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Monday, July 27 2009

This is our California Central Coast version of an Italian classic, Pasta a la Norma. The traditional recipe calls for the addition of Ricotta Salata to the sauce which I prefer to omit. We are tomato-holics! When fresh tomatoes are in season, I want nothing in my sauce to mask the taste of fresh tomato and fresh basil --a match made in heaven!

I also like to grill the eggplant rather than deep fry it. I prefer to use Japanese eggplant which when sliced vertically and left attached at the stem yields a better "bird-in flight" appearance. You could also use small regular eggplant if you can't find the Japanese version.

This sauce is best made with fresh tomatoes. If it's off-season and you can only find hothouse tomatoes and they aren't quite sweet enough, bring them up in taste by using a bit of tomato paste or white wine.

Cooking time: 20 minutes / Makes 4 servings,


4 Small firm Japanese eggplants*, do not peel
3 to 4 medium cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs. fresh tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup basil leaves coarsely chopped
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil for the sauce plus extra for brushing the eggplant
Salt to taste
Several grinds fresh cracked black pepper
1 lb. of spaghetti
Parmesan cheese for the table

*Note on preparing eggplant. Though recommended by some, I have never found the need to salt the sliced eggplant and leave them for an hour to drain off the bitter juices. Perhaps the fresh Japanese eggplant, which is what I use, is less bitter or my guests and I are not bothered by a little bitterness.

Preparation Directions.

  • To give the affect of a "bird-in-flight," using a sharp thin cutting knife, slice the eggplant into four to six thin even thickness horizontal slices, from the rounded bottom --length-wise almost to the other end, but not through, leaving the top of the eggplant intact.
  • Lightly brush in between the slices with olive oil, then grill on a barbecue or fry on a stove top, brushing on a bit extra olive oil if necessary. While grilling, when the eggplant has softened a bit, gently fan out the slices like a Japanese fan and salt and pepper each "bird." Grill on both sides until lightly browned. It is OK to flip the eggplant a couple times to get a nice grilled finish.
  • To make the sauce, pour the olive oil into a large (non-reactive) sauce pan. Heat the olive oil just a bit, then add the garlic. Sauté over medium-low heat until the garlic is lightly golden and fragrant. Do not burn! Add the chopped tomatoes and bring up to simmering. Add the chopped basil and stir then simmer for several minutes. Taste the sauce, and if the sauce is not sweet enough, add a bit of tomato paste or white wine, then simmer a bit more. When done, add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Meanwhile, in a large pasta pan or stockpot, boil water. Just before adding the spaghetti, add a tablespoon of salt to the boiling water. Add spaghetti, and cook according to instructions until just done. Remove the pasta, drain well, then mix the paste with the tomato sauce.
  • Divide the sauced pasta between four dinner plates. Carefully top each pasta mound with a grilled eggplant "birdin-flight". Add a small sprig of extra basil to each plate for garnish and serve.
  • Offer grated Parmesan cheese at the table. (You don't want to put the grated cheese on before because it will hide the eggplant "bird-in-flight affect.)


Wine and Food Pairing and Serving Suggestions.

Wine suggestion: This is not a fussy sauce. On a warm summer evening a chilled fresh dry white like a Roussane or Vigonier would work wonderfully. Or be traditional and serve a young Sangiovese or Chianti with this Italian "mama-style" dish.

Susan McGourty is a resident and vineyard owner on the California Central Coast. A former restaurant owner and professional cook, she writes about food and cooking techniques and is the food and recipe editor for TheRomanticTable.Com. Her cooking and recipe blog is at

For more recipes, food and wine news and ideas, visit the TheRomanticTable.Com - an online magazine about food, wine and recipes from the California Central Coast.

Posted by: Send a Meal AT 10:33 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Thursday, July 23 2009

Maybe you already noticed how much your diet influences you. Eating what you like is a good thing, up to a certain point.

It's possible that you eat the right food for your body. Is it also the right one for your mind?

Do you feel anxiety coming up after you have eaten certain food?

You should try to watch whether your food, or certain food stuff triggers your anxiety. This might be the case with caffeinated drinks and foods. Caffeine is no good for people who suffer from anxiety. It's better to drink a coffee made of toasted barley which doesn't influence your nervous system.

You can test your food. Eat what you have always eaten, for a period of 2 to 3 weeks. Don't add other food. When you get aware of more anxiety after certain meals or certain food stuff, don't eat them any longer. You can then replace those foods. Find out, of what type they are. (proteins, carbohydrates, fats)

Instead of eating wheat products, change to oak meal or to rye products. Even soy products can replace wheat.

