Sunday, May 22, 2011

Lentil Soup

What do you do with the leftover lentils from yesterday’s salmon dinner? Make soup!

It sounds pretty crazy to be thinking of eating soup on a 90 something degree day outside. But it is freezing inside my house. So I decided a hot bowl of soup and some cornbread would be a great lunch for my brown couch Sunday. My goal is to catch up on all of my recorded shows and watch a few movies. Right now I am watching the Back-up Plan with Jennifer Lopez and, even though this was not part of my plan, it is actually pretty funny.

I did not have any sausage for this recipe so I shredded a chicken breast and used that instead. Lentils are extremely filling and will soak up the flavors of whatever liquid you decide to cook them in. Lentils are high in protein and fiber and low in fat. They're also packed with folate, iron, phosphorus, potassium and fiber. Unlike other legumes, lentils cook quickly without pre-soaking. Lentils come in three main varieties -brown, green and red.

Brown lentils can be cooked for about 20-30 minutes in water or broth and should not be overcooked because they'll become too soft and mushy. They are most commonly found in your local grocery store. Green lentils are also referred to as French lentils. Green lentils hold their shape well, but take longer to cook than other lentils, around 45 minutes. Red lentils are the nuttiest of the three and they are good in Indian dishes. You will most often find them in Indian or Middle Eastern markets.

Lentil Soup

1 pkg Andouille sausage
1 medium white onion, diced
1 pkg button mushrooms, sliced
2-3 cloves minced garlic
6 c chicken broth
1 lb dried lentils
½ c celery
1 8 oz. bag of fresh baby spinach
1/2 tsp thyme
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt and pepper
Olive oil

Heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Slice the sausage into small cubes. Add sausage to pot and cook until slightly browned, approximately 5-7 minutes. Remove from pan and drain any excess fat with paper towels.

Add a tablespoon of olive oil to the hot pan and add the celery, onions and mushrooms; saute until translucent. Add minced garlic and saute for another minute. Add the thyme and bay leaf . Stir until spices are thoroughly combined.

Add the lentils. Stir. Incorporate the chicken broth and stir to combine. Increase heat to bring the soup to a boil. Once it begins boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and partially cover the pot. Let simmer for approximately 30-40 minutes or until the lentils have become soft, puffed up and absorbed a good amount of the liquid.

Add the spinach, stirring to combine. Stir in the sausage. Add salt and pepper to taste.

All photographs are actual pictures of the recipe listed, prepared by Sweet Treats 'n Good Eats, and cannot be used without the owner’s consent.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Chicken Quesadillas with Mango Salsa

It is a beautiful, hot day in the Queen City and I am returning from a health and wellness fair where I learned that my chakra is off, my head and shoulders are misaligned and I might need some acupuncture for my allergies. Wow! It is amazing what the body tells us and so important for us to take better care of ourselves so we can live healthy, positive lives. Since I can’t fix all of that today, I am going to focus on something I can fix…lunch!

I dashed out this morning without eating any breakfast. So I am starving and having a craving for some quesadillas with mango salsa. Cooking with mangoes reminds me of my best bud, Kevin Pringle, who transitioned last year in July. Kevin made my first mango salsa on a salmon dish he prepared for a girlfriend and I for a Mother’s Day dinner the year before last. And then he was always front and center whenever I made my mango sorbet. I miss my friend. Funny how the smallest things can take you back.

My plan is to stop off at the house, grab some lunch, and head back out to run some errands. But I have a sneaky suspicion I might end up on the couch, under my blanket. Love those lazy Saturdays. Only time will tell…

I use 100% whole wheat flour tortillas from Trader Joe’s. Today, I did not have any avocado or tomatoes so I made a much simpler salsa. You may substitute cucumber instead of avocado as well. Mango salsa is a sweet, tangy, refreshing addition to quesadillas but is also great on fish and tortilla chips. You can make quesadillas with chicken, shrimp or crab.

Mango Salsa

1 large mango
1 large tomato
1 avocado
1 small red onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 c chopped, fresh cilantro
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tbsp olive oil

Peel, seed and dice the mango. Dice the tomato, avocado, onion and the garlic. Combine all ingredients. Serve.


2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (cooked and diced)
1 small red or yellow onion, sliced
1 green bell pepper, sliced
1 c mushrooms
8 Tortillas
Shredded 4-Cheese Fiesta Blend
Sour cream, optional

Saute vegetables in medium saucepan; but not overly so (they still should have some crunch). In a separate saucepan, toss in ½ tbsp butter and add tortilla. Cook until lightly brown. Remove tortilla and do the same for the others.

