Bad Habits

And my bad habit of taking blurry cell phone pictures strikes again! But honestly, when you have all this made and ready to go, plated and on the table and all that, you can't really expect me to run upstairs to get my camera, right? 

Anyhow, I made this chick pea salad with inspiration from a dish at my place of employment. My plan was to add lots of goodies to some chick peas and cover it in a yummy dill vinaigrette, but since it turned out I didn't have dill, but I did have everything else I needed, I certainly wasn't going to make a trip to the grocery store just for the dill!  Ah, the cooking of the lazy. 

There was a lot of overlap with the chick pea salad and the Italian pasta salad. They both have mozzarella, roasted red pepper, red onion, and red wine vinegar, so they actually taste good eaten together. I bet right about now you're thinking "man, would that be a great lunch-to-go." I was thinking that, too! Make it the night before, put it all on a bed of lettuce in a tupperware, and you have lunch for the next day. Maybe even the next couple of days if you play your cards right.

Chick Pea Salad
  • 1 can of chick peas, drained and rinsed
  • roasted red pepper, chopped
  • 1 small cucumber, sliced
  • 1/4 c pepperoncini, sliced
  • mozzarella, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/4 c sliced red onion
  • red wine vinegar
  • lemon juice
  • Greek seasoning mix
  • canola oil
  • S&P

1) Place the chick peas through the red onion in a bowl. 

2) In another small bowl, combine a couple Tbsp of red wine vinegar with a squeeze of lemon juice and 1 Tbsp. Greek seasoning mix smooshed between your hands. Drizzle in some canola oil while whisking. Modify the vinegar/oil ratio to your taste. S&P to taste. 

3) Pour the vinaigrette over the chick peas and season to taste. Chill before serving.

Italian Pasta Salad
  • bow tie pasta
  • roasted red pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 c sliced red onion
  • mozzarella, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • salami, cut into chunks
  • 1/4 c pepperoncini, sliced
  • red wine vinegar
  • Italian seasoning mix
  • canola oil

1) Cook bow tie pasta according to package directions.

2) In a large bowl, combine roasted red pepper through pepperoncini with the bow tie pasta.

3) In another small bowl combine 3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar with 1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning mix. Drizzle in some canola oil while whisking. S&P to taste. Adjust vinegar/oil ratio to your taste.

4) Pour vinaigrette over the pasta. Chill before serving.


Protein Galore!

White Bean and Tuna Salad

This is another one of those great make-ahead meals that you can take with you somewhere... like on the boat. It is summer, after all. It comes together quickly and can be made earlier in the day or, hey! Maybe even the night before! Then, when you find yourself at 8pm and realize you have nothing in mind for dinner and absolutely no interest in cooking anything, you have this savior in the fridge ready to go! Plus, it's packed with protein, and who doesn't love that?

White Bean and Tuna Salad

  • 1 c chopped red onion
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 cans of tuna (6 oz. each)
  • 2 cans of white beans (15 oz. each) (aka: cannellini beans or Great Northern beans), drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 c mint, chopped
  • 1/4 c arugula, chopped
  • olive oil
  • S&P
1) Sprinkle some lemon on the chopped onion to take some of the edge off.

2) Drain the tuna and place in a bowl. Break it up with a fork or a wooden spoon. Add beans, onion, mint, arugula, lemon zest, lemon juice, S&P to taste. Add olive oil and more lemon juice as needed.

3) Chill and enjoy when you're ready!


Meatless Monday: Stephanie's Beet Dip

Stephanie's Beet Dip

In honor of the beautiful weather this past weekend, my dear friend, Stephanie, and I took a little stroll to the farmer's market and picked up some fresh beets. Normally I wouldn't be caught dead with beets, but Stephanie makes this seriously delicious beet dip that is the most beautiful magenta color I've ever seen. Served spread on slices of bread and cucumbers, it's a perfect summery snack to enjoy outside!

Stephanie's Beet Dip
  • 1 lb. beets, scrubbed clean
  • 4 Tbsp. tahini
  • 1/2 c + 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp. cumin, plus more to taste
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon zest (from about 4 lemons)
  • S&P
  • horseradish to taste
1) Cut tops off of the beets, quarter them, and cook them in a pot of boiling water until tender. Drain and peel the skin off. Place the beets with the rest of the ingredients except the horseradish in a food processor. 

2) Pulse until smooth. Stir in horseradish to taste and adjust seasoning. 


Pesto Salmon

Pesto Salmon

So since fancy pants here found herself a new part-time J.O.B. at a restaurant in the carry-out/deli/catering department, I've been all kinds of inspired! We serve a pesto salmon at work, filled with plenty of cream, butter, oil, fat, calories, but boooyyyy is it delicious!

As promised, I am sharing with you the recreation of said pesto salmon that Mom and I made for Mother's Day. We left out a bit of the bad stuff (but not that much). You can also do this with chicken, just follow your heart!

Pesto Salmon
  • 1/4 c pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 c basil, lightly packed
  • S&P to taste
  • 1/2 c olive oil
  • 1/2 c parmesan, grated
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 8 oz. cream (or half and half)
  • long pasta of your choice
  • grilled salmon or chicken
1) Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add salt. 

2) Make the pesto. Put the first 4 ingredients in a food processor and pulse until it's chopped. With the food processor on, stream in the olive oil. Stir in the parmesan and set aside.

3) Cook your pasta according to package directions. 

4) Melt butter in a skillet. Stir in some flour until it looks like wet sand. Whisk in some cream and then some pesto until it tastes good! Pour sauce over your pasta and top with some grilled salmon or a grilled chicken breast. It's gooooood.


Mother's Day!


As you know (or as I sure hope you knew), Sunday was Mother's Day, but today is also Mother's Day at my house. My brother is moving home for the summer and he arrives today! Tonight to be exact. Starting tonight, we are once again a household of four. Five if you count Charlie (the dog), which I do. 

Well I must say I had a fantastic Mother's Day (and Mom did, too!). I treated my mom to a breakfast spread of assorted bagels with cream cheese, fruit salad, orange juice, and flowers. Then Mom and I did something we love to do. One of those silly little things that gives us such joy, but that we rarely have time for: we browsed at a fancy grocery store. Even Charlie was licking his chops in anticipation of all the treats we brought home. 

Have you ever been to Plum Market? They have a lovely wine selection, great prices, and hello a wine tasting area where you can bet your behind we paid a visit.