One good advice: eat your salad after having eaten your meat, your fish or your pasta. Salad is watery, especially if you add some spinach. It helps you digest your meal.

If you need some sweet, eat an oak meal cookie or a fruit. Both give you the fiber you need and they also give you the energy you want. So you don't risk a sugar crash which would only increase anxiety and mood ups and downs.

As you can see, much of your well being depends on your meals. Healthy meals make healthy people!

Healthy people suffer less anxiety and less stress. And that is actually your goal: a healthy and anxiety-free life.

Posted by: Send a Meal AT 09:40 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, July 20 2009

Have you heard of panini? What makes them so popular? What are the ingredients needed for panini? How are they cooked? These are just some of the questions you may ask yourself when you hear the words, panini. If you want to know more about panini, then this article will provide the top three most important facts about them.

-What are panini?
Panini are very popular especially in Italy. They are sandwiches with an added twist and distinct taste which makes them special compared to our ordinary sandwiches. Panini are made from a loaf of bread like ciabatta or sourdough. The loaf is cut and then stuffed with different fillings of your choice, be it vegan, chicken or meat. Panini are very healthy and they can be an excellent alternative to a high-fat diet. In addition, they are very easy to prepare since it is just like preparing yourself your usual sandwich, only that panini offer many choices when it comes to the filling. With panini, you can say goodbye to your boring peanut butter and jelly or cheese sandwiches.

-What are the ingredients?
The best thing about panini is that you have a choice when it comes to the filling. Everything is definitely up to you. You are your own boss when it comes to making them. You may have vegetable panini and fill your bread with your favorite vegetables like sliced onions, sliced green peppers, sliced olives, lettuce, and mushroom or roasted vegetable like zucchini or eggplant. You can also fill your panini with fish, chicken or pork and add vegetables or even fruits like pineapple and tomatoes. In addition, you can use different cheeses like mozzarella, Swiss cheese, and cheddar. You may even add mayonnaise or your favorite dressing.

-How are panini cooked?
Although you can eat your panini directly after filling them, it is recommended that you grill them using a panini grill or press. You can have tastier and crispier panini if you grill them for around five to ten minutes, depending on how thick your panini are. Just remember to avoid overcooking your panini or stuffing them with too many ingredients that they may become soggy. Eat your panini while they are hot off the grill.

Panini are indeed a great way to prepare your sandwiches. Just remember what they are, their ingredients, and how they are cooked so you can make your own with ease. Panini provide bread lovers a new way to enjoy their sandwiches.

Sabrina Rocca
For more great panini recipes and ideas, visit

Posted by: Send a Meal AT 11:09 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Friday, July 17 2009

Baked salmon is very easy to prepare and makes a very healthy and tasty meal. All you really need are a few herbs or seasoning and to remember to pre-heat your oven. You can easily prepare your other side dishes such as salads, rice and vegetables while the salmon bakes in the oven. Other forms of cooking fish such as grilling or searing require a lot more skill and attention than baking does.

Salmon is rich in omega 3 fatty acids, which can help to prevent heart disease and other illnesses. This makes this healthy fish a better choice in many ways for a meal over beef, pork and chicken. Baked salmon is a very healthy and delicious meal that you and your family can enjoy.

Unlike many other types of foods, salmon is so rich in flavor that it only takes a few simple herbs or seasonings to bring out the great taste. So it is better to not go too overboard, but rather enhance the fish's natural flavor.

In terms of baking, the key is to keep the salmon moist while it bakes in the oven so that it doesn't dry out. One thing you can do is rub the fish with olive or some other type of cooking oil before you bake it. Another way to add moisture is to use fresh lemon juice or white wine. When it comes to selecting your temperature, cooking at a high temperature will cook the fish faster. If you bake at a low temperature the effect will be more of a slow roast and will help to draw out the natural flavors more.

Baked salmon is a very easy, healthy and delicious meal to prepare. The great thing about this fish is that it doesn't take a lot of preparation, cooking skills or complicated ingredients.

Visit baked salmon for some great baked salmon recipes

Posted by: Send a Meal AT 10:11 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, July 14 2009

Are you going camping and don't know what kind of food to prepare? Well, baked stuffed fish, best peach cobbler and biscuit and pancake mix are 3 easy, quick and delicious outdoor recipes you can use to prepare a great meal.

