Comfort Foods and Indulgences

Minty Chocolate Avocado Shake

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by Cathy Pollak

minty-chocolate-avocado-shakeWell folks I hate to admit it, but this is the only type of "green" shake I can get behind. And look, it's not even green, even though it sounds like it should be. 

But really, for those of you who have not experienced the rich and creamy avocado as a substitute for ice cream, it's a must. My family was clueless I had used it in their dessert. They were happily sipping away on their luxuriously thick chocolate shake when I dropped the A-bomb on them. My youngest said, "We're drinking guacamole?", you're not.

This shake is almost dairy free if that is important for you, but you would have to use non-dairy chocolate chips for it to truly fit that bill. And let's not forget the health benefits of the avocado; lots of potassium, fiber, vitamins C & K, B6 and folate. One whole avocado boasts lots of heart-healthy unsaturated fat, more than a 1/3 of your daily vitamin C needs and more than half of your daily requirement of vitamin K. What more could you ask for in a chocolate shake?

I wanted to satisfy my urge for a Shamrock Shake this month so out came the mint chocolate chips. They were the perfect addition and left behind these cute green specks in the shake after blending with my trusty Blendtec blender.

A Midnight Pizza

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by Susan Russo

midnightpizzaWhen I awoke bleary-eyed at 12:15 am last night, I rolled over to Jeff's side of the bed to discover a still-warm, empty spot. Fearing he was ill, I immediately walked to the bathroom. Empty. I walked into the kitchen and there he was, standing in the darkened room lit only by the bluish glow of the refrigerator light. His cheeks were bulging, and he was holding a big slice of leftover eggplant and caramelized onion pizza.

"Watcha doin'?" I asked.

"Noffin," he said, trying unsuccessfully, to hide the ball of pizza stuffed in his mouth.

"Doesn't look like nothin'," I said, "Looks like pizza."

"You're dreaming. Go back to bed," he said.

If ever there was a pizza worth getting up in the middle of the night, it's this eggplant, caramelized onion and prosciutto pizza with smoked mozzarella.

Buttermilk-Walnut Snack Cake with Praline Frosting

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by Cathy Pollak

buttermilkwalnut-snack-cake-with-praline-frosting.-perfect-with-coffeeI am one of those people who enjoys a mid-afternoon sweet snack with coffee. The cravings for something sugary seem to hit about the three o'clock hour. I try so hard to be good but I've stopped fighting it. I figure the penalty is about 100 lunges or something like that. I'm over it. I swear I only take a few bites. I indulge in my sweet treat with French pressed black coffee I make at home. It all keeps me going until at least happy hour

I have always been nuts about nuts in my desserts. I love the texture and complexity they bring to the table. And walnuts are by far my absolute favorite. This cake combines the perfect level of sweetness with the pleasantly bitter flavor of the walnuts. And let's not mention the frosting, adding a whole other layer of yummy.

Perfect for entertaining or just to have around...even though it's dangerous and addicting. But you knew that just by looking at it.

Creamy Corn Fettuccine with Blackened Shrimp

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by Cathy Pollak

almost-sauceless-creamy-corn-fettucine-with-blackened-shrimp-a-delicious-mealI love Fettuccine Alfredo, but during the summer months it's a little heavy. It doesn't mean I still don't crave it. 

I have made "Lighter" Fettuccine Alfredo and a quick "weeknight" version of Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo. Both are fabulous but I still wanted something lighter, something more summery with a kiss of sunshine. After racking my brain, I decided charred corn, basil an eensy bit of cream (1/4 cup) and some lemon juice would make a perfect summer alfredo sauce. Okay, honestly I didn't even know if it was going to work.

But it did! It's not heavy and almost seems "sauceless" but at the same time it's creamy. I know that's hard to imagine but you'll get it once you taste it. Let's just call it an anomaly. 

I am currently into shrimp, mostly in tacos, but they seem to be appearing in my other dishes too. I couldn't resist topping this very summery pasta with some blackened shrimp.

Let me set the stage, a bite of the shrimp, with its cajun flavors, the sweet corn and bright lemon taste in the's heaven and summa' all in one bite. You will make this again and again.

Quintessentail Chocolate Chip Cookies

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by Susan Salzman

cookie.s.yard .choc.chip .sm Levi woke up a few mornings ago and the first thing he said to me was, “I really want you to make chocolate chip cookies”. I asked him what kind, what did he want in them, did he want them cakey or chewy? He looked at me as if I was speaking a foreign language. And then he looked at me and said, “just a plain and simple chocolate chip cookie – and mom, fill up the cookie jar with them!”.

