Kelly the Culinarian: March 2008

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Stand mixer Sunday: Perfect blueberry muffins

I love when there's fruit available ... even though it's feeling chilly outside, at least I can eat something from a climate that's experiencing summer. So I whipped up some fresh blueberry muffins with a crunchy top.

Here's what you need:

1 and 1/3 cup flour

3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons baking powder

1/3 cup applesauce

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 egg

1/3 cup milk

1 cup blueberries

Mix all of the ingredients except for the blueberries in the stand mixer. When everything is incorporated, use a wooden spoon or spatula to gently fold the blueberries into the batter. Spoon it all into a muffin tin lined with paper cups -- this makes about 10 muffins. Tap the tin on the counter to level them off.

Next, make the delicious crunchy topping.

1/2 cup white sugar

1/3 cup flour

2 tablespoons cold butter, chopped into little pieces

1 and a 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon

Mix these items together with your fingers to distribute the butter. Spread the topping evenly over the muffins, pat down the topping so it will create a crust.

Pop them in a 400-degree oven for about 20 minutes or until top is brown and crunchy. Great with a cold glass of milk.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Cooking with Kelly: Low-carb dinner

I'm trying to get healthier. I like to eat and apparently that hasn't helped the whole wellness thing. As a result, I'm trying to cut down on my carb intake and I've joined a gym. That doesn't mean I'll stop making delicious desserts, though, don't you worry!

For tonight's dinner, we decided to stay in and make some sirloin steaks with salad. Tim had some frozen sirloins from Market Day that we wanted to use up. We also found some great Asian marinade from Target's brand. It has ginger, garlic, soy sauce and all sorts of delicious things in it. Normally I'd make my own marinade, but it was a busy day and this was on clearance. And boy, was it a great deal for what we got -- the marinade was packed with flavor. I marinated the steaks in a plastic bag with about two to three tablespoons of the stuff for maybe an hour. Make sure to pierce the steaks repeatedly with a folk so that the marinade could sink in. Of course, you can marinade your steaks overnight for more flavor.

Here's how to get a sirloin steak cooked perfectly medium -- preheat your boiler and place your steak on a cookie sheet. Cook for five minutes, then flip it and cook it for another four minutes. Turn off the boiler, set the oven at 400 and stick the steaks in for about five minutes. Pull them out and place the steaks on a cutting board to rest for at least five minutes so the juices can redistribute.

Slice, eat, enjoy!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Gardening with Kelly: Tomatoes

They have finally sprouted! I was quite concerned for a number of reasons. First, seedlings are best grown when the soil is 72 to 80 degrees. Nothing in my home is that temperature. So to compensate for this when they hadn't sprouted in one week, I used a little tip I found on the Internet: I put a heating pad on low underneath the planting dish.

Well, small problem ... it was a little hotter than expected. I thought for sure I had cooked the seeds past viability. But alas, Mother Nature is more resilient than I thought.

These first seeds are Early Girl Tomatoes, but based on this success, I started another flat of seeds that include more Early Girl, a container variety of tomatoes, basil, onions, peppers, cilantro, basil, rosemary and parsley.

I didn't know cilantro only sprouts when in kept in the dark, so I replanted those. The tomatoes have all started to sprout, as has the basil and onion. No word on the others yet. I'm hopeful!

I'm looking forward to a summer of roasted tomatoes, salsa, sauce, salads and stuffed tomatoes. Please grow!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Media meal: Top Chef update

Tonight the Top Chef crew reportedly headed over to Ravenswood for a challenge. They posed it as a block party where they didn't get to shop, they had to raccoon stuff out of other people's homes. Chicago Tribune's The Stew reported that it wasn't really a block party and that the four homes they begged food from like monks were set up in advanced. Frankly, I'm shocked that reality television would mislead me that way.

Really, since when has a Chicago resident let strangers into their fully stocked pantry right after they returned from a local foods farmer's market? If so, can someone invite me over? I cook.

Anyhow, the food looked mighty tasty. When I was in Washington, D.C., I lived in the lively Petworth neighborhood and my landlord hosted an awesome block party. There was all kinds of food and great activities and treats for kids. I've never seen the kind of block party that was featured on Top Chef though. Maybe I need to throw a faux party ...

