Monthly Archives: February 2014

Mardi Gras Recipe Series: Pecan crusted catfish with…

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…orange-pecan brown butter sauce. (Looks good, right?)

Pecan-crusted Catfish

Last May, I led a recipe development project for a global citrus company. Not only was it a great time, but I came up with several tasty—and simple—recipes, all flavored with fresh orange (blood oranges and clementines too) juice or zest. With Mardi Gras coming up in just under two weeks, I thought it would be fun to post them and a few other recipes over the next week with N’Awlins flair. Since I have this one ready to go, with a pretty photo by photographer Betsy Barron, I am starting with pecan crusted catfish — definitely doable as a weeknight dish.

Let me know what you think and feel free to leave your favorite Cajun or Creole-inspired recipe as a comment. Next up (if I can find my recipe), is Cajun meatloaf with chipotle mashed potatoes and jalapeño cornbread, so come on back.

Here’s the low down on the how-to…

(Serves 2)

Tip: I recommend 1 filet per person, but you can get away with a little less (3 for 4 people, for example) if large and serving other items. 2 catfish fillets, rinsed and patted dry

  • 2 catfish fillets
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup pecans, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs


  1. Dredge each fillet in flour
  2. Dip into beaten egg to coat
  3. Place in pecan mixture, pressing gently to coat both sides of fish
  4. Melt 2 tbsp. of butter over medium heat
  5. Add fillets cooking on each side till lightly brown 2 minutes each side
  6. Transfer to preheated oven (350 degrees) and bake an additional 8 minutes

While fish is cooking, prepare orange brown butter:

  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts, skin removed
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Place a sauté pan over high heat, add butter, and heat until it bubbles and the milk solids start to turn golden brown.
  2. Add the hazelnuts; cook until they are slightly toasted, about 30 seconds.
  3. Remove from heat, add the orange juice and zest, and swirl the pan around until the mixture emulsifies. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Place catfish on a serving platter (I like to warm mine in the oven or with hot water first) and ladle a bit of the brown butter over top, also serving some on the side in a warm ramekin or tiny saucepan. (I use my measuring cups because the butter stays hot in the metal and is easy to pour out.)



1,001 People That Suck: Are you one of them?

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This promotional post is part of a blog book tour taking place around the web this week. If you’d like to learn more about the book tour, feel free to tweet up with Pam Margolis (aka The Unconventional Librarian), a sister Philly Social Media Mom and the author of this post.

Author Kerri Kochanski is fed up with people that suck. And, she's taking 1,001 of them on in her book of the same title.

Author Kerri Kochanski is fed up with people that suck. And, she’s taking 1,001 of them on in her book of the same title.

Kerri Kochanski, Author of 1,001 People That Suck is fed up with bad humanity and unkind behavior, and is “calling people out.” Championing kindness, tolerance, and understanding, the book “publicly shames” people who commit social crimes. As these crimes generally go unpunished, offenders fail to suffer a consequence, and thus, their bad behavior and unkindness continues. The book, however, delivers a consequence. It “officially” (and entertainingly) identifies 1,001 people who engage in bad humanity and unkind behavior, and labels them as “people that suck.” Pointing out humorous, serious, and questionable instances that are “really, just not right,” the book skewers offenders, and condemns them in the process.

“If you think people behaving badly is not an epidemic, it is,” says Kochanski. There are over 2 million entries on Google and over 6 million videos on YouTube that reference “people suck.” People are disturbed by bad behavior. And by ignoring, downplaying or accepting unpleasantness, we are creating serious, larger issues. Bullies are causing children to commit suicide; road rage is causing drivers to kill other drivers by running them off the road – even stalking, assaulting and killing them. The bad guys are starting to win, and the good guys need to do something. “We’ve reached a tipping point; enough is enough.”

Commiserate and engage in discussion on the book’s blog, and join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Indoor gardening ideas to help you think Spring

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Sunny daffodils are one of the best sources of springtime smiles I know.

Sunny daffodils are one of the best sources of springtime smiles I know.

