Making My Peace … with Greece and Iceland Dairy


Greek-schmeek! Skyr is the creamiest yogurt around. Just make sure you get Siggi’s.

I finally made my peace with yogurt when I decided to try the now-uber-popular Greek style. I love the stuff! … Then I tried skyr (Icelandic yogurt), and I’m wondering what all the fuss is over Greek. Skyr is so much richer and creamier!

Consumer Tip: Bypass the Viking brand in favor of Siggi’s (at Schnucks — the blueberry is especially good), which has a thicker consistency and a milkier flavor than its competitor. I’m definitely going to be getting plenty of calcium!

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Everything’s Coming Up (Stinking) Roses

My husband and I recently got membership at Sam’s Club, hoping to save a few bucks in the coming year on bulk purchases. So far, I’ve noticed my per-unit costs plummet on everything from jumbo prawns to dog food. Last week, I saved on garlic … about 20 heavenly bulbs of the “stinking rose.”

If you live in a two-person household — even one inhabited by one very enthusiastic and prolific garlic user and a spouse who tolerates the smelly addiction — you know that’s a lot of garlic to have around, even if you abuse it. I’m putting it in every dish, often several cloves per meal: on the bread, in the pasta, on our meats, in our potatoes, sauteed with vegetables. No vampires in my house! Still, I haven’t made a very impressive dent in that bag. I plan to roast several whole bulbs for spreading on rolls, but the rest must be chopped. My silicone garlic roller (for peeling) and santoku knife suddenly seemed woefully inadequate to fulfill my plans for this volume of product.

Well, yesterday’s field trip to di Olivas in West County was a godsend on that front (and I’ll get to that in a moment). First, though, there’s the fun of sampling dozens of delicious balsamic vinegars and olive oils, most infused with flavors such as fruits, herbs and spices, which was my mission when I set out to West County Center just for that store. I also tried more flavors of sea salt and mustard than I ever thought I’d need to, and couldn’t leave the store without a bottle of double dark chocolate, praline pecan and cranberry walnut vinegars, and a bag of bacon chipotle sea salt.

And right by the entrance of the store were two tools that are going to make my life easier and my food more pungent and delicious: Chef’n Twist N’ Peel Garlic Peeler and Chef’n Garlic Slicer.

The peeler is a container with a narrow inner compartment where you place the garlic; close the two sides together and twist, and the silicone nubs grip and strip off the skins on the cloves.Chef'n Twist N' PeelThe slicer works similarly. Place up to two large or four small cloves into the slots inside the slicer, put the spring-loaded brace in place and close the slicer, then twist the slicer to drag the garlic over the blades to produce perfectly thin slices. It’s like a pencil sharpener for garlic.Chef'n Garlic SlicerThese tools trimmed my prep time to a fraction of what it was with a knife. Within minutes of getting back home with these tools last night, I had a tub of the garlic-iest butter one could imagine. I can still taste it.

It tastes like victory.

Follow the links within the photos to view details about the Chef’n peeler and slicer on the Williams-Sonoma website. If you’re looking to buy, consider supporting a small local vendor by purchasing from locally owned di Olivas.

di Olivas, 118 West County Center, St. Louis, MO 63131, 314.909.1171,

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Vino Was Made for Fall Days Like These

Vino Was Made for Fall Days Like These

Guess whose September shipment of Club W wines has just arrived? This gal! It’s sunny and 60-something, and I’m headed for the patio with my laptop to soak in up the light and chill autumn air. Later, I’ll pop a cork on a red with dinner, and maybe a refreshing white after. Good times!

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Can a Frozen Dinner Be ‘Cute?’

Rarely would I describe a frozen dinner as “cute,” but this Herb Roasted Chicken dinner from Marie Callender’sMarie Callender's Herb Roasted Chicken certainly qualifies. Note the dimensions of the adorable little chick leg that comes in this two-piece dinner (with mashed potatoes and corn). Barely three inches long, the leg provided a single, hearty nugget of roasted chicken — very flavorful, I’ll give the Callender production team that much — and another two bites for the adorable midget thigh nestled next to it.

I don’t know what precious little pygmy breed of fowl those folks are raising over there at the Callender Farm but they must be a sight to behold, scrambling around the Malibu Barbie Dream House that serves as their coup and pecking millet out of her Glam Pool.

