Category Archives: LadyFingers

FCH and LadyFingers - We're back!

Hello! Remember those wonderful days past when my friend, Diane of LadyFingers Catering and I would host these wonderful and healthy paleo dinner parties and live tweet the whole preparation? And then we’d ask a question about something we tweeted about and someone won a seat at the next month’s party? Well, we’re starting it up again! We took a year’s hiatus because Diane was busy coming back from major foot surgery last year, and we both missed the excitement and the food. We’re kicking off the new season with a very special Valentine’s Day dinner this Saturday, February 15 at 6pm! Be sure to follow us on Twitter and get in on the action so YOU can win a seat at our March dinner. First Comes Health Twitter LadyFingers Twitter

First Comes Health & LadyFingers Holiday Party Contest!

In 2012 LadyFingers Private Chef and Catering and I have hosted seven winners.  Seven lucky folks have followed our monthly cooking extravaganzas on Twitter and submitted a correct response to the questions we’ve asked about each meal.  They were diligent about following along and paying specific attention to ingredients, technique, and detail.  To celebrate these 7 lucky people Diane and I are hosting a holiday hors d’oeuvre party on December 4, 2012 and they (plus a guest!) are invited.  Yippee!

AND YOU ARE INVITED TOO!

Or at least you can be if you are one of the THREE winners we will choose!  Here are the details:

Including this month’s menu, Diane and I have prepared 38 different recipes.  To win one of three invitations for you and 1 guest to our holiday hors d’oeuvre party you must prepare 1 recipe (not one whole meal menu, just one recipe), photograph your steps as you go along, and email us your version of our recipes along with the photos. No Twitter or Facebook required! We will choose three winners from all the entries, and those lucky ducks will be invited to our holiday hors d’oeuvre gathering on December 4.

So, to recap:

1. Choose one recipe from the 38 we’ve prepared in the last year.
2. Cook this recipe and take photos of your progress throughout just like Diane and I do.
3. Email photos plus a description of what you did to Diane or me. (info@ladyfingersprivatechef.com  OR jill@firstcomeshealth.com) DEADLINE: November 21, 2012 at 11:59:59 PM
4. Wait with baited breath to see if you are one of the three lucky winners who will attend our holiday bash on December 4.

Fine print:
Only one entry per person.
If you are chosen as a winner, you will provide your own transportation to and from the party which will be in Pittsburgh, PA, USA on December 4, 2012.
Winner will be notified via e-mail.

Recipes:
You can see all the LadyFingers posts right here.
Or choose from one of these downloadable and printable PDF versions:
Wild Mushroom and Green Bean Salad with Goat Cheese
Tapenade Crusted Salmon with Roasted Red Onions
Southwestern Shrimp and Snapper Stew
Baby Greens Wrapped in Prosciutto with Blood Orange Vinaigrette
Osso Bucco alla Milanese
Savory Squash Souffle
Avocado Gazpacho Salsa
Lemon-Seared Tuna and Rosemary Skewers
Scallop BLTs
Spinach, Orange, and Beet Salad
Grilled Lamb Loin Chops
Mint Pesto
Roasted Vegetable-Stuffed Zucchini Boats
Chilled Ginger-Cantaloupe Soup
Spicy Salmon and Zucchini Patties
Orange-Glazed Carrot Ribbons
Romaine Wrapped Halibut
Watermelon Mint Gazpacho
Grilled Asparagus Salad with Bacon
Carrot and Zucchini Slaw
Spicy Paprika-Grilled Chicken Kebabs
Grilled Asparagus with Crispy Prosciutto
Crab-Encrusted Scallops with Green Pea Puree
Spicy Yam “Fries”
Garden Stuffed Peppers
Macadamia and Cashew-Crusted Chicken Bites
Mango Dipping Sauce
Asparagus Green Curry Soup
Grilled Filet Mignon with Balsamic-Roasted Tomatoes
Hard-Boiled Quail Egg with Tapenade Trio
Tomato and Spaghetti Squash Salad with Chive Oil
Poached Duck Breast Rolls
Raspberry Red Wine Puree
Maple Roasted Parsnip “Fries”
Asparagus Roasted Finocchinona
Zucchini-Caper Dip
Seared Sea Scallops with Garlic-Sherry Mushrooms
Grilled Flank Steak with Caramelized Onions

GOOD LUCK TO ALL!

Recipes: A Meal of Laughs - And A Contest!

Last night was the final LadyFingers and First Comes Health dinner for 2012.  We do have one more event coming up soon (more details below!), but this was our last dinner around the table with two special guests that we’ll serve this year.  It makes me a little sad to say a temporary farewell to our monthly ritual with Diane and her husband Jim, but we’ll return in 2013.

What doesn’t make me sad was the entirety of last night’s meal.  Our winner from two months ago was Kelly F. and she brought her friend Lori along.  I almost (not really, but ALMOST!) forgot what we ate because we sat around the table and laughed so hard.  It was a terrific evening made even more special because we celebrated Diane’s birthday too!

So, let’s get to the food, which was exceptional!