Begin to assemble tortillas starting with cheese, vegetables and then chicken. Add more cheese. Top with a second tortilla and cook until golden. Flip and cook for another minute. Slice quesadillas and top with salsa and/or sour cream. Enjoy.

All photographs are actual pictures of the recipe listed, prepared by Sweet Treats 'n Good Eats, and cannot be used without the owner’s consent.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Salmon and Lentils

My diet mainly consists of fish, shrimp and chicken so I am always looking for ways to keep it new and exciting.

Salmon is one of my favorites and is so versatile–grilled, broiled, poached, as salmon cakes, on my salad, in dips... I typically refrain from searing foods because of the intense amount of smoke that it creates in the kitchen. But I decided to sear the salmon this time around and finish it in the oven. Boy was that an adventure!

Salmon is high in protein and a 4 oz serving of wild salmon provides a full day’s requirement of vitamin D. Salmon is also a good source of B12, niacin, and selenium, is an excellent source B6 and magnesium and contains omega-3 fatty acids. Benefits of omega 3 fats include controlling blood pressure, reducing bad cholesterol levels in the body, preventing and curing arthritis and other inflammatory diseases, and preventing cancer, particularly prostate and breast cancer.

The process of searing converts the natural sugars of the meat and any dry seasonings into a crispy outer layer, while preserving the juiciness of the meat’s interior. To sear a piece of meat you have to make sure the pan is extremely hot, between 300-500 degrees. The idea is for the dry meat and the hot pan to meet briefly until the surface of the meat is a solid dark brown, though not charred or blackened. For best results, bring the meat to room temperature, before searing, to allow the meat to relax. It is recommended that you do not use marinades with searing.

So I have my salmon and my extremely hot pan and I am tickled at the prospect of my dinner of salmon, lentils, a baked sweet potato and braised kale. I toss my salmon into the saucepan and the very instant that salmon hits the pan it looks like I have a 2-alarm fire at my house. I’m trying to resist the urge to pull the pan from the heat because there is smoke billowing all through the kitchen. But you should not take it off of the heat for at least 2 minutes so the bottom can get brown and crispy. After letting the salmon sear for the appropriate time, I placed the oven-safe sauté pan in the oven for another 5-7 minutes until the salmon was medium.

I am running through the kitchen fanning the smoke with the dish towel, trying to keep the alarm from going off. I am opening windows and doors. I am running the exhaust fan. I am  trying to keep the rest of my dinner from burning, as I am focused on the smoke. If I had a video camera, I surely would have won $10k on America’s Funniest Home Videos.

But all that being said, that was the best salmon I ever ate…well, at my house anyway. So I would say that this is probably one of those treats only to be enjoyed on a rare occasion. Trust me, your poor kitchen, family, and the neighbors will thank you.

Salmon with Lentils

1⁄2 pound lentils
1⁄4 c extra virgin olive oil
2 c chopped yellow onions
2 c chopped leeks, white and light green parts only
1 tsp thyme
2 tsp kosher salt
3⁄4 tsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp minced fresh garlic
1 1⁄2 c chopped celery
1 1⁄2 c chicken stock

Place the lentils in a heat-proof bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside for 15 minutes, then drain.

Heat the olive oil in a saute pan and add the onions, leeks, thyme, salt, and pepper and cook until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Place the lentils in the sauté pan, along with the celery and chicken stock. Cover and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes or until the lentils are tender.

4-6 oz Salmon fillets
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Heat a dry sauté pan over high heat for 3-4 minutes. Meanwhile, rub both sides of the salmon fillets with olive oil and season the top with salt and pepper. Place the salmon fillets, skin-side down, in the pan and cook over heat without moving them for 2 to 3 minutes, or until very brown.

Turn the fillets and place the pan in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes, until the salmon is cooked to medium. Serve.

All photographs are actual pictures of the recipe listed, prepared by Sweet Treats 'n Good Eats, and cannot be used without the owner’s consent.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Strawberry Shortcake

I have officially fallen of the wagon! I had my first real dessert since eliminating sugar from my diet. It was during my birthday week celebration at a restaurant in Charlotte’s Midtown, Vivace. I savored a smooth panna cotta with some balsamic strawberries. I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

I eat balsamic vinegar on my salads with strawberries all the time…great! But balsamic on strawberries with sugar for dessert? I had some reservations. But boy was I wrong! It was a perfect complement to the panna cotta. And then there was this cookie, this perfect little cookie that added some texture to the dessert...I wanted to kiss the chef in the mouth.

