Saturday, March 24, 2018

The Essex Restaurant Centerbrook CT

The Essex Restaurant
Centerbrook, CT

Dreams do come true.  A few weeks ago I had a dream that I was walking through waist high water towards a small village.  Water in dreams most often means a good thing to come.  Once in the village I found myself standing inside a fish market.  There were beautiful displays of fish on all sides of the market and in the center the fishmonger was preparing the cuts of the day.   I asked for some fish and he proceeded to cut them into small perfect squares.  They were about 2 inches high, clear, translucent succulent looking pieces of perfect fish.  Since that dream I've had a craving for a piece of white fish and I finally found it here at The Essex Restaurant in Centerbrook, CT.  

My husband and I love going out to dinner for new eating experiences.  We had gotten into a rut recently and had been visiting the same favorites for a while and therefore we had somehow missed hearing about The Essex.  Until this past Friday that is when a friend passed along an invitation to a future event.  Once we read about it online and saw the menu we decided to take the ride to Centerbrook for happy hour and check it out.  We were so glad we did!

Originally, we thought we'd just try a drink and an appetizer at the bar from the bar menu and come back for dinner another night.  But then we tried the appetizers and wanted more.

This Crispy Pork Belly appetizer is on the regular menu.  It was a nice chunk of pork belly sitting on an apple carrot puree with tangy shredded carrots on top.   

Bob (aka the Carb Man...) had a non carby appetizer to start.  I might even say this could be a Paleo appetizer and we probably should have switched apps.  Octopus is his favorite go to appetizer though at any restaurant so it was a given he would try this.  It was the Duo of Octopus & Pork with 
black garlic, chickpea, blood orange.  We loved the presentation as much as the dish itself. 

Duo of Octopus & Pork appetizer

Once we heard the fish on the menu that night described we decided to proceed with dinner.  Walu, also referred to as snake mackerel, is a fish from Hawaii and is a white, buttery, yet mild, white fish.  Was this the fish in my dreams?  Well, it was what I was hoping for and couldn't have been any more perfect than it was.  It was accompanied with produce from Long River Farm.  Heirloom tomatoes, watercress, and a pesto went so perfectly and tasted so fresh I felt like I was eating Summer tomatoes and greens.

Walu fish with heirloom tomatoes and pesto

Dinner for Bob was the Fried Chicken and Biscuits.  This was delicious crispy, fried chicken that was moist inside and crispy.  I could taste a subtle hint of cinnamon in it that made it devine! The saltiness you get with the side of pickles and buttery goodness with the biscuits.  The biscuit was so buttery and soft and yes he shared half his biscuit with me thank goodness or I would have had to do some begging just to have more for myself ;-).  

Chicken and Biscuits

On to everyone's favorites, dessert time.  We have not been eating desserts lately so this was a real treat.  My dessert was a Winter Citrus bowl of citrusy goodness.  It looks like a pudding/mousse yet it was a tart, light as air not too sweet concoction with bits of lemon cake (I believe) underneath it all.  I'm not a sweet freak so this was so perfect for me.

Winter Citrus

And I couldn't hold back from tasting some of this visually stunning as well as delicious bread pudding with caramel.  

Bread Pudding

Overall, our visit was a wonderful experience.  The restaurant has a open, cozy, and warm vibe. It was so warm and inviting sitting at the corner of the bar that I wish we lived closer.  For now this'll have to be a treat to go to.  The bartenders, Dana and Mikaela, were friendly, professional, and were knowledgeable and focused on making impressive cocktails, shaking them to a perfect icy cold temperature. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Paleo Horseradish Avocado Deviled Eggs

Paleo Horseradish Avocado Breakfast Deviled Eggs

First, yes, I still have and use my trusty old Tupperware deviled egg tray.  And I use it a lot!  I make these deviled eggs or a variation quite often so that my husband and I can have a quick breakfast to go.  I work from home some days so it's also nice to have these already made so I don't have to make breakfast.  Once my coffee is made, the laptop is on, and I can eat these with no cleanup either.  It's maximizing my work time.