Asparagus Roasted with Finocchinona – serves 6

12 asparagus spears, medium thickness
12 Finocchinona slices or any other flavorful salami
Garlic-infused olive oil

Heat oven to 425-degrees.
Rinse asparagus spears and pat dry.  Trim woody ends.
Tightly wrap each asparagus spear with salami and place on a non-stick foil-lined baking sheet.
Lightly brush with garlic-infused olive oil.
Roast for 8 – 10 minutes or until asparagus is tender and salami has begun to crisp.
Serve with Zucchini-Caper Dip.

Zucchini-Caper Dip – serves 6

2 medium zucchini or 1 ½ large zucchini
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
juice from ¼ lemon
2 teaspoons capers
¼ teaspoon dried chili flakes
Salt, to taste

Slice zucchini and place in a steamer.  Steam for 3 – 5 minutes or until zucchini has begun to soften.
Transfer zucchini to the bowl of a food processor.
Add garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, capers and chili flakes and process until the mixture is smooth.
Add salt to taste.
Garnish with capers if desired and serve.

Seared Sea Scallops with Garlic Sherry Mushrooms – serves 6

1 pound mixed mushrooms including mini white button, crimini and shiitake
2 tablespoons garlic-infused olive oil
2 tablespoons unflavored olive oil
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped and then crushed
1 teaspoon tomato paste
4 tablespoons dry sherry
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
6 large, firm, unbroken sea scallops
Garlic-infused olive oil

Clean and coarsely chop mushrooms.
Add both olive oils to a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat.


Add mushrooms and sauté, stirring often, just until mushrooms begin to release liquid.
Add crushed garlic to the skillet and stir to combine.
Whisk tomato paste and dry sherry together and add to the skillet, again stirring to combine.
Reduce heat to medium and allow mushrooms to cook until liquid is reduced.


Meanwhile, place a large skillet over high heat.
Rinse scallops and pat them dry.  Toss the scallops with garlic-infused olive oil until scallops are lightly coated.
Place scallops in hot skillet and cook until bottoms are crisp and well-browned.
Turn scallops and cook on second side until crisp and well-browned.  To ensure that scallops are cooked through, cover the skillet with a lid during the second side.
Transfer scallops to serving plates.
Add fresh thyme to the mushroom mixture and stir to combine.
Spoon the mushroom mixture over scallops and serve.

Grilled Flank Steak with Caramelized Onions – serves 6

2 1 ½-pound flank steaks (3 pounds total)
Garlic powder
Onion powder
1 cup red wine
4 sweet or Vidalia onions
4 tablespoons butter or olive oil

Three hours prior to grilling, lay steaks on a cutting board on a flat, sturdy work surface.
Using a large serving fork, thoroughly pierce each steak on both sides.
Lightly sprinkle each steak with garlic powder and onion powder and thoroughly pierce each steak again.
Place each steak in a gallon-sized zip-lock bag and add ½ cup red wine to each bag.  Squeeze out as much air as possible from each bag and tightly seal.  Refrigerate for 2 hours, turning bags occasionally.
One hour prior to grilling, remove steaks from refrigerator and place on counter to come up to room temperature.
Heat grill to high.
Cut each onion in half, peel each half and then slice very thinly.
Place sliced onions in a large pot or Dutch oven with butter or olive oil (Olive oil is the Paleo method but butter will brown the onions with better flavor).
Heat onions over medium-high heat, stirring to coat the slices with the oil or butter.
Allow onions to cook, stirring frequently.  After 20 minutes, reduce heat to medium, continuing to cook and stir.
As onions begin to brown, scrape the caramelization from the bottom of the pot and stir it into the onions.
Continue this process for an additional 20 – 30 minutes or until onions are a deep caramel color and taste quite sweet.  Keep warm while steaks cook.
By this time, the grill should be extremely hot.  Reduce the heat to low and remove the steaks from the bags.  Place steaks on the center of the grill and close the lid.
Grill on low for 5 minutes.  Turn the steaks and grill for an additional 5 minutes for medium rare.
Transfer the steaks to a large cutting board and allow them to rest for 5 minutes.
Slice the steak, placing 5 – 6 slices on serving plates and top with caramelized onions. (We served ours with roasted beets!)

Didn’t I tell you? As usual the menu was fantastic.  I could have had seconds or even thirds on everything!  Here are the downloadable and printable versions of all that we made:

Asparagus Roasted Finocchinona
Zucchini Caper Dip
Seared Sea Scallops with Garlic-Sherry Mushrooms
Grilled Flank Steak with Caramelized Onions

And now to the BIG BIG announcement!!!

In 2012 LadyFingers Private Chef and Catering and I have hosted seven winners.  Seven lucky folks have followed our monthly cooking extravaganzas on Twitter and submitted a correct response to the questions we’ve asked about each meal.  They were diligent about following along and paying specific attention to ingredients, technique, and detail.  To celebrate these 7 lucky people Diane and I are hosting a holiday hors d’oeuvre party on December 4, 2012 and they (plus a guest!) are invited.  Yippee!

