Friday, August 31, 2012

Chipotle Barbecue Pork Burritos

Are you ready for the rain?

We are supposed to get up to 10 inches this weekend. I keep getting emails from campus and my apartment complex warning me to stay safe and dry. And you can totally tell that it is getting ready to pour. When you walk outside, it is like walking into a sauna, like someone just poured water over the hot coals and you are breathing in the vapors.

What to do this weekend to avoid the rain? Make some pork in your crock pot and re-purpose it into multiple dishes. Like these burritos. The bbq sauce is sweet and spicy. Adjust the amount of chipotle pepper and adobo sauce to your personal taste.

Chipotle Barbecue Pork Burritos
For Pork:
1/8 cup ketchup
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp honey
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp adobo sauce + 1/2 chopped chipotle pepper
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/8 cup water
2 cups of chopped or shredded leftover pork

For Burrito Assembly:
10 inch flour tortillas
chopped green leaf lettuce
chopped avocado
chopped tomato
shredded cheese, whatever flavor you desire

Combine all of the pork ingredients, except the water and the pork, in a small sauce pan. Mix and cook over medium heat until bubbling, about 3-4 minutes. Add the pork and water and stir to coat. Bring to a boil and cook until the sauce thickens around the pork about 2-3 minutes.

Assemble the burritos, by laying pork, lettuce, avocado, tomato and cheese on a tortilla. Fold in the sides and roll up tightly.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Slow Cooker Pork Roast

I've mentioned before that I really enjoy using my crockpot to prepare meals. The major advantage is that you come home to a prepared (or almost prepared) meal. Plus, there is no need to turn on the oven so your house doesn't get extra heated (especially beneficial in the summertime).

I would definitely encourage you to invest in a slow cooker and to start trying out some recipes. I have this cookbook and I would recommend it as a good place to start; there are a lot of different options for each type of dish so you can pick out something that suits you and your loved ones. Or if you are anything like me, it allows you to grab ideas from about 25 of them and combine some things from each of them to make your own recipe.

Before you jump in, I want to share a few of my slow cooker life lessons to help prepare you.

1. Depending on the amount of time you have in a given morning, plan on prepping much of your meal the evening before. Brown meat (if using) and cut up vegetables. Place them along with everything else (unless you are putting in raw meat... add that in the morning) in the crock of your slow cooker, cover, and refrigerate overnight. Then you can just pull it out of the fridge, plop it in your cooker and turn on the heat.

2. If you are cutting onions, garlic or jalapenos in the AM, make sure to PUT YOUR CONTACTS IN FIRST. If you are like me and you plan on doing your prepping before you hop in the shower and get ready for the day, even washing your hands multiple times will most likely not remove all the sulfoxides or capsaicin and if you touch your eyeballs, THEY WILL STING. Take it from someone who knows!

3. Timing for soups and stews are pretty flexible. If you have long work days (8-12 hours), these are typically good choices to go with. Cooking with chicken or something without a lot of liquid may require more stringent timing, so follow those instructions more closely.

4. Do not take the top off of the slow cooker (unless you are adding some else as instructed). Part of the beauty of a slow cooker is that the temperature is fairly low, if you remove the top, you release the heat that has built up and it will take awhile to get back to the right temperature. This can increase your cooking time.

5. Don't forget to turn it on! It can be very frustrating if you come home expecting a hot meal but instead  have raw materials (my suggestion-- call for pizza). Or if you have to make an extra trip back home to turn it on.

6. Make enough for leftovers. Soups and stews are perfect for lunch. Or shredded pork or chicken can be re-purposed into just about anything. You might as well fill up the crock while you're going through the effort and you'll be set for lunches (and maybe another dinner) for the week.

Okay, those are my tips.

Happy crock-potting!

On to the recipe of the day:

This is my favorite pork roast recipe. I know I have already shared with you honey bourbon pulled pork, but this recipe is actually my go-to. It is melt-in-your-mouth, falls-apart-on-the-fork, tender-as-all-get-out pork. I usually serve the pork topped with the sauce alongside some veggies and bread. And I always follow #6 above. I make enough for leftovers. Wait until you see what I did with leftover pork this week.