Upon reflection I really can’t say, with 100% certainty, if the dessert was as spectacular as I thought it was or if it was just the fact that it was good because I was doing something I was not supposed to be.

Nevertheless, I had company in town this week and was thinking of preparing something  that had the balsamic strawberries so I decided to make a strawberry shortcake. I am not a fan of soggy food and this cake holds up very well to the macerated strawberries. If you are not crazy about balsamic strawberries, a traditional strawberry sauce is included as well.

Strawberry Shortcake

1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
2 tbsp sugar, to taste
1 tsp balsamic vinegar

Toss ingredients to combine. Cover and chill until ready for serving.

1 1/2 c egg whites (10-12 large eggs), room temperature
1 1/2 c superfine sugar, divided
1 c sifted cake flour
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract

Preheat oven to 325˚F.

In a small bowl, mix together the cake flour and 3/4 cup of the sugar; set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until frothy, about 1 minute on medium speed. Add the cream of tartar and salt; beat on medium speed until fully incorporated. Begin to add the remaining 3/4 cup of sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. After the sugar has been completely mixed in, turn the speed up to medium-high and beat the egg whites until they reach soft peaks. Once the eggs reach soft peaks, stir in the vanilla and almond extract.

Sift the flour/sugar mixture over the egg white, ¼ c at a time, and gently fold in after each addition. Pour the batter into an ungreased angel food pan. Smooth the top with a spatula and tap the pan on the counter once or twice to ensure that there are no air bubbles.

Bake for 50-60 minutes, until the top springs back when lightly pressed. Remove from oven and until cooled. Gently run a thin knife around the sides, then around the bottom of the pan to release the cake when ready to serve.

¾ c whipping cream
½ vanilla bean
2 tbsp powdered sugar

Using a cold mixing bowl and beaters, whip the ingredients until it holds a soft peak.

16 oz strawberries
2 tbsp granulated white sugar
2 tbsp orange juice
1/4 c water

Place the strawberries, sugar and orange juice in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir the mixture until the sugar is dissolved. Add the water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Simmer until the sauce thickens and the strawberries are soft, but still chunky.

All photographs are actual pictures of the recipe listed, prepared by Sweet Treats 'n Good Eats, and cannot be used without the owner’s consent.


My father is a great cook and I had my first experience with asparagus at his house about six years ago. He sautéed the asparagus in a medium saucepan, added some fresh garlic and vermouth to the was one of the best things I ever ate. I am certain I had a least three helpings, of just the asparagus, it was so darn good.

Later that evening, belly full and quite content, my son and I are driving home when I smelled this God-awful scent in the car. We rolled the windows down but it just would not go away. Upon arriving home, we got out of our clothes and into our pajamas and the smell was still very pungent. It was in my clothes, my hair, my pores. I just kept thinking, “What in the world did Poppi have at his house that got into my clothing?” No harm intended, but you know how you can go to a Chinese restaurant or a restaurant with fried foods and it takes days for your jacket or hair to get that smell out? 

But it soon occurred to me that the scent was not on my clothing articles, IT WAS ME! I was too outdone! The culprint was the asparagus. At the time, I was not a huge water drinker so it took days for that smell to leave my system. I vowed I would never eat asparagus again. And I hadn't...until today.

So why does asparagus make your body and urine so offensive? Asparagus contains a sulfur-containing compound called methyl mercaptan. A colorless gas, this compound is also found in eggs, feces, garlic, cheese, and, yes, even skunk secretions. After consuming as much as I had, that is exactly what I smelled like! Asparagus also contains asparagine, an amino acid, which is known to have a distinctive smell when heated. I am debating about not making it even now…the memories. Strangely enough, everyone does not have the same reaction to asparagus and some of the population can eat asparagus and don’t smell at all.

But it is so good and it is good for you. Asparagus is a good source calcium, magnesium, zinc and is a very good source of fiber and protein. Asparagus is known to detoxify our system, help reduce inflammation, reduces the risk of heart disease and can even help with the prevention of birth defects.


1 pound asparagus, trimmed
2 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
Dash of lemon juice

Wash asparagus and pat dry.

Heat broiler. In a large bowl, toss the asparagus with the oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Sprinkle with lemon juice.