AND YOU ARE INVITED TOO!

Or at least you can be if you are one of the THREE winners we will choose!  Here are the details:

Including this month’s menu, Diane and I have prepared 38 different recipes.  To win one of three invitations for you and 1 guest to our holiday hors d’oeuvre party you must prepare 1 recipe (not one whole meal menu, just one recipe), photograph your steps as you go along, and email us your version of our recipes along with the photos. No Twitter or Facebook required! We will choose three winners from all the entries, and those lucky ducks will be invited to our holiday hors d’oeuvre gathering on December 4.

So, to recap:

1. Choose one recipe from the 38 we’ve prepared in the last year.
2. Cook this recipe and take photos of your progress throughout just like Diane and I do.
3. Email photos plus a description of what you did to Diane or me. (info@ladyfingersprivatechef.com  OR jill@firstcomeshealth.com) DEADLINE: November 21, 2012 at 11:59:59 PM
4. Wait with baited breath to see if you are one of the three lucky winners who will attend our holiday bash on December 4.

Fine print:
Only one entry per person.
If you are chosen as a winner, you will provide your own transportation to and from the party which will be in Pittsburgh, PA, USA on December 4, 2012.
Winner will be notified via e-mail.

Recipes:
You can see all the LadyFingers posts right here.
Or choose from one of these downloadable and printable PDF versions:
Wild Mushroom and Green Bean Salad with Goat Cheese
Tapenade Crusted Salmon with Roasted Red Onions
Southwestern Shrimp and Snapper Stew
Baby Greens Wrapped in Prosciutto with Blood Orange Vinaigrette
Osso Bucco alla Milanese
Savory Squash Souffle
Avocado Gazpacho Salsa
Lemon-Seared Tuna and Rosemary Skewers
Scallop BLTs
Spinach, Orange, and Beet Salad
Grilled Lamb Loin Chops
Mint Pesto
Roasted Vegetable-Stuffed Zucchini Boats
Chilled Ginger-Cantaloupe Soup
Spicy Salmon and Zucchini Patties
Orange-Glazed Carrot Ribbons
Romaine Wrapped Halibut
Watermelon Mint Gazpacho
Grilled Asparagus Salad with Bacon
Carrot and Zucchini Slaw
Spicy Paprika-Grilled Chicken Kebabs
Grilled Asparagus with Crispy Prosciutto
Crab-Encrusted Scallops with Green Pea Puree
Spicy Yam “Fries”
Garden Stuffed Peppers
Macadamia and Cashew-Crusted Chicken Bites
Mango Dipping Sauce
Asparagus Green Curry Soup
Grilled Filet Mignon with Balsamic-Roasted Tomatoes
Hard-Boiled Quail Egg with Tapenade Trio
Tomato and Spaghetti Squash Salad with Chive Oil
Poached Duck Breast Rolls
Raspberry Red Wine Puree
Maple Roasted Parsnip “Fries”
Asparagus Roasted Finocchinona
Zucchini-Caper Dip
Seared Sea Scallops with Garlic-Sherry Mushrooms
Grilled Flank Steak with Caramelized Onions

GOOD LUCK TO ALL!

Recipes: A Special Dinner for Special Guests

Last month when I posted the LadyFingers recipes I hinted a little bit that we were hosting a few special guests in September.  Well, last Friday night we were really sneaky and had a LadyFingers/First Comes Health dinner and didn’t tell a single soul about it.  No Twitter contest, no hyped Facebook posts.  We just had a really great dinner with some cool people.

So, who were our special guests?

Hayley Mason and Bill Staley from the Food Lovers’ Kitchen!

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been buddies with these guys for a while now and I can’t think of a better way to spend time with friends than to cook and eat with them.  We thought it would be fun to invite some awesome people/Internet luminaries to share in a very special menu.  We had a great time in the kitchen talking about food, wine, being Paleo, and their upcoming wedding.  And then we sat down for dinner to a tailor-made feast.  Diane didn’t disappoint!  Three courses that were not only delish, but looked fab too.

Let’s get to the recipes!

Hard-Boiled Quail Eggs with Tapenade Trio – serves 6

12 quail eggs
10 Kalamata olives
10 large green olives
10 large pink olives
3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

Place quail eggs in a pot and cover with water.  Heat on high just until water comes to a boil.  Remove pot from heat and allow eggs to stand for 7 minutes. Carefully transfer eggs to an ice bath to cool.
Pit olives as necessary.
Using one type of olive at a time, place olives in a mini food processor.  Add 1 teaspoon olive oil and process until finely chopped.  Add additional olive oil if mixture is too dry.  Transfer olive mixture to a bowl.
Stir in 2 teaspoons of chopped parsley to each olive mixture.  Add a third teaspoon depending on quantity of olive mixture.
Remove the quail eggs from the ice bath and carefully peel.
Slice each egg lengthwise and place 4 halves on each serving plate.
Place a small mound of each olive mixture between egg halves and serve.