The bruleed smores looked delicious. I know the chefs complained about the mac and cheese and looks can be deceiving, but it looked pretty tasty to me.

I wish Top Chef would come to my neighborhood.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Happy Easter from Kelly the Culinarian!

OK, so I'm a little late on the pickup. Easter is one of the meals my family usually eats on the fancy china that we then spend two hours washing and drying afterward. This year, we stuck with the classics.

First, we have the ham. It's just not Easter without ham. This was a spiral-cut, precooked ham from Sam's Club that we're subsequently still munching on. A great glaze for ham is equal parts honey and Dijon mustard. Yum!

Then, of course, green beans and cheesy potatoes. I'm not sure what's in the cheesy potatoes and I'm sure that's for the best.

So wondering what you do with all that ham? Simple. As an omelet add-in, chopped into salads and on sandwiches. We may also use it for baked beans and soups later in the week. Leftovers are your friend.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Stand mixer Sunday: Cinnamon rolls

Today is a special day in eating for us. Easter has always been a great holiday in our house -- huge early dinner, great breakfast, egg decorating, etc.

This year it's a little different. Mandy is away at school and Katie is leaving today for a trip with her school. The Easter bunny has stopped visiting our house. But, the food remains.

We make an event of breakfast on big holidays. We usually have a big, late breakfast and another big, early dinner. This year, I thought I'd give homemade cinnamon rolls a try and they turned out really tasty, much better than the stuff in the tubes. This particular recipe is great to start the night before for easy morning prep (I hate mornings).

Here's the recipe, thank-you Alton Brown!

4 large egg yolks, room temperature

1 large whole egg, room temperature

1/4 cup sugar

6 tablespoons butter, melted

6 ounces buttermilk, room temperature

4 cups flour

1 package instant dry yeast

1 1/4 teaspoons salt


1 cup packed brown sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

A little salt

1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter


2 1/2 ounces cream cheese, room temp

3 tablespoons milk

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
For the dough: in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg yolks, whole egg, sugar, butter, and buttermilk. Add about 2 cups of the flour along with the yeast and salt; whisk until moistened and combined. Remove the whisk attachment and replace with a dough hook. Add all but 3/4 cup of the remaining flour and knead on low speed for 5 minutes. Check the consistency of the dough, add more flour if necessary; the dough should feel soft and moist but not sticky. Knead on low speed 5 minutes more or until the dough clears the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface; knead by hand about 30 seconds. Lightly oil a large bowl. Transfer the dough to the bowl, lightly oil the top of the dough, cover and let double in volume, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl. Mix until well incorporated. Set aside until ready to use.
Butter a 9 by 13-inch glass baking dish. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Gently shape the dough into a rectangle with the long side nearest you. Roll into an 18 by 12-inch rectangle. Brush the dough with the 3/4-ounce of melted butter, leaving 1/2-inch border along the top edge. Sprinkle the filling mixture over the dough, leaving a 3/4-inch border along the top edge; gently press the filling into the dough. Beginning with the long edge nearest you, roll the dough into a tight cylinder. Firmly pinch the seam to seal and roll the cylinder seam side down. Very gently squeeze the cylinder to create even thickness. Using a serrated knife, slice the cylinder into 1 1/2-inch rolls; yielding 12 rolls. Arrange rolls cut side down in the baking dish; cover tightly with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator overnight or up to 16 hours.
Take it all out of the fridge and let it rise for about an hour or until puffy. Put in a preheated, 350-degree oven for about 20 minutes.
In the meantime, mix all ingredients for the icing in the stand mixer with the whisk attachment until smooth.
Let the rolls cool slightly before icing or else they'll absorb it all.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Media meal: Top Chef CHICAGO!!!!

Oh man, I am so far behind the curve. I know that Top Chef debuted like 10 years ago (or a week and a half, whatever). But it's been quite the week.

Funny thing happened on the way to the gym ... some woman hit my car again! Really, does my car have a huge "Hit me" sign and no one said anything? This is what I get for trying to go to the gym. Taco Bell, on the other hand, has never been part of an vehicular mishap. Is someone trying to tell me something?

Anyhow, back to the task at hand. I'm watching the first episode and immediately, I'm loving the Chicago thing. Being a suburbanite, I treat Chicago like most tourists do. I'm so psyched to see favorites on the screen. First episode, they go to the original Uno Pizzeria. I personally would have chosen Pizzeria Due, a quaint, busy and delicious pizza joint across from the Bloomingdale's Medinah Temple. The place is always packed, but you order your pizza while waiting in line to reduce the wait required to make such a huge pie.

