Tara O'Keeffe


Fresh and Light Lemon Bars Recipe

By Tara O'Keeffe | January 27, 2011

Photo: Tara O'Keeffe

Photo: Tara O’Keeffe

Winter weather inspires warm and comforting meals-stews, soups, and braises that are carb-heavy and rich. As delicious as these foods are, it’s nice to enjoy something bright and sweet.

A lemon bar can transcend the heaviness and remind me that warmer weather and sunny days are in the not-so-distant-future.  There is no better fruit than a lemon to help clarify that vision.

The simple and humble lemon is the perfect fruit in this dessert that for me sometimes doubles as an indulgent breakfast treat.  Lemon Bars are a classic, and there are many recipes for this treat, but I promise you none are as good as this recipe that I adapted from Thomas Keller’s cookbook Ad Hoc at Home.

They start with a crust that tastes and smells like the perfect sugar cookie.  It’s then topped with a velvety and tart, stove-top lemon curd.  All you need is a dollop of freshly whipped cream (or piped meringue if you’re feeling fancy) and you have yourself a little bite of sunshine, no sunscreen required.

Tara O’Keeffe is a food writer and founder of FunFearlessFoodie.com


Tapas Style Bacon-Wrapped Dates Recipe

By Tara O'Keeffe | January 20, 2011

Photo: Tara O'Keeffe

Photo: Tara O’Keeffe

Dining out is a special treat and one that I try to take advantage of whenever I can.  Especially because I live in the food capital of America-New York City.  It provides not only for a delicious meal, but research and inspiration.

This past week I had the pleasure of dining at Boqueria, a tapas restaurant located in Manhattan. I’ve heard rave reviews about this tiny, bustling hotspot ever since I moved here, and I was eager to partake in their authentic small plates. The meal was everything I’d hoped for and more, with one dish in particular standing out as a must-try: Datiles con Beicon, or Bacon-Wrapped Dates.

Think of them as a bacon-wrapped candy-warm, gooey, cheesy, salty, and sweet-all the things I look for in a balanced bite. Dates are a fruit that come from the date palm tree, found in California and northern Africa, and have a chewy texture with flavors of honey and syrup. With their seeds are removed, there is ample room for stuffing with a wide variety of ingredients.  At Boqueria they are served stuffed with Marcona almonds and Valdeon cheese.

On Sunday, I recreated these tasty tapas wonders, using goat cheese and toasted almonds as my filling. They are simple to make and can be prepared in advance.  And, as proved in my house, they will be gobbled up in a flash. With awards season and super bowl parties approaching, these are the perfect appetizer to please any crowd.

Photo: Tara O’Keeffe

Tara O’Keeffe is a food writer and founder of Funfearlessfoodie.com


Maple-Cinnamon Pancakes with Warm Apple Compote Recipe

By Tara O'Keeffe | January 13, 2011

Photo: Tara O'Keeffe

Photo: Tara O’Keeffe

Sunday mornings are what I look forward to all week long. Sleeping in, being lazy, reading The New York Times, and best of all: making a real breakfast. I’m a breakfast fanatic. Unfortunately, running back and forth between work and school makes it nearly impossible to enjoy anything more exciting than instant oatmeal on a weekday.

My go-to, proper breakfast tends to be a fried egg over cheese grits, but when I’m feeling indulgent, I make pancakes. Pancakes are wonderful; they require a few ingredients, cook quickly, and can be topped with a variety of sweet and savory combinations.

This past Sunday I was feeling creative and instead of the traditional batter, added some extra flavor and spice by incorporating cinnamon, maple syrup, and brown sugar. I had a few apples lying around that had seen better days.  I chopped them up, sauteed them with butter, dried cranberries, and maple syrup.  A little kitchen creativity resulted in a tasty warm apple compote to make my pancakes even more indulgent.

This batter can be made ahead and used up to two days later if stored in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator. The compote will last even longer. You could also top the pancakes with some of my Cranberry-Pear Chutney.

Photo: Tara O’Keeffe


Olive Oil & Clementine Bundt Cake Recipe

By Tara O'Keeffe | January 6, 2011

Photo: kiri73

Photo: kiri73

It’s the new year, which means many of us are trying to eat better and cook nutritious meals. Sneaking healthier ingredients into your favorite foods is a fun challenge, and what better to experiment with than dessert!

Baking with olive oil is a wonderful way to lighten up baked goods and adds a fruity flavor to a variety of treats like cakes, cookies, and pie crusts. Used in place of less desirable fats like butter and shortening, its heart-healthy properties can make us all feel a little less guilty about indulging in a piece of cake.