Jill’s note: This is, by far, the most visually striking dish we’ve ever prepared.  And uniquely yummy too!  It’s worth it to find some quail eggs in your area.  In preparation for this dish Diane and I thought we would have to span the globe to find quail eggs.  Turns out they were readily available at our local Asian supermarket.  We were a bit intimidated by them at first, but we practiced a few hard boiling methods and settled on the one described above, and there was nothing to be afraid of.  Easy!  And they make for a really special plate.

Tomato and Spaghetti Squash Salad with Chive Oil – serves 6

1 bunch fresh chives
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium spaghetti squash
1 ½ teaspoons minced fresh thyme
8 plum tomatoes, finely diced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

For Chive Oil:
Rinse fresh chives and shake to remove water.  Pat dry with a paper towel.
Place chives in a blender, reserving 6 chives for garnish.
Add ¾ cup olive oil to the blender.  Cover and puree until smooth, adding more olive oil if necessary.
Place a fine mesh sieve over a bowl and pour chive puree into the sieve.
Using the back of a spoon or a pestle, swirl puree around the bottom of the sieve until oil has been strained into the bowl and pulp remains in the sieve.  Discard pulp.
Transfer chive oil to a squeeze bottle and set aside.

For Spaghetti Squash:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Cut the squash lengthwise and place cut-side down in a glass baking dish.  Fill the dish with ½-inch hot water and tightly cover with aluminum foil.  Bake for 45 minutes.
Carefully remove the foil and turn the squash halves over.  Using potholders, re-cover the dish with the foil.  Bake for an additional 15 minutes.
Allow the squash to cool until it can be easily handled.
Using a spoon, remove the seeds and discard.  Using a fork, remove the squash strands and place in a bowl.
Refrigerate the squash until well chilled.

To Assemble:
Place a ring mold on each serving plate.
Spoon ¼ – ½ cup spaghetti squash into each ring mold and tamp down.
Sprinkle ¼ teaspoon finely minced thyme over the squash layer.
Toss diced tomatoes with just enough olive oil to coat lightly and then spoon ½ cup tomatoes into the mold atop the thyme layer.  Gently tamp down.
Using the squeeze bottle, squirt a ring of chive oil around the outside of the mold.
Carefully remove the molds, garnish with reserved chives and serve.

Poached Duck Breast Rolls – serves 6

2 large fresh duck breasts
salt and pepper, to taste
dash of allspice

Place a large pot of water over high heat.  Bring to a boil.
Pound duck breasts flat and trim each breast piece to roughly form a rectangle.  Season with salt and pepper and allspice.
Place two 15-inch pieces of plastic wrap on a flat work surface.
Tightly roll each duck breast lengthwise into a cylinder and place on long edge of plastic wrap.  Keeping breast rolled tightly, roll in plastic wrap.  Take one end of plastic wrap and twist tightly against breast roll.  Take the other end and twist tightly in the opposite direction.  Tie twisted ends together to secure rolls.
Place breast rolls in pot with boiling water and poach for 7-8 minutes for medium-rare.
Remove breasts from boiling water and let cool briefly.  Remove plastic wrap and cut each breast into three sections.
Spoon sauce of choice onto serving plate, top each with duck breast section and serve.

Raspberry and Red Wine Puree – serves 6

4 packages raspberries
4 ½ tablespoons red wine

Rinse and gently pat raspberries dry.
Place raspberries in a blender, reserving 18 berries for garnish.
Add 4 ½ tablespoons red wine to the blender.  Cover and puree until smooth.
Place a fine mesh sieve over a bowl and pour raspberry puree into the sieve.
Using the back of a spoon, swirl puree around the bottom of the sieve until liquid has been strained into the bowl and seeds remain in the sieve.  Discard seeds.
Serve raspberry sauce with meat or poultry, using reserved raspberries as garnish.

Variations: Substitute orange juice for red wine for an alcohol-free puree, or substitute pure maple syrup for a sweeter puree.

Maple-Roasted Parsnip “Fries” – serves 6

6-8 medium parsnips
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Cover large baking sheet with non-stick foil.
Peel parsnips and cut into 4-inch “fries”.
Place parsnip fries in a large bowl and toss with olive oil.  Add maple syrup and toss again until evenly coated.
Spread parsnip fries on prepared baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes.
Turn fries and roast for an additional 10 – 15 minutes until fries are tender and maple syrup is caramelized.
Serve immediately.

This is a slightly more complicated menu with some more complicated techniques than Diane and I usually provide.  Some of the ingredients aren’t always readily available at the run-of-the-mill supermarket, but they are definitely worth seeking out.  I encourage you to give these recipes a try the next time you have a special occasion!  Duck isn’t a meat that is typically eaten regularly in the American household, but it’s so gosh darned delicious and easy to prepare that it ought to be!  Branch out and try something new and be brave!

Very special thanks to Hayley and Bill for being our special guests.  They took some beee-yooooo-tiful photos of the meal which put our little iPhone shots to shame!  Ha.

In the coming weeks I will be announcing a all new LadyFingers/First Comes Health contest. Stay tuned for this because the very special prize is something you do NOT want to miss!

