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Dine-In: Benne Cheese Biscuit Bites

Charleston, South Carolina, is a fantastic food city. I lived there several years ago, before moving to Texas, and I still have many fond memories of living, cooking, and eating there. I even took my husband there on our honeymoon, and it helped him share my love of fresh seafood. (Charleston-style shrimp and grits– it doesn’t get better  than that!)

So for this weekend’s suggested dish,  I’ve chosen a delicious recipe that reminds me of Charleston. These savory little cheese bites are made with benne seeds – what most of us know as sesame seeds. In Charleston, however, they’re called benne, the word for sesame in Bantu, the language of the African people who introduced the seeds into the local cuisine hundreds of years ago.

These mini-biscuits are super-easy to put together, but they are great for a quick snack or side dish. If you’re making a weekend brunch, make a couple of batches, line a basket with your favorite team colors, and you’ve got a fresh-baked treat that the crowd will adore.

Benne Cheese Biscuit Bites

1 (8-count) refrigerated biscuits in a can (any brand)
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup benne seeds (sesame)
1 tsp granulated garlic
1/4 cup fresh chives (very thinly sliced)
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Cut biscuits into quarters.  Mix the cheddar, sesame seeds, garlic, salt, chives, and cayenne, in a dish.  Dip the biscuits in the butter, then roll in the cheese mixture.

Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for roughly 8 minutes, give or take.  Keep an eye on them as all ovens cook slightly differently, and you don’t want them to overbake.

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Dine-In: Easy goulash

Goulash is a comfort food for me. Growing up with a mother from the Old Country – Germany – my family ate it a lot in the winter, because it reminded her of home. It’s warm, hearty and makes the house smell wonderful as it slowly cooks.

In this country, goulash has become kind of a catch-all term for a lot of dishes, usually involving beef, some sort of tomato or stew base, and usually noodles. But real European goulash is just a rich, thick beef soup with lots of paprika. It can be served over noodles, but it doesn’t have to be.

Goulash apparently originated in Hungary, but variations are found all over Europe. This version is based on the German-ized dish I ate as a child, but because it’s made in a slow cooker, it’s a good weeknight supper. Turn it on before you leave for work, and you’ll return to a home that smells fragrant and warm – and a dinner that will be ready with just a few minutes of final cooking.

Slow-cooker Goulash
Serves 4 to 6

1 1/2 lb beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup yellow onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2  tsp pepper
1 cup water
2 Tbs tomato paste
2 Tbs sweet paprika
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sour cream
Cooked egg noodles

Place beef in pot cover with water and bring to boil. Drain, rinse and place in slow cooker. Add onion, garlic. and season with salt and pepper.

Whisk together 1/2 cup of water, tomato paste, and paprika; pour over beef mixture. Cover and cook on LOW for 8 to 9 hours.

Combine flour, remaining water, and sour cream; stir into meat mixture. Cook, uncovered, on HIGH for 15 minutes or until slightly thickened.

Serve with egg noodles.

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Dine-In: Easy Cannoli

These cannoli make a wonderful dessert after an Italian meal.

They are a traditional dessert throughout Italy, especially in Sicily, where they are made of little fried tubes of pastry dough and stuffed with a sweet ricotta cheese filling. But delicious as they are, cannoli can be labor-intensive.

So, here, we use a shortcut by substituting ice cream cones for the pastry shell, and lighten them up a little bit by using low-fat cheese.

Buon appetito! 

Easy Cannoli
Prep Time: 35 minutes
Serves: 12

1 (5 oz) pkg sugar ice cream cones
4 oz semisweet chocolate, melted
1/2 cup chopped pistachios
1 (15 oz) carton Food Club Low Fat Ricotta Cheese, drained
1/4 cup Food Club Powdered Sugar
1/2 tsp Food Club Vanilla Extract
12 maraschino cherries

Dip the rim of the cones into melted chocolate. Roll rim into chopped pistachios and place on parchment paper to dry.