The eggs in my photo aren't the prettiest looking and that's because they are just for us.  If I make them to bring to a party for appetizers I do them up nicely and use a pasty bag to squeeze out the filling to make them pretty :-)

On to the recipe!


8 Jumbo Cage Free / local farm eggs

3 Tbls mustard (I use Kosciusko brand) and think it makes all the difference from using yellow mustard) but use whatever your favorite mustard is :-)

1 Tbls horseradish - (If you like hot horseradish, I found this awesome Homemade Hot Horseradish brand called "Kielbasy King" )

1 ripe avocado

1/2 lemon (juice)

1/4 tsp of sea salt
1/2 tsp of ground black pepper


Boil the eggs for about 10 minutes and then pour off the hot water.   Add cold water to the pan and let the eggs cool for a couple of minutes in order to make them easier to peel.  
Peel the shells off the eggs, slice the eggs in half and put the cooked yolks into a bowl.  Put your empty egg halves into a container of your choosing.  Combine the cooked egg yolks with the remaining ingredients, mix well, and add to the empty egg halves.


  • I use the lemon juice for moisture and also so that it stops the browning process of the avocados.  
  • After much research about the great salt debate, I started using Sea salt.  Bottom line is that regular salt has been refined. Unrefined natural salt contains 80+ trace minerals and it's easy to imagine why that is better for us.  So, in order to reduce the use of processed foods it makes so much more sense to me to use any version of sea salt whether it be Himalayan, Celtic, whatever kind. 

Monday, February 20, 2017

Paleo Hamburger and Cauliflower Casserole

Paleo Hamburger and Cauliflower Casserole

Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 1 hr
Serves: 4


1 large head organic cauliflower
2 lbs ground grass-fed beef
1 tblsp olive oil (or coconut oil)
1 small onion (chopped)
2 cloves of garlic (minced)
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon Hawaiian Sea Salt
pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon dried Pasta Sprinkle herb mix (basically any mix of oregano, parsley, thyme, etc.)  whatever you like
½ cup coconut milk (I used Native Forest, unsweetened Organic Coconut Milk, Full Fat)
2 eggs
1/4 cup sliced almonds


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  
Blanch the cauliflower (al dente) and then remove it from heat, drain and set aside.  
Heat a frying pan to medium heat and add olive or coconut oil and sauté the onions and garlic (just a couple of minutes).  Add the ground beef and season liberally with salt and pepper, cumin, and oregano mix of herbs. Cook the beef and break up into small pieces with a spatula while cooking. When almost cooked through, remove the meat, onion, and garlic mixture and set aside. 
Beat the eggs and coconut milk together in a bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste.  
Break up the cauliflower into florets.  
In a casserole pan layer the meat mixture, then cauliflower, then beef mixture. Pour the egg mixture over the top and mix into the casserole. 
Sprinkle the top with the sliced almonds.  

Cover and bake for approximately 45 minutes.  Remove lid and bake for 15 minutes longer to brown the almonds. Remove and serve warm.  Yum!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Paleo Spinach Balls

Paleo Spinach Balls

2 (10 oz. each) frozen spinach, drained and thawed
1 small yellow onion, minced
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
3/4 cup coconut flour
¼ cup fine almond flour
½ cup coconut oil, melted
black pepper
1 – 2 teaspoons of Sea Salt
4 eggs

I found that thawing the spinach so that it still has some ice crystals in it is helpful in keeping the balls rolled together.  You don’t need to cool in the fridge that way and they hold their shape nicely when baked.  Don't drain the spinach too much either because the coconut flour will absorb the liquid.  Also note that the melted coconut oil may harden if you have not thawed the spinach fully. 
Mix all ingredients and roll little balls. 