And then the attractive young man working in the produce department (I swear, they only hire attractive young people to work in this place) explained to us that Rambutan is not an evil character in a Disney film, but a fruit that's sort of like a grape on the inside. Peel away that hazardous outer skin and inside you'll find clear-ish grape-like flesh with a mild flavor.

We finished the day off with a cheese appetizer (mozzarella filled with Italian cream and stracciatella) and pesto salmon. Seriously, this salmon is so good, you're gonna plotz! But you'll have to check back later this week for the low-down...


Meatless Monday: Lettuce Wraps

Lettuce Wraps
(adapted from Ellie Krieger)

I was pretty skeptical of this whole Meatless Monday thing when I moved home, but I must say, it's meals like these that really make me see the light. And since my big brother is moving home for the summer and he refers to all meatless meals as "hippy food" we're going to have to break out the big guns. Put this at the top of the list of meatless meals to impress my brother with!

These babies are such a nice treat. They're light. They're flavorful. And at almost no calories at all, you can eat tons of them and still have room for dessert! Just one thing: once you assemble a lettuce wrap and pick it up, don't even try setting it down or it will completely fall apart and you will no longer have a lettuce wrap but more of a lettuce mess on your plate. 

Lettuce Wraps
  • 12 oz extra-firm tofu
  • 1 Tbsp bottled chili-garlic sauce
  • 1 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 3 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 c hoisin sauce
  • 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp sherry or Chinese cooking wine
  • 2 tsp canola oil
  • 2 Tbsp fresh minced ginger
  • 2 scallions, greens trimmed and reserved, thinly sliced (about 1/3 c each greens and whites)
  • 1/2 c finely diced water chestnuts
  • 1 large head Bibb lettuce, outer leaves discarded, leaves separated
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1/4 c chopped peanuts
1) Line a plate with paper towels, cover with another couple of paper towels, and set a plate on top. Place something heavy on top and let it sit for 20 min. 

2) Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk together chili-garlic sauce, sesame oil, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, vinegar, and sherry.

3) Slice tofu into 1/2 in thick slabs and lay on top of paper towels. Use more paper towel to firmly pat the tofu. The goal is to get as much moisture out of the tofu as possible. It should take about 2 min and use about 3 paper towels. Finely mince tofu and set aside. 

4) Heat oil in a wok or very large skillet over medium heat. Add ginger and scallion whites and cook until scallion whites are translucent and ginger is fragrant, about 2-3 min. Add tofu and cook, stirring, until warmed through. Add reserved sauce. Reduce heat to simmer and cook, stirring, another 3-4 min. Add water chestnuts and stir to incorporate. 

5) Fill each lettuce leaf with the filling. Add scallion greens, red peppers, and peanuts on top and enjoy!


Big Kid Chicken Fingers

this kid loves chicken fingers
(btw, I did not take this picture. I do not know this kid. I'm only guessing that he loves chicken fingers based entirely on the distance his tongue is able to stretch to reach chicken finger crumbs on his face.)

Remember going out to dinner as a kid and knowing instantly what you would order? You had your stand-bys: grilled cheese, macaroni and cheese, and... chicken fingers. I seriously don't know a kid who doesn't like chicken fingers.

But the joy doesn't have to end with your childhood! You can make chicken fingers at home and just jazz them up a bit to fit your adult palette. This "recipe" is really meant to be adapted to fit your needs. Don't like spicy stuff? Cut back on the garlic and paprika. Want to make a whole bunch? Easy. Just combine more of everything.

Big Kid Chicken Fingers w/ Honey Mustard
serves as many as you want

  • chicken breasts
  • buttermilk
  • paprika
  • panko
  • garlic powder
  • S&P
  • cooking spray
  • mayonnaise
  • dijon mustard
  • honey
1) Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine buttermilk and paprika to your liking (enough to cover your chicken). Cut chicken breasts into strips. Put them in the buttermilk bowl and stir to cover everything. Let marinade for about an hour.

2) Meanwhile, prepare a cookie sheet by placing a cooling rack on top of it. Spray the cooling rack with cooking spray. Prepare the honey mustard dressing. Start by combining 1/2 c mayonnaise, 2 tsp dijon mustard, and 1 Tbsp honey. Adjust the combination from there, adding more dijon if you like it more mustardy and more honey if you like it sweeter.

3) On a large plate or a shallow baking dish, combine panko, garlic powder (again, as much as you like), S&P. Just make sure there is enough to coat all of your chicken pieces. (Don't worry, you can always add more ingredients if you run out.) Dip each piece of chicken in the panko mixture, covering all sides well and place on the cooling rack. 

4) Spray each piece of chicken with cooking spray. Bake at 350℉ until cooked through. (I recommend using a meat thermometer.)


Meatless Monday: Lemon Rice Soup

Lemon Rice Soup
(aka: avgolemono)

Have you ever been to a Coney Island? I hope the answer is yes otherwise there's a really good chance you are not going to appreciate this. Around here, there's a coney on every corner. Seriously, in my teeny tiny town, there's at least 4. And every single one serves lemon rice soup. It's also known as avgolemono, but you can't really put that on a menu because god knows nobody would be able to pronounce it. 

With a classic like this, where else would I turn to find a recipe but The Joy of Cooking? One thing, though- make sure you whisk the egg in really well.

Lemon Rice Soup

  • 3 c chicken stock (or veggie stock)
  • 1/2 c white rice
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 c fresh lemon juice (plus more to taste) or dry white wine
  • S&P
  • parsley, chopped

1) Place stock and rice in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cover until rice is tender, about 20 min.

2) Whisk eggs and lemon juice in a medium bowl just until combined and a uniform color. Stir 2 Tbsp. stock into the egg mixture. Slowly pour the eggs into the hot (but not boiling) soup, whisking constantly.

3) Season with lemon juice, S&P. Garnish with chopped parsley.



Tropical Green Monster
(inspired by Skinnytaste)

I came home from a workout today and wondered to myself what to refuel with. I went through my list of refueling stand-bys in my head and yawned. Glass of milk? meh. Cereal? nah. Scrambled eggs? bleh.

And then it hit me! Why have I been spending hours pinning delicious things on pinterest if not to eventually make them? I knew I had pinned some tasty smoothies. All I had to do was find them...

Turns out you can combine coconut, fruit, and spinach and it's not gross at all! In fact, it's quite delicious. I used this, but modified it to fit with what I had in the house.

Tropical Green Monster
serves 2

  • 3/4 c coconut milk
  • 6 oz fat free Greek yogurt
  • 3/4 c frozen mango
  • 1 ripe medium banana (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 c baby spinach
  • 2 Tbsp sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 1/4 c ice cubes
1) Combine all ingredients in a blender. Stick a straw in it, you're done!