Well, that’s what I imagine to be the case. The alternative is that the R&D folks were too impatient to wait for their regular eggs to hatch before cracking them open and dragging out their occupants kickin’ and peepin’.

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Heaven Is a Badass Bacon Sandwich

Badass BTI may have just made the perfect BLT. Well, not technically a BLT — I didn’t use lettuce — but with the addition of cilantro and green onions, close enough.

Disclaimer: Don’t look for this post to impart any especially wise or insightful comments. I don’t have an unusual recipe to blog about. I’m just on a bacon high and wanted to share the joy.

You see, my hubby has acquired a taste for thin, low-sodium bacon, so that’s what we almost always have in the house for weekend breakfasts these days. I couldn’t take it anymore: Last week, I splurged on applewood-smoked, thick-cut bacon and … It. Is. Glorious! On top of that, all the local grocers are carrying nicely ripened, locally grown tomatoes, which I’m buying up by the bag. I had on-hand a variety of lush cheeses, artisan breads and fresh herbs, so something wickedly good was bound to come together.

Nothing plays nicer with bacon than assertive cheeses like the blue variety. Because too much can overpower the entire sandwich, I love to use a second cheese to complement the crispy bacon with a creamy texture. Chevre is the ideal foil. To add more flavor, substitute fresh herbs for the traditional lettuce, and eschew mayo for a squirt of tangy balsamic.

Of course, any sammie combo that involves bacon is a hit in this house, but it’s always fun to play around with veggies, herbs, breads and sauces to see what porcine magic can happen.

Badass BT:


1 ciabatta roll

4-6 slices thick-cut bacon

1-2 oz. Baetje Farms chevre-style cheese

1-3 slices fresh tomato

1 Tbsp. Gorgonzola

1 green onion, chopped

fresh cilantro, to taste

Blaze balsamic glaze


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Fry bacon to crispy; drain on paper towels. While bacon is frying/draining, place open ciabatta in oven for 3-5 minutes to toast lightly. Spread chevre on roll and return to oven. Once chevre is melted a bit, remove from oven and stack bacon, Gorgonzola crumbles, cilantro, tomato and green onion on bottom half of roll. Drizzle generously with balsamic glaze.

NOTE: Read more about Baetje Farms of Bloomsdale, makers of artisan goat cheese, in my feature story in FEAST Magazine.

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Crazy About Caprese and Cookin’ Lazy

Fresh Caprese Salad

My version of Caprese Salad includes Blaze Glaze balsamic glaze and either the traditional fresh basil or fresh cilantro. For extra bite, squeeze a lemon wedge on top or drop a tablespoon or so of finely chopped red onion on it.

Soft, mellow mozzarella. Tangy tomato. The bright acidity of balsamic vinegar and the peppery goodness of olive oil. A little bite of basil hereand a caper there — I’m crazy about my Caprese.

Such a simple dish, this Caprese, but almost nothing is as joyful on the plate. It’s light yet just hearty enough. It’s colorful, fresh and delicate. I always feel good about eating it — and good while eating it. I’ll often pop the cork on a lush Italian white wine and sip as I sink into the flavors. If I close my eyes, I can almost convince myself I’m deep into the local harvest of Capri.

Traditional Caprese salad usually includes tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil and fresh black pepper. Never to leave well enough alone, I sometimes drizzle balsamic vinegar and a few capers on top, and serve it with lemon wedges for extra twang. If fresh b

asil can’t be found, cilantro works just fine.

My version of Wet Caprese Salad has a few extras, but it’s still a quick, easy antipasto that shines a spotlight on the best of summer’s bounty:

Ingredients:Blaze Balsamic Glaze

1 ripe tomato

8 oz. fresh mozzarella

2-4 fresh basil leaves

extra virgin olive oil

Blaze Glaze balsamic reduction

1 tsp. capers

fresh black pepper and sea salt, to taste


Slice tomatoes and mozzarella to 1/4 inch thick. Layer them on a plate, alternating tomato with cheese. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic glaze. Slice 2 to 4 basic leaves into thin strips and sprinkle over salad. Sprinkle capers on top, and finish by grinding fresh black pepper and sea salt over the top, to taste.

NOTE: While this salad is traditionally made with basil, you can use cilantro or other fresh herbs when basil is not available. In a pinch, sprinkle dried basil or oregano over the top when you have no fresh herbs on hand.