I need to give credit to my parents for this recipe. I'm not sure from where my mom originally got it, but she passed it along to me. Simple and delicious!

Simple Pork Roast in the Crockpot
1-3 lb pork roast (depending on how much you want to eat)
1-2 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
1/2 onion, sliced
2 bay leaves
1 clove
1 cup of water
chicken bouillon cube
1-2 tbsp cornstarch

Preheat the broiler.

Cut small holes into the pork roast with a sharp knife. Stick the slices of garlic into the holes. Broil for 15 minutes to render off some of the fat.

In the bottom of your crock, add the onion, bay leaves, clove and water. Add the pork roast.

Cook on low for 8-12 hours (or high 4-6 hours).

Remove the pork roast and let it rest.

Pour the juices into a small saucepan, removing the bay leaves and the clove. Add the bouillon cube and cornstarch and bring to boil. Cook for about 5 minutes until the sauce as thickened.

Serve sliced pork topped with sauce.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Easy Baked Tortilla Chips

Happy Monday!

I think you should make some nachos.

Or salsa.

Or guacamole.

Enjoy any and all of them atop some fresh-from-the-oven tortilla chips.

They will wipe away all the Monday blues.

They are so easy you will not have to stress your tired brain at the end of the day.

You can add whatever flava-flave you would like. I would suggest salt and peppa. Or maybe chili powder for a little kick. Or cinnamon sugar if you desire something sweet. So adaptable depending on your mood.

Baked Tortilla Chips
4-8 corn tortillas, cut into quarters
Cooking spray
Salt, about 1-2 tsp
Additional seasonings (such as black pepper, chili powder, cumin, cinnamon sugar, etc), as desired

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Lay the tortilla quarters on the sheet without overlapping. (I can fit about 4 tortillas per sheet, but this'll change depending on the size of your sheet). Spray the tops of the tortillas with cooking spray. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and additional seasonings as desired.

Bake for 10 minutes, flipping halfway through, until the tortillas are browned. Watch carefully to make sure they do not burn.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Sandwich Week- Day Six- Veggie BLT Pita Pockets

I feel like I'm cheating time.

Since last weekend I've been watching episodes of "24" on Netflix. The concept of the show is interesting (and addicting) because, as I'm sure you know, it follows the life of Jack Bauer for 24 hours. It is strange, however, that when you are watching it on Netflix you make it through the entire episode in about 40 minutes. Hence, the cheating time. :)

These pita pockets are delicious. What really makes them is the crispy squash and jalapenos. You could serve the vegetables by themselves with some ranch dipping sauce. However, adding them to the pita pocket to dress up a BLT works well too.

Making and eating this may allow you to kick butt and save lives like Jack Bauer.*

Crispy Pita BLTs (adapted from Taste of Home June/July 2012)
1/3 cup light mayo
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup milk
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1 tsp chili powder
2 medium summer squash, cut into 1/4 in slices
2 jalapeno peppers, cut into 1/4 in slices, seeds removed
Cooking spray
4 pita pockets, halved
Romaine lettuce
Tomato slices
8 slices of bacon, cooked to your desired crispiness, halved

Preheat oven to 475 F. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.

Combine the mayo, garlic and lemon zest in a small bowl; cover and chill until ready for serving.

Place the flour, milk and panko with chili powder in three separate shallow bowls. Dredge the squash and jalapeno in the flour, followed by the milk, and lastly the panko mixture. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Spray the top of the vegetables with additional cooking spray.

Bake for 12-14 minutes, flipping the veggies halfway through, until golden brown.

Assemble the sandwiches by spreading the mayo mixture on the inside of the pitas, filling with lettuce, tomato, bacon and breaded vegetables.

Serves 4.

*No guarantees. :)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Sandwich Week- Day Five- Italian Eggplant Grilled Cheese

In college, one of the most exciting days at our dining hall was grilled cheese and tomato soup lunch day. There's something about a hot, overly buttery, thickly sliced white bread sandwich filled gooey processed American cheese. A perfect compliment for piping hot tomato soup.