In a medium bowl combine ricotta cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla; beat well.

Place ricotta cheese mixture into a zip-top bag. Squeeze mixture into cones. Garnish with cherries.

Nutritional Information: Calories per Serving: 172, Fat: 7 g (3 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 12 mg, Sodium: 143 mg, Carbohydrates: 22 g, Fiber: 1 g, Protein: 6 g

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Dine In: Game-day, low-fat chili

Are you ready for some football?

Well, this time of year, that’s a silly question, especially here in the south. So this weekend, whether you’re headed to a Pop Warner Saturday-afternoon  game or a high school matchup under the Friday night lights, or just huddling in front of the TV to catch your favorite pro or college team, you need a meal that’s hearty and easy to eat, yet doesn’t require hours in the kitchen – so the cook doesn’t miss kickoff, either.

Chili is my go-to dish for game days. But in September, while the weather is still more on the summer end  of the temperature gauge than things than fall, I prefer a lighter, healthier version of the winter classic. This Turkey, Corn and Black Bean chili ( fits the bill.

It’s naturally lower in fat, thanks to the use of ground turkey. It gets added fiber from corn. And thanks to shortcuts like prepared salsa and canned chicken stock, it can get thrown together in just a few minutes, and can be ready to serve in less than an hour. (Like all chilis, however, this one is even better after the flavors have melded, so if you have time, make it the night before you plan to serve it, and simply reheat before gametime.)

At mealtime, make it a buffet! Let everyone serve themselves by setting out bowls of shredded cheese, sour cream, lightly crushed corn chips, chopped onions, sliced jalapenos salsa and hot sauce, along with some warmed flour tortillas or a pan of cornbread.  After all, the game’s on!

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Dine In: Mediterranean Sandwiches

“Mediterranean cuisine” has been a buzzword for years, but it is kind of hard to pin down exactly what it is.

Essentially, it’s the foods of countries that ring the Mediterranean Sea, like Greece, Italy, France and Spain. But the cuisines of those countries are so varied that “Mediterranean” is often really used just as a shorthand for healthy, simple foods with lots of fresh vegetables, herbs, and bright flavors.

This sandwich uses a lot of the typical Mediterranean ingredients and flavors: plain yogurt, pita bread, cumin and citrus. However, I used ground beef instead of the lamb that’s often featured in this type of Greek/Mediterranean sandwich. That’s because ground beef is more affordable, much easier to find, and has broader appeal. In fact, you can even pass these off as a new kind of hamburger to the kids. 

Serves 4 


Beef  Patties
4 rounds (8-inch) pita bread
3 tablespoons plain yogurt
1 pound ground beef
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cumin, ground
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 tablespoons vegetable oil 

Yogurt Sauce
1 cup plain yogurt
3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
2 cloves garlic , minced
Salt, to taste
Cayenne pepper, to taste
Juice of about 4 limes
3 cups romaine lettuce, rough chopped

For the Beef Patties: Cut 1/2-inch piece from top of each pita round. Chop these pita scraps finely, then mash them into yogurt and set aside to soften for 5 minutes. Mix beef, cilantro, 1 teaspoon salt, cumin, cayenne, and yogurt mixture together thoroughly with your hands. Form meat mixture into six 2” wide patties. Place patties on plate and put plate in freezer until patties are firm, about 5 minutes.

For Yogurt Sauce: Meanwhile, combine yogurt, cilantro, and garlic in small bowl and season with salt, cayenne, and lime juice to taste. Refrigerate until needed.

Heat oil in 12” nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the patties and cook until well browned, about 2 minutes. Flip patties over, reduce heat to medium, and continue to cook until well browned on second side, about 6 minutes. Transfer patties to paper-towel-lined plate and let drain for several minutes.

Put 3 patties into each pita round with some lettuce and a spoonful of yogurt sauce.