Arrange the asparagus in a single layer and broil, shaking the baking sheet occasionally, until tender and slightly charred, 6 to 8 minutes.

All photographs are actual pictures of the recipe listed, prepared by Sweet Treats 'n Good Eats, and cannot be used without the owner’s consent.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Salmon Cakes

I am coming off of my birthday weekend high and feeling like the national holiday ended way too soon. This year my birthday fell on Mother's Day so I've been feeling extra special and somewhat entitled to the royal treatment. However, since no one else likely shares my thoughts on that (particularly now that the national holiday is over) I'm planning to treat myself for a few more days, though I am not quite sure what that will look like.

Over the last week, I've been out to eat at many places in celebration of my special day; but one of the best things I enjoyed most was this mini crab cake at the Ritz Carlton Charlotte. Two of my other girlfriends had birthdays in the same week so we had a small celebration there and invited a few friends. Well, actually one of the birthdays girls invited half of Charlotte...but thankfully they did not all show!

All day Sunday I could not get the crab cakes out of my head and when I got up this morning I was still thinking about them. So I decided I wanted to create my own for lunch when I realized I did not have lump crab meat just sitting around in the fridge. But I do have salmon. Ha! So I am hoping that will satisfy my craving.

For this recipe, you can purchase Bumble Bee's Wild Alaska Pink Salmon or you can simply poach or broil two salmon fillets. Or you can substitute lump crab meat for crab cakes.

Salmon Cakes

1 pound salmon
1 c Panko bread crumbs
2 tbsp plain fat-free yogurt
½ c yellow onions
½ c red pepper
½ c green pepper
¼ c yellow pepper
½ c Celery
1 tbsp parsley
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 egg
½ tsp kosher salt
½ tsp pepper
¼ tsp paprika
¼ tsp ground mustard

Chop salmon into fine pieces and set aside.

In a saucepan, sautee' onions, peppers, and celery for about 4 minutes until tender. Cool slightly.

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and toss well. Cover and chill for 10 minutes.
Divide salmon into equal portions and make patties. Heat butter or olive oil in non-stick saucepan over medium-high heat. Add patties and reduce heat slightly. Cook for 4 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. 

If you like a sauce for your salmon cakes you can use a remoulade or red pepper sauce.

Rémoulade Sauce

3/4 c mayonnaise
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tsp whole-grain mustard
1 tsp tarragon vinegar
1/4 tsp Tabasco sauce
2 tsp capers (drained), chopped
1 tbsp parsley
1 scallion, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Combine ingredients in bowl and mix well.

Red Pepper Sauce

1 garlic clove, diced
8 oz plain Greek yogurt
4 oz roasted red peppers
1 tsp lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Combine everything in a blender and puree until desired consistency is reached.

All photographs are actual pictures of the recipe listed, prepared by Sweet Treats 'n Good Eats, and cannot be used without the owner’s consent.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Sweet Potato Chips

Have you ever craved something so badly that you end up wasting loads of money trying to satisfy that craving? Well, that is how I was with sweet potato and apple chips. I felt like Pookie in New Jack City…these chips were like crack! I was on Facebook asking if people could tell me where to find them in the stores. And then, once I found them, I was driving all over town when there were only 2 bags left in the store, trying to get enough for the week. Eventually, I got to the point where I started ordering cases of them direct from the vendor so I could stop going to the store every other day to replenish them.

And then the light bulb went off, “Girl, you could make these yourself!” Or perhaps it was the gas light that came on! Cause these exorbitant gas prices have certainly brought those frequent Bi-Lo trips to a screeching halt. Anyway, it finally occurred to me that the chips are $1.99 for a 2.5 ounce bag when a sweet potato was around $.60. And one sweet potato makes at least 2 bags of the chips I get in the store. So, sorry Seneca Foods…I’ve got this.

Sweet potatoes are another one of my favorite things. Since I have cut out sugar in my diet, a sweet potato is oftentimes my “dessert” and has become a staple around the dinner table. Sweet potatoes are a superfood and are a good source of fiber, beta carotene, and Vitamins C and B6. Studies have shown that sweet potatoes can help stabilize blood sugar levels and lower insulin resistance. When eaten with the skin on, a sweet potato has as much fiber as half a cup of oatmeal, for about 100 calories, says dietitian Joan Salge Blake, author of Nutrition & You.