Peanut Butter Gets Healthy

We all love that salty, creamy goodness known as peanut butter, but I can't really say I love the calories. 180 calories in the recommended 2 tablespoons? Come. On. Any peanut butter lover, or even a peanut butter liker, is going to eat more than the label leads us to think is normal.

And what about my favorite childhood snack? Apples and peanut butter have deceived me for years. All this time I thought I was doing myself a favor by eating it, but with the amount of peanut butter I end up smearing on my apples, well... it's probably not what any nutritionist had in mind.

The solution? This dip.

Peanut Butter Dip
serves 1

  • 3 oz greek yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp peanut butter
  • 1/2 Tbsp. honey
  • pinch of cinnamon
1) Combine the above ingredients and stir well. Dip apples into it. 

Simple, right?


Meatless Monday: Ricotta Pasta

Ricotta Pasta

And once again we find ourselves at Meatless Monday! I'm going to start my week with 100% honesty. I took one look at this recipe and thought "Really? This is what we're having? Guess it's a diet night." But this dish seriously exceeded appearances! The ricotta gave it a nice creaminess and the mint gave it a nice, simple, unmuddled flavor. (Unmuddled... is that a word? Did I make that up?)

Cooking Light gives you the steps to make your own ricotta, but we went to a local Italian grocery store and bought a nice one. But the choice is yours! Another option: roast the tomatoes in the oven until they're about to burst, then cut them in half. (Wear an apron, they might splatter) 

Ricotta Pasta
serves 4
  • S&P
  • 8 oz fettuccine (fresh is best)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 medium zucchini (halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise)
  • 1 tsp garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 c cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ricotta
  • 2 Tbsp small mint leaves
1) Bring a pot of water to a boil. When it comes to a boil, salt the water, and cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta and reserve. 

2) Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil. Add zucchini and sauté 2 minutes. Add S&P and garlic. Sauté 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes. Combine with pasta and top with ricotta and mint.


Italian Cream Soda

Italian Cream Soda

Last week, Monday to be exact, I teased you with a sort-of kind-of Meatless Monday post where I told you all about my new favorite beverage. And here you have it! The daringly delicious Italian Cream Soda!!!

I found some Torani raspberry flavored syrup at the local grocery store (although my favorite is blackberry) and I am happy to report that this is just as delicious as at the restaurant! Maybe even better (free refills, hello).

Italian Cream Soda
serves 1
  • Flavored syrup (Torani is good)
  • Sparkling/Seltzer water
  • Cream (or half and half or whole milk)
1) Pour about 1-2 Tbsp flavored syrup into a glass of ice. Fill with sparkling/seltzer water. Top it off with 1 Tbsp cream and give it a stir


Bsketti and Meatballs

Bsketti and Meatballs
(aka: Spaghetti and Meatballs)

If you told the 7 year old me "Hey, kid! We're having spaghetti tonight. Do you like spaghetti?" 7 year old me would yell "Bsketti!!!" And if you asked 7 year old me what my favorite foods are, 7 year old me would tell you with a twinkle in my eye "bsketti and ribbons!" Translation: 7 year old me really loves spaghetti and BBQ ribs. 23 year old me also loves spaghetti and BBQ ribs, but 23 year old me is able to properly pronounce complicated words like "spaghetti" and "ribs." Ah, it's good to be 23. 

Whole wheat pasta, while higher in fiber and other nice things for your health, is just not that good. I would forgo the health benefits of whole wheat pasta for normal white pasta any day. However, I am convinced that we really can have it all. It requires an extra pot, but hey, what's an extra pot for the perfect spaghetti?

And here it is ladies and gentlemen, the revolutionary idea...
Half white pasta, half whole wheat pasta.
Genius, right? Each forkful will be a delightful balance between al dente delicious white pasta and healthy whole wheat pasta. All you have to do is cook whole wheat pasta in one pot and white pasta in another. You could cook them together in one pot as long as you make sure the whole wheat pasta goes in first because it takes longer to cook. I'm not a pasta expert, so I would personally stick to two separate pots.

Granted, I haven't actually tried this yet, but in my head it is perfection.

Spaghetti and Meatballs
  • olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 28 oz can tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 pinch sugar (about 1/4 tsp)
  • basil or dry Italian spices
  • 8 oz ground turkey
  • 12 oz ground sirloin
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 c parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 c panko
  • 1/4 c parmesan, grated
  • 2 Tbsp milk
  • S&P
  • spaghetti
1) Make the sauce. Saute garlic and onion in olive oil until soft. Add tomatoes and tomato paste and a pinch of sugar. Let this simmer over low heat (a splatter guard will be a huge help at this point) until it start to thicken. Add some chopped basil and/or Italian spices to taste. Let simmer a bit longer. Add S&P to taste.

2) Meanwhile, prepare meatballs. Put ground turkey, ground sirloin, 1 egg, parsley, panko, parmesan, milk, 1 tsp dry Italian spices, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper. Use your hands to combine the ingredients being careful not to over-mix. Roll into meatballs the size of your choice.

3) Bring a pot of water to a boil. Salt the water. Cook your choice of spaghetti according to package directions.

4) Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Place half the meatballs in the skillet and cook until brown on one side. Turn to brown on the other sides until cooked through. Repeat process with the rest of the meatballs.

5) When the pasta is cooked, the meatballs are done, and the pasta sauce is ready, put it on your plate and twirl it around on your fork and eat it up!


Weekend Fun and the Friendly Burger

The Friendly Burger

Okay, I realize today is Monday and normally I would tell you all about the meatless meal we had. But I didn't take any pictures. I know! I didn't get home until late and was so hungry when I got in the door that I just devoured the sandwich my mom had ready for me before it even occurred to me that it was Meatless Monday! It was like "omg food now big bites napkin omg SO good my mom is the best is that goat cheese on this sandwich yes yes yum om nom camera, what?" 

So, once again, I offer a substitute. I'll clue you in on my weekend happenings. Let's start with pictures, shall we?

 Above you will find the weekend's characters. Colin, blue drink with special things (Don't worry, nothing illegal here. The special things are just sprinkles.), delicious burgers, the blanket for outdoor lounging and me, Laura, and Beth (with Luxury Cat).

By the way, when I say weekend, I mean a Thursday afternoon. We haven't been out of college long enough to think Thursday isn't part of the weekend.