I'm interested in where this is all going. Will they make Chicago hot dogs? Go to the Ukrainian Village and make pastries? Visit Everest and make inventive, five-star dishes out of stuff from Walgreens?

They should have consulted me on this one.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Food find: Nancy's Pizza

Chicago deep dish is beyond a food or conversation starter around here. It's the subject of maps, books, Web sites and merchandise. I'm all about pizza -- it's really the perfect food. You can hit all the food groups if you play your cards right.

Then again, when it's in deep dish form, all of those groups are in excess. Tim and I picked up Nancy's last weekend to try something new. I was a little surprised when this tiny pie costs us $20, but it's quite compact and heavy as a rock. The vast amount of that weight came from the cheese, even though we ordered pepperoni. In the traditional style, there was a crust formed in a pie fashion, filled with cheese and pepperoni and topped with tomatoes to keep the cheese from burning. If you look at the picture on the company Web site, it looks a little like a cheesecake ... odd.

However, the crust wasn't too tasty. It was almost like a pastry crust rather than the traditional cornmeal crust. It also looked a little well done on some edges -- maybe they cold have used one of the crust shield used for pies.

The cheese and tomatoes were pretty tasty, but this just didn't do it for me. I could barely taste the pepperoni and you could see the grease run out when we cut it. I prefer not to think about the million calories I kill with each slice.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Stand mixer Sunday: Braided loaf

So many holidays, not enough time to celebrate them all with appropriate foods. So instead of Irish soda break or Easter bread or something, I'm just going with a braided loaf. It's pretty and tasty and can be quite festive for any occasion.

Here's what you need:

Start with 1 and 3/4 cups lukewarm milk

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 packet yeast

Combine and set aside for 10 minutes until it's frothy.

In the meantime, combine 1 and 1/2 cups flour with 1 teaspoon sugar in the stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, combine the flour and yeast mixture; set aside in the microwave or some other draft-free place until it froths, about 30 minutes.

Next, combine about four cups flour with 2 teaspoons salt and work 2 tablespoons butter into the flour until it looks like coarse crumbs.

When the yeasty mixture is done frothing add one egg, put it back on the stand mixer, scrape down the sides and start adding the rest of the flour gradually while the mixer runs on low with bread hook attachment. You may need to add more flour or water one tablespoon at a time until everything is incorporated. Then, set the stand mixer at three or four and let it knead for five minutes. When there's a smooth, stretchy dough, put it in a greased bowl and set aside for an hour or two until it doubles.

Next, turn it out on a floured surface and divide into three equal pieces, forming into ropes about 16 inches long. Greased a baking sheet and braid the ropes, pinching the threads together at the bottom and top and turning over. Cover with a damp towel and set aside until doubled again, about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 430 degrees. Brush with another egg beaten lightly with water and a pinch of sea salt. Place in the oven for 20 minutes or until brown. Turn the heat down to 400 for another 10 minutes. When the loaf is cooked enough, remove from the baking sheet and place right on the oven rack to allow the bottom to brown. It should take about 40 minutes total to cook it properly.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Media meal: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

I've been meaning to read this book for quite a while, but time is not my friend. So I got it on tape at the library and listened to it on my commute. It took me about a week and a half to get through it and I have mixed feelings about the memoir.
In the book, Barbara Kingsolver's family moves from Tucson, Ariz., to Virginia, so I was immediately amused after thinking about my own time in Tucson. They do this to move back to her husband's farm and try and spend a year growing most of their food and eating what they can't grow locally.

However, before doing this, the family of four prepared for quite some time by starting crops, canning and learning how to raise poultry with Kingsolver's youngest daughter starting her own flock of egg-laying hens and a few raising for meat. Traumatic, if you ask me. I had chickens as a kid but none of them every made it to the laying stage in life and believe me, I couldn't imagine beheading one for food.

I digress. It's an interesting book, I suppose, but sometimes I tuned it out because the missives about various plants and harvesting turkeys were a little much for me, a suburbanite who buys most of my food at Aldi.