Pre-heat the oven to 350F (180 C) and bake on a cookie (baking) sheet for about 30 mins.   Baking in a glass pan also helps to give them a nice browned bottom if you want to use that instead and bake for 20 mins first then check them.  If they still need some browning adjust accordingly.  Ten more minutes should be ok.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Juicing it up in Florida and Connecticut – Juice Bars and Cafés

In late December 2016, Bob and I visited Sarasota, Clearwater Beach, Safety Harbor, and Tampa Florida to spend some time with family and friends. I wanted to find a way to stay healthy on this trip especially being around so many people when traveling.  It's not easy to get needed vegetables because of eating out often and from dinners at homes where there is little control of the meals prepared (without feeling like a pain the butt to your hosts)...  So I decided to find a place that made juices and/or smoothies so I could get a blast of some nutrients to help me.  Raw food, vegan, and vegetarian juice bars seemed like the best place to get some quick nutrition for an immunity boosting and hopefully anti-inflammatory action. I wanted to try them and to have a juice on hand for breakfast or lunch.  I had tried juicing a few times at home a few years ago (until the juicer broke…) and made some green goddess type of smoothies recently but had never actually visited a juice bar/café/vegan type place.

Here are a few places that we went to over the week on vacation:

Sarasota, FL:
Ionie Retreat * Raw Food Café

Ionie Raw Food Café was our first stop after landing at the airport in Tampa, FL on the way to our friend’s house in Sarasota.  I wanted to get a juice and hopefully find something for my husband to eat.

Ionie’s foods are organic or wild-crafted ingredients, vegan, raw, and gluten-free.  The café eating area inside is small but cozy.  There are also a couple tables outside.  For my juicing needs I wanted something as green as possible with as little fruit/sugar as possible as well to keep it as alkaline as possible.  My choice was Green with Envy a mix of Parsley, spinach, cilantro, kale, cucumber and celery.  It was pretty tasty but with a bit stronger celery taste than I like.  For a light vegan lunch we had their specials of Zucchini hummus & Crackers and Bob had a Gyro: Onion Pita, Tzatziki, arugula and cherry tomato.  It was really tasty and I loved the hummus and crackers.  The crackers had a caramelized onion taste to them.  Yum.  They also had a few juices and assorted salads freshly made to go if you desired.  I really wanted to come back and try their vegan Lasagna because I had read some really good reviews of it online but we ran out of time to stop in again. I liked the Zen vibe here too along with the friendly service and explanations of the juice and food.

The bonus to Ionie Retreat is that it is a Retreat!  They had treatment options that I had never heard of before such as Rolfing, a type of massage, Thai Yoga, and a Crystal light bath.  I so want to go back to Sarasota to try these!

CROP Juice - 2320 Gulf Gate Drive, FL

Next we tried CROP Juice on Gulf Gate in Sarasota.  It happened to be closer to where we were staying and I needed to get a quick juice before we went out for a boat ride. They have a large menu with many juices and smoothies to choose from, organic as well unless noted. It was hard to make up my mind so we were able to taste a few samples of a few of them.  I settled on Camouflage, a spinach, kale, pineapple, green apple, and lemon juice.  That one was a little on the sweet side but good and “green” tasting as well.  They also have daily freshly bottled juices so I got one to go for the next day.

CROP Juice’s owner, Karen Odierna, was interviewed for the Natural Awakening Magazine’s December 2016 edition.  In the article she states “Begin with a commitment every morning to incorporate one habit that benefits your well-being.  Stay active, unwind your brain, and nourish yourself and just breathe.”  Sounds like excellent advice and trying her juices was a step in a healthy direction for me.

And not to forget about dessert, there were some vegan cacao truffles with only maple syrup as a sweetener so I bought a couple for one of the family who is a vegan.  It’s always good to travel with a little flexible cooler so I was able to keep them cold.  I didn’t try them but I liked the ingredients so I may try to make something similar at home.