Beth and Colin treated Laura and I to delicious cheese burgers with sweet potato fries and pickles, all nestled in those cute red plastic baskets lined with wax paper! Beth and Colin are truly the best hosts.

All in all, my weekend was divine. Snacks and drinks outdoors, tree climbing, a big styrofoam airplane, and great friends. You just can't compete with that.


Pesto + Pasta

Mmmm, pesto. So fresh. So delicious.

This dish is simple. Pesto, pasta, grilled chicken, parmesan. It really couldn't be much simpler.

Pesto Pasta

  • 1/8 c walnuts
  • 1/8 c pine nuts
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 1/2 c basil
  • 1/4 tsp salt plus more to taste
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 c olive oil
  • 1/2 c parmesan cheese
  • penne pasta
  • chicken breast

1) Whir the nuts and garlic for 15 seconds in a food processor. Add basil, salt, and pepper. With processor on, stream olive oil in through the top. Add parmesan and give it a quick whirl. Use it right away or put a piece of plastic wrap over it laid directly on the pesto. 

2) Cook some pasta.

3) Grill a chicken breast that has been seasoned with S&P. Let it sit for a minute before you cut it. Cut into strips or cubes.

4) Drain pasta, add pesto and chicken. Add some pasta water if the pesto needs to be thinned out. Sprinkle some parmesan on top and eat it!


Summery Veggie Pasta

Summery Veggie Pasta

We live on a lake here at home, which means come summer time we will be out on the lake until the sun goes down. You may notice that means we're out on the lake until 9 or 10 pm. Totally fun, but drinking on an empty stomach is a bad idea! Which is why we need to have an arsenal of make-ahead, minimal maintenance meals to take on the boat.

This Summery Veggie Pasta is a great side dish or meal with the addition of grilled chicken. It's easy (cook pasta, cut veggies, make vinaigrette, combine, done), it's nutritious (hello, vegetables!), and it's delicious cold. Perfect for throwing in a small cooler with a few forks to gobble on the back of the boat.  You don't even have to pack napkins! Let's face it- if you drop some pasta on your bathing suit you can just jump in the lake.

For those of you that aren't living the aquatic life, this is for you, too! You didn't think I would leave you out, did you? You can use whatever veggies you prefer and as much or little as you want!

Summery Veggie Pasta
veggie to pasta to dressing ratio is completely subjective

  • big bowtie pasta (or little if you prefer)
  • 1 carrot, cut into bite sized bits
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, cut into bite sized bits
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, cut into bite sized bits
  • 1/2 red onion, cute into bite sized bits
  • 3 c baby spinach
  • 1/4 c asiago cheese (or parmesan or another hard cheese), grated
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/3 c olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp white wine or tarragon vinegar
  • S&P
1) Cook bowtie pasta according to package directions (don't forget to salt the water!). 

2) Meanwhile, cut your veggies into bite sized bits. 

3) Prepare the dressing. Combine garlic, vinegar, and S&P in a small bowl. Whisk in olive oil. Taste the dressing and adjust the proportions accordingly. 

4) When bowties are finished cooking, drain and place in a large bowl (or back in the pot). Stir in baby spinach and let it wilt. Add dressing and grated cheese while the pasta is still hot. Add veggies and serve warm or cold.


Meatless Monday: Sort-of Kind-of

We didn't do Meatless Monday last week. It just wasn't in the cards this time, so we went out. We went to Johnny Carino's because it's local and OMG did you know you can get the family sized portions for half off on Mondays?!?! It's pretty much the best deal ever.

Since Meatless Monday was sort-of kind-of cancelled last week, here's what I can offer you: a beverage and some almost meatless sushi. 

Besides the amazing deals at Carino's, my favorite thing about it is the Italian Cream Soda. I'm pretty sure they just put some of those flavored syrups in the bottom of a glass, fill it up with soda water, and top it off with cream (just like the kind you put in your coffee). I might be salivating as I type this. 

As for the sushi, that was a bit more involved than the Cream Soda.

First you have to make sushi rice and let it some to room temperature. Then you prep your sushi fillings and get rolling! I kept it simple with cucumber, avocado, and crab (in various combinations). I'm going to spell out the steps, but I really can't call it a recipe. It's more of a process description.

I'm a huge fan of this making sushi at home thing because I love sushi, but it's not cheap. If you make it at home, you can make a whole bunch for cheap and totally pig out!

Sushi Rice
(about 3 rolls worth)

  • 1c rice (uncooked)
  • water
  • 1/3 c rice vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
1) Rinse 1 c rice until the water runs clear. Place in a pot with about 9.2 oz water (if you can get that exact measurement, more power to you). Put over high heat, stirring occasionally, until the water comes to a boil. When it reaches a boil, turn the heat down to low, cover, and let it cook about 6-8 min. 

2) While the rice cooks, heat vinegar, sugar, and salt over medium heat until the solids dissolve.

3) Check rice. If there is still water in the pot, recover and check every minute. If there's no water, it's done! Put in a bowl and pour the vinegar mixture over top and stir it in. Let this rice come to room temperature.

Sort-of Recipe...

  • nori
  • sushi rice
  • fillings
    • avocado
    • cucumber
    • crab
    • avocado
    • carrot
    • anything else you want
  • rice vinegar
1) Get all of your ingredients arranged on your work surface. Cut vegetables into sticks. Prepare a bowl of 1 c water mixed with 1 Tbsp rice vinegar. Have a dry dish towel by your side.

2) Lay a sushi rolling mat (available at Japanese markets and even some run-of-the-mill supermarkets- or a magazine) on your work surface. Place a nori sheet on your rolling mat, shiny side down. 

3) Spread a thin layer of rice on top of the nori, leaving the top 2 cm edge of the nori clear. Place your sushi fillings on top of the rice, not quite in the center (closer to you). 

4) Watch this video on how to do the rolling. It's not too tricky, but learning from example can't hurt!

5) Cut your sushi roll into about 6 pieces and enjoy!

6) Watch this video to make an inside-out roll.


Sole meunière (aka: heaven)

Sole meunière
(from Ina Garten)

This might be my new favorite dish. It's so easy and delicious and sort of does that melt-in-your-mouth thing that people are so fond of. I've often said that you could put lemon on anything and I would probably love it. This is one of those lemony things I love. The ingredients are pretty simple and you probably already have them in your pantry, so stop by the grocery store on your way home from work and pick up some sole! Or hey! Maybe you're having a special someone over this weekend and you'd love to impress them without inflicting any sort of garlic breath. Well, this is your dish. Or maybe you're your own special someone... nothing is standing in your way of the most amazing fish you've ever had.

