Azurea Simply Grilled Florida Black Grouper.

As I mentioned in my Fairytale Key Lime post (see below), I recently visited Jacksonville, Florida. You can read about my trip to Florida in my article “Three Reasons to Visit Atlantic and Neptune Beaches” on Yahoo! Voices, but I wanted to share some of the amazing food photos I took on my journey here. As I mentioned in my article, I stayed at the luxurious One Ocean Resort and had the most wonderful time that I will remember for a lifetime. I dined at the hotel’s fine dining establishment, Azurea, as well as other local places like Ocean 60, North Beach Bistro and Sun Dog’s.  Hope you enjoy!

Atlantic Beach, Florida
Entrance to Azurea Restaurant and Azurea Lounge. I felt like I was under the sea! Loved it.
Chef’s Amuse Bouche – a clam with fresh pico de gallo.
Gorgonzola souffle with arugula, Parmesan crisps, and caramelized pears.
Bread basket at Azurea Restraunt with four different dippers (roasted garlic, aged balsamic, hummus and sea-salted butter.)
Simply Grilled Florida Black Grouper, chef’s plaintain salad with relish and  collard greens braised in bacon and apple cider.
One Ocean Resort room service: Key Lime Pie and tea service.
Room Services Menu – for PETS!

Snacks in my hotel bar! Dangerous …
I took a bike along the shoreline and stopped for this gorgonzola and pear flatbread at Lillie’s Coffee Bar.
Chef’s filet mignon with grilled shrimp and spicy shrimp sauce from North Beach Bistro.
Bread and white bean dip with olive oil from North Beach Bistro.
Mayport Shrimp and Grilled Polenta from North Beach Bistro.
Ocean 60 homemade bread with flavored whipped butter – AMAZING
Ocean 60 house salad: mixed greens with tortilla strips, raisins, shaved Parmesan and cumin-lime vinaigrette. 
Ocean 60 seared salmon with artichokes and grilled vegetables over grits.
Crab Cake Sliders and plantain chips with a Corona = OCEANSIDE HEAVEN.
Southwestern Mahi Mahi Salad with chipotle vinaigrette from Sun Dog’s in Neptune Beach, FL.
I wish I was still there.
I recently attended a local food tasting and came across this wonderful wing sauce that was bottled right here in Scranton, PA. Peggy’s Wing Sauce, bottled by co-owners of local favorite Kelly’s Pub and Eatery, is available in three different flavors (mild, medium or hot). Sure, we all know that wing sauce is great with wings or in a dip, but I was really impressed by all the creative ways that sisters Peggy and Kathleen Cosgrove managed to use their homemade sauce. They served hot pierogies and chicken potstickers right in the hot sauce. I was especially a fan of their ranch dressing, so I included a sample below. Visit their website to view more recipes and to order your own bottle. (I would love to try to make Peggy’s Hot Wing Stromboli!)


1 head iceberg lettuce
4 chicken breasts
4 slices cooked bacon
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese

1/2 cup ranch dressing
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup of Peggy’s Wing Sauce

Pound chicken to desired thickness. Marinate in Peggy’s Wing Sauce for 2 hours or overnight. Grill chicken then slice crosswise at an angle.

Clean and cut head of lettuce into four wedges. Divide among four plates and top with grilled chicken, dressing and crumbled blue cheese.


I recently took a trip to Florida and was inspired to make some key lime desserts when I got home. I’ve always been a sucker for all things key lime and have fond memories of visiting Key West with my family. Admittedly, we ate our way through the little islands and the food was unforgettable. From conch fritters to frozen Jimmy Buffet style margaritas, everything was too good to be true. I remember actually walking around with a piece of frozen, chocolate covered key lime pie. Here are some key lime desserts to satisfy your tropical cravings! I came up with the salad myself and loved it! Try it with the toasted coconut!

Key Lime Coconut Cheesecakes
(Makes almost 2 dozen cheesecakes)

I adapted this great recipe from Southern Living magazine. You might want to double it if you’re feeding a crowd because it’s great but barely makes 2 dozen cheesecakes.

1 8-oz package of fat free cream cheese
1 8-oz package of reduced fat cream cheese
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup egg substitute (like Egg Beaters)
3 tablespoons of fresh key lime juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon coconut extract
1/2 cup of reduced-fat sour cream
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup of toasted coconut flakes
Key lime slices cut into fourths for garnish

Line 24 cupcake tins with liners. To make the crust: pulse the graham crackers and vanilla wafers together in a food processor. Melt a stick of butter in the microwaves. Add to the graham cracker and vanilla wafer crumbs in a large bowl and mix well. Press the crumbs into the bottom of each cupcake tin to form a bottom crust.