This recipe for Olive Oil and Clementine Bundt Cake, adapted from the glorious cookbook Baked Explorations, will become your new go-to cake. It’s not dense and heavy like most Bundt cakes, and features the bright and tart flavor of the seasonal clementines at your local market. You can enjoy this for dessert with a spoonful of whipped cream, or have a slice with your morning coffee. Pick up a fruity bottle of olive oil this weekend and conduct your own experiment.

Using high-quality olive oil is important. Don’t use your everyday stuff – the cake showcases the olive oil’s flavor.  My favorite is from O. & Co.

Adapted from Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented

Photo: Tara O’Keeffe


Weekend Warrior: Preserved Mushrooms Recipe

By Tara O'Keeffe | December 30, 2010

Photo: Tara O'Keeffe

Photo: Tara O’Keeffe

It’s downright cold just about everywhere you look, and with temperatures this chilly, nothing sounds better than staying in and whipping up a warm and comforting meal. Having a savory condiment in your pantry, like this week’s recipe for Preserved Mushrooms, will provide you with an arsenal of meal ideas that are easy, flavorful, and fuel for the soul.


Mushrooms are the perfect winter food. They are hearty enough to take the place of meat and are flavorful enough to make a dish standout on their presence alone. When I saw this recipe for Preserved Mushrooms in Thomas Keller’s outstanding communal meal cookbook Ad Hoc at Home, I knew it would make for the perfect Sunday project. In this recipe, an assortment of wild mushrooms (shiitake, oyster, cremini, and morels work well) are steeped in a hot, flavorful oil infused with herbs and vinegar to create a soft and tender mushroom with an earthy aroma and the perfect balance of acid.

The method used to preserve these mushrooms is not as involved as traditional pickling and doesn’t require an extensive canning procedure. You can choose to store these in a Ball jar, or any other airtight container, and keep them in your refrigerator for up to a month. The bonus is you also get a mushroom flavored oil after you strain them, so make sure to save that for another use.

Photo: Tara O’Keeffe

What to do with Preserved Mushrooms

Breakfast: Swirl cream cheese into grits and top with mushrooms; add to an egg omelet with goat cheese and chopped chives; spread onto buttered toast

Lunch: Toss in a salad with grilled chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, and feta; add to a roast beef sandwich with a slice of provolone

Dinner: Spoon over grilled meat or fish; add to a cheese pizza; toss with pasta, parmesan, pine nuts, and sage

Adapted from Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller

Tara O’Keeffe is a food writer and founder of FunFearlessFoodie.com.


Cranberry-Pear Chutney Recipe

By Tara O'Keeffe | December 23, 2010

Photo: Tara O'Keeffe

Tara O’Keeffe quit her job, packed up her Floridian life, and followed her passion for food into the teaching kitchens of the French Culinary Institute in New York City. While most of her time is spent cooking for restaurant diners and instructors, she enjoys nothing more than some good one-on-one time with her kitchen on her Sundays off.

In this series, she shares her weekend cooking projects-trying out new techniques, recipes that take forever but are so worth it, and make-ahead dishes that turn weekday cooking into easy gourmet-and reminds us there is still room for fully-homemade cooking.

Photo: Tara O’Keeffe

Cooking with Condiments: Cranberry-Pear Chutney

The secret to delicious restaurant meals, other than ample seasoning and butter, is incorporating a variety of condiments. It doesn’t sound very exotic, but having homemade chutneys, marmalades, and preserved and pickled produce on hand allows chefs to give a simple dish bright and mouthwatering flavor. Condiments can be used in a variety of applications, and the best part-when stored properly they can last up to a month.

Keeping your refrigerator stocked with homemade condiments will give you the tools to cook like a restaurant chef at home. Over the next few weeks I’ll share some of my favorite condiment recipes along with tasty ways to incorporate them into dishes that will make weekday cooking a no-brainer.

This first recipe started out as a family holiday dinner staple, and thanks to leftovers, has forced me to get creative with it over the years. Now, it’s something I enjoy having all year round, and hopefully you will too. Whip up a batch of Cranberry-Pear Chutney this weekend and add some tart and tang to your weekly menu.

Photo: Tara O’Keeffe

What to do with Cranberry-Pear Chutney

For breakfast: Enjoy with warm oatmeal and a sprinkle of brown sugar and cinnamon, serve on pancakes in place of syrup, or mix in with yogurt and granola for a tart and crunchy parfait

For lunch: Spread on crusty bread and top with ham or turkey, Brie, and fresh arugula for a tasty sandwich

For dinner: Use as a garnish for seared pork chops or dress up a potato pancake with a dollop of creme fraiche and chutney for a sweet and creamy finish

For dessert: Spoon warm chutney over vanilla ice cream and serve with a buttery shortbread cookie

Tara O’Keeffe is a food writer and founder of FunFearlessFoodie.com

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