Onward to Clearwater Beach and…

Organic Goddess Juice Bar & Café, Safety Harbor, FL

We wanted to take a drive through Safety Harbor, one of our favorite small towns, and found Organic Goddess!  Juice heaven again… Gluten Free, Non-GMO, Fresh and Organic. I liked the feel here because it had another element of mind body health, food/juices that align with your chakras.  Now that was cool.  I had the Green Goddess Horta Kale which is:  Spinach, Chard, Celery, Carrot, Apple, Lemon, Ginger, Topped with Lemon Zest.  This was the best tasting blend so far.  Even hubby got in on it and ordered the Third-Eye (Ajna), which is:  Cherry, Blueberry, Carrot, Orange, and Lemon.  He thoroughly enjoyed it.  I could get into hanging out at the Organic Goddess because the counter reminded me of a hometown diner/bar with the chef preparing the food right in front of you.  Order up your juice or lunch while he makes it to order in just a few short minutes.  And it’s easy to just strike up a conversation with someone that way, as we did!  In addition to the café, there is also a boutique that has gifts for sale and the back room is the dance and Yoga studio with many different events available.  It all seems very community oriented as well.  A plus for the Temple Goddess!

Finally, we made our way back home to Connecticut. Then we tried our own hometown juice bar, Pure Alchemy!

Pure Alchemy Juice Bar & Café, Wallingford, CT

This is one of those places that I’ve driven by hundreds of times and always wanted to check it out.  I’m so happy I finally did.  Pure Alchemy has plenty of juices, smoothies, and superfood smoothies to choose from.  The first visit I choose The Afterglow.  It had spinach, celery, apple, lemon, ginger, pear and turmeric.  I really needed that turmeric!  They juice their juices to order as well.  It was so made so quickly and it tasted perfect.  The next day I came back for another one and some lunch.  The Kale Punch did the trick with kale, cucumber, lemon, apple, pear, ginger, and celery.  They had no pear available but that was fine because I wanted less fruit anyway so it was even better for me. 

Pure Alchemy also has many other items available include salads, wraps, entrees, rice bowls, and more.  On the special menu that day was Kale soup.  It was chock full of veggies and I could eat it every day it was so good.  Perfect for a chilly day and filling as well.  Since I’m starting a Whole 30 program (a nutritional reset) in January 2017, I will be visiting here much more since they are also Paleo friendly because they have many vegetable items.  There are several entrees, and plenty of salads to choose from. It’s nice to know I have a place to go when I haven’t planned everything out and need a quick lunch.

Also, what would a juice bar and café be without a delicious vegan dessert?  There were some mouth watering vegan house made chocolates and desserts to choose from.  The best looking of all was the vegan peppermint pie – only a couple of slices left!  Maybe after the Whole 30… ;-) Pure Alchemy has a Face Book page as well that is up to date.  Looking through that I see that they hold many different mind, body, and spiritual related events throughout the year.  Love it!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Bacon Wrapped Beef Tenderloin Dinner

Bacon Wrapped Beef Tenderloin

February always seems like a good time to have a dinner party with friends so we all can bring some sharing of warmth of friendship, smiles, laughter, and an overall good time to help bring us closer to Spring.  One couple brought the amazing appetizers (shrimp cocktail and stuffed mushrooms) Bob and I made a simple arugula salad with lemon and the beef tenderloin, and another couple brought the awesome chocolate raspberry cake and chocolate wine for dessert.  Of course, there was plenty of wine to go around as well.

I had made this same bacon-wrapped beef tenderloin for a dinner recently so I had some practice.  I had already forgotten what temperature I had cooked it at so I decided this time I'd write it down if it came out great - which it did!  The timing is usually the hardest part of cooking for me.  I vowed to just relax, cook the meal with a loose timing schedule and we'd all have a great time.   

Earlier that day I had prepped the beef tenderloin.  The butcher had cut and trimmed two half loins about 3 lbs each.  We kept the tenderloin piece on the side, rubbed the roast with the rosemary/garlic mixture, wrapped it in bacon, and tied it up with butcher's twine.  This recipe is as simple as it gets and it came out perfect!

First,  puree a mixture of fresh rosemary, garlic, olive oil, and Kosher salt for seasoning and rub it all over the roast.  

Some beautiful fresh Rosemary for seasoning the roast and to use with the fingerling potatoes.

Place strips of bacon down on wax paper with alternating pre-cut pieces of butcher's twine to be able to tie up the roast and the bacon.  