Sole meunière
serves 2

  • 1/2 c all purpose flour
  • S&P
  • 4 fresh sole fillets (3 to 4 oz each)
  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 6 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice (3 lemons)
  • 1 Tbsp minced fresh parsley
1) Preheat oven to 200℉. Have 2 heat-proof dinner plates ready.

2) Combine flour, 2 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper in a large shallow plate. Pat the sole dry with paper towel and sprinkle one side with salt.

3) Heat 3 Tbsp of butter in a large saute pan over medium heat until it starts to brown (be careful not to burn it!). Dredge 2 fillets in seasoned flour on both sides and place in the hot butter. Lower heat to medium-low and cook 2 min. Turn carefully with a metal spatula and cook another 2 min. While the second side cooks add 1/2 tsp lemon zest, 3 Tbsp of lemon juice to the pan.

4) Carefully place the fillets on the ovenproof plates and pour the sauce over them. Keep the cooked fillets warm in the oven while you repeat the process with the other 2 fillets.

5) When all the fish is cooked and on the plates, sprinkle with parsley, S&P and serve immediately.

Lemony salmon with cherry tomato couscous

Lemony salmon with cherry tomato couscous

And now a recipe from Nigella Lawson, the most sensual eater ever...

We had this beautiful piece of salmon in the fridge just waiting to be turned into a delicious dinner. It was getting to be 7:30 and we still didn't have a plan for it, so I scoured my cookbooks and found this recipe from Nigella! Nigella Lawson is one of my idols. When you watch her on TV you can feel her passion for food and for life and it's really very inspiring. Plus, she's beautiful. 

This ended up being the perfect recipe because we had everything on hand, it came together pretty quickly, and it's really pretty healthy. I sort of think you could put lemon juice on anything and I would like it, but this dish really did have some excellent yet simple flavors going on.

We served this with some simply prepared asparagus that was roasted in the oven with EVOO, S&P. (So many abbreviations!)

Lemony salmon with cherry tomato couscous
serves 2

  • 1 heaping c couscous
  • 3 tsp kosher salt or 1 1/2 tsp table salt
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 c boiled water
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 c)
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp garlic flavored oil
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 4 salmon fillets
  • 1/4 c chopped fresh cilantro or parsley (whichever you prefer)
1) Put couscous in a heatproof bowl with 2 tsp kosher salt (or 1 tsp table salt), 1/4 tsp paprika, and all the grated ginger. Give it a mix and pour the boiled water over top. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a plate and leave to one side.

2) In a wide, shallow dish (big enough to hold the salmon), put the zest of one lemon into it. Add remaining salt and paprika and 1 Tbsp garlic flavored oil.

3) In another bowl, combine onion, juice of 1 lemon, tomatoes and 1 tsp garlic flavored oil and mix. Leave to one side.

4) Heat a large frying pan for the salmon. While the pan gets hot, turn the salmon, both sides, in the "zest" dish.

5) Place fillets in the hot pan and cook 2-3 min per side, depending on thickness. You want them still juicy and a vivid coral color in the middle, so check as you cook.

6) Uncover and fluff up the couscous, which should have absorbed all the water. Add the tomato/onion mix. Mix with a fork.

7) Add almost all the cilantro or parsley and stir. S&P to taste.

8) Serve warm and enjoy!


Cooking with Friends

Deep Dark Mocha Cupcakes

Cupcakes are delicious, but making and sharing them with friends is so much better! My friend, Kara, from The Pixel Parlor let me share the love from her Enjoy! gift from Joy the Baker. She had all kinds of adorable stuff! Polka dot and striped cupcake liner things, chocolate sprinkles, edible glitter. Can you imagine anything more fun on a Sunday? Yeah, I didn't think so.

Kara shard a recipe with me for Deep Dark Mocha Cupcakes from Joy the Baker and they were so very delectable! The cupcakes were moist and a little crumbly. The frosting was creamy and delicious. And Kara and I were two very happy girls.

Head on over to The Pixel Parlor for the Deep Dark Mocha Cupcake recipe!


Meatless Monday: Tomato Basil Soup and Grilled Cheese Croutons


Alright, I'm going to be honest with you. I'm recycling this post from my previous blog. I'm pretty sure last week we had black bean soup and quesadillas, but the pictures were pretty boring and I don't want you falling asleep at your computer or something. Keyboard marks on your face just don't work for anybody. The soup was delicious and we did make it using some black beans we had frozen from when we made the Colin Clark Burritos, so that was cool. But maybe you haven't already seen this post and it will win you over way more than a boring photo induced nap on top of your keyboard.

This meal is in the same vein as last week's actual meatless meal, but instead of black bean soup it's tomato basil and instead of quesadillas it's grilled cheese croutons.

Surprisingly, I never ate this as a kid. Maybe it was my serious aversion to tomatoes (except for ketchup, of course) or maybe it was my "I don't like that" phase. It's really nothing short of a miracle that the picky eater that I was turned into such a food lover. Whatever it was, I didn't realize grilled cheese and tomato soup was a "thing" until college.  Yes, I said college. I wasn't into it in college, either, because somehow the cafeteria couldn't make a decent grilled cheese. At some point, though, my mom started making lots of soup. We're a skiing family, and god knows we can't afford to buy lunch at the ski resorts every weekend, so my mom would make soup at home and pack it in a thermos. Every time was better than the last. She was (and is) always finding new ways to build flavor.

Well one day she must have made soup and a grilled cheese and that's how I got hooked. Unfortunately for Campbell's I'm still not into the canned tomato soup. My grilled cheese and tomato soup combo tends to be a bit fancier: Tomato Basil soup and a grilled cheese with red onion and basil. 

I know. 
It's amazing.

Thank goodness for Pinterest or I may never have thought to make grilled cheese croutons! You don't even have to dip- just scoop one up with your spoon. We kept it simple by serving this with veggies and dip, pickles, and fruit salad. Sometimes simple is better.

We kept it simple by serving this with veggies and dip, pickles, and fruit salad. Sometimes simple is better.

Tomato Basil Soup

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • butter or olive oil
  • 2 big cans of tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • chicken stock
  • basil, chiffonade 
  • salt
  • 1 jar roasted red pepper
  • milk, cream, or half and half

1) Saute 1 onion until soft in a pot with a bit of olive oil or butter. Add canned tomatoes, tomato paste, some chicken stock, and basil to the pot. Season with salt to taste. The soup is going to cook down to concentrate the tomato flavor. Feel free to add more chicken stock as needed. 
2) After the tomato has cooked down and seems thicker and has a strong tomato flavor, add some pieces of roasted red pepper. The whole jar may be too much red pepper flavor, so you may want to start with half the jar and add more to taste.
3) Put the soup in a blender or use an immersion blender to make it smooth (or smoothish if you like chunkier soup). Be VERY careful not to splatter hot soup on yourself.
4) Slowly stir in some milk, cream, or half and half to the soup and enjoy!