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Dine In: Grilled salmon

If you’re new to grilling fish, you should try salmon. Because salmon filets are thick and are usually cooked with skin on one side, they are easier to keep moist on the grill than other, more delicate fish. And the firm, meaty texture of salmon makes it one of the most popular fish in America, a healthy, lighter alternative to a good steak.

This simple Asian-inspired marinade is my favorite way to grill salmon. (Most of the ingredients can be found in Asian foods section of the supermarket.) It gives the fish a bright, fresh taste that doesn’t overpower it. I like to serve this dish is atop a bed of fresh wilted spinach – healthy, delicious and colorful. It’s also great with steamed brown rice.

And, if you are not a salmon fan, the marinade also complements mahi mahi ( a milder, but also firm-textured fish), or even chicken or pork.

Chef Sam’s Favorite Grilled Salmon

4 Tbs Hoisin Sauce
2 Tbs Tamari Sauce  (you can substitute regular soy sauce if you cannot find this specialized soy sauce)
2 Tbs Mirin (a kind of Japanese cooking wine)
1 Tbs Rice wine Vinegar
3 Tbs Vegetable Oil
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 Tbs fresh ginger (minced)
1 Tbs fresh garlic (minced)
1 tsp wasabi
1 Tbs honey
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onion
4 salmon filets, 6-8 ounces each
Toasted sesame seeds for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a dish except for salmon and sesame seeds and mix well.

Add salmon and marinate for 2-4 hours.

Heat grill and spray with nonstick spray.  Grill for about 6-7 minutes on each side until desired doneness.  Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.

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Dine-In: BBQ Chicken Pizza

Growing up, I was never a fan of pizza. As I got older, though, I discovered I really disliked the tomato sauce on pizza, not pizza itself. So now, I love making homemade pizza, using different, interesting sauces on my crust to replace the tomato sauce. Pesto sauce, with fragrant basil, is one of my new favorite pizza toppings. And here’s another idea: barbecue sauce. This quick recipe ought to please both the pizza-lovers AND the bbq-lovers in your family. 

BBQ Chicken Pizza
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Serves: 8

2 Tbs barbecue sauce
1 (12-inch) premade pizza crust
2 (4 oz) boneless, skinless chicken breast, cooked in barbeque sauce, cubed
1/4 purple onion, sliced
1 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped

Preheat oven to 450° F. Spread barbeque sauce over pizza crust. Place cubed chicken, onion and cheese onto crust. Bake pizza for 20 to 25 minutes or according to crust package directions. Sprinkle cilantro over pizza.

*Check temperature and cook time on pizza crust. 

Nutritional Information: Calories per Serving: 252, Fat: 9 g (Saturated Fat 4 g), Cholesterol: 36 mg, Sodium: 236 mg, Carbohydrates: 26 g, Fiber: 1 g, Protein: 18 g

© 2011, Brookshire Grocery Co.  Nutrient counts are rounded to the nearest whole number.  All dietary and lifestyle changes should be supervised by a physician


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Dine In: Summery shrimp ceviche

Ceviche is a wonderful summer dish, especially when you don’t want to cook. Well, when you don’t want to cook with heat, that is.

The fish or shellfish in ceviche IS cooked, but with acid, usually from citrus juice. It has the same texture as if it had been cooked on the stove, but the acid in the lime or lemon juice is what causes the chemical reaction and produces the “cooked” texture.

If you are new to ceviche, or have not prepared it at home, I like to suggest starting with shrimp. Shrimp “cooked” in lime/lemon juice has a really nice, firm texture. And, for some reason, even people who might be a little squeamish about the whole ceviche concept are usually willing to try this version. Serve with chips or tortillas, and maybe a side of guacamole, and you’ve got a great summer dinner – without turning on a single burner. 

