Thursday, October 31, 2013

Thirsty Thursday Halloween Cocktail: The Dark & Stormy

T’was a dark & stormy night, the Wednesday before Halloween…quite literally, indeed. I almost lost my umbrella.  The St. Louis Cardinals were on the verge of losing the World Series, and we were sitting at one of our favorite watering holes, Ophelia’s Wine Bar.  As I studied the menu, I thought, “what drink could best signify this evening?  What cocktail most lends itself to Halloween?  And of course, what is actually going to taste good?”

And there it was on the menu, staring back at me… “The Dark & Stormy”. stormy Served in a copper tankard typically reserved for Moscow Mules, it seemed somehow appropriate for this brooding sort of night.  Though you can’t brood over the taste at all.  This is possibly one of my new favorites.  Lauded as the “official drink of Bermuda”, this delicious combination of black rum & ginger beer feels as though it should be served in a hurricane glass with an umbrella rather than a traditional tankard, but I’m not complaining. 

If you’re the type of person who WANTS to like ginger, but can’t seem to get past that “I just sprayed Pledge in my mouth” aftertaste, then this is the drink for you.  All the refreshing spiciness of ginger without the burn.


2 oz Goslings Black Seal Rum

6-8 oz Barritt’s Ginger Beer

1 lime wedge (it’s inside the tankard, I promise you…drowning it’s little limey sorrows)


Directions: Combine rum & ginger beer over ice.  Add lime.  Voila.


Happy Halloween, friends!  Oh, and if you’re in the Springfield area, be sure to stop by The Inside Scoop this weekend!  It’s our last weekend of the season before we close down for winter.  And if you bring the kiddos or pup by in costume, they can get a free treat!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Beef Souvlaki Salad & Greek Vinaigrette

In case you’ve never read this blog before, I <3 Greek & Lebanese food.  It’s up there in my Top 5 Cuisines.  Alas, there aren’t many Mediterranean restaurants here in Springfield.  For some reason, they don’t seem to last, which is really, really sad.  I have to wait until I’m down in Louisiana (where you can find one on every street in Lafayette) or until the local Greek Orthodox church has their annual festival.

Dolmathes make me melt.

Lebanese food was another one of my “NOLA Firsts”.  Our meeting place?  Lebanon’s Cafe on Carrollton.  I drooled over my chicken souvlaki & Lebanese iced tea.  And I was hooked.  Greece also had the best food of our entire honeymoon (and cheapest, for the record).  There’s just something magical about that marriage of lemon & oregano and yogurt sauce.  But sometimes, you can’t get what you want…so you have to make it yourself.



1 lb lean beef, cubed or cut into 1 inch strips

1 onion, chunked

2 tbsp lemon juice

1.5 tbsp oregano (Greek oregano if you can find it)

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp Greek Rub (I get mine from Pampered Chef)

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

1/4 cup olive oil

lettuce, tomatoes, feta , & kalamata olives (assuming your husband doesn’t hate them…lucky) for salad


2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup good olive oil


Make the vinaigrette first, & refrigerate.

Then mix your marinade in a large container (or Ziploc) with the beef & onions & let marinate for about 12-24 hours. The acid in the lemon will help to tenderize the meat.


Heat a grill pan over med-high heat and then grill the beef & onions until no longer pink.

Serve over a bed of fresh veggies and top with your vinaigrette.


Not exactly like Athens, but definitely delicious!

NutriFacts:  (makes 4 servings)

  Calories 402.6

  Total Fat 29.4 g

  Saturated Fat 10.1 g

  Polyunsaturated Fat 1.0 g

  Monounsaturated Fat 7.7 g

  Cholesterol 83.9 mg

  Sodium 549.7 mg

  Potassium 559.8 mg

  Total Carbohydrate 12.3 g

  Dietary Fiber 2.4 g

  Sugars 1.4 g

  Protein 21.6 g

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sausage, Peppers & Polenta

So, polenta is probably one of those things I would never have eaten when I was younger. I mean…I don’t even like grits*.  So congealed “cornmeal porridge”???  No thank you.