Grilled Cheese Croutons

  • Thinly sliced bread
  • butter (salted)
  • herbs (whatever you have- thyme, rosemary, basil, etc)
  • cheese (whatever melts well, like cheddar or gouda)

1) Let some butter come to room temperature and mix in chopped herbs.
2) Heat a skillet over medium heat. While it is getting hot, butter one side of each slice of bread with your herb butter.
3) When the skillet is hot, lay half of the bread slices in the pan butter side down. Layer cheese on top of each piece of bread. Top each slice with another slice, butter side up.
4) When the bread is golden and crispy and the cheese is melty, flip.
5) When the next side of the grilled cheese is done, take them out of the pan and let them cool for a bit. Cut with a large knife into 1/2" squares. 
6) Put them on your soup and devour!


Frosting and Cinnamon Rolls and Frosting

Cinnamon Rolls
(adapted from The Novice Housewife)

You know what's great about homemade cinnamon rolls? Besides everything, frosting. All the frosting you want. Gobs and gobs of frosting! These were pretty ooey-gooey even without the frosting, but who can say no to frosting? Not I!

Warning: these delightful treats will elicit harsh messages from loved ones.
Exhibit A: "Cinnamon rolls were delicious. Don't make them ever again. Love, Dad"

And he didn't even add any extra frosting to his cinnamon roll!

Cinnamon Rolls

dough ingredients
  • 1 c warm milk (110℉)
  • 2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch nutmeg
  • 3 1/4 c all purpose flour
  • 3/4 c bread flour

filling ingredients
  • 1 c brown sugar, packed
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 c butter, softened

frosting ingredients
  • 3 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 c butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 c confectioner's sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice

Start the dough:
1) In the bowl of a stand mixer with dough hook, pour in warm milk, yeast, and 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar. Stir together and proof (let sit) 5 minutes, until it becomes bubbly and frothy.

2) Add the rest of the sugar, butter, salt, eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, 2 cups all purpose flour, and all of the bread flour. Mix well. Turn on mixer with dough hook attachment on lowest speed.

3) With mixer on, sprinkle in the rest of the all purpose flour, 1/4 c at a time until dough cleans the sides and bottom of the bowl. Dough should be sticky but not sticky enough to stick you your hands when touched. When it gets to this point, let mixer knead for 5 minutes.

4) Remove dough from bowl, grease the dough, and place it back in the same bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in size.

Make the filling:
5) Combine brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Make sure butter in softened (but don't combine it with the sugar and cinnamon).

Finish the dough/Make the rolls:
6) Punch down the dough (just once, don't beat it up). On a liberally floured large clean surface, roll the dough into a 20"x30" rectangle (approximately). It should be approximately 1/4" thick or thinner if you like the bread part to be really thin. Keep moving the dough around to make sure it isn't sticking to the surface.

7) Spread softened butter over surface of dough. Sprinkle brown sugar mixture evenly on top of the butter, leaving a 1" border. Lightly press sugar mixture into the butter using a rolling pin.

8) Roll the dough into a long roll (start your rolling from the long end). Cut off the uneven ends. Using a sharp knife, slice into 12-15 pieces.

9) Place onto a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet about 2" apart, cover with plastic wrap and let rise for another hour.

10) Bake at 400℉ on rack just above center for about 8 minutes, or until light golden brown. Keep an eye on them so they don't get TOO brown!

Make the frosting:
11) While the rolls are baking, whip cream cheese and butter together. Stir in vanilla and lemon juice. Pour in powdered sugar and stir slowly until it starts to incorporate. Mix on high for 5 minutes. Make sure to scrape the sides of the bowl to make sure everything gets mixed.

12) When rolls come out of the oven, frost them using half of the frosting. This frosting will melt down into the roll. After they have cooled a bit, top them with another lovely dollop.


Chocolate Treats

Chewy Chocolate Meringues
(adapted from Completely Delicious)

There's a bandit in my house. Yes, a bandit. Any time there is chocolate in the house, it disappears! Chocolate chips in the cupboard? Gone. Chocolate candies in the secret drawer? Devoured. Brownies? Puh-lease. They don't even make it through the day.

Now I know what you're thinking, but I swear I'm not the culprit! (Not the only one, anyway.) The guilty party may be a certain someone we call DAD. 

Dad is a purist, though, and he doesn't want anybody messing up his chocolate treats with words like "healthy", but even he liked these chewy chocolate meringues! They're chocolatey and the inside has a satisfying chewy texture and at only about 50 calories per meringue, you'd have to be crazy to say no to them. 

I'm not a big fan of bittersweet chocolate, so I went with semisweet. Use whatever you prefer! I also made a half recipe. They don't stay fresh long and 4 dozen just seemed overindulgent, even if they are diet-friendly. 

Chewy Chocolate Meringues
  • 1/2 cup egg whites, (about 3 or 4 eggs)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp + 1 1/2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
1) Preheat over to 350 ℉. Line 3 sheet pans with parchment paper or silpats. Fill a saucepan with about 1" water and bring to a simmer.

2) In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the egg whites and sugar. Set bowl on top of saucepan of simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the water. Whisk often until sugar is dissolved. (Carefully test with your fingers to make sure you can't feel any sugar granules.)

3) Return the bowl to the stand mixer and beat on high with the whisk attachment until meringue is stiff and glossy, about 5 minutes. Sift cocoa powder over the meringue, add chopped chocolate, and gently fold together with a spatula until incorporated.

4) Scoop rounded tablespoons of meringue onto the prepared sheet pans, about 2" apart. Bake 2 sheets at a time for about 8 minutes. Rotate pans and bake for an additional 8 minutes, until meringues are puffed and cracked. Let cool before devouring... or don't.


Meatless Monday: Retro Veggie "Pizza"

My mom tells me this veggie "pizza" was quite popular many (or maybe not so many) moons ago. Lucky for me, I'm benefitting from its comeback. It's simple, really. Crescent rolls, herbed cream cheese, veggies. Sounds good to me! It's a definite crowd pleaser and gets kids (I'm including myself in that category) to eat their veggies.