To make the cheesecake filling: In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheeses and 3/4 cup of sugar until smooth. Add egg substitute, key lime juice, vanilla and coconut extracts and continue beating until smooth. Spoon the mixture evenly into each cupcake tin.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until set. Remove pan from oven. In a small bowl, stir together the sour cream and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Drop a dollop of the mixture onto each cheesecake. Cool for about 15 minutes, then cover and refrigerate for at least two hours.

When ready to serve, sprinkle the tops of the cheesecakes with toasted coconut flakes and top with a little key lime wedge.

Fairytale Key Lime Salad with Pistachio Goat Cheese Balls
(Serves 8)

1 cup of crushed shelled pistachios
1 log of goat cheese
2 cups of strawberries, sliced
2 bags of mixed arugula blend lettuce
1/2 cup of toasted coconut

In a large bowl, combine the bags of arugula mix. Break apart the goat cheese log and roll into small 1/2 inch balls. Roll the balls into the crushed shelled pistachios to coat. (If your hands get sticky, keep wetting them with water while handling the goat cheese.) Add the sliced strawberries and goat cheese balls to the lettuce. Top with the toasted coconut. Dress with the key lime dressing.

Fairytale Key Lime Vinaigrette:

1/4 cup of fresh key lime juice
1 teaspoon of dijon mustard
1 teaspoon of minced garlic
1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup of oil

Whisk all of the ingredients together and store up to one week in an airtight container.

Key Lime Pie
(Serves 6-8)

I found this great recipe for an easy, quick key lime pie. Unfortunately, I never had the chance to try it because my cousin’s dogs devoured it before we had the chance to try it! (Mika and Geronimo, I’m still mad at you!)

It looked beautiful though and I’m sure was delicious. I will be making it again when I’m craving a light, key lime dessert!

2 large eggs
2 large egg whites
1/2 cup of key lime juice
1 teaspoon of grated lime zest
1 can of fat free sweetened condensed milk
1 reduced fat graham cracker crust
1 1/2 cups of frozen reduced calorie whipped topping like Cool Whip
Key Lime Slices for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat eggs and egg whites on a medium speed until blended, gradually adding the juice, zest and milk to the mixture. Pour the mixture into the crust and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until the pie is set. Cool on a wire rack. Cover and chill for 4 hours. Spread the Cool Whip evenly over the pie. Garnish with lime slices.


I’ve always been a big fan of Black Bean Soup. It was one of my favorite dishes when I worked at Union Square Cafe. I also love the one they make at Canteen 900 in Kingston. I recently had an amazing bowl of spicy black bean soup at the Sun Dog in Neptune Beach, Florida. (Guy Fieri filmed there!)

When I want to make a nice bowl of hot and spicy black bean soup myself, I have a go-to recipe that I got from the Sonoma Diet Daily email. I had to post this because I make it all the time and I just love it! It’s also very low in fat and calories. I usually don’t add the sherry vinegar. I top with a dollop of reduced fat sour cream mixed with a drizzle of lime juice to make it more creamy.

Sonoma Diet Daily Recipe: Tangy Black Bean Soup

(Serves 6)

PREP: 35 minutes COOK: 25 minutes

1/2 cup chopped onion
12 cloves garlic, minced (2 tablespoons minced)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
8 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
3 15- to 16-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 lemon, sliced 1/2 inch thick
1/2 cup snipped dried tomatoes (not oil-packed)
1 small fresh jalapeño chile pepper, seeded and finely chopped* (optional)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
1 1/2 teaspoons sherry vinegar or balsamic vinegar

1. In a 4-quart Dutch oven, cook onion and garlic in hot oil over medium heat until tender, stirring occasionally. Add cumin; cook and stir for 1 minute more. Add broth, beans, lemon slices, tomatoes, jalapeño (if desired), and dried oregano (if using instead of fresh oregano). Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Discard lemon slices. Remove 3 cups of the soup mixture to a large heatproof bowl. Use an immersion blender or potato masher to coarsely puree or mash the mixture in the bowl. Return to Dutch oven and bring to a boil; reduce heat. Cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes more, stirring occasionally.

3. Stir in vinegar and fresh oregano (if using).

*Note: Because hot chile peppers contain oils that can burn your skin and eyes, wear rubber or plastic gloves when working with them. If your bare hands do touch the chile peppers, wash your hands well with soap and water.

To freeze soup: Divide soup among freezer containers with covers; seal, label, and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before heating through.

Nutrition Facts per serving: 223 cal., 5 g total fat (1 g sat. fat), 0 mg chol., 1,381 mg sodium, 37 g carbo., 12 g fiber, 17 g pro.