I make a lot of grilled cheeses at my house (no, I do not have any children). American cheese to go along with tomato soup. Pimento cheese BLTs. Roasted beets with pepper jack. And so many more. It's just something about that hot cheese goo-ing out during each bite. You can probably make just about anything into a grilled cheese.

Like earlier this week when I made this Italian Eggplant Grilled Cheese: eggplant, spinach, tomato and mozzarella cheese. Please forgive (or enjoy, depending on your taste) this eggplant kick I've been on lately. I can't help it when a beautiful eggplant is only a dollar at the farmer's market! If you wanted to adapt this sandwich for your meat-loving, eggplant-hating friends, just substitute in some Italian meat like prosciutto or pancetta or salami. Or I certainly won't judge you if you go for both eggplant and Italian meat ;)

Italian Eggplant Grilled Cheese
2 pieces of sandwich bread (I used whole wheat)
3 slices of eggplant about 1/4 in thickness
3-4 thin slices of tomato
small handful of fresh spinach leaves
fresh mozzarella cheese slice

Preheat a George Forman grill or grill pan.

Grill the eggplant slices until cooked, about 3-4 minutes (flip over halfway if using a grill pan).

Assemble the sandwich by arranging the cheese on one of the pieces of bread, layering with spinach, tomato and the grilled eggplant. Top with the other piece of bread. Grill the sandwich until the cheese is melted, approximately 3-4 minutes (flipping over halfway if using a grill pan).

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Sandwich Week- Day Four- Funfetti Sandwich Cookies

I'm a little sad... :(

My closest friends in IL are moving away (actually one of them has already left). It is exciting for them because the husband is graduating and they are moving back to the east coast and closer to family. They are starting new jobs and moving on to bigger (and better?) things. Of course, those of us still in the cornfield are a little sad. Selfishly, sad.

But, mostly I'm happy for them.

To celebrate one of Mary's last nights in IL, we went to dinner at a restaurant she really likes. Then we came back to my place for dessert. I enlisted Vince's help in picking out something for Mary and he said she really likes funfetti. Since I had these funfetti sandwich cookies on my "to-bake" list since they popped up around the 4th of July on one of my fav blogs, I figured they would be perfect. Mary's favorite color is purple so I went with that for the buttercream icing filling. You can dress these up for any holiday using appropriate sprinkles and frosting color. The cookie itself is crispy and sweet.

And these fit perfectly into this week's theme of sandwiches--- little decadent dessert sammys. :) Ideal for lifting your spirits and celebrating a friendship that has been too short.

Funfetti Sandwich Cookies (adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod)
For cookies:
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
5/8 cup sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 egg white
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 cup cornstarch
3/8 tsp baking soda
dash of salt
1/4 cup multi-colored sprinkles

For frosting:
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2-2 cups powdered sugar
dash of salt
1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp milk
food coloring (I used purple)

Preheat oven to 37 F.

Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Cream together butter and sugar using a hand or stand mixer for about 2 minutes until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and egg white and beat until combined.

Mix the flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl. Slowly add the flour to the butter and mix on a low speed until everything is combine. Stir in the sprinkles using a spoon.

Form the dough into 1 tsp balls and place on the baking sheets.

Bake for 8-10 minutes until the cookies are golden brown around the edges. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.

To make the frosting, beat the butter at medium speed with a hand or stand mixer until smooth. Add the powdered sugar, about 1/2 cup at a time, beating on a low speed. Add the salt, vanilla and milk and beat on a high speed for 3 minutes. Check the consistency of the frosting and add more powdered sugar or milk to get it right. Mix in the food coloring to get your desired color.

Pipe or spread frosting on the bottom on one cookie and top with another cookie to form sandwiches. Store in an airtight container.

Makes approximately 15 sandwich cookies.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Sandwich Week- Day Three- Blackened Tilapia Tacos

Question: Do tacos count as sandwiches?

Answer: Yes.