I think he is tired of the hoopla surrounding my baking endeavors. He wants the basic. And after thinking about it for a bit, I understand how we all crave just the basics from time to time. I enjoy(and miss) a lazy Sunday morning, under the covers with a good book, I am happy on the couch, sharing an episode of Friday Night Lights with Eli (our obsession), a walk with the family to the neigborhood bagel shop, or simply building a puzzle with Levi, a.k.a “the puzzle king”.

Fancy Artichoke Dip

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by Cathy Pollak

fancy-artichoke-dipWho doesn't love a good dip?! And since it's what I officially call "dip season", why not enjoy the heck out of it. Dip is what we all get together for anyway. Isn't it? Maybe I'm misinformed.

This particular Fancy Artichoke Dip is an elevated version of the classic. It almost looks like there is sausage on top, but it's really wheat bread crumbs. There are many layers of flavor in here, I just kept adding things until it was right.

I know you are going to enjoy this one, it will disappear before your eyes.

Creamy Shrimp Creole Soup with Bacon-Cornmeal Dumplings

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by Cathy Pollak

creamy-shrimp-creole-soup-with-bacon-cornmeal-dumplingsIf you are looking for the perfect Mardis Gras inspiration, Creamy Shrimp Creole Soup with Bacon-Cornmeal Dumplings could not be a more perfect choice to round out your celebration.

The gorgeous color is the first giveaway to the over the top flavor. By using all the right ingredients, salt and pepper aren't even tastes fantastic as is, and by the way, it is spicy.

We always have a few Mardis Gras dishes this time of year but don't nearly indulge in all the flavors of the South often enough. They really awaken your taste buds.

Don't worry if you've never made dumplings before, they are so easy to throw together, a couple imperfect rolls and they are good to go.

The dumplings take on the color of the soup and have a nice smoky flavor with the addition of bacon.  I hope you'll give it a try!

Molten Chocolate Lava Cake

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by Susan Salzman -1The first time I ate a Chocolate Lava Cake was at Roy’s on Maui in 1990.  Roy was somewhat of a celebrity chef in Hawaii. Back then there were only a few celebrity chefs; Wolfgang Puck, Jonathan Waxman, Michael McCarty, and Alice Waters to name a few.

The food at Roy’s was good, but it was the dessert, the chcolate molten lava cake,  that I kept going back for. I wrote to the restaurant and asked for the recipe.  They obliged!  

Over the years I have tweeked the recipe a little here and a little there. But it just wasn’t right.  It wasn’t perfectly right until I found this recipe in the New York Times.

Valentine’s Day is around the corner. Along with an extra special dinner that night for my 4 favorite valentines, I plan on  adding this dessert to the menu.

Beef Bourguignonne

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by Cathy Pollak

beefbouginoieWhen I think of a special, winter meal, I think of Beef Bourguignonne. Don't let the French name scare you, it's simply beef stew. It is the epitome of French comfort food and it is classically made with Pinot Noir wine. And what could be more satisfying than something steaming and rich? I have tried many versions and have come to settle on this particular recipe.

I especially like to make it the day before and let it sit over night for the flavors to meld, as well as being able to skim the fat that will accumulate on the top.  This works out perfectly for this upcoming Valentine's Day. 

My best results have come when I cut a chuck pot roast into small pieces.  Grocery store stew meat is not the same.  I also include a beef knuckle soup bone which gives an incredible smoothness to the sauce.  You are going to love this recipe!

Turkey Pot Pie with a Gluten Free Crust

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by Susan Salzman

turkeypotpieComfort food with a crust. Need I say more? Thanksgiving, for me, is all about the sides. I do love my gravy, but I prefer it over my rustic herb stuffing. Forget the turkey and save it for a big batch of turkey potpie or a morning hash.

This recipe has been part of my repertoire for the past 20 years. It has evolved over the years but one thing has remained constant; there is very little fat and no cream in the recipe. And in making this dish, over and over again, the cream is not even missed. The filling is delicious but what really makes this dish is the crust. And this gluten free crust is a winner (thanks to Shauna).

In doing all of my planning, marketing, and organizing on Sunday’s, I always find a lot of inspiration in cleaning out my vegetable bin. Soups, stir fry’s, salads, stratas, and frittatas, are dishes created from neglected or almost “not edible to eat” veggies. Food rarely gets wasted in our home and it gives me great joy to not see money thrown into the compost bin.

To all of my friends and readers who have supported me over the years, I am grateful to you for your support, questions, advice, and friendship. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!


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