The most interesting perspective of the book by far are the passages written by Camille, Kingsolver's college-aged daughter. She offers interesting perspectives on eating organic, seeing an industrial beef farm and explaining her lifestyle to her peers. I wouldn't mind hearing more from her, because Kingsolver sometimes devolves into a bit of a essay on food.

Either way, it was a learning experience from me about food and gardening. Because of what I learned from the book, I've decided to try and grow some herbs and tomatoes. Who knows if the seeds will ever sprout, but at least I'm trying.

It's worth a listen, but parts of this memoir are a bit slow moving, so be prepared.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Drink discovery: Tassimo beverage system

So it's probably not exactly the drink you were thinking of, but this is the one I see the most often. Coffee is coffee, but coffee pots range wildly in price. This particularly model is more than $100, but Tim has lusted over it since before Christmas, so I finally broke down and got it for his birthday.

It's quite the fancy little toy. The coffee pot itself has a large, covered reservoir and this scary looking compartment. This particular model has a special pod you have to use with it. Each pod is a one-time deal and has a filter system inside. This is usually more wasteful than I would go with, but it's about everyday decadence I suppose.

The little pods also have bar codes on it that tell the machine whether to make a tall herbal tea of a small espresso. There's an adjustable stand for your mug and each pod makes one cup. Once you put the pod in the machine, you press it shut so that the pod is pierced by the mechanism. The machine takes a moment to read the bar code and then the indicator light will go green. Press the button and it will brew away. Remove your coffee, throw away the pod and it's all done. I got a cappuccino set to start with and it came with an espresso pod and a pod that made the steamed milk, but I think most beverages are a single pod.

And while this is a pricey little luxury, it is a luxury. The machine is a bit loud, but it makes a great cup of joe. I don't know how much coffee you have to drink to make this worth the cash, but everyone needs a little bit of heaven in their kitchen.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Cooking with Kelly: Meatloaf muffins

As a kid, I always asked my mother, exasperated, "What part of the cow does the loaf come from?"

I do not like meatloaf.

But for Tim's birthday, I made it. Not that I was particularly happy about the endeavor, but I deal.

So to make this a little less scary than the slices I remember as a kid, I went with something a little different. Here's what you need:

1 and 1/3 pounds ground beef (I go with 85 percent lean)

1 small onion, finely diced

2 tablespoons salsa

2 cloves garden, finely chopped

1/2 cup ketchup

1 cup barbecue sauce

2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce

1 cup regular bread crumbs

1 egg

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Put the meat in a bowl and add onion, garlic and salsa. Throw in bread crumbs and the egg lightly beaten. Mix the ketchup, sauce and worcestershire sauce and put half in bowl and save half. Add the Parmesan and then mix until just incorporated. Divide them into six or 12 equal portions, depending on your muffin tin. After placing them in the muffin tins, brush the tops with the remaining ketchup mixture. Bake in a preheated, 450-degree oven for 20 to 50 minutes, depending on if you went with the 12 or six muffin tin model. The top should be crusted and crunchy.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Media meal: Every Day with Rachael Ray, April

Now I know why it's "Every Day." I swear, I'm getting one every day.

Anyhow, here's what's in store for April.

  • A recipe for Chicago-style butter and garlic pizza (I'm not real familiar with this combo, but I guess what qualifies as Chicago is subjective)

  • A five-ingredient apple-butter pork recipe

  • Adorable examples of cupcakes in the shape of bowling pins and flowers

  • A review of canned soups

  • A day of food for Emily Proctor of CSI: Miami

  • Main-course salad recipes (I need it to be spring!)

  • A review of the pros and cons of spatulas (oddly interesting)

  • A guide to the style on the set of Rachael Ray's talk show

  • A time table for different methods of cooking bacon

  • A tasty-looking two-chili rack of lamb

  • Tasty spring meals

  • Lighter comfort food (who would've ever thought Rachael Ray would be healthful?)

  • Recipes for a matchmaking party (bizarre ... but I can support the panini bar and gelato bar)

  • Nascar-themed party eats

  • Guides for seeing Boston

  • Bargains and splurges in Taos, New Mexico

  • Alicia Silverstone's fridge (What-ever.)

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Stand mixer Sunday: Oatmeal rolls

I'm sure you've seen the commercial that advertise the fact that oatmeal lowers your cholesterol. I enjoy oatmeal, so I'm all about learning how to get more oatmeal in my diet.