Veggie "Pizza"
Printer Friendly

  • 2 packages refrigerated crescent rolls
  • 1 c sour cream
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 (1 oz) package ranch dressing mix
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 c halved and thinly sliced radishes
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 1/2 c fresh broccoli, chopped
  • 1 carrot, grated

1) Spread crescent rolls on a baking sheet and gently pinch all the perforations together. Let stand 5 minutes and then perforate with a fork. Bake at 350℉ until golden. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl combine sour cream, cream cheese, garlic salt, and ranch mix.

2) Rest cookie sheet on cooling rack until completely cooled. Spread cream cheese mixture on dough. Sprinkle veggies on top, cover, and refrigerate. Cut into pieces and serve cool.


Mid-March BBQ

When you live in Michigan and March gives you 80 degrees, make ribs and invite your friends over. We did just that last week! My dad has this tiki hut which is his version of a "man cave," equipped with a sink, fridge, ice maker, fan, TV, stereo. Plus, it's right by the water. Pretty much the perfect hangout for a barbeque.

Remember all those summer foods I was babbling about here? Well this meal is almost my quintessential summer meal: ribs with my mom's BBQ sauce, potato salad, and fruit. It was only lacking watermelon and corn on the cob, but don't worry! Summer will come soon enough and I will share my perfect summer meal with you.

There are two very important recipes that I am going to share with you today, amongst others. Consider yourself lucky because both of these are very nearly family secrets! (That's not true. I love sharing things with people, especially recipes. But they are so good that I could see why someone might want to keep all the fame and glory for themselves.)

First, the BBQ sauce. My mom found this recipe in her very first copy of The Joy of Cooking that she probably bought when she was my age. Unfortunately, she bought it in spiral bound and when it started to fall apart, she bought a newer, more recent copy of the book. Tragically, the new version didn't have the BBQ recipe in it! So we copied it down on probably a dozen recipe cards just to make sure we wouldn't misplace it. Plus, I'm writing about it now on the Interwebs, so it's never going away.

Second, the potato salad. Back in the glory days of my adolescence, my family took the boat to Mackinac Island where we met a whole bunch of nice (and crazy) people, including Mike from Side Bar. Mike spent many an evening telling us all kinds of delicious tricks for cooking on the boat, including grilled pizzas and his famous potato salad. I'm pretty sure the potato salad actually came from Julia Child, but I usually credit Mike for introducing us to it. It's pretty much the best potato salad you've ever had.

Mom's BBQ Sauce
Printer Friendly
(makes about 2 cups)

  • 1/4 c chopped onion
  • 1 Tbsp dippings (like rendered bacon fat) or butter
  • 1/2 c water
  • 2 Tbsp vinegar (cider vinegar is good)
  • 1 Tbsp woresterchire
  • 1/4 c fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 c chili sauce
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp yellow mustard
1) Sauté 1/4 c chopped onion in 1 Tbsp drippings or butter until brown.

2) Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for 20 minutes.

Mike's Potato Salad
  • 2-3 lbs baby red potatoes
  • 1/3 c apple cider vinegar
  • 1/8 c olive oil
  • 1/3 c potato water
  • 1 bunch green onion, chopped
  • 1/2 c sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 c celery, finely chopped
  • 1 c mayo
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard (more or less to taste)
  • 2 Tbsp sweet pickle relish (more or less to taste)
  • 6 eggs, hard boiled
1) Cut potatoes into cubes and place in stock pot. Cover with water. Bring to boil and simmer until tender, about 6 minutes. Drain potatoes, reserving some of the water.

2) Place potatoes in a large bowl. Mix vinegar, olive oil, and potato water in a measuring cup. Pour over potatoes while they are still warm. Refrigerate at least 2 hours.

3) Mix onion and celery with potatoes. In small bowl, mix mayo, mustard, and pickle relish. Fold mayo mixture into potatoes. Add sliced eggs. S&P to taste. Refrigerate.



Chicken w/ Orzo Salad

This orzo salad is one of my favorite dishes ever. Really. If I had to eat one thing the rest of my life, this would be a contender. It's a recreation of a side dish from J. Alexander's and since a serving of this probably costs $8 at the restaurant, being able to make it at home makes me a very happy girl.

Another thing I love... sharing a nice dinner with my parents. It was warm enough to eat outside when we made this, which is pretty much unheard of for March in Michigan. Enjoying a fresh, tasty dinner and listening to my dad talk about "the old days" reminds me that I'm the luckiest girl in the world. (Sorry if you thought you had that title, but I'm pretty sure I have to claim it.)

Back to the orzo. It has a lot of ingredients, but it's worth it. A lot of the ingredients are things you probably already have and can easily be used in another dish. It's a little sweet and a little tangy and SO GOOD. Make it. You won't be sorry.

Oh yeah! The chicken was good, too.

"J. Alexander's Orzo Salad"
  • 1/8 c sweet white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tsp honey
  • 1/4 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp fresh chopped basil
  • 1/4 c canola oil
  • 1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 c orzo
  • 1 c (cooked) wild rice
  • 3 Tbsp diced red onion
  • 3 Tbsp currant
  • 2 Tbsp corn niblets
  • 3 Tbsp each of diced yellow, red, and green bell pepper
  • 2 Tbsp fresh chopped basil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 c chopped parsley
1) Cook 2 c orzo according to package directions. Cook wild rice so you have 1 c once it's cooked. Shock in cold water and refrigerate.

2) Make the dressing: combine in a small bowl 1/8 c sweet white balsamic vinegar, 1 1/2 tsp honey, 1/4 Tbsp Dijon mustard, 1/4 tsp minced garlic, 1/8 tsp pepper, 1/2 tsp fresh chopped basil. Slowly whisk in 1/4 c canola oil and 1/4 c extra virgin olive oil.

3) In a large bowl, combine orzo and wild rice with red onion, currant, corn, bell peppers, basil, S&P, parsley. Add dressing and stir. Serve cold.


Meatless Monday: Zucchini Cakes

"This is not Meatless Monday. This is zucchini cakes." -Mom

I beg to differ. I was rather a fan of this simple dinner. It was light. It was delicious. And at only something like 38 calories per cake, it left room and calories for a sweet treat!

This is one of those recipes that we've held onto with a death grip. I came across it on Big Girls Small Kitchen a while ago, mentioned it to my mom, and it has become a go-to for summer. It's great for a warm day when you don't want to spend a lot of time slaving away over a hot stove. Or for Meatless Monday + dessert.

