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Robinsbite: June 2009

Friday, June 26, 2009

Honoring Michael Jackson with his Sweet Potato Pie

News of Michael Jackson's death yesterday has the world still reeling. In times of grief and sorrow, many turn to food for comfort. What better way to honor the pop icon than by creating what he loved most: Sweet Potato Pie.

As the story goes, Jackson, the seventh of nine children, had a penchant for sweet potato pie. Difficult to check the facts of this and while there is no way to confirm that this is his recipe, its the thought that counts on a day like today.

This one is from If I were making the recipe, I'd have the Thriller CD playing in the background.

Michael Jackson's Sweet Potato Pie

3 Eggs
1/2 cup White sugar
1/4 cup Butter; melted
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/3 cup Milk (about)
1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
1 teaspoon Ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon Ground nutmeg
2 1/2 cups Sweet potatoes (fresh or canned; heaping cups)
2 tablespoons Fresh lemon or orange juice
1 Pie shell (9-inch); unbaked
1/2 cup Pecan halves, optional


Beat eggs and sugar. Add melted butter, salt, milk, vanilla, and spice. Blend egg mixture with mashed sweet potatoes and lemon or orange juice.

Pour into unbaked pie shell or greased 1 1/2 quart baking dish. Garnish with pecan halves if desired.

Bake in preheated 400-degree oven 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees; bake 40 minutes longer or until golden.

Serves 8

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

If You Grow it, (Corn) They Will Come...and a Recipe

Growing up in the Midwest, seeing field upon field upon field of corn was not unusual. In fact, not only was it the norm, but many of my friends has their first jobs in the corn fields. They shucked. And shucked. And shucked. Working conditions included minimum wage, early hours and hot summer days. Payoff? All the fresh Illinois corn they could eat.

While one can argue that corn and corn derivatives are found in nearly every processed, partially processed, semi processed food and food item on the market, nothing but goodness can be said about the fresh ear itself.

Chances are, you've had fresh corn in the last 5-7 days. It's exciting-those first ears of the season-grilled, boiled, steamed or microwaved to enhance the sweet perfection that is, in fact, summer corn. Butter, salt, pepper, cayenne and the like. Me? I like it bare naked. That's right. Nothing on it at all. Doesn't need it. Don't believe me? Try tasting the corn-au natural-BEFORE salting, buttering and seasoning it. Just try it. And let me know.

Now, come July, or maybe even August, I get a hankering for something other than the old cob. Still love the corn, of course, its just that one can only eat so many on the cob. Many will will argue that, I know. Good news is that there are endless recipes using corn...and now is the time to start building the repertoire. When the main ingredient is just pennies per serving, its time to stock up-put those 6 or 8 ears for 1.00 to good use now or freeze them for later.

Here's one of my favorites..can be used as a side dish, a dip or a main entree. I like to add a handful of shrimp to make it a meal.

Robin's Corn Salsa with Shrimp (or not)

Kernels of 4-5 fresh ears of corn ***
1 T canola oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 T of cumin
2 heaping T of jarred salsa
1/2-3/4 lb cooked shrimp (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet, add oil and saute onions on medium high heat until translucent. Add garlic and stir. Add corn kernels. Saute for 2-3 minutes. Add salsa and cumin and stir until warmed through. If adding shrimp, do so now and continue to heat through. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve cold, warm or at room temperature if used as a side dish or dip.
Serves 3-4 as a side dish (depending on the size of the cobs) or 2-3 as a main entree.

**** To remove kernels safely and easily, remove kernels from cob by cutting 1/2 inches off the top and bottom of the cob. Stand cob on one end in a bowl with a flat bottom to provide stability and remove kernels using the back of a knife. Be sure to capture the "milk" that comes from the cob, too.
*** to make dish thicker, add 1 small can of creamed corn just before adding salsa to recipe

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Friday, June 12, 2009

I Just Ate 1/4 of a Watermelon....By Myself. Is That So Wrong?

The answer is no, that's not wrong at all! In fact, it's RIGHT! According to, Americans consume about 16 pounds of watermelon per person per year. I'm just doing my part to help the watermelon industry. You should too.

Here's why:

1. It's Oh So Versatile
From wedges, chunks and balls to watermelon spiked drinks, gorgeous watermelon, feta and basil salads (see photo-compliments of Chef Mynetta Cockrell, Milestone Culinary Arts Center to fabulous watermelon and tomato gazpacho (thanks to Chef Tyler Florence for tweeting me this recipe at, the possibilities are endless. In fact, a RD colleague of mine actually wrote that he was grilling watermelon today-thanks Dave Grotto, RD! (

2. It's Like Taking a Vitamin!

Not only does our friend the watermelon contain high levels of lycopene-the stuff that may act as antioxidants-protectors of cells, but Vitamin A-great for the eyes and boosting immunity, just to name a few- and Vitamin B6-now who doesn't need a few brain chemicals boosted-are both present and accounted for in watermelon. Also in the line up is Vitamin C, a terrific immune builder. It also helps our bodies utilize iron better! 2 cups worth of the red stuff also gives us potassium, a mineral needed to keep the water balanced in our system.

3. It's called WATERmelon. Get it-WATERmelon?

1 cup of the good stuff is about 92% water. Here in Dallas, it hit 100 degrees today. This is an automatic signal to me that hydration needs to be on the brain. (it needs to be on the brain everyday, but when it hits 100, its REALLY on the brain) Sometimes water and other fluids aren't just enough. Heading to the fridge for the watermelon can help get the fluid you need to maintain the massive amount of water that is found floating around in the body!