As always, printable versions of this month’s recipes:

Hard-Boiled Quail Eggs with Tapenade Trio
Tomato and Spaghetti Squash Salad with Chive Oil
Poached Duck Breast Rolls
Raspberry and Red Wine Puree
Maple-Roasted Parsnip Fries 

 

Recipes: Filets on the Grill

I have been waiting for this menu.  I have to be honest, I love grilled meat and although LadyFingers Diane and I have made other meals featuring grilled meat, this one is my absolute favorite.  Reason 1: filet mignon.  Do I need to say anything else?  Probably not.

When I make these monthly recipe posts courtesy of LadyFingers Private Chef and Catering I typically say we had a terrific time and all that, but here’s the food! and go on to the recipes.  Allow me to dwell for a bit on the terrific time part.

If you’re not participating in the monthly contest to win a seat for yourself and a guest, you are truly missing out.  I mean it.  We get a fair number of entries a month, but I know more of you could participate and you’d be happy if you did.  We have the best time together!  We ask our guests to come while the meal is still cooking because the cooking is part of the fun.  Diane and I (but let’s be honest, it’s mostly the chef doing the cooking.  I’m merely a backup singer.) share tips and hints about technique, we talk about food and flavors, and we are never short on laughs.  Our husbands, Jim and Dude, are always around somewhere having a couple of beers and the conversation never drags.  Once we sit around the table and eat it’s just such a good time that I wish we could have each and every one of you join us.

This month’s winner was Matt B. and he brought his lovely wife, Rachel.  (Matt is the famous Coach Matt from this post.)  The weather was so beautiful that instead of sitting in the dining room, we ate outside on the patio.  Three courses culminating in grilled fillets – it couldn’t have made for a better evening.

(Coach Matt, my Dude, and the super lovely Rachel)

The correct answer to this month’s trivia question was almond flour, egg wash, and ground nuts (cashews and macadamia nuts specifically).  Congratulations to Kelly F. whose name was drawn from record number of correct responses!  Kelly and a guest will join us in October as we are hosting a couple of special guests in September.  Stay tuned for more details on that.

So yes! We had a blast this past Sunday – as usual!  Food and friendship go together better than anything.  Let’s get to the food and see why this month was especially delicious.

Macadamia and Cashew-Crusted Chicken Bites – serves 6-8

2 plump chicken breasts
½ cup macadamia nuts
½ cup cashews
1 cup almond flour, divided
1 egg
¼ cup water

Preheat oven to 400 degrees (or 375 degrees for convection)
Cover a medium baking sheet with non-stick foil.
Cut chicken breasts into generous cubes (1 ½-inch or two-bites).
Place macadamia nuts, cashew nuts and ¼ cup almond flour into a food processor.  Process until nuts are coarsely ground (note – you must use the flour as it keeps the oily nuts from becoming pasty).
Set up three dipping bowls for coating your chicken starting with a shallow bowl containing ¾ cup almond flour.
Beat 1 egg with ¼ cup water and place into a second shallow dipping bowl.
Place your ground nut mixture into a third shallow dipping bowl.


Thoroughly coat each chicken cube with almond flour, dip each cube into the egg wash, and finish by coating each cube with nut mixture, pressing the nuts onto the chicken cubes with your fingers as necessary.
Place the coated chicken cubes onto the prepared baking sheet.
Bake for 10 minutes.  Gently turn cubes, taking care not to disturb nut coating and bake for another 5 minutes or until cubes are hot and nut coating is nicely browned.
Remove from baking sheet and serve with Mango Dipping Sauce (see below).

Mango Dipping Sauce – serves 6

1 fresh mango
1 orange, juiced
1 tablespoon honey
dash cayenne pepper (or more to taste)

Peel mango and slice flesh away from the pit.  Place mango into a blender.
Add fresh orange juice, honey and cayenne to blender.
Puree mixture for 1 minute or until smooth.
Taste and add additional cayenne if desired.
Serve with Macadamia and Cashew-Crusted Chicken Bites.

Asparagus Green Curry Soup – serves 6

1 bunch fresh asparagus
2 medium leeks
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon green curry paste
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 can unsweetened coconut milk
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
Salt and pepper, to taste

Roughly chop asparagus, discarding woody ends.  Clean and roughly chop leeks, white and pale green parts only.


Heat olive oil in a large soup pot.  Add chopped asparagus and leeks and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add red pepper flakes to pot and stir to combine.
Add green curry paste to the pot and stir to combine.  Heat for 1 minute or until fragrant
Add stock to the pot and stir to combine.  Heat over medium-high heat until soup reaches a boil.  Reduce heat, cover pot and simmer for 15 minutes or until asparagus is quite tender.
Using an immersion blender, blend until soup is pureed.


Add coconut milk, fresh lime juice and blend again.
Add salt and pepper, to taste.
Let soup cool slightly and then place in refrigerator until well chilled (or may be heated – you decide!).
Garnish with a pinch of paprika and serve.