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Why I Never Fell Out of Love with Merlot

Wonderful Wine Co., The Score Merlot-2011

No barbecued meal is complete at the Stefano household without a bottle of wine. In this case, The Wonderful Wine Co. Merlot offered the perfect companion to grilled pork ribs and steaks. If there’s no time for grilling — or even for dinner — don’t fret. This wine is a delightfully fruity sipper, even on it’s own.

I’ve been drinking a lot of white wine lately. Vignole, Voignier, Gewurtztraminer, Traminette, Riesling — any winemaker, with just about any food, makes me happy — Chardonnay, Chardonel, Pinot Gris. You name it, there’s a time and place for it.

But my first loves were reds. Specifically, Merlot. My first time sipping it with a beautifully charred beefsteak was a revelation, and the moment is seared in my mind as surely as that meat was seared on the grill. The plummy, semi-dry glass I’d been enjoying pre-dinner opened up into something sweet and heavenly once the steak touched my lips. I think I heard angels singing.

Made from relatively thin-skinned grapes compared to Cabernet, Merlot often isn’t as heavy or especially astringent (although you can readily find a full-bodied Merlot to suit the taste for a bold wine). It pairs perfectly with some of my favorite foods — it’s besties with the likes of grilled meats, seared salmon, mushroom dishes and bacon-wrapped shellfish.

I don’t care what Paul Giamatti said in “Sideways“; there’s no shame in Merlot! Although that movie — a highly entertaining one, I have to admit — gave the varietal a black eye for years afterward, wine geeks either never got the message or are wising up to enjoy this fruity red right along with the Cabs and Pinot Noirs.

Merlot never fell out of favor with me. It has its place, even if it’s had to fight for it from time to time. If nowhere else, it always, always has a place at my table.

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Review: Scottie’s Pub House Offers Delciousness, Warm Atmosphere and — Oh, Yes! — Tableside TV!

Newly opened in the former O’Aces Sports Bar & Grill in Imperial, Scottie’s Pub House is the Gianino family’s latest culinary venture. The large space that anchors the strip mall on Imperial Main Street is just a few spots down from Frankie Gianino’s Grill & Bar but offers a menu that’s worlds away — or at least half a continent — from the American and Italian fare served at that Jefferson County hotspot.

All vestiges of the old O’Aces have been vanquished. Gone are the grungy carpets and high ceilings that seemed to disappear into the ether. No more pool tables and dart boards, and no more cigarette smog thick as pea soup. In their place are a modern, black drop ceiling, intimate lighting, wood tables and cozy booths. Typical to a sports bar, the decor includes big-screen TVs tuned to the day’s games. The surprise comes when you’re seated and realize that each booth is equipped with a high-definition screen!

My usual dining partner, my husband Enzo, and I started our meal with Scottie’s Tavern Chips ($8.29) — a generous Scottie's Menuhelping of thick-sliced potato chips drizzled with creamy cheese sauce and topped with cheddar, bacon and green onions, and served with sour cream on the side. Scottie’s doesn’t skimp on toppings, and thankfully, the chips were hearty enough to stand up to the sauce and toppings. There’s plenty on the plate for three or four people to share. We could have eaten them all day, if we weren’t expecting entrees.

Our drinks were ice-cold and reasonably priced. Longneck domestics are $3, while my artisan draft beer was $4 for a 16-oz. glass.

We each ordered steak sandwiches ($10.99, comes with fries); I had the fries and Enzo substituted the Dirty O’s, Scottie’s take on onion rings. The fries were standard thin-cut fries and appropriately crisp. The Dirty O’s, as Enzo observed, tasted just like bloomin’ onions, which made both of us happy. Steak sandwiches are served medium-well on a ciabatta roll. While I could have done with something other than a waxy provel cheese, the meat was tender and perfectly cooked — and generously portioned. I was dying to try the Irish Croquettes and bread pudding, too, but I finished only half of my entree and was still stuffed. I’m saving those treats for my next visit.

There will most definitely be a next visit. In addition to well-prepared, generously portioned food at reasonable prices, the service was spot-on. Our drinks never went dry, and our server checked frequently to ensure we got what we needed. She even labeled our doggie boxes with the contents of each box and the date. It’s attention to little details like that that contribute to a positive dining experience.