If you look up synonyms of "taco" on then you will get "sandwich". Granted you also see boiled egg, leftovers, pasta, and tomato soup, but we'll skip those options (where do those even come from?). For today's purposes, tacos are just sandwiches south of the border, agreed?

If you are going to make tacos for your sandwich night, it is a requirement to serve them alongside an ice-cold Mexican beer. Required, you hear me? Unless of course you are expecting a little baby in the next 9 months or are under 21 or are a recovering alcoholic, then I do not suggest the consumption of alcoholic beverages. For the rest of you...

Blackened Tilapia Tacos (adapted from Cooking Light March 2011)
1/8 cup Greek yogurt (or sour cream)
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley (or cilantro, if that is your thang)
juice from 1/2 lime
1/2 banana pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup thinly sliced white onion
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp garlic powder
dash of salt
dash of ground cumin
dash of crushed red pepper flakes
2 6-oz tilapia fillets, thawed if from frozen
1/2 tbsp canola oil
6 corn tortillas
avocado slices and lime wedges, for serving

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the Greek yogurt, parsley, lime juice and banana pepper until smooth. Mix the sauce with the onion.

Combine the paprika, brown sugar, oregano, garlic, salt, cumin and CRP in a small bowl. Sprinkle over both sides of the tilapia, rubbing in with your fingers to coat.

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Once hot, add the tilapia, cooking on each side for about 3 minutes, until cooked through.

Heat the tortillas as directed on the package.

Serve the tortillas, topped with the fish, sauce, and avocado slices. Garnish with lime wedges.

Serves 2-3.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Sandwich Week- Day Two- Roast Beef Horseradish Sandwich

According to Rachael Ray, this is "the absolute best roast beef sandwich".

Although, I suppose I changed it up a little bit, so maybe it isn't the "absolute best" anymore. But in my professional opinion, it is pretty darn good. The horseradish sauce really makes this sammy. The horseradish plus the roast beef topped with a little bit of spinach makes it quite delicious. I think you could add some sharp cheddar cheese to round out the flavors completely; although, it certainly doesn't need it.

If you have some leftover steak, you could slice it really thin and sub it for the roast beef. You'll just be thanking me (and Rachael) for the sauce!

Oh, and as a tip, chop your fresh chives (hopefully from your little indoor herb garden that is somehow flourishing this year) using kitchen shears. A little bit of time-saver, plus you can cut them right into your bowl and avoid having to scrape them off a wet cutting board. :)

Roast Beef Horseradish Sandwich (adapted from Everyday with Rachael Ray, December 2010)
For Horseradish Sauce (makes enough for 3-4 sandwiches):
1/2 cup low-fat sour cream (or Greek yogurt)
1 tbsp prepared horseradish
2 tbsp unsweetened all-natural applesauce
2 tbsp panko breadcrumbs (or regular breadcrumbs)
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh chives
salt and pepper, to taste

For Assembly (per sandwich):
1 wheat ciabatta roll, cut in half (or other desired crusty bread)
4 slices of thinly sliced deli roast beef
1 tbsp minced onion
1 tbsp chopped parsley
Handful of spinach leaves

Combine all the horseradish sauce ingredients. Keep in fridge until ready to use.

Heat the roll in a toaster oven (or regular oven) at 350 F for about 3-4 minutes until warmed and slightly browned. 

Assemble the sandwich by first spreading a liberal amount of the sauce on half of the roll. Arrange the roast beef, onion, parsley and spinach on the roll. Top with the other half of bread.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Sandwich Week- Day One- Roasted Beet Grilled Cheese

Okay, I'm doing it. I'm doing a theme week on this here blog.

Sandwiches, sammies, clubs, grinders, heroes, hoagies, layered stuff between two pieces of something. Whatever you call them, everyone enjoys a sandwich. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, or dessert. Any meal can include a sandwich.

I like them because they are quick and easy. Plus they're an excuse to eat with your hands (I've never been a fancy lady). :) I don't think I enjoy them as much as the "Sandwich King", winner of the Next Food Network Star 2011, but I share his belief that they can be a meal any time of day.