Sure, the Pender family's dinner plates have seen a variety of zucchini cakes, like this one from Ina Garten, but we keep coming back to this one. I especially like the sauce with it. Check it out, kids!


The Golden Pancake

Amanda-Proof Pancakes
(from Paula Deen)

I love pancakes. I love cooking. I love eating. I do not, however, love eating the pancakes that I cook myself. Seriously, I have more trouble making pancakes than a dog has not wagging its tail. They come out soggy and never seem to cook all the way through.

And then came Paula Deen. I don't know why I didn't try her recipe earlier. She is, after all, the queen of comfort food. The trick? Separate the egg, beat the whites, and fold it into the batter. Every single pancake came out delicious and edible.

I'm a big eater, but I can't eat an entire batch of pancakes. (That's not true. I probably could, but I would get a wicked stomach ache.) So I cooked up the entire batch and laid the extras out on a cooling rack. Once cooled, and after I devoured my plate of fluffy goodness, I cut wax paper into small squares and laid a piece between pancakes, creating little stacks. I stuck the stacks into a plastic freezer bag, put them in the freezer, and had pancakes for days! My mom says you can lay them out on a cookie sheet and stick them in the freezer, but let's be real. Finding room in the freezer for a cookie sheet (let alone multiple cookie sheets) is just not going to happen. So I do it the lazy way. When it's time to heat them up, put them on a cookie sheet in the oven or pop them in the toaster! If you have a toaster oven, even better.

As for toppings, I'm a fan of mini chocolate chips, greek yogurt, and real maple syrup (my grandpa happens to make his own, and I'm a lucky recipient!). Oh, and powdered sugar because pancakes are always better sprinkled with powdered sugar. What are your favorite pancake toppings?

Paula Deen's Pancakes                                             Printer friendly
  • 1 1/4 c all-purpose flour
  • 3 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 c milk
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • 3 Tbsp. butter, melted, plus more for cooking

1) Heat your pancakes skillet over medium-ish heat. In a bowl, combine dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, salt). In another bowl, combine milk, egg yolks, and 3 Tbsp. melted butter. Add this to the flour mixture and whisk until smooth.

2) Beat egg whites at medium-high speed with an electric mixer (unless, of course, your arm has a medium-high speed) until stiff and fold into the batter.

3) Melt some butter in the skillet, drop some batter in it, and cook until bubbles form on top and the sides look a little cooked. Flip and finish cooking until golden. If you need to keep them warm, put them on a cookie sheet in the oven at a low temperature. Otherwise, gobble them up!


Sloppy Joe, I love you so

Sloppy Joe
(from Ellie Krieger)

When the weather starts the get warmer, something happens in my brain. It goes a little something like this: "S'mores! Hot dogs! Burgers! Ooh, yeah, eat a burger! Potato salad! Corn on the cob! Fruit! Strawberries that actually have flavor! Ice cream sandwicheeeessssss!!!"

Also included in the insane mess of "summer foods" flying around in my brain is sloppy joes. But since my family is sort of into eating healthy-ish, we usually try to make things homemade whenever possible (opening a can of Manwich doesn't count). That way we know just what is in our food and can alter it to fit our needs. Ellie Krieger has this wonderful recipe for Sloppy Joes that has all the same flavors as a Manwich Sloppy Joe, but fresher. I never thought I would hear myself call a Sloppy Joe fresh, but there it is. 

One thing to note here is that Ellie Krieger is a health-food diva extraordinaire. I, on the other hand, am not quite the diva she is. I like to keep it healthy as long as it doesn't interfere with my enjoyment of the food. Ellie's recipe almost hits the mark, but there's one thing I would change: the beans. I would probably leave them out or mash them up a little bit and mix them in with the ground meat. Also, use any kind of ground meat your heart desires. My family is cutting back on the beef these days, so we went with half ground beef and half ground chicken. Just do what feels right!

P.S. Be prepared. All those summer foods flying around in my brain will be showing up here over the next few months. 

Sloppy Joes                                                                Printer friendly

(serves 8)
  • 1 lb. ground meat (beef, chicken, turkey, pork- whatever you want)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeño, minced
  • 1 red pepper, seeded and diced
  • one 15.5 oz. can small red or pinto beans, low-sodium, drained and rinsed
  • 1 1/2 c no-salt-added tomato sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. unsulfured molasses
  • 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. dry mustard
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • S&P
  • 8 whole-wheat burger buns

1) Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Dice an onion and put it in the skillet with the meat. Brown meat about 5 minutes, breaking it up into bits. While meat is browning, mince garlic and jalapeño, and dice red pepper. Drain drippings from the pan (there may not be enough to drain depending on what kind of meat you use).

2) Add garlic, jalapeño, and red pepper, cooking about 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally. If you choose to mash the beans a little bit before adding them, mash them now.

3) Stir in the rest of the ingredients (except the buns), reduce to low heat, and simmer for another 5 minutes.

4) Put 1/2 cup of the mixture on a bun and get sloppy!



They say you shouldn't eat your meals standing up, that you should sit down and enjoy it. But sometimes I like to put lunch meat on crackers and eat them standing up on my back porch. Is that so wrong?



Mexican Tacos

If I had to describe my perfect day, it would sound a lot like this...
Enjoy some delicious pancakes with raspberries for breakfast. Get all ready for a solo bike ride, but change plans last minute for a bike ride with my boyfriend (he lives an hour away, so these things take some planning). Ride bikes along the river trail in East Lansing/Lansing, enjoying the lovely sunny weather, until we get to Old Town. Stop for lunch at an authentic mexican restaurant. Sit outside and  eat 3 amazing tacos (2 ground beef, 1 marinated pork) and a refreshing mexican Coke. Ride bikes back, much slower because of all the food we ate, and run into friends! Then eat ice cream.

This is what happened this past Friday and what was going to be a pretty average day turned quickly into one of the best days ever. 
Pablo's Panaderia has quickly won itself a special place in my heart for being some of the best mexican food I've ever had. Plus the service is so unbelievably friendly, AND they have mexican Coke. If you've never had mexican Coke, you're missing out. It's made with real sugar and makes a surprising difference. It has recently become much more available. I have found it at our local one-stop shop (Meijer) and some other supermarkets.

The mexican tacos were incredible. The tortilla was SO fresh and soft. I'm normally anti-cilantro, but the simplicity of the tacos, with just meat, cilantro, and onion, was just right. The only thing I would change is the refried beans. Next time I'm ordering my own so I don't have to steal bites from Tom. He shares, but I know deep down he's thinking "MY refried beans. ALL MINE." Or maybe that's just what I would be thinking...