Theses cute little rolls are delicious and have a fibrous, yeasty flavor that's really filling.

Here's how you start it:
Combine: 2 and 3/4 cups rolled oats
1 and 3/4 cups milk

Soak the oats, stirring occasionally, for a couple of hours. Next, combine:

1 packet yeast
1/4 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons lukewarm water

Stir it all up until it gets foamy, about five minutes. In the interim, combine in the stand mixer
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon honey

Next, put the yeasty combination into the oatmeal, mix well and plop it into the flour. Turn on the stand mixer with the hook on slow until everything is mixed and then crank it up to about four to get everything going. I had to add a bit more water to get it to come together, but it may vary for you. Mix it until it's a ball that pulls away from the side of the bowl. Next, pop it into a greased bowl and turn over to coat and stick it in the microwave with some hot water and leave it to rise until doubled. Mine took two hours, but I also reside in the tundra formerly known as Illinois.

Form the dough into 16 little rolls, put on two greased half-sheet pans and cover with a damp cloth. You can transfer these to a slightly warmed oven. If you can't touch the inside door, it's too hot. Let this rise again until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Brush the tops of the rolls with a lightly beaten egg and water. Sprinkle some more oats on top and toss it in a 425-degree preheated oven for 20 minutes until golden brown. Delicious!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Food find: Tacos el Norte

I do love my Mexican food and Chicagoland has some great examples. For birthdays, one of which we were celebrating last night, we've made it a routine lately to go to Tacos el Norte in Gurnee, located at Route 21 between Washington and Grand. Our reasoning is that the wait is never long, the food is always tasty and we're only there an hour, tops. Also, on Friday nights they have a festive mariachi band.

And the chips here are downright addictive. The first basket and salsa are complimentary, but after that, you're hooked. The chips are the right thickness so that they're crispy, light and crunchy. The salsa is made to a slightly watery consistency with chunks of tomato, onion and jalapeno within, which makes it a tasty little sauce.
For an entree, I went with the two-taco meal with chicken. The chicken was moist and tender as usual, and the toppings on the taco were delicious: shredded lettuce, tomato, cilantro, onion, sour cream and cheese wrapped up in a corn tortilla. I also got rice and beans with my plate, another delicious addition.

I really love birthdays.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Cooking with Kelly: The new frontier

I've been listening to Animal, Vegetable, Miracle this week on my commute. I'm not passing judgement on the book yet as I'm only a couple of CDs into the endeavor, but regardless, I've been semi-converted.

While I live at home and landscaping plans prevent me from gardening (plus I don't know if the suburbanite neighbors would appreciate a veggie garden), I've decided to make a go at container gardening with tomatoes.

My dad tried this whole tomatoes from seedlings thing a couple of years back, so I'm hoping this goes better than that attempt. I've read up on the subject and started a batch of Early Girl seedlings tonight. If you'd like a beautiful photo of what I can only hope to aspire to, check out this one. These tomatoes are indeterminate, meaning they'll just keep on growing and growing. The instructions say you should start them indoors four to five weeks in advance, although I've read as much as eight to 10 weeks in advance, so we'll see how this goes.

My plan is that when they start to sprout (oh dear I hope they will) in a few days, I'll move them and start another batch of seedlings of another variety to try and hedge my bets. Also, it would be nice if all the tomatoes didn't ripen at once so I have a steady stream for a while.

The Early Girl is supposed to harvest in 62 days when temperatures are consistently above 50 degrees and 55 at night, but no more than 90. I'm thinking these will be ready in June, but who knows.

Here's hoping I have more tomatoes than I know what to do with and this summer will be filled with sauces, pizzas, salads and whatever I can think of to do with tomatoes. If this goes well, I'm going to have to do more investigating on this container gardening strategy.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Drink discovery: Sheridan's

The cruise may be long over, but I have memories, photographs and duty-free products, including this lovely bottle of liquor you can't find in the United States.
Sheridan's is an Irish coffee-flavored liquor with a unique bottling concept and a delicious, sweet taste. The bottle is actually two separate glass bottles, one with a white, chocolate-tasting liquor and the other a black, coffee-flavored liquor. The bottles fused together and a spout pours the beverages at the same time. You can learn more about the packaging at this Web site.