So join me this week as I venture into the world of sandwiches!

To start out day 1, I'm bringing you a roasted beet grilled cheese. Remember when I told you that I have recently fallen in love with beets? Well, if you are going to turn on the oven to roast some beets, you might as well do a couple extra. They are perfect diced up into a salad or to step up a grilled cheese sandwich. This was delicious! I used some pepper jack cheese that I had in the fridge, but I would totally suggest mozzarella or gouda or havarti, all of which would be creamy and perfect.

This is a grown-up grilled cheese. Try it out!

Roasted Beet Grilled Cheese
1 medium beet, roasted and cut into 1/4 in slices
1 oz pepper jack cheese (or desired cheese)
1 whole wheat ciabatta roll
1 tbsp butter

Slice off the top and bottom of the ciabatta roll so you have a flat surface (eat the thin slices you take off or save to make croutons or breadcrumbs). Cut the roll in half. Spread 1/2 tbsp of butter on the outsides of both pieces of bread.

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add one piece of bread, butter-side down to the pan. Layer on your cheese and beets. Top with the other piece of bread, butter-side up. Cook until the bottom of the bread is browned and the cheese is starting to melt, approximately 2-3 minutes. Flip over and brown the other side, approximately 2-3 minutes again.

Remove from the heat, cut, and demolish. (or at least that's what I did). 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Chicken Caesar Salad

Have you been to Ruby Tuesday? If you have, it is most likely that you have eaten their salad bar (since it comes with just about every meal these days). Do you like their croutons? I do! They are the only place where I've eaten pumpernickel croutons. But besides the unique flavor, I think what makes them superior croutons is that they are crunchy on the outside, but soft on the inside. Way different than the "modern" croutons you by at a grocery store or get on salads from other restaurants (not that's I'm knocking those, those are good too).

The croutons that follow in this recipe are exactly that--- crunchy on the outside but chewy in the middle. Perfect as a compliment to the crunchy romaine lettuce and completely capable of soaking up the delicious Caesar dressing. I used a whole wheat baguette for mine, but feel free to use any type of bread. I think next time I'll try pumpernickel in order to recreate the goodness at Ruby Tuesday. :)

This dressing is just perfect. It really tastes exactly like what you would get if you ordered a Caesar salad at a restaurant. I guess I shouldn't be surprised since Cooking Illustrated is the best place to turn to for authentic recipes. If you have no desire to learn that anchovies, egg yolks and tons of garlic and parmesan cheese are what makes Caesar salads so delicious, do not read on...

...oops, I already ruined it for you, you might as well make the recipe.

Chicken Caesar Salad (adapted from Cook's Illustrated February 2011)
For croutons:
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove
1/2 loaf whole wheat baguette
1/8 cup water
1 tbsp grated parmesan cheese

For dressing:
1 garlic clove
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
3 anchovy fillets, patted dry with paper towels and mashed with a fork
1 large egg yolk
3 tbsp canola oil
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
freshly ground pepper, to taste

For assembly:
4-5 cups of romaine lettuce
1 large chicken breast, grilled, cut into bite sized pieces
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

For croutons: Grate the garlic clove into a small bowl and combine it with 1/2 tbsp oil. Place the bread cubes in a bowl and sprinkle with water and salt. Toss, squeezing gently with your hands so the bread absorbs the water. Heat 1 1/2 tbsp of oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Add the bread cubes and cook, stirring frequently, until browned and crispy about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the garlic/oil mixture and cheese. Mix until evenly distributed.

For the dressing: Grate the garlic clove into a large bowl and add the juice from the lemon. Let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes. Whisk the Worcestershire sauce, anchovies and egg yolk into the garlic/lemon mixture. While whisking constantly, drizzle in the oils in a slow and steady stream. Whisk until it is fully emulsified. Add the parmesan and pepper, to taste, and whisk to incorporate.

When ready to serve, add the romaine to the dressing and toss to coat. Add the croutons, chicken pieces and mix gently to distribute. Serve immediately, topping with additional parmesan cheese.