There’s been an awful lot of weather whining in my neck of the woods, where mega snowstorms have been stealing the headlines since just before Christmas. I can appreciate where the naysayers are coming from, but a rough winter just makes the appearance of milder temps and patches of green all the more exciting. There’s still a few more weeks to go until it’s safe to “think Spring,” but that doesn’t mean we can’t get a jump on things, indoors at least.

My project this coming week, is to take all the daffodil bulbs that never made it into the ground (two days after I got a great deal on 80 bulbs, we had our first snowstorm of the season) and fill as many glass vases and pots as possible with either water or soil and stuff them with bulbs. Since I only paid $40 bucks for the lot, I figure that I’m making out better than buying bouquets of flowers (though that won’t stop me from stocking up on bunches of tulips and hyacinth as they start cropping up in even bigger and brighter combinations at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s).

A chilled bulb is a pretty bulb. And a hearty one. Daffodils are incredibly easy to grow, in water or in soil, inside or outdoors.

A chilled bulb is a pretty bulb. And a hearty one. Daffodils are incredibly easy to grow, in water or in soil, inside or outdoors.

I’ll continue to bemoan the fact that they never made it into my garden, but by planting 5-7 in larger pots that I can place on my patio, I’ll still have the pleasure of looking outside and seeing creamy white and yellow cups and petals—a true sign that Spring is on its way. I might even get lucky enough to sneak a few bulbs into my window boxes, if I can unearth them from my snowy sills. For those who may share my predicament, as long as those bulbs have been laying around somewhere cold (like your unheated garage), you, too, can get the garden party started indoors. Just don’t wait too much longer.

The grass IS greener in Spring, so why not bring some inside?

The grass IS greener in Spring, so why not bring some inside?

Not everyone has chilled bulbs on hand, so here are a few other indoor gardening ideas to help you think Spring… One of my favorite Plan Bs starts with finding a narrow, long vessel and planting grass seed, which will sprout quickly and in a short time grow into a row of soft, green grass and look lovely running down your breakfast table or on your kitchen windowsill. Click here for a concise primer on the best seeds to use. You can mix in hyacinth, daffodils and tulips (and even pansies starting when they hit the nursery shelves) already started for a kick of color and fragrance.

If you really want to capture the coming season, starting an indoor herb garden is the perfect way. Choose fragrant varieties that will also acclimate to being outdoors once the weather is no longer a threat. A combination of rosemary, variegated sage, basil, flat leaf parsley, thyme, oregano and cilantro will provide texture and color contrast, and make cooking a lot more fun (and flavorful). Plus you can bring the entire arrangement outside as a patio decoration or take apart and transplant individually when the weather warms up. I also like to take sprigs of fresh herbs, either cut from my containers or purchased at the market, and pop them into miniature vases, shot glasses or small creamers to line my window sills and sashes, or fireplace mantle.  indoor herb garden

Of course, the simplest way to put a little Spring in your step—without getting any dirt under your nails—is to set aside a few extra dollars each week for a regular fresh flower splurge, and keep that bird feeder full. Between the views inside and the chirps and flitters happening outside, you should be able to make it through the rest of winter without any more gripes. Well, until the dogs and kids start trailing mud all over the house.

Like cherry tomatoes... you'll always find a bunch of tulips in my kitchen.

Like cherry tomatoes… you’ll always find a bunch of tulips in my kitchen.


Ticket Giveaway: The Franklin Institute and Opera Philadelphia

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opera phila logoDEADLINE EXTENDED: A chance to nab two tickets to tomorrow’sTODAY’s “sold out” free simulcast performance of Death and the Powers, a collaborative and interactive opera experience hosted by Opera Philadelphia and The Franklin Institute. This unique opportunity is part of a global experiment that gives audiences in ten locations in Europe and the U.S. access to acclaimed American composer/inventor Tod Machover’s sci-fi drama developed at the MIT Media Lab as it is performed live at The Dallas OperaContinue reading

Aphrodisiac Recipes to heat up Valentine’s Day (er, night)

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My grandmother always advised me, the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. I was probably a little too young for her to add that getting through to his libido wouldn’t hurt. Over the years, I’ve had fun (and success) preparing romantic meals, so this Valentine’s Day, I decided to revisit a few of my favorite aphrodisiac recipes in hopes of helping you (and me) catch Sir (or Ms.) Valentine’s attention.

aphrodesiac images copy

I can’t locate my copy, but there is a fabulous book called Intercourses, which aside from having tastefully erotic photos, is full of interesting tidbits about foods classified as aphrodisiacs, and easy to prepare, delicious recipes. The recipes featured here are not in that book, but once you start to learn about the different aphrodisiac foods, you can play around and create your own tantalizing dishes. First, you have to lose the kids (or the roommate). And get to the market.

Note: The weekend during which I intended to prepare and photograph the complete menu shared here, Philadelphia was experiencing a power outage of historic proportions. All photos featured here were borrowed from the “free to share and use” Bing library. 

Cocktail Hour… lemon-rosemary martini; figs with gorgonzola and pine nuts, warmed in the oven and drizzled with honey

For the martini:

Combine simple syrup and in a shaker with vodka or gin (2 oz. simple syrup to spirits). Shake over ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glasses. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary and a lemon twist. Optional: coat rims with sugar.

lemon rosemary martini

For the figs:

  • 2 whole, ripe figs, tops cut off to expose flesh & allow for cheese & pine nuts to be stuffed inside
  • small wedge of sharp gorgonzola cheese, softened
  • 1.5 tbsps. lightly toasted pine nuts
  • plain, lavender or orange-scented honey, for drizzling
  1. Press cheese and pine nuts into the top of each fig. Place in preheated oven (350°) and cook for about 10 minutes. The goal is to soften  and warm the fig, and for the gorgonzola to melt inside and over the fig
  2. Remove from oven and drizzle with honey. Serve immediately on a small plate with a tapas size fork. Or, get a little messy and devour with your hands (finger licking up to you). Continue reading

Lemon-Rosemary Simple Syrup

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This sweet-tart simple syrup is the main attraction in these refreshing, fragrant and sultry Lemon-Rosemary Martinis. (Click on the image to see my aphrodisiac Valentine’s Day menu) 

lemon rosemary martini


  • In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice to a boil
  • Add 2 tbsp. roughly chopped rosemary leaves
  • Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, approx. 10 minutes. Add the zest of 1 lemon
  • Transfer syrup to a small metal bowl and let sit until cool (another 10 minutes). Strain, discarding rosemary and zest.

This simple syrup can be used warm, at room temperature or chilled. To store, cover and refrigerate for up to six months.

for those who don't like your simple syrup too sweet, the combination of lemons and rosemary hits the spot.

 For those who don’t like your simple syrup too sweet, the combination of lemons and rosemary hits the spot. Rosemary is one of Mother Nature’s most intoxicating herbs, seductive with everything and on its own.

Family-friendly Valentine’s Day breakfast eats

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As a lifelong Valentine’s Day junkie (blame it on the allure of colorful paper and candy hearts, and a penchant for showing off my penmanship), I have earned my celebration planning stripes—at least when it comes to cooking and sweets gifting. My “baby” is approaching 15, and with the rise of social sharing, I have been approaching each holiday with bittersweet sentiments and a go-get-’em attitude of “I’ll make that for my grandchildren,” which are nowhere in sight. It’s also a bit frustrating to not have many photos of all the nifty food and crafts—if only to remind my middle child that yes, at one point in my life, I was VERY crafty.

Back in the day, Valentine’s Day was the next best thing to Easter and Christmas, with my kids waking up to a stack of Beanie Babies, homemade cookies “bedazzled” in pink, purple and red adornments, a Chinese food or themed tin full of conversation hearts; pink, red and white m&ms, and the permanently-turning-their-tongues-blue-or-red Ring Pop.

Depending upon the year, and that day’s schedule, a celebratory breakfast was also on the Valentine’s Day activities list. Simple combinations of heart-shaped waffles with strawberry sauce and whipped cream (easily made with large Eggo waffles if short on time), heart-shaped eggs in a nest—traditional of French toast style—and no-fuss scones with dried cherries and on occasion, shredded coconut and shaved bittersweet chocolate. All ridiculously easy and greeted enthusiastically.

Even if you don’t have time for a festive morning repast, you can still have fun celebrating with PJs and breakfast for dinner, which we all know kids go gaga over. So grab a couple of heart-shaped cookie cutters, a rolling pin, some eggs, etcetera, and get cooking. Here’s the rest of what you’ll need:  Continue reading

Q+A w/Jay Jaboneta: Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation

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This bright and playful logo captures the spirit of both YBHF's young leader and the organization's happy "clients."

This bright and playful logo captures the spirit of both YBHF’s co-founder and the organization’s young “clients.” No more swimming upstream for these eager students.

Can you imagine your young child swimming to school? It’s mind boggling, right? Yet until Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation came along, children living in a number of remote Philippine villages relied on the power of their arms and legs to carry them away from their homes and into their waterside classrooms. As shocked as you are reading this now, equally so back in 2010, was a young Filipino by the name of Jay Jaboneta. Armed with a natural inclination toward good citizenship, and a penchant for social networking, Jaboneta was poised to take action.

After learning about this unconventional school transportation, Jaboneta began posting on Facebook. His vocalization on social media led to Zamboanga Funds for Little Kids in 2010. In the four years since founding the Yellow Boat Project, the organization has provided 511 “school boats”—300 of those for Typhoon Haiyan families. Along the way, he’s culled a dedicated team of volunteers (and an impressive number of donors), and laid the foundation for building schools and classrooms (and distributing school supplies); delivering medical and dental care; creating scholarship and livelihood programs; and currently, the construction of dormitories and bridges.

Filipino philanthropist, social activist and all-around soulful human being, Jay Jaboneta.

Filipino philanthropist, social activist and all-around soulful human being, Jay Jaboneta, Co-Founder & Chief Storyteller, Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation

My first introduction to this accidental philanthropist came during Social Good Summit 2013 (aka #2030NOW), where he shared his story of how social media—and the power of one—can shake up the world. (Leave a comment and I’ll dig up the event’s live streaming link.) I encourage you to read this in-depth Q+A, and to follow up with a visit to YBHF’s Facebook page, where you’ll find an abundance of inspiring posts and photos. You can also learn more about Mr. Jaboneta here, and tune in live to tomorrow’s Annual Youth Assembly at the United Nations, where he’s punctuating the day’s messaging as closing keynote speaker.

With no further ado…  Continue reading

Meatless Monday in Philadelphia Schools

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Lou Ryan, Human League intern and Meatless Monday advocate Hot off the press, a guest post by full-time student, activist and Humane League intern, Lou Ryan. Ms. Ryan currently studies professional writing at Kutztown University, where she has written a number of health-related articles for student-run newspaper The Keystone. We connected on Twitter, after I retweeted a #meatlessmonday post. She is helping the Humane League promote Meatless Monday in Philadelphia Schools and well, I think that is a great cause to support. If you’d like to learn even more about this initiative after reading the information provided here, you can reach Ms. Ryan at and follow her on Twitter @TheHumaneLeague. And, if you’re in favor, well, please sign the petition.

Humane League Logo

Skip the Meat, Save the World: Meatless Monday in Philadelphia Schools
by Lou Ryan

Imagine the positive impact we could make on the world around us if we got one of the ten largest school districts in the U.S. to serve plant-based meals every Monday. Now double that impact, because one such district—Los Angeles Unified Public Schools—has already signed on, and a second is on its way.

Nonprofit organization The Humane League is running a campaign to get the School District of Philadelphia, the eighth largest district in the U.S. by enrollment,[1] to join countless other districts, municipalities, and companies across the nation participating in Meatless Monday.

In 2003, the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health started promoting Meatless Monday as a public health initiative. The Philadelphia City Council unanimously passed a resolution on Oct. 17, 2013 recognizing the benefits of a diet high in fruits and vegetables and urging city residents to participate in Meatless Monday.[2]

Why Meatless Monday, other than for the sake of alliteration? The resolution cites a multitude of reasons ranging from sustainability to health. Take, for example: “According to the United Nations, ‘Livestock are one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems,’ and the livestock sector is responsible for about 18 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.”  Continue reading