I've listed the recipes below for you to try out:

1.Baked Stuffed Fish


- White fish,enough for 4 - 6
- 2 c Soft bread cubes, about 1/2 cubes
- 1 Small onion, chopped fine
- 1 Green pepper, blanched and, Chopped
- 8 oz Imitation crabmeat
- 1/4 c Lemon juice
- 1/2 c Hellmans mayo
- Salt & pepper, To Taste


- Mix all these ingredients together and roll up in fish fillets,
securing them with toothpicks.
- Divide it among four or five good-sized pieces. Bake at 400 for 30 minutes.
- During last 10 minutes pour newburg sauce over fish.
- It's good with flounder, but any white fish will do.
- I've used large cod and catfish fillets and butterflied them.
- Just enough so you can roll it up over the stuffing.

2. Best Peach Cobbler



- 3 T Sugar
- 2 qt peach slices, Canned
- 4 t Baking powder
- 3/4 c Sugar
- 6 T Lard (or butter)
- 1/4 c Water
- 3/4 c milk cut half-, Canned
- 3 t Corn starch strength with water (just Topping enough to moisten dough)
- 2 c Flour


Filling: Dissolve corn starch in water; add mixture to peaches and juice in a large, warm Dutch oven; stir well; sprinkle sugar on top; cover and allow to simmer lightly while topping is prepared.

Topping: On a floured board, turn out a soft dough; pat down to 1/2" thick; cut into strips 1/2" wide and place criss-cross atop peach mixture; cover and cook approximately 20 minutes until golden brown.

Serve with Campfire Coffee. Serves approximately 18.

3. Biscuit And Pancake Mix


- 9 c Flour, sifted
- 4 t Salt
- 1/3 c Baking powder
- 1 3/4 c Shortening, vegetable
- 1 c Milk, powdered


- Chill shortening.
- Sift all dry ingredients.
- Cut shortening into flour till mixture resembles coarse cornmeal.
- Store, well covered, in a cool, dry place.

Use for pancakes, biscuits, shortcake, cobblers or anything that you would make from a packaged biscuit mix. All you need is water.

For pancakes add 1 tb each sugar and powdered eggs to each cup of mix.

Posted by: Send a Meal AT 10:00 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, July 13 2009

Creating an authentic Italian dish is quite easy if you have "on hand" five staple ingredients. First and foremost, it's all about the pasta. Both fresh and dried pasta are easily available to the consumer cook. Rather than buying huge amounts of any one type, you're best to purchase small amounts of the most common types, such as spaghetti, linguine, lasagna and elbow. Store your fresh pasta in the refrigerator and you're dried in a the pantry.

Though "special" Italian recipes call for white 'Bechtel' sauce, it's still the red tomato sauce that takes center stage in Italian cuisine. Tomato sauce is easy to prepare from scratch. Nevertheless, you wise to stock your pantry with your favorite bottled brand as most are very favorable substitutes.

Olive oil is used abundantly in Italian cuisine. While extra-virgin olive oil is used for raw dressings over pasta salads and vegetable side-dishes, regular olive oil is used for frying and sauteing. By respecting this rule, you preserve the health benefits of this precious oil.

Italians love their garlic. So, it's little wonder that this humble bulb is found in virtually all Italian recipes. You can purchase garlic fresh, dried, powdered or jarred. Fresh garlic, being the premier alternative, is easily stored in a cool, dry place such as a root cellar or refrigerator.

Mushrooms are loved by Italians. Porcine mushrooms, in particular, are renowned in Italian cooking. Fresh or dried, these gems lend a subtle earthy flavor to Italian dishes.If you love Italian cuisine, keep these five staples stocked in your pantry. In minutes, you'll be able to wipe-up an authentic Italian dish worthy to serve at the authentic Italian table.

Todays Recipe Pro!
Food related website for recipe sharing and most anything food related.
This is for people who love to cook or just love food in general!
Come share your favorite family recipe or try a new one.
Its a terrific way to get great foods on other peoples tables.

Posted by: Send a Meal AT 11:37 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Thursday, July 09 2009

We all want to live longer and enjoy a healthy life don't we? The question is how to go about that. Well the first thing is to eat the right foods. The secret is in the foods we eat even though they vary a great deal and are very different. You can achieve a long healthy life with a great life expectancy just by eating the correct foods.

So what are the top ten foods that pack a punch and have the benefit of giving you energy, vitality and all around good health?