**Note: This recipe serves 2 as a main course. The dressing/croutons would serve 4-6 as a side salad. If you are not planning on eating everything in one sitting, only mix the dressing with the lettuce and croutons you are going to use, otherwise it will get soggy.

**Precaution: Eat raw eggs with caution. You may substitute 1/8 cup egg beaters for the egg yolk if you are worried. As there is a raw egg yolk in the recipe, I would not suggest keeping the dressing for longer than 2-3 days (in the fridge, of course).

Friday, August 17, 2012

Peach Pancakes

Pancakes, Farmer's Market Style.

You know what it takes to make pancakes, farmer's market style? 

A very, very small amount of effort. 

Pick up some fruit (peaches, as below, or blueberries or strawberries or raspberries or apples or cherries or etc.) from your farmer's market, get out your normal pancake supplies and get to cooking!

So ridiculously simple that you should probably do it tomorrow morning.





I totally love the Better Homes and Garden cookbook (I actually have TWO of them!) and I always turn to it for simple and reliable recipes. That's from where I pulled this base pancake recipe. I love it because it is so adaptable. Like for the incorporation of fruit (point and case below) or substitution with whole wheat flour. If I don't have buttermilk in the house, I simply mix up the sour milk described below. It works great. You need the sour milk or buttermilk in order to generate fluffy pancakes (it's chemistry!! an acid-base reaction that allow air to be incorporated into the batter).

Peach Pancakes (adapted from Better Homes and Garden Cookbook)
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
dash of salt
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 1/2 cups milk + 1 1/2 tbsp white vinegar (or 1 1/2 cups of buttermilk)
2 tbsp canola oil
1 1/2 peaches, chopped finely
1-2 tbsp of butter, sliced into very small pats
1/2 peach, sliced, for garnish
Butter, syrup and/or powdered sugar, for serving

Combine the milk and vinegar in a measuring cup and let stand at room temperature for 5 minutes. **This is an easy way to make homemade buttermilk, in case you don't want to make another trip to the store.**

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl.

Add the egg to milk mixture and stir with a fork. Add all of the wet mixture to the flour. Stir until just moistened. Add the chopped peaches and stir to combine.

Heat a griddle or heavy skillet over medium heat. Add one pat of butter and move the pan until the melted butter spreads over it. Using a ladle, add about 1/4 cup batter onto the skillet. Cook over medium for 1-2 minutes on each side until golden brown turning halfway through when the pancake has a bubbly surface. Repeat, adding butter pats between pancakes, cooking however many fit in your pan, until all the batter is used up. Keep warm in a low oven until ready to serve.

Garnish with extra peach slices, butter, syrup, and powdered sugar as desired.

Makes approximately 12 pancakes.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Cabbage Salad

"On the other side of a street I knew
Stood a girl that looks like you
I guess that's deja vu
But I thought this can't be true
Cause you moved to west L.A. or New York or Santa Fe
Or wherever to get away from me
Oh but that one night
Was more than just right
I didn't leave you 'cause I was all through
Oh I was overwhelmed and frankly scared as hell
Because I really fell for you
Oh I swear to you
I'll be there for you
This is not a drive by (y y y y)"

Train (Drive By)

Last night I went to the Train concert at the Illinois State Fair with one of my most wonderful cousins, Mallory. Here we are with them in the background:

We had a blast! 

And I love Train. :) 

Can you really believe that it has been over 10 years since "Drops of Jupiter" came out? Reminds me of the high school days. I didn't realize "Drive By" was Train when I first heard it on the radio because it was super upbeat and even more pop-y. But I love it. When I found out they were coming to the fair, I knew I had to go. And it did not disappoint. 

Last night I ate some amazing Cuban nachos and drank a few beers at the fair. You know all that healthy, good-for-you fair food. 

In honor of the healthy food I ate last night, I'm bringing you a....

