The Food Guy, Steven Keith Eating his way through the state, plate by plate

We all know food keeps us nourished, but did you know it can also help you out with pain relief? Or part of your daily beauty regimen?

Heed these tips, from Best Life magazine …

  • SUNBURN/RAZOR BURN: Dab with milk. Its coolness and lactic acid can relieve inflammation. Olive oil has properties that may accomplish the same thing.
  • MINOR WOUND: Honey deprives bacteria of the moisture it needs to multiply.
  • FLAKY SKIN: Sugar is a great exfoliant. Scrub your hands with wet sugar to scrub away dead skin.
  • DRY SKIN/LIPS: Olive oil’s natural oils work wonders on your skin.
  • BUG BITES: The acidity of apple cider vinegar can reduce swelling, curbing your urge to scratch.
  • ATHLETE’S FOOT: Three parts apple cider vinegar to one part water makes a great soak that can kill the fungi that cause foot funk.
  • STINKY SNEAKERS: Baking soda neutralizes many an odor around the house, including those coming from your Nikes. Sprinkle liberally. Orange peels left inside shoes overnight can also freshen them up quite a bit.
  • REEKING ARMPITS: Again with the apple cider vinegar. Its astringent properties help break down the bacteria that party in your pits.

It’s pretty appropriate that I wrote about ice cream last week, as I was spending most of that time lounging around the beaches of Florida’s Gulf Coast eating as much of it as I could possibly get my hands on.

Silky Peanut Butter Pie, Blueberry Cheesecake, Deluxe Moose Tracks, Mocha Almond Fudge, Cappuccino Cream, Coconut Explosion, Fudge Brownie Batter, Banana Pudding, Mint Chocolate Chunk.

So now it’s back to the real world where one can’t eat ice cream every day. But frozen yogurt’s OK, right? Here’s the scoop on the new Yogurt Mountain at Books-A-Million.

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Although I conducted a respectful moment of silence after the passing (closing) of the Joe Muggs coffee café inside Books-A-Million at Dudley Farms, the Yogurt Mountain shop that moved in is a worthy replacement.

I’d still rather cozy up with hot cup o’ joe and a book (frozen yogurt + bookstore = a little disconnect for me) but the newly opened sweet spot will draw plenty of fans. It’s built around a concept I’ve seen in bigger cities, but is making its first debut in the Charleston area.

You go in, grab a cup and walk up to a self-service wall of 16 flavored fat-free and low-fat frozen yogurts – everything from traditional choices like chocolate, vanilla and strawberry to coconut, cookies ‘n’ cream, peach, red velvet and more.

After filling your own cup, you move on to a bar featuring more than 50 toppings, sprinkling or coating as much as you want in any combination you want. Chocolate chips, nuts, candy, fruit, granola, crumbled Pop Tarts, the list goes on and on.

So you pick you own yogurt, pick your own toppings and build any type of treat you wish. Cool, but dangerous.

Just like at the Kroger salad bar, you pay based on the weight of your finished treat and all of those heavy, sugar-laden goodies add up. Fast.

If you’re not careful, you’ll pay dearly with both waist and wallet.

On a recent trip two of my boys and I just wanted a taste, so we each made our own little sundaes and escaped for just over $4 total. But many people pay that much for a single cup because they just load the wagon, consequence and cost be damned.

It’s a great place and you should enjoy it for an occasional splurge. Just proceed with caution.

IF YOU GO: Yogurt Mountain at Books-A-Million, Dudley Farms/Southridge, 304-746-2984,

Homemade Honey Mustard Beats The Bottle

Need a super-quick honey mustard dressing and don’t fancy forking over several bucks for a store-bought version that won’t be nearly as good?

Make your own! You probably have everything you need already in your kitchen.


3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. grainy mustard
1 Tbsp. honey
½ tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Combine the above ingredients in a food processor and mix until smooth. That’s it!

New York magazine just published “50 State Dinners: Food Treks Worth Taking This Summer” featuring some of the best trip-worthy culinary road trips across the country. West Virginia is represented, of course, by Marlinton’s Road-Kill Cook-Off at the Pocahontas County Autumn Harvest Festival.

Here is a piece of what we had to say about the event:

“The truly brave can head to this annual festival’s main cook-off event, where a dozen amateur cooks compete for $1,000. Past entries have included delicacies like Bambi’s Best Chili, armadillo tacos, squirrel gravy over biscuits and frog jambalaya. Yum!”

You can read more, if you dare, at …×00024.

Here’s a shout-out to one of my favorite couples – not to mention one of the finest restaurants/B&Bs in the state!

Café Cimino Country Inn has been chosen to receive a 2011 Achievement of Excellence Award at the American Culinary Federation National Convention in Dallas next weekend. It’s one of only 23 establishments nationwide to receive the award, which recognizes foodservice establishments that exemplify a commitment to excellence.

Criteria for the award include being in operation for at least five consecutive years; nomination by an ACF chapter, member or individual in the foodservice profession; and being a recognized industry leader.

“We couldn’t be more proud of this award,” said chef/owner Tim Urbanic. “To be nominated by the great chefs in the ACF West Virginia Chapter is the best honor I can think of. We respect them so much and enjoy working with them on projects throughout the year. This recognition is humbling and gratifying, and makes all of our efforts to be West Virginia’s best chef/family-owned inn worth every minute.”

Tim and Melody Urbanic opened Café Cimino in 1999. The property offers guests 500 feet of access to the Elk River and a turn-of-the-century mansion with 10 guest rooms and dining for up to 50 in the Main House, 24 in the casual-dining venue, Little Dishes, and 75 in three outdoor venues.