To make chips at home, it is best done using a mandolin, which is a cooking utensil used for cutting and slicing. A mandolin runs between $14.99-$60, depending on the type you get and whether it has attachments. I purchased mine from Bed, Bath and Beyond. The height of the mandolin can be adjusted to get the desired thickness of your choosing; and you simply slide the food item over it to slice.

Now this mandolin can be a dangerous instrument in the wrong hands! And being the chef that I am (self-proclaimed or not - no comments from the peanut gallery) I never imagined I would have any trouble with it at all. That being said, I elected not to use the piece that comes with the mandolin which prevents you from running your hands across the blade and having julienned fingers; and I looked up and a nice chunk of my thumb was missing. So it would be wise to follow the instructions and not place the food item in your hands to run it across the mandolin. Accidents do happen it seems!

This is such a simple recipe, though it can be time consuming if you do not use multiple baking sheets. But the end result is worth it! Great with a turkey burger, deli sandwich or all by their lonesome.

Sweet Potato Chips

One large sweet potato
Salt, optional
Pepper, optional
Pam Cooking Spray

Scrub potatoes to clean. Cut the ends off of the sweet potato. Slice the sweet potato with the mandolin until you have potato rounds. In a medium sized bowl toss with a dash of salt and pepper.

Spray cookie sheet with cooking spray. Lay rounds on sheet and lightly spray the tops. Place in preheated 350 degree oven for about 8-10 minutes or until they begin to curl and brown. Flip chips over at the halfway point so they cook evenly.

Store in air tight container for 2-3 days.

Be careful not to go overboard with the cooking spray as the chips may be soggy.

All photographs are actual pictures of the recipe listed, prepared by Sweet Treats 'n Good Eats, and cannot be used without the owner’s consent.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Kale: The Superfood

I’m baaaack!

I have been on a little hiatus because after eliminating sugar from my diet, baking has become pure torture! I have been struggling for the last two months on what to do with this blog because I am so passionate about blogging, baking, and cooking in general. So I spent a lot of time debating on whether to just blog about desserts when I make them for events or houseguests, help people become more health conscious with some of the information I have learned over the last year, create healthy versions of my favorite desserts, or stop blogging altogether.

I have concluded that I want to recreate the blog to be about food, plain and simple. So we have a new look and a new name! Virtually Everything Sweet just did not work with what I was trying to do. So the new name is Sweet Treats n’ Good Eats. Who says I can’t have the best of both worlds?

The definition of a superfood is a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being. I have been incorporating more superfoods and fiber rich foods into my diet. One of the items I have truly come to enjoy is kale. Kale is a great source of beta-carotene, which is one of the antioxidants believed to prevent cancer, heart disease, and other chronic diseases. With it being rich in fiber, it promotes regular digestion, prevents constipation and lowers blood sugar.

Kale’s dark leaves are also rich in calcium and are a good source of Vitamins A, C, folic acid and iron. Be aware that kale does present risks for people taking certain types of prescription drugs. Blood-thinners such as warfarin work by lowering vitamin K levels, and since kale is extremely high in Vitamin K, people on anti-coagulant medication should avoid it. (Yeager, 2007).

Kale is great as a salad, as a side or even as a chip. For those who are not huge fans of kale, you can dress it up by adding bacon bits, nuts, garlic…whatever tickles your fancy.

Sauteed Kale

1 1/2 pounds fresh kale
1 c fresh spinach, optional
2 tbsp olive oil
sprinkle of Kosher salt, ground pepper, paprika
1 tsp red pepper flakes
½ small yellow onion
¼ c chicken stock

Clean kale and rough chop it. Add olive oil to a sautee pan and heat on medium. Add the onions and cook until translucent, about 3-5 minutes.

Add kale; sprinkle with salt, pepper, paprika and red pepper flakes. Add chicken stock and cook just until wilted. Overcooking kale may result in a bitter taste as well as cause it to lose some of the essential nutrients.

If you are one to walk a little on the wild side, you can try a kale salad.

Kale Salad

1 1/2 pounds kale
2 tbsp olive oil
sprinkle of Kosher salt, ground pepper
½ small red onion
1 small apple, cut into small chunks
¼ c roasted almonds
¼ c golden raisins
1 tbsp lemon juice

Place ingredients in a large bowl. Massage ingredients well for about 3-5 minutes, until thoroughly mixed. Serve.

All photographs are actual pictures of the recipe listed, prepared by Sweet Treats 'n Good Eats, and cannot be used without the owner’s consent.