Grilled Filet Mignon with Balsamic-Roasted Tomatoes – serves 6

6 beef filet steaks
olive oil for coating
60 cherry tomatoes, preferably mixed colors
½ cup balsamic vinegar
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Preheat grill to High.
Remove steaks from refrigerator and allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Rinse and dry cherry tomatoes.  Place tomatoes in Dutch oven or heavy roasting pan.


Combine balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper and whisk to blend.  Pour balsamic mixture over tomatoes.
Place tomatoes in oven, uncovered, and roast for twenty minutes or until just bursting.
While tomatoes roast, coat filets with olive oil and take to grill.


Turn the grill to low and place steaks on grill.  Close grill lid and cook for 5-7 minutes, depending on thickness and desired doneness.
Open grill lid, turn steaks and close grill lid again.  Cook for an additional 4-6 minures, again depending on thickness and desired doneness.
Remove steaks from grill to plates and serve with Balsamic Roasted Tomatoes.

Didn’t I say that this was the menu to top all menus?  Well, at least until next month….

As usual, many thanks to Diane of LadyFingers Private Chef and Catering for the use of her kitchen, garden, and home.  Here are printable versions of this month’s recipes.  Please enjoy!

Macadamia and Cashew-Crusted Chicken Bites
Mango Dipping Sauce
Asparagus Green Curry Soup
Grilled Filet Mignon with Balsamic-Roasted Tomatoes

Win a Seat at the LadyFingers and First Comes Health October Table!

Ok, readers! Here’s your chance to win an invitation to October’s cooking demo with Diane of LadyFingers Private Chef and Catering and dear ole me! (We are having a couple of special guests at the September dinner, so the winner of this month’s contest will be our October guest.)

Hopefully you followed along with our tweets last night and watched Facebook to see the August dinner progress from ingredients to table. Now is your chance to show us how much you paid attention.

Here’s the question:

IN PROPER ORDER (very important!), what were the three coatings we put on the chicken appetizer before cooking it?

Responses will be accepted through Facebook or Twitter PRIVATE MESSAGE. Don’t put it on our walls, don’t tweet it to us. Message either Diane or me with your guess.

Fine print:

1. One response per person (And you MUST like LadyFingers and First Comes Health on Facebook!)
2. Entries will be accepted until midnight tonight.
3. One person will be randomly drawn from all the correct respondents.
4. The winner will provide his/her own transportation to Diane’s house on a date in October TBD.
5. The winner can bring one guest to the dinner.

Good luck, everyone!

Recipes: Too Hot in the Kitchen

Here in Pittsburgh we finally got away from the oppressive heatwave that seemed to blast most of the eastern USA.  But that doesn’t mean the temperatures still aren’t hot around these parts.  In fact, it’s been a really great summer for those of us who enjoy warmer temps!  And although I do enjoy warm, tropical weather over frigid and frozen, sometimes putting together a hot meal in the kitchen seems unbearable.  I might have central air conditioning, but when it’s balmy outside the thought of turning on the oven is too much.

So this month at the LadyFingers/First Comes Health dinner Diane designed a menu that can be prepared without turning on the oven.  We used her stovetop and grill for everything, but you’ll soon see that these dishes go beyond burgers and hot dogs.  We’re talking healthy gourmet on the grill! If (like me!) you don’t have a grill, worry not!  Everything can be made using an oven if you choose.

As usual, the meal was stupendous and also as usual we had a blast with our winner, Lisa.  She and her mom, Kathy, joined us for July’s dinner and it was an utter delight having the two of them!

Before we get on to what we ate, let’s take care of a bit of business – the August winner!  Matt B. and a guest will be joining us next month!  Matt correctly answered our question based on the tweets we put out there during this month’s preparation.  Congratulations, Matt!  Diane and I look forward to having you at the table in August!

Let’s get to this month’s menu, shall we?

Grilled Asparagus with Crispy Prosciutto – serves 6

6 slices prosciutto
1 bunch medium-width asparagus
extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Mrs. Dash or other multi-herb seasoning blend

Chop prosciutto into ¼-inch pieces.  Place in a small skillet and sauté over medium heat, stirring frequently, until prosciutto is crispy (about 5 minutes).
Transfer prosciutto to paper towels to drain and cool.
Heat grill to medium-low.


Trim woody ends from asparagus and toss with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.
Sprinkle with Mrs. Dash and toss to coat evenly.
Place asparagus on grill and grill for 2 minutes.
Using tongs, turn asparagus and grill for another 2 minutes.
If asparagus is soft and has begun to brown, remove from grill.  If not, turn asparagus again and grill for another 2 minutes.
Place grilled asparagus on platter or individual plates and top with prosciutto.

Crab-Encrusted Scallops with Green Pea Puree – serves 6

1 cup frozen green peas, thawed
¼ – ½ c chicken broth (preferably homemade!)
1 shallot, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
½ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
salt and pepper, to taste
6 sea scallops, rinsed and patted dry
lemon-infused olive oil
¼ cup lump crab meat

Place peas, ¼ cup chicken broth, chopped shallots, chopped garlic and thyme leaves in a blender.  Blend until smooth, adding more chicken broth until desired consistency is reached.