(*Unless served with bacon and a cheese:grit ratio of 1.5:1)

But now that my palate is a bit more refined, I’ve opened my mind (and mouth) to this gluten-free starch alternative.  A while back, I made some red beans & rice & served it up with some pan-grilled polenta instead of rice:

Note my less-than-subtle nod to the “Crescent” City…

If you haven’t experimented with polenta, I highly recommend it.  Especially since, if you’re busy like me, you can buy these shelf-stable pre-cooked rolls of it in various flavors:

If you get the unflavored kind, it serves the same purpose of rice, noodles, or even mashed potatoes.  It has a mild flavor that compliments just about anything.  It also has twice the protein of rice.  One slice of polenta grilled with a small amount of cooking spray has about 50 calories (comparatively, a 1/2 cup of rice has about 100 calories).

So, this go round, I decided to sauté up some smoked sausage & veggies to go with our grilled polenta.  This is a SUPER fast & delicious dinner, ready in about 20 minutes.



Pre-cooked polenta (two 1/2 inch slices per person)

1 lb smoked turkey sausage, sliced into 1 inch pieces

1 bell pepper, sliced into strips

1 onion, sliced into strips (NOTE: You could also easily throw some fresh mushrooms in here. T’would be DEELISH. I , alas, did not have any.  And yes, I’ve been watching too much Sleepy Hollow.)

1/2 tsp crumbled dried rosemary

salt & pepper

olive oil


1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 tsp Cajun seasoning



Lightly spritz a large frying pan with olive oil using a mister.  Heat pan to medium & add the sausage & veggies.  Season the veggies with rosemary, salt & pepper to taste.  Sauté for 5 minutes & add the garlic & Cajun seasoning.  Cook for another 5 minutes or until the veggies are tender. 



Transfer the sausage & veggies to a bowl & cover with aluminum foil to keep warm. 


Pan-grill your polenta in the same pan, & lightly season the polenta with the oregano.  Let cook for about 2-3 minutes each side, or until lightly browned.  (PS—you can also grill polenta outside to get some tasty smoked flavor)


Top the polenta with your sausage & pepper combo & serve warm!


NUTRIFACTS: (Makes 4 servings) 

Calories 301.0

  Total Fat 10.1 g

  Saturated Fat 3.0 g

  Polyunsaturated Fat 0.1 g

  Monounsaturated Fat 0.0 g

  Cholesterol 60.0 mg

  Sodium 1,001.6 mg

  Potassium 102.2 mg

  Total Carbohydrate 20.9 g

  Dietary Fiber 0.9 g

  Sugars 3.1 g

  Protein 20.7 g

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Zuppa Toscana!

So, where are all my Olive Garden Groupies out there in cyberspace?  Anyone else love the OG’s soup & salad lunch as much as me?  I hope so.  And now that Olive Garden has made their famous house salad dressing available in stores, you can almost replicate this meal at home. (I say almost because I haven’t mastered the breadsticks yet.) Assuming you also love the Zuppa Toscana more than the other soups, of course.  Which I do.


And I love this version of the soup because it has tons of flavor without tons of fat, plus the added bonus of TONS of kale, which is extremely good for you AND relatively cheap (typically about $1.20/bunch, non-organic).  It’s also easy to grow if you want to go organic.  It’s an excellent source of Vitamin A, C, and K, lutein (for eye health), carotenoids & flavonoids (which help prevent cancer), and tons of fiber.  And in this recipe, it’s added to the soup near the end of cooking, so those good-for-you benefits don’t dissipate during the cooking process.