....SALAD. :)

This cabbage salad is great. My mom makes it every time my sister and I go home. Although, growing up it was never my favorite (it was always my sister's fav), I have learned to love it; so much so, that I've started making it myself. I have no idea where my mom originally got the recipe, so I can't share a source with you. But, you should make it anyway. It would be great for a picnic or as an alternative to a green salad as a side for dinner any night of the week. I would suggest keeping the cabbage, nuts, and dressing separate and mixing it up fresh right before you serve it.

Cabbage Salad (from my mommy's kitchen to yours)
Grated cabbage (1/2-1 head)
1/2 stick unsalted butter (or margarine)
1 package of Ramen noodles, broken into pieces (discard flavoring packet)
1/2 cup slivered or chopped almonds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/8 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup canola oil
1/8 cup apple cider vinegar
1/8 cup sugar
1 tbsp low sodium soy sauce

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the Ramen, almonds, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds and saute for approximately 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently until toasted and golden.

Heat the oil, vinegar, sugar and soy sauce in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar, for approximately 10 minutes.

Cool the dressing and nuts (store both separately in the fridge). Pour over grated cabbage, mix and serve.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Zucchini Pasta

Imagine this--

You're sitting on your couch on a Sunday evening (after drinking way too much coffee), watching some Breakout Kings (very good show, I would recommend finding it on Netflix), relaxing and preparing for the start of a new week. All of a sudden you hear a loud crash to your left. You look over wondering what in the heck just happened. You sprint to your laundry room thinking that something fell or broke. But no, nothing is out of place. Next you look around your kitchen trying to find the source of the noise. You open up your pantry and the top two shelves have collapsed.

The next couple hours include trying to unload all of the food from the pantry while trying to hold up the shelves and not cause any of the bottom four shelves to break as well, making a trip to Lowe's to find replacement hangers for the wooden shelves (and not finding exact replacements but instead splurging for metal instead of plastic ones in hopes of making them more sturdy), trying to get the shelves to go back in because the metal brackets stick out from the holes more than the plastic ones, and finally putting all of your food back on the shelves.

What a night! I mean, aren't shelves in pantries supposed to support a half dozen types of flour, multiple kinds of pasta and every type of canned bean? Plus you need your tomato soup and chicken 'n stars in case you get sick. And all your cooking oils and vinegars and seasonings and everything. Cheap-o apartment building.

I think I'll put in metal shelves that are soldered to the sides of the pantry when I have my own house.

So if you ever get mad at the inanimate objects in your house when they fail to do their job, make this nice and summer-y "pasta". It'll help you calm down and remember that even though you may have spent the evening yelling at your apartment, you are lucky to have a place to store lots of food and the money to buy that food.

You know, it'll put things in perspective.

Zucchini Pasta (adapted from
1 medium zucchini, sliced lengthwise into 1/8 in slices
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 lb ground turkey
1 large tomato, chopped
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp dried thyme
3 basil leaves, chopped
1/4 tsp sugar
salt and pepper, to taste
parmesan cheese, for garnish.

Heat 1/2 tbsp oil over medium heat in a saucepan. Add the turkey and cook until browned, approximately 6-7 minutes. Add 1 clove of garlic, onion, tomato, bay leaf, basil and sugar. Cook, uncovered until moisture has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove the bay leaf.

In a skillet, heat the other 1/2 tbsp oil and garlic clove over medium heat. Add the zucchini strips and cook, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes until the zucchini is tender and golden.

Serve the zucchini hot topped with the turkey mixture. Garnish with freshly grated parmesan cheese, if desired.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Eggplant Manicotti

I love coffee. Coffee. Coffee. Coffee.

I may be on my second large cup of the day. I brewed it to sit out on my porch to do some reading and enjoy the beautiful cooler weather outside. It was glorious.

Grad school turned me into a coffee addict. I admit it. I'm addicted. I'm okay with drinking a cup everyday for the rest of my life. Don't judge me, okay?

Sometimes my coffee drinking goes a little overboard. Sometimes the caffeine affects me in funny ways. Like this one time when I was proctoring an organic chemistry exam and my boss had brought in coffee for the students. Most students didn't come down to the front to get it and as a results, my boss and I drank almost an entire jug of Dunkin' Donuts ourselves. Needless to say, back in lab later that afternoon, I had waaayyy too much energy. And when I have way too much energy, I can be kinda funny. Or at least people laugh at me. ;)

Coffee has nothing to do with this recipe. But I figured I'd tell you anyway.