Place pea puree in a small pan and heat on low.
Heat a skillet over high heat.
Lightly coat scallops with lemon-infused olive oil and place in skillet.
Sear scallops until browned (about 3 minutes) and then turn.
Divide lump crab meat between scallops and pile on top.  Place a lid on skillet and sear scallops for 3 minutes.
Spoon pea puree onto individual plates and top with scallops, taking care not to disturb crab topping.

Spicy Yam “Fries” – serves 6

3 large yams
3 tablespoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon Hungarian paprika
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon onion powder
cayenne pepper, to taste

Heat oven to 400 or heat grill to medium.
Peel yams and slice into narrow spears.


Combine coconut oil and seasonings in a large bowl.
Add potato spears to bowl and toss with your hands to thoroughly coat.
Spread potatoes evenly on a large baking sheet.
Place potatoes in oven, or if using grill, place potatoes on TOP rack.
Bake/grill for 10 minutes.
If grilling, keep your eye on the browning process as all grills are different and some grills may brown the potatoes very quickly.  If browning does happen quickly, turn the temperature of the grill down.
Using a wide spatula, turn potatoes and bake/grill for another 10 minutes.

Sausage and Garden Vegetable-Stuffed Peppers – serves 6

3 large bell peppers
4 Italian sausage links (Or any kind of flavorful sausage that you like.  For the Pittsburghers reading this, we used Steve’s Garlic Sausage from the Robinson Market District)
1 small vidalia onion, chopped
1 small zucchini, diced
3 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 bunch basil leaves, torn
hot sauce (optional)
grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Heat grill to medium.
Cut each bell pepper in half lengthwise through stem.  Remove seeds and ribs.  Set aside.


Squeeze sausage from casings into medium skillet and heat over medium-high heat.  Break up sausage with a spoon and stir.  As sausage cooks, use a potato masher to further break up sausage into small pieces.
When sausage is cooked through, transfer to a bowl and set aside.
Add chopped onions and diced zucchini to skillet and sauté until starting to soften.  Add chopped tomatoes and torn basil and heat through, stirring constantly.
Add hot sauce, to taste, if desired and stir to combine.  Add sausage back into skillet and stir again.
Spoon sausage mixture into bell pepper halves.  Press the stuffing down, packing tightly.  Top with a pinch of freshly grated Parmesan, if desired.


Place the peppers into a lightly greased baking dish.  Place the baking dish on a baking sheet and place the baking sheet onto the grill (do not place the baking dish directly onto the grill or the bottoms of the peppers will burn).
Close the grill lid and grill/bake for 20 minutes or until the peppers are crisp-tender.

Alright, who is making these dishes for dinner tonight?  Send me a photo!  Better yet, post it on my Facebook wall.  Maybe there will be a little something in it for you…hmm……

As usual, many thanks to Diane of LadyFingers Private Chef and Catering for the use of her kitchen, garden, and home.  Here are printable versions of this month’s recipes.  Please enjoy!

Grilled Asparagus with Crispy Prosciutto
Crab-Encrusted Scallops with Green Pea Puree
Spicy Yam “Fries”
Sausage and Garden Vegetable-Stuffed Peppers

Win a Seat at the LadyFingers and First Comes Health August Table!

Ok, readers! Here’s your chance to win an invitation to August’s cooking demo with Diane of LadyFingers Private Chef and Catering and dear ole me!

Hopefully you followed along with our tweets last night and watched Facebook to see the July dinner progress from ingredients to table. Now is your chance to show us how much you paid attention.

Here’s the question:

Name all the seasonings used to make the yam “fries”.

Responses will be accepted through Facebook or Twitter PRIVATE MESSAGE. Don’t put it on our walls, don’t tweet it to us. Message either Diane or me with your guess.

Fine print:

1. One response per person (And you MUST like LadyFingers and First Comes Health on Facebook!)
2. Entries will be accepted until midnight tonight.
3. One person will be randomly drawn from all the correct respondents.
4. The winner will provide his/her own transportation to Diane’s house on a date in August TBD.
5. The winner can bring one guest to the dinner.

Good luck, everyone!

Recipes: Summertime Light and Fresh

Do I say this every month after a LadyFingers dinner?  This was the best one yet.

I am being sincere each month when I say it.  Diane just outdoes her self time after time.

This month was especially fun as my friend Ann was our guest!  I hadn’t seen her in months as she’s been away at Duke for nursing school and is now recently graduated.  I’m so happy to have her back in town and having her at this month’s dinner was a special treat.

And speaking of winners, Lisa H. is the big winner for July!  Congratulations, Lisa!  Diane and I look forward to having you and your guest at our table this month!

Ok, so I’m sure you’re curious to know what June’s dinner was all about.  I have to say that neither blazing temperatures nor epic thunderstorms can stop the action in the LadyFingers kitchen.  It was a hot and humid night that had some severe storms roll through, but we soldiered on!  There was a delicious and healthy meal to be had!  Let’s get to the recipes.