1. Beans - OK, be careful here, especially if they give you gas you should take some precautions. There's (kidney, navy, lentis, chickpeas and Northern) beans and they are full of protein. This protein is great as it contains very little fat, carbs and calories. Eating a good portion of beans every day will help your digestive system and keep it healthy especially if fiber is a problem for you.

2. Oatmeal - One of my favorite cereals. Just go ahead and make it yourself with rolled oats or just use the quick instant kind. Oatmeal is becoming known as a food that helps lower blood cholesterol. Oatmeal is a grain that fills, gives needed fiber and helps keep blood sugar at a constant level. This is a food you should definitely be considering.

3. Fruits - Fruits contain Vitamin C and A which are antioxidants which help fight free radical damage and help reduce the risk of cancer in the body. Berries like blueberries and grapes provide the most antioxidants. But for maximum health and full benefits you should be eating a wide variety of fruits in an array of colors. This with the combined efforts of the antioxidants will help boost your immune system and keep you looking and feeling younger longer.

4. Allium foods - Garlic, onions, leeks and shallots are all in this category. These foods are known to help against the risk of cancer and other ailments and garlic also helps to lower your cholesterol levels. Other benefits are that they prevent blood clots and lower blood pressure. These vegetables eaten in their natural state have great health benefits and so are very powerful.

5. Salmon - If you exercise regularly, and you should then salmon which is rich in protein is a great tool to help build muscle and restore health to muscles after a tough workout. Salmon also fights against heart disease because it is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon contains good fats your body will love and it is good for people of all ages including children.

6. Flax seed - This is another food that contains omega-3 fatty acids so we know it is good already. You get more ammunition to fight high cholesterol, heart disease and diabetes with this seed because it contains the added omega6 and omega-9 fatty acids. You can add this seed to pancakes, smoothies or just sprinkled in yogurt to make it all the more enjoyable in your diet.

7. Peppers - Here again we find antioxidants like beta-carotene and vitamin C. They certainly are colorful and will brighten up any plate and they can range from being mild to blazing heat. All peppers contain Capsaicin which acts as an anti-inflammatory as well as a pain reliever with the added benefits of lowering cancer risks and heart disease. Peppers are great in salads, salsa and will spice up any dish you can muster up.

8, Nuts and seeds - If you like foods that provide good fats then nuts are for you. Check out Peanuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, walnuts and pistachios for your fill of good fats and plenty of protein. Eat them crushed instead of bread crumbs which are much higher in carbs. You are best to eat them out of the shell just like that with no additives and you will have the added protection of lower cholesterol.

9. Acai - If your looking for a berry that provides energy than this is for you. You will have increased energy and plenty of antioxidants working for you. Acai juice is available along with supplements in your local health food store, so feeling better and looking better just got a whole lot easier.

10. Yogurt - Fat free is the best for you. You will find good vitamins like Vitamin B, protein and calcium in your favorite flavor of yogurt. Yogurt can take the place of milk to get your calcium for building strong bones and teeth. A healthy digestive system is another great benefit from live yogurt.

Remember your goals are to build a better healthier body. This is a goal you can reach just by eating the right foods and combining that with a little exercise. You need to keep your energy levels high, your immune system strong and your muscles flexible and healthy to give you that overall complete and total fit body we all want.

If your ready to start with foods that pack a punch you need to get started right away. All these food benefits along with a great exercise program for that total fitness program your looking for is available to you. You can get started right now just by clicking here

Posted by: Send a Meal AT 09:31 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, July 07 2009

Cereal with milk. That's been the breakfast of choice for most people since they were kids. The dairy industry has been telling us that 'Milk does a body good' for years, and cereal boxes have messages claiming that what's inside is 'fortified' with vitamins and minerals. It seems like a logical option, if you buy into all that.

Well I don't. I avoid dairy products because I think they're meant for baby cows. I also avoid eating anything from a cardboard box, can or wrapper because those processed foods are loaded with additives and preservatives. So since cereal with milk is out of the question, it's no wonder I get asked about breakfast ideas all the time.

Before I get into ideas for the first meal of the day I thought I'd be honest about my opinion on breakfast in general: I don't think it's absolutely necessary. You might think that this is crazy advice considering we've been told time and time again that breakfast is absolutely essential, but hear me out on this one.

I live in a culture where late night eating is practically the norm, sometimes as late as 11:00pm. This has the effect of delaying my hunger the next day, so I don't eat right after rising because I'm not hungry. For those who read my blog and articles they know my first piece of advice on dieting: 'Eat when you're hungry, stop when you're full, and the rest will fall into place'. I personally think its crazy to ignore the signals our body gives and burden our digestive system when it's not ready to accept more food.