Tim and I tasted this on the cruise and had to have it. The bottle was $22 and well worth it. It's a great conversation starter and it's nice to have something that you can't get locally. You must keep it refrigerated, which is kind of a pain because of the large bottle and awkward shape, but oh well.

When you pour yourself a shot or glass of this, the white liquor will float to the top, creating a lovely looking drink. The taste is a bit sweet, like an after-dinner drink, except with a coffee after taste. Although it has 15.5 percent alcohol by volume, there's really no discernible liquor flavor and I don't think this is the type of drink you can get a buzz from. This is meant to be enjoyed.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Stand mixer Sunday on Monday: Sourdough dinner rolls

Ever seen Spongebob Squarepants in one of those episodes where the narrator saying in an annoyed voice "Three days later"? That was the story of my sourdough rolls.

The first batch I just could not get to rise. I knew it wasn't my sourdough sponge because it is growing at a healthy rate and I feed it as prescribed. So I had to start again .... here's is my modified recipe after painstaking trials.

Day one: before you go to bed, feed your sourdough starter to make a sponge. Add one cup flour and one cup warm, filtered water and then stir well. Leave it in a draft-free area of your home overnight or until it foams.

Day two: It's a labor of love. Here's where the fun starts.

Start with a cup of warm water, a pinch of sugar and a half a teaspoon of dried active yeast. Set it aside for five minutes so it too can foam.

In the meantime, start this in your stand mixer:

1 and 1/2 cup of the sponge

2 Tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons salt

4 Tablespoons melted butter

Mix that all together until incorporated. Next, add the yeasty water mixture, then:

1 egg, lightly beaten

3 cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup at a time (you may need a little bit more, depending on your climate, starter, etc.)

Phew, that's the hard part. Next, put this in a greased bowl, cover it with cling wrap and then put it in a cool spot (60ish degrees) to rise until doubled, about six hours. This slow rise helps develop the flavor. Next, take it out, punch it down and knead again, then allow it to rise until doubled one more time, this time in a warm area, like your microwave with some warm water in a shallow dish to help keep things moist and warm.

After this, turn the dough out on a floured counter top and divide the dough into equal parts until you have dough pieces somewhere between the size of an egg and a tennis ball. Roll them into dinner rolls and put on a greased baking sheet. Cover the 16 to 20 rolls with a damp cloth and let it rise one more time, about a half hour.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and glaze the rolls in the meantime with one egg beaten with a 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Make sure to make little crosses with a sharp knife so the dough has a chance to rise in the oven.

Finally, after all this work, bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool on a wire rack and enjoy the fruits of this long labor.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Cruising with Kelly: Keeping it healthy

Stand mixer Sunday will have to be Stand mixer Monday because the sourdough dinner roll recipe I'm working on simply didn't rise. It's unfortunate and I'm tweaking it for tomorrow.

In the interim, let's chat about cruise foods. This article on CNN talks about how more cruise lines are offering healthful alternatives to the butter-battered lobster and such. But the expert in this article even cites an expert who says she can't go on a cruise without having a melting chocolate cake. Having tasted that dish a couple of times, I concur.

One of the issues the article talks about is the constant availability of food and let me tell you, it could be an issue. There's the standard meals, then sushi in the evening, 24-hour pizza and ice cream and the occasional midnight buffet.

But the article says some cruise lines are getting rid of midnight buffets, a tradition I'd be sad to see go away. There was only one of these on our five-day cruise and it was an event. The line opens at 11 p.m. for photos and then around midnight you can start eating the display. This is more of a display than a buffet, of course.

There's carved fruit sculptures as well as ice sculptures and some decadent, beautiful desserts. Even at this buffet though, there are some great options -- there's plenty of fruit as well as protein and yogurt granola parfaits for dessert.

And it's even easier to eat well at the meals. Every breakfast is the same and offers health-conscience items like oatmeal, fruit and yogurt. Lunch is easy to eat well because there's all sorts of options, from rotisserie chicken to steamed veggies to build-your-own Thai stir fry. As for dinner, the main dining room is your best option. Healthful appetizers, entrees and desserts are clearly marked and quite tasty. There's always broiled fish and salads such as romaine lettuce and cherry tomatoes tossed in light dressing.

See, eating well isn't so difficult if you know where to look.