Watermelon-Mint Gazpach0 – serves 8

6 cups cubed watermelon, large seeds removed
1 large heirloom tomato, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 large shallot, coarsely chopped
1 seedless cucumber, peeled and divided
2 medium jalapenos, seeded and chopped
¼ cup mint leaves, packed
1 lime, zested and juiced
salt, to taste
8 mint sprig tops

Cut off ¼ of seedless cucumber and set aside for garnish step.  Coarsely chop remainder of cucumber.


In batches, place cubed watermelon, chopped tomato, chopped bell pepper, chopped shallots, chopped cucumber, chopped jalapeno, mint, lime zest and lime juice in blender.  Blend into a coarse puree.
Season with salt to taste.


Refrigerate puree until well chilled.
Using remaining cucumber, dice into ¼-inch “confetti”.
Ladle gazpacho into serving bowls and top each bowl with a small pile of cucumber confetti.  Top with mint sprigs and serve.

Grilled Asparagus Salad with Bacon – serves 6

4 slices bacon
½ small red onion
1 bunch asparagus
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Mrs. Dash Original or any zesty spice blend
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
6 cups baby greens

Heat grill to medium.
Cook bacon until crisp.  Drain on paper towels and set aside to cool.
Slice red onion into thin rings and chop into bite-sized (1-inch) pieces.
Trim asparagus and coat with olive oil.  Sprinkle with spice blend and toss to coat.
Place asparagus on grill and cover.  Cook asparagus for two minutes and then turn.  Cook asparagus an additional two minutes and then remove to a cutting board.  When cool enough to handle, chop asparagus into bit-sized pieces (1-inch).


For dressing, place lemon juice, vinegar, honey, mustard, and olive oil in a small bowl and whisk until well-blended.
Place baby greens in a large bowl.  Add red onion, asparagus, and dressing and toss to coat.
Divide salad among six places.  Crumble reserved bacon and sprinkle on each salad.  Serve immediately.

Carrot and Zucchini Slaw – serves 6

1 cup grated carrots
1 cut grated zucchini
1 cup grated yellow squash
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 head Belgian endive

Grate carrots, zucchini and yellow squash and place in a medium bowl.


For dressing, combine lemon juice, olive oil, fresh parsley, fresh oregano and fresh thyme in a small bowl.  Whisk until well-combined.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Trim endive and place individual leaves on serving plates.


Pour dressing over grated vegetables and toss to coat.  Spoon slaw over wide ends of endive leaves and serve immediately.

Spicy Paprika-Grilled Chicken Kebabs – serves 6

4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf, crumbled
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Trim any fat from chicken breasts and cut into 1 ½-inch cubes.  Place chicken cubes in a gallon-sized zip-lock bag and set aside.
For marinade, combine olive oil, cumin, thyme, smoked paprika, red pepper flakes, crumbled bay leaf and parsley in a small bowl.  Whisk until well blended.


Pour marinade into bag with chicken and seal tightly.  Massage bag gently to coat all of the chicken pieces evenly.  Place in refrigerator.
Allow chicken to marinate for at least two hours and for as long as overnight.
Remove chicken from refrigerator one hour prior to grilling.
Heat grill to medium.
Spray metal barbecue skewers with non-stick cooking spray.
Open zip-lock bag and thread chicken cubes onto skewers


Grill chicken 2-3 minutes per side (4 sides) or until cooked through.
Serve chicken on skewers or remove chicken from skewers and place in a serving bowl or divide among dinner plates.

Doesn’t this menu look fantastic?!  Here’s a tip: run out to the market and get everything to recreate this menu and impress your friends at your July 4 barbecue.

So, keep your eyes peeled on Facebook and Twitter to find out when the next cooking demo is going to be.  Follow along, answer the question and perhaps YOU could be our August special guest!

As always, printable versions of the LadyFingers recipes:
Watermelon-Mint Gazpacho
Grilled Asparagus Salad with Bacon
Carrot and Zucchini Slaw
Spicy Paprika-Grilled Chicken Kebabs

Win a Seat at the LadyFingers and First Comes Health July Table!

Ok, readers! Here’s your chance to win an invitation to July’s cooking demo with Diane of LadyFingers Private Chef and Catering and dear ole me!

Hopefully you followed along with our tweets last night and watched Facebook to see the June dinner progress from ingredients to table. Now is your chance to show us how much you paid attention.

Here’s the question:

Six ingredients from the LadyFingers garden were used throughout last night’s meal.  Name FOUR of these ingredients.

Responses will be accepted through Facebook or Twitter PRIVATE MESSAGE. Don’t put it on our walls, don’t tweet it to us. Message either Diane or me with your guess.

Fine print:

1. One response per person (And you MUST like LadyFingers and First Comes Health on Facebook!)
2. Entries will be accepted until midnight tonight.
3. One person will be randomly drawn from all the correct respondents.
4. The winner will provide his/her own transportation to Diane’s house on a date in July TBD.
5. The winner can bring one guest to the dinner.

Good luck, everyone!

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