To further illustrate my point, I let you in on my own personal experience with this. After hitting a plateau sometime ago, I made a decision to ignore all the dogma about eating breakfast, and started having my first meal around 2-3 pm. This had the effect of allowing my digestive system to clear out of all previous meals and allowed for a small period of detox every day. My skin cleared a great deal, my thinking was sharper, and I lost a lot of water and fat in the process. So for me, it's a natural choice to avoid breakfast because of all the benefits I experienced.

I don't think it's the act of avoiding breakfast that brought all these benefits, but the fact that I allowed a 14-16 hour period of fasting to pass between the previous and current day's mealtimes. This is called 'Intermittent Fasting', and is a new style of eating currently being embraced by bodybuilders and athletes. There is information on the internet on all kinds of fasting,and I'll definitely be expanding on this topic in the future.

Let's get back to the original point of this article. Say you eat dinner at 6pm everyday...logically you would wake up hungry every morning so you should eat something. It shouldn't be too heavy, and should contain some good carbohydrates for energy, and protein to slow down their absorption. The following are three lists of foods to pick from:

Protein: eggs, almonds (+ almond butter), tahini, walnuts
Complex carbs: whole wheat pitas, rye crackers, oatmeal, whole wheat breads
Fruits/Vegetables: tomatoes, spinach, blueberries, grapefruit, oranges, cantaloupe, apples, grapes, strawberries, watermelon, pears

A good breakfast would include a fist-sized portion of one food from each list, or enough to make you full without putting a lot of pressure on your stomach. Some good ideas include:

(a) Spinach omelet with cantaloupe
(b) Almonds, oatmeal and strawberries
(c) Hard boiled eggs, tomatoes, olives and whole wheat bread
(d) Chopped walnuts, apples and oatmeal with a dash of cinnamon
(e) Chopped pears topped with tahini and rye crisps
(f) Sliced apples topped with almond butter and whole-wheat toast
(g) Omelet, blueberries, strawberries and whole-wheat toast

For those who can't live without dairy products you can add yogurt to the protein list for more combinations. Note that these lists are not exhaustive, so as a guide you should choose foods that are grown locally and are fresh, buying organic wherever possible.

If you find that you're getting hungry soon after eating, adjust your portions so that you have more from the protein list. Likewise, if you find that you don't have a lot of energy you can add some more fruit.

Before concluding though, I thought to make a point about that 'ravenous' feeling you might get when you waking up. If you finish your meal the night before with something that is very sweet (like an ice cream sundae) your insulin levels will rise and drop while sleeping leading to an abnormally hungry feeling upon waking up that might also be a result of dehydration. You may find that your hunger is more manageable if you avoid such foods, leaving them for special occasions.

Regulating blood sugar is the key to managing your hunger and eating when your body truly needs nourishment. That, however, is another topic for another day, so stay tuned.

Posted by: Send a Meal AT 11:06 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, July 01 2009

When celebrating a birthday anniversary or any other special occasion, there are many options available to the consumer. This can range from wonderful gifts, to a party, to an intimate dinner at a top notch restaurant. One new concept for a celebrating a special occasion is cooking for your guests at a private boutique restaurant with you closest and dearest.

Rather than the convention of a traditional restaurant visit, this unique structure allows you to surprise your partner with a truly unique dining experience where you invite your guest to your dinner soiree to enjoy your gourmet creations served within the comforts of a candle lit private restaurant!

This experience offers you to invite your guests to your dinner gathering to enjoy your cuisine within the comforts of a private Baroque restaurant. If it is a celebration, a special evening or simply a surprise then our private restaurant opens the door to such an occasion. The opportunity to host a soiree is open to anyone who attends the afternoon or full day workshop and wishes to share their culinary experience with friends or family.

This type of experience is on the increase and more and more people are choosing to celebrate in this way. When you are next deciding on a gift for that special someone why not consider the complete cooking and dining experience which can offer a wonderful day out.

Here a couple or a small group can relax and enjoy the comforts of quality dining away from the noise and crowds where only high quality ingredients are used to develop fine food and enjoy a special, exclusive get-together.

This is for all types of cooks from the most experience to the amateur, as customers are supported throughout the whole cooking experience. This is to ensure that you receive the best food and the most unique dining experience.

Posted by: Send a Meal AT 03:28 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email