This eggplant "manicotti" is great. The eggplant replaces pasta as the shell. If you want to cut time on making this dish, just pick up a jar of marinara from the store. But the homemade version below is very good. You can make it ahead of time, if you'd like.

Now please excuse me while I go make coffee #3.

Eggplant Manicotti (adapted from Now Eat This! Cookbook)
1 large eggplant, cut into 1/6 in thick slices lengthwise
salt and pepper
cooking spray
1 cup of ricotta cheese (fat-free or low fat, preferred)
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil and oregano
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups marinara sauce (your favorite jarred or from recipe below)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 450 F.

Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the eggplant slices on the baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper and spray lightly with cooking spray. Roast eggplant until almost tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool until you can handle it.

Combine the ricotta, 1/4 cup parmesan, basil and oregano in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

Spread 3/4 cup of marinara sauce in the bottom of a 8x10 baking dish.

Spoon 1/8 of the ricotta mixture on to each eggplant and roll up to encase the filling. Place the eggplant, seam side down, in the baking dish. Cover the eggplant with the remaining marinara. Sprinkle with the mozzarella and remaining parmesan cheese.

Bake until heated through, approximately 20 minutes.

Serves 4.

Easy Low-fat Marinara (adapted from Now Eat This! Cookbook)
1/4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup diced yellow onion
1 tsp crushed red pepper
28 oz can tomato puree
1/4 cup water
small piece of parmesan cheese rind
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, onion, salt and crushed red pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion and garlic are translucent, approximately 5 minutes.

Add the tomato puree, water and cheese rind. Bring to a simmer, cover, reduce heat to low and cook for 25 minutes.

Chop the basil and oregano and stir into the sauce. Simmer, uncovered for 10 minutes. Season with salt and crushed red pepper to taste.

Makes approximately 3 cups.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Beet and Brown Rice Sliders

Give me a second to explain before you automatically hit the little x in the corner of your screen. I know, I know, beets. You have this strong aversion to beets. But why? Have you actually ever had beets before or is your dislike due to stigma? Have you eaten beets that didn't come out of a can?

To tell you the truth, I had never tasted beets before 2012. When I moved, I told myself that I was going to expand my vegetable repertoire. A few on my list included beets, brussel sprouts, and various greens. The first time I made beets, I simply roasted them in the oven (375 F for 30-60 minutes depending on the size) until they were soft. I ate them as a side for some meal, because I was a little wary; however, I loved them! They have this sweet and earthy (aka tastes like the air smells after it rains) taste that is delicious. Ever since then, I've been trying to incorporate this gorgeous purple roots into main dishes. I have a few successes to share with you.

Let's start today with these beet and brown rice patties. I found this in the July 2012 Cooking Light Magazine in my parents house. I heavily adapted the recipe but followed the general idea. They were great. And the extras even heated up well. I roasted the beets the day before, peeled them when they cooled and then grated them after they spent the night in the fridge. I would definitely suggest that.

Come on. Give beets a chance! They may surprise you.

Beet and Brown Rice Sliders (heavily adapted from Cooking Light July 2012)
1/2 cup cooked, shredded beet (about 1 medium)
1/2 cup cooked, cooled brown rice
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 tbsp dried parsley
1 tbsp finely chopped onion
dash each of salt and pepper
1 egg white
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
cooking spray
12 slices of whole wheat baguette
3 tbsp blue cheese crumbles (or other cheese of choice)

Preheat oven to 450 F. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and allow it to warm in the oven.

Combine the beets, rice, panko, parsley, onion and salt and pepper in a bowl. Mix the egg white and mustard and then add to the bowl. Stir until well mixed. Form the mixture into 6 evenly sized small patties (be careful to press together, it may crumble slightly).

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the patties and cook for approximately 2 minutes. Remove