Tim specializes in Southern Italian cuisine and Euro/Mediterranean dishes. Whenever possible, he uses organically grown herbs and vegetables from the family farm – and that commitment to freshness shines in his dishes!

A visit to Café Cimino is always a treat, and I can’t think of a more deserving place (or people) to represent West Virginia on the national stage.

When Life Hands You Ugly Pies, Make Cobbler!

File this one in the “If At First You Don’t Succeed” category …

When tasked to bring a dessert to a summer cookout yesterday, I thought something bursting with fruit would elicit the oohs and aahs I craved. So I decided to make a gorgeous, colorful pie version of a fruit tart that’s garnered standing ovations in the past. For that dessert, I line the bottom of a tart crust with a thin layer of almond paste and layer the berries on top of that for a wonderful fruity-nutty combo.

It so rocks.

Hoping to apply those same flavors to my pie, I filled a crust with fresh strawberries and blueberries and sprinkled crumbled almond paste (marzipan) over the top. Sure, it would’ve been easier to mix it in with the fruit – or, better yet, just stir in some almond extract – but my thinking was that as the pie baked, the almond paste would melt down through the fruit, drenching it with flavor while leaving a slightly browned, crumbly crust on top.

Totally bombed.

The marzipan didn’t melt a lick, it just sat there and nearly burned. So I jerked that uncooperative thing out of the oven while pondering my next step.

Hey, I said to myself, I have enough dough for one more pie crust!

So I scooped out the fruit and almond pie filling from my near-disaster, stirred it all up to incorporate the almond paste and spooned it into a new tart dish. I covered the mixture with a new pie crust, scored the top and baked the re-imagined dessert until the crust tanned beautifully.

Voila! A nice-looking fruit cobbler that bore no resemblance to the hot mess it replaced.

Never Too Late to Taste the Red, White & Blue

The Fourth of July may have come and gone, but who says the patriotic party can’t continue. Here’s a recipe for a great red, white and blue Berry Almond Tart worthy of celebrating any day of the year!

Taken from Nielsen-Massey’s “A Century of Flavor” cookbook, the recipe uses both pure vanilla and almond extracts to add unique flavors to the dessert table. It’s a slightly different recipe from the version I usually make (where the berries rest on a thin layer of almond paste) but the combination of almond, berries and cream is still a winner.

Almond Berry Tart
Almond Berry Tart

Berry Almond Tart

Pastry Dough:
¼ cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
1 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract
1 egg
1 ¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Almond Cream:
¼ cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ tsp. pure almond extract
1 egg
¼ cup almond flour (or almonds ground into flour)
3 Tbsp. unbleached all-purpose flour

Sugar Glaze:
1/3 cup sugar
¼ cup water
½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
Vanilla Pastry Cream (recipe below)
Red and blue berries of choice

  1. For the dough, cream the butter, confectioner’s sugar and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl using an electric mixer. Add the egg and beat until smooth. Add the flour gradually, beating on low speed until just incorporated; do not overmix. Shape into a round disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill until firm.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll the dough to a ¼-inch thickness on a lightly sugared surface, turning over once. Roll the dough up onto the rolling pin, and then place the pin across the tart pan at the center point and unroll the dough. Press the dough into the tart pan and trim the edge by rolling the pin over the pan so the dough falls freely from the edge.
  3. For the almond cream, cream the butter, granulated sugar and almond extract in a mixing bowl using an electric mixer. Add the egg and beat until smooth. Beat in the almond flour and all-purpose flour. Spread evenly over the pastry dough. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the almond cream is golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.
  4. For the glaze, combine the granulated sugar, water and vanilla extract in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally. Let stand until cooled.
  5. To assemble, spread Vanilla Pastry Cream over the baked Almond Cream. Arrange the berries over the pastry cream. Brush the Sugar Glaze generously over the fruit. Chill until ready to serve.

 Vanilla Pastry Cream

2/3 cup sugar
1 egg
3 egg yolks
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 ½ Tbsp. cornstarch
1 ½ cups whole milk
1/3 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. butter, softened

  1. Whisk 2/3 cup sugar, the egg, egg yolks, vanilla extract and cornstarch in a bowl. Cook the milk and 1/3 cup sugar in a saucepan over medium-low heat until foam rises, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
  2. Temper the eggs with the hot milk mixture. Pour the egg mixture into the saucepan. Cook over low heat until the pastry cream reaches 160 degrees and becomes thick, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter. Spread over parchment paper to cool.

I recently shared my secrets for great marinating – finding just the right balance of flavors and soaking time to make your meat melt in your mouth. But one ingredient I neglected to throw into the mix was fruit juice.

I’ve often added a splash of orange, lemon or lime juice to make seafood sing or salad dressings dance. They work beautifully in both cases, so why not try them in marinades, too? You get some great flavors naturally, without all of the added sugar and sodium bottled sauces often bring to the table.

Citrus, apple, grape and even more exotic tropical juices all make excellent marinade bases, but with so many flavors to choose from the choices are plentiful.

To get you started, here’s a quick barbecue recipe using good ol’ Welch’s …

Tangy Grape Barbecue Sauce

1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup Welch’s 100% Grape Juice made with Concord grapes
1/2 cup Welch’s 100% White Grape Juice made with Niagara grapes
1 cup canned tomatoes, crushed, diced or pureed
3 Tbsp. packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 tsp. hot pepper sauce
2 Tbsp. chopped garlic

  1. Combine all ingredients in a medium size saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.
  2. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and cool slightly before using.