Italian rice was ingenious.

We ordered our dessert to go so we could enjoy it in our room at the Apple Tree Inn (next door) sitting by the fire. Ericlee picked out an oversized chocolate chip cookie with a scoop of ice cream on top. They even packaged up whipped cream, chocolate and caramel for us to add. A great American finisher.

Let's just say this meal was definitely worth the moolah. We are not ones to spend big money on dinner out. My hubby would rather enjoy one of my creative concoctions at home if he had the choice. As for me, I welcomed the chance to watch another food artist throw paint on a blank canvas.


April Menu Planner

Spring has sprung! That means April showers are mixed with beautiful sunny days hinting at summer. That also means spring produce is starting to appear at the markets. Get a little head start on next week's eats by planning a trip to the market this Saturday. Here are some new menu ideas with spring in mind. Bon Appetit!

Spinach dip & cracker appetizer
Sun-dried tomato and artichoke ravioli
Alfredo sauce
Garlic bread
Caesar salad

Pecan-crusted Dinner salad
with goat cheese and fresh tomatoes
Strawberry clafouti

Turkey wraps
Basmati rice blend

Almond-crusted mahi mahi with mango vinaigerette
Sauteed bok choy
Leftover basmati rice

Luscious leftovers

Grilled tri-tip
Armenian pilaf
Grilled asparagus with lemon sauce
Strawberry-spinach salad with gorgonzola

Tri-tip sandwiches on Ciabatta bread
Broccoli salad

Week #2

Grilled Italian Chicken (see Recipe of the Week)
with Balsamic Strawberry salsa
Grilled Asparagus
Quinoa (cooks up just like couscous or rice)

Baby greens salad with goat cheese & blood oranges
Roasted salmon
Potato gnocchi with pesto sauce

Dorina's spring alphabet soup

Thai Chicken Pizza
Strawberry-Mint Lemonade

Luscious Leftovers

Caesar Salad
Feta burgers
Grilled zucchini

Pineapple-pepper chicken stir fry
Brown Jasmine rice


Recipe of the Week: Carrot Birthday Cake with Honey Cream Cheese Frosting

My husband requested a carrot cake this year for his birthday. I went to work trying to create a healthy, yet still yummy carrot cake. I'm still tweaking it and looking for ways to make it healthier. This recipe made 2 dozen carrot muffins (for our track team) and a personal carrot cake for Ericlee, which he kindly shared with his wife.

Carrot Cake

3 cups grated carrots
4 cage free eggs
1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup organic butter, melted
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 cups sucanat (or 1 cup evaporated cane juice/organic sugar or 1 1/4 cup maple syrup)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 cup chopped walnuts

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease pan.
2. In a blender or with a high-powered mixer, blend carrots, eggs, yogurt and butter.
3. Transfer to a bowl if not already in a bowl. Add walnuts.
4. Mix in dry ingredients: flour, sucanat (sugar or maple syrup), baking soda and cinnamon.
5. Bake approximately 25 minutes for muffins and small cakes; 1 hour for 10-inch tube pan.

Honey Cream Cheese Frosting

1 8-oz. package softened cream cheese
2 tablespoons raw honey (approximate)

1. Blend cream cheese until smooth.
2. Slowly add honey until the frosting reaches the desired consistency.
3. Frost cooled cakes.
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