4. There are Festivals Created around this Cherished Fruit!
Check out the and click on festivals. You'll be amazed at the amount of festivals going on around the country that celebrate the melon.

5. It Just Makes Us Happy

Really, who doesn't love watermelon? It's a sign of the summer, a time for easier days and fun nights, lazy weekends and good times with friends and families. Riding bikes, unlocked doors, flipflops and swimsuits til bedtime, and watermelon. Watermelon is one of those food memory foods that many of us build upon and look back upon with fondness. It is for me, anyway. What about you?

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Monday, June 8, 2009

I Heart!

Have I mentioned that my new favorite website/blog is Yes, that's correct-it's kitchen WITHOUT the "e". Why do I love it? Let me count the ways:

1. Kitchen Tours. Actual tours of readers kitchens. From the tinest of kitchens to the most lighted kitchens and everything in between. It shows that your kitchen doesn't have to be perfect/large/full of expensive equipment to create huge feasts full of flavor and taste. Also, you don't have to be a trained chef to knock out some killer food.

2. The recipes. A post today for strawberries, sour cream and dark brown sugar inspired me to set out these three simple ingredients for a party of ten this evening. A perfect dessert-light, sweet, and delicious. All enjoyed the self service aspect and the unique combo of common household items! Be sure to check out the archives, too. (photo credit:

3. The posts. They come from a variety of different people who I think must have the coolest jobs on the earth. A recent menu of posts include: The Perfect Peanut Butter Jar, STOP! Don't re roll your scraps!, Gluten Free, Egg Free Desserts?, What's this Herb? and How to Assemble a Cheeseboard. Today alone yielded 19 posts on the board. And the pictures? They are amazing.

I get no kickback for talking about this website. They didn't ask me to do it and they don't know I'm doing it, either. It's just one of those things--when you find something you love, you want everyone to know about it. You know how that goes, right? PS- I would not be opposed to working for you, Can we talk?

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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

1 Dish in Less than 30 Minutes Creates 5 Meals!

It's a rare occasion that dinner takes more than 30 minutes around this house. The trick? Keeping staples in the pantry and fridge that will allow the quick and healthy meals to happen!

The recipe below is one that is a frequent flyer here-mainly because I know that the ingredients can always be found! Stocking up on wholesome sausages is a great way to have a filling protein that is low in fat and pre-portioned for portion control. I prefer sausages that are homemade and minimally processed. ( Whole Foods Market had a great product as does Central Market grocery stores.) I stock up when they are on sale and keep them in the freezer. Onions and peppers-always close by-and the optionals are always within arms reach in the spice drawer and now, in the garden for the fresh basil. Parmesean cheese is can always be found in the fridge as well. Great news, though-this basic recipe calls for only 4 ingredients!

Easy Chicken Sausage with Onions and Peppers

1 T olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced into crescents
1 medium red pepper, sliced
2 chicken w/Roma tomatoes and Parmesan sausages sliced into 1/2 inch rounds or removed from caseings and crumbled (can use whatever your preferred sausage is for this recipe)
Fresh basil-optional
Red pepper flakes-optional
Additional Parmesan Cheese-optional

1. Set heat to medium high. Add olive oil.
2. Add onions and red pepper and saute. Add sausage.
3. Cook onions and pepper reach desired doneness and until chicken has reached proper temperature (ground chicken is 170: remember to remove at 165 to allow for continued cooking once it is removed from the heat source).
4. Season with fresh basil and red chili flakes if desired. Top with Parmesean cheese if desired.

Serves 2 with plenty of leftovers

Quick tips:

  • Cut the onion and red pepper and store in the fridge until you are ready to use. May also be frozen. Cut double or triple and have enough for the cooking for the week!
  • Double the recipe and freeze or store in fridge to create meals for later in the week, too.
The 5 Meals:
  • Add to whole wheat pasta for a colorful and healthy dinner
  • Top a store bought or homemade pizza crust for a unique spin
  • Chop veggies finer and add to an egg casserole or quiche
  • Stay traditional and add to a whole grain hot dog bun for a good old sausage with onions and peppers
  • Create a tortilla roll up with the mixture and add low fat cheese for a Mexican flair

Monday, June 1, 2009

Yellow Cupcakes and Chocolate Icing, Take 2

If you've been reading my blog for a year now, you'll recognize something familiar here... I posted similar photos approximately 12 months ago. (see 5/30/08). The occasion? My husband's birthday. His favorite food is-without question- the Duncan Hines Yellow Cake Mix Cupcakes and Chocolate Icing out of the can.

Last year, I wrote about his sheer delight and the uncontrollable smile that came across his face when he saw his beloved cupcakes. The same was true for this year. In the previous post, I wrote about food memories and how and when they are created. For him, these delicious cupcakes made an indelible mark over 30 years ago and I found that the same is true for his parents as they partook in some of the birthday cupcakes this year. They, too, had the look of happiness and recalled fond memories as they bit into the moist yellow cake, being careful not to smudge the icing. They even took leftover cupcakes home to enjoy them for a few days after the actual birthday. I know that his brother had the same smile and exact same memories of the cupcakes as my husband described his birthday treat to him over the phone.

These cupcakes are definitely a family favorite and I have the pleasure and enjoyment of sitting back and watching the entire thing unfold-the exact same way-year after year. You see, I did not grow up on these cupcakes so my food memories are not rooted in fact, I am okay without having even one of them. While one would think that would be horrific for my husband-to have his wife not share in his bliss for this beloved food-the exact opposite is true. It's actually quite blissful as this means more for him to enjoy. And I'm just fine with that.

Photos: Left: Pre-iced. Right: Post icing with candles for the Happy Birthday Song

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