Shrimp Ceviche

1 lb large shrimp (21 to 25 per pound)
1 tsp lime zest (about 1 lime)
1/2 cup lime juice (about 4 limes)
1/2 cup lemon juice (about 4 lemons)
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and diced fine
1 jalapeño stemmed, seeded, and minced
1 garlic clove , minced
1/4 cup olive oil
4 scallions , sliced thin
1 cup cherry tomatoes , quartered
3 tablespoons cilantro leaves, chopped
1/2 tsp granulated sugar
1 ripe avocado, pitted and finely
Ground black pepper

Peel shrimp, devein, and slice each shrimp in half lengthwise using a paring knife.

Stir the lime zest, lime juice, lemon juice, bell pepper, jalapeño, garlic, and 1/2 tsp salt together in a medium bowl. Gently stir in the shrimp, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until the seafood is firm, opaque, and appears cooked, 45 to 60 minutes, stirring halfway through the marinating time.

Place the mixture in a fine-mesh strainer, leaving it a little wet, then return to the bowl. Gently stir in the oil, scallions, tomatoes, cilantro, and sugar followed by the avocado. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with your favorite tortilla chips.

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Dine-In: Homemade pimento cheese

It always strikes me as a little funny when the rest of the world discovers food that those of us in the South have been eating all along.

Like pimento cheese.

Growing up in Texas, my grandma, like many others, made it for all occasions. In the South, it’s hard to find a church supper, a family potluck or a tearoom menu where it’s NOT among the offerings. But recently, pimento cheese has made it to the big time. It was listed as one of the trendy foods of 2011 by Bon Appetit magazine. And it’s been showing up on restaurant menus, even those not in the South, often dressed up with new ingredients like chipotles or feta cheese.

Me, I’m a traditionalist. I like the classic version we make in many of our in-store delis. And I like this basic recipe, because it’s simple, fresh, and reminds me of the kind my grandma made.

Pimento Cheese Spread

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
1 cup shredded Mozzarella
1/2 to 3/4 cup good-quality mayonnaise (I prefer Hellman’s or Duke’s brands)
1/2 teaspoon  garlic powder
1 teaspoon sugar
4-ounce jar diced pimentos, drained

Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour.

Note: All ingredients can be adjusted to taste, add more or less mayo to adjust creaminess and or spreadability.

Variation: Hot Pimento Cheese Spread. Add two or three pickled jalapenos, finely minced, for a spicy kick.

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Dine-In: Spinach Lasagna

Today is National Lasagna Day! I’m all in favor of celebrating this terrific Italian favorite, but, to be honest, I usually think of traditional lasagna as a better choice for fall or winter. Traditional versions are usually rich, meaty and filling, great comfort food when it’s chilly outside.


So for summer, try this version. It’s got whole wheat lasagna noodles and a filling made of lower-fat cheeses and baby spinach, making it lighter but still satisfying on a balmy evening.

Spinach Lasagna
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 6

1 (8 oz) pkg whole wheat lasagna
8 oz 2% mozzarella cheese, shredded
6 oz parmesan cheese, shredded
2 cups Food Club Low Fat Cottage Cheese
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp ground oregano
1 tsp dried basil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (10 oz) bag baby spinach
1 (26 oz) jar Food Club Traditional Pasta

Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray an oven safe baking dish with cooking spray.

In a pot bring water to a boil. Add lasagna noodles; cook until al dente (cooked firm and not too soft).

In a large bowl combine mozzarella, parmesan and cottage cheese; mix well. Mix egg into cheese mixture. Add oregano, basil and minced garlic; mix well.

Layer lasagna noodles, cheese mixture, spinach and spaghetti sauce in baking dish. Repeat layering; ending with sauce and cheese. Bake for 30 minutes.

Nutritional Information: Calories per Serving: 336, Fat: 13 g (7 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 51 mg, Sodium: 898 mg, Carbohydrates: 28 g, Fiber: 5 g, Protein: 25 g

© 2011, Brookshire Grocery Co.  Nutrient counts are rounded to the nearest whole number.  All dietary and lifestyle changes should be supervised by a physician.

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