1 lb Italian sausage w/o casings
2 large russet potatoes, washed, quartered & then sliced into 1/4 inch slices
1 large onion, diced
2 pieces bacon, cooked & diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups of kale, chopped (about 3-4 leaves—remove the thickest portions of the stems)
16 ounces of low-sodium chicken broth
1 quart water
1 cup half & half (the original recipe calls for heavy cream, but by using half & half we trim about 500 calories out of the whole pot without sacrificing the creaminess)


In a large skillet, brown the sausage and caramelize the onions. 


In a large stockpot, boil the potatoes & garlic in the quart of water until tender.  Then add the sausage, onions, bacon, and chicken broth to the pot.  Simmer for 10 minutes, and then add the kale and half & half to the pot.  Simmer for another 10 minutes or until the kale is warmed through.


Serve with a copycat Olive Garden salad (iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, red onion, sliced pepperoncinis, croutons, parmesan, & OG salad dressing) and some toasted bread slathered with herb butter (mix 1 Tbsp of butter with a dash of garlic powder, black pepper, Italian seasoning, and a pinch of crushed dried rosemary)


NUTRI-FACTS: (Makes 6 large servings)

Calories 283.7

  Total Fat 12.5 g

  Saturated Fat 5.0 g

  Polyunsaturated Fat 0.6 g

  Monounsaturated Fat 1.7 g

  Cholesterol 59.9 mg

  Sodium 757.0 mg

  Potassium 824.9 mg

  Total Carbohydrate 26.4 g

  Dietary Fiber 4.3 g

  Sugars 2.0 g

  Protein 17.3 g


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Homemade Pup Treats!

We post tasty & tempting recipes for human consumption all the time…but how about our four-legged friends?

Photo Aug 17, 12 32 23 PM (1)

When The Hubs & I bought The Scoop earlier this year, we noticed the previous restaurant (an Emack & Bolio’s, for those who are familiar with the franchise) offered a Dog Sundae.  Our shop is located right across the street from a park / walking trail, so we get a lot of canine customers. Therefore, keeping a treat for our furry pals was mandatory.  Of course, no store-bought dog biscuit would do—so we make our own!

Photo Apr 20, 3 01 48 PM



3/4 cup fat free milk

1 egg

2 cubes chicken bouillon

1 cup peanut butter, creamy

2.5 cups flour, your choice (we use oat flour and/or rice flour at the shop in case there are any gluten-sensitive pups)

1 tbsp baking powder



Preheat the oven to 325F.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk the milk, egg, and chicken bouillon.  Then add the peanut butter and mix until well combined.  Finally, beat in the dry ingredients until it makes a cohesive dough.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll to about 1/4-1/2 inch thickness. 

Photo Aug 17, 9 31 28 AM

You can use a cookie cutter to cut out fun shaped treats (I found my bone-shaped cutter at Hobby Lobby for about 89 cents), or you can roll bits of dough into small balls and then press flat with a fork in the traditional “Peanut Butter Cookie” fashion.  I switch to the mini- PB cookies when I’m down to the cuttings and edges of the dough. 

Photo Aug 17, 9 29 31 AM

Place the treats on a greased or lined cookie sheet, and lightly spritz the tops of the treats with olive oil (this will give them a nice shine).  Bake for 20 minutes, then flip the treats and bake for another 15 minutes.  Let cool before sharing with your pup.  …assuming he lets you wait that long.

Photo Oct 06, 2 56 34 PM Photo Oct 06, 2 56 38 PM

Photo Oct 06, 2 56 43 PM

Notice how the eyes get wider the closer the cookie gets…

Now…fair warning:  These smell exactly like regular peanut butter cookies…but they don’t have the added sugar, so they don’t TASTE like regular PB cookies.  However, all the ingredients are people-safe so if you decide you want to taste-test, be my guest.  But you were warned. :D

This recipe will make several dozen treats, so it’s perfect for sharing, or stockpiling.  They’ll stay fresh in the freezer for up to 3 months.

We’ve noticed recently our Pugster has a bit of halitosis going on, so I’m planning to make some breath-freshening treats for my next batch.  I’ll be sure to share the recipe when I do!