Pros: Prompt, courteous service; well-prepared food and generous portions at reasonable prices.

Cons: Lighting may be too dim for some.

Scottie’s Pub House, 1235 Main St., Imperial, 636.461.0850

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Easiest Bread Ever! Ice Cream Bread Good for a Quick Fix

Easy Ice Cream Bread

I made my ice cream bread with cookie dough ice cream — a natural fit for a baked item!

Baked goods are finicky.

Get your proportion of egg to flour or fat to sugar wrong, and you won’t get the results you seek. You sometimes have to take crazy things like humidity and altitude into account. Take it out of the oven too soon, and it could deflate like a popped pool toy. Over-beat or under-mix your batter, and who knows what can happen? It’s insane — but I love it!

I like a challenge in the kitchen, but I have to admit the simplicity of this bread recipe was too enticing to pass up. Three ingredients, and one of them is ice cream? Count me the heck in!

Props to the Taste of Home website for posting this simple ice cream bread recipe. You almost can’t screw it up … almost.

Please note that you must, must, simply must use full-fat ice cream for this to get the best results. I used cookie dough ice cream for mine, and you can see how beautiful the results were. Since the ice cream I used was not premium and didn’t have a whole lot of fat, I added two teaspoons of oil to be sure my bread was adequately moist.

It was, and it was yummy. Despite being more than half ice cream, this isn’t an especially sweet bread, which I consider perfect. Just a touch of sweetness after an evening meal or in place of your morning muffin. Mine took longer than the prescribed 25 to 30 minutes to bake through, but cooking times vary according to your oven. Be sure to test for doneness before removing your bread from the oven.

Easy Ice Cream Bread


  • 1 cup full-fat ice cream, softened
  • 3/4 cup self-rising flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar


In a small bowl, combine ice cream, flour and sugar. Transfer to a 5-3/4-inch x 3-inch x 2-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack. Yield: 1 loaf (6 slices).

Note: If you don’t have self-rising flour, add 1 tsp. baking powder and 1/4 tsp. salt to your flour.

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Sharp-Looking Art: NHB KnifeWorks Is Not to Be Missed

NHB KnifeWorks

Three of the many spectacular artisan knives at NHB KnifeWorks on Beck Avenue. — photo by Corey Woodruff

My husband and I had the great pleasure of visiting Chef Nate Bonner today, Day One of what will hopefully be a long life in South St. Louis for his newly opened handmade cutlery business, NHB KnifeWorks.

Artisan knives, salt and pepper mills, bottle stoppers, pens, and other items vital to kitchen operation, are made by hand by Bonner and business partner Tom Stone at the shop on Beck Ave. (just a stone’s throw from Civil Life Brewing Company). While Nate says many knife shops pour their efforts solely into a attaining a sharp blade, he’s interested in also crafting handles that make each piece a one-of-a-kind work of art.

While wood and stone are to be expected, how Nate has managed to alter the appearance of these materials — particularly the wood — is beyond description. One wooden handle he showed us could easily have been mistaken for layers of minerals, while others simply looked like nothing of this world. Other knife handles are made from unusual materials that range from lobster and shrimp shells to  pistachios to flowers, mushrooms, acorns, anise seed and even chicken soup mix, carefully preserved in resin.

Nate tells me he and Stone even played around with crafting handles from popcorn kernels, which proved to be unstable at their center. Whole peppercorns and hot peppers also didn’t work, since the grinding sent fine pepper dust into the air, creating a noxious environment — and a humorous tale for visitors. (I’d be willing to bet the finished product would have been just as breathtaking as the works of art I saw on this visit, had they not driven the guys to tears before they could finish.)

I will have one of these functional art pieces in my kitchen someday. At around $125 and up for a small paring knife and $200 to $300 or so for larger chef’s knives, they’re within reach but will still require some coin-saving. But scrimping together the cash will be the easy part — choosing just one to bring home will be agony!

Bonner is holding NHB KnifeWorksgrand opening at 2pm Sunday, Sept. 29. The celebration will feature live music, and food and beverages from Kitchen Kulture, Civil Life Brewing Company and Charleville Brewing Company until the refreshments run out. If you can’t wait until then, Nate’s happy to show you his shop. Just call ahead to schedule a tour.

NHB KnifeWorks, 4159 Beck Ave., 314.825.5398,

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