Place the seasoned roast on the bacon and pull the strips of bacon over the roast and tie each twine piece to secure the bacon and hold the tenderloin together nicely.  You may have an easier way to do this but it worked fine using this method. 

 Here's how it looked after the bacon was wrapped and tied over the roast.  I prepped this in the morning and left in the refrigerator until about 3PM and removed to the counter to rest before cooking.   The roast went into the oven at 4:30 PM at 375 degrees F and removed it when it reached 125 degrees - about 90 minutes.  Your oven may vary... just keep an eye on it!  Tent it with aluminum foil until ready to cut and serve.  Luckily we all wanted it cooked rare/med rare so it was better to undercook it.  If you need it cooked more then you can cook it more if need be.

The final cooked rested beef.

A nice side of fingerling potatoes cut and tossed with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, salt and some fresh rosemary, baked until crispy on the bottom.  
A little lighting for ambience, a small amount of cheese and crackers and wine to start...  then the shrimp cocktail and fabulous perfectly mildly, silky, cheesy stuffed mushrooms.   Following the appetizers was a small tart fresh arugula salad with sliced cherry tomatoes, sliced avocado and tossed only with fresh squeezed lemon.
Yes, we did eat all of that and had room for the awesome chocolaty goodness for dessert.

The fabulous chocolate cake with a raspberry filling and topped with fresh raspberries and served with chocolate covered almonds AND Chocolate Essence wine from the Taylor Brooke Winery in CT for dessert!  Can we say Devine?  

It was a fabulous night forging new friendships with stimulating conversation, laughter and smiles, and a meal to remember.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Mediterranean Sea Scallops

Mediterranean Sea Scallops

Starting another round of getting back in control and cooking at home.  Fresh Scallops were available and I found a previous post I had made about this dish 4 years ago!  Unfortunately I could not find the recipe so I made up my own going by what was in my last picture.  This turned out very tasty and a little rich so you might want to have a nice dry white wine with it. Looks a little messy in the photo but this is real life folks and what it looked like right after I mixed it all together.  Try it.  Be flexible.  It turned out really well using the Ghee instead of olive oil or regular butter and I'm sure the wine helped too!  I wouldn't call this Paleo because of the wine but you can leave it out.  I'd say it's more of a great low-carb dish.  Enjoy!
  • 1 pound sea scallops (dry packed if you can get them so they don't have the preservatives in them) (about 1-1/2 to 2 dozen) remove muscle from each scallop if necessary
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes 
  • ½ cup Kalamata olives
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
  • 1 lemon (for 1 Tblsp of zest and Tblsp juice)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 large bag fresh baby spinach leaves / power greens mix if you can find them. 
  • Salt to taste. 
  • dash of ground black pepper
  • 2-3 tablespoons Grass-fed Ghee – (or butter if you desire).  The Ghee holds up better and doesn't burn since it has no milk solids in it.
  • 1/2 cup white wine (I used Chardonnay).
1. Rinse scallops under cold running water and pat dry. Lightly season with salt.
2. Zest lemon to equal about 1 tablespoon. 
3. Heat pan over medium-high heat and then add the Ghee.  Add shallots and cook and stir 1 minute.  Add the spinach/greens mix, lemon zest, some lemon juice if you want a tart mix or leave out; salt and pepper to pan. Cook until spinach starts to wilt; and remove spinach to serving platter.
4.  Add tomatoes and olives to pan.  Heat until the tomatoes are warmed and start to split.  Move to separate plate until end when you will add them to the pan with the deglazed scallop juice.
4. Return skillet to heat or using another pan – heat over med-high heat 2-3 minutes or until hot. Add Tbsp Ghee. Add scallops and cook 2-3 minutes on each side until golden brown, turning once.
Remove scallops and place over spinach.
5.  Add white wine CAREFULLY to pan to deglaze.  Stir up the browned bits in the pan to make a juice. Add the tomatoes and olives to heat and mix together.  Pour over spinach/scallops.Serve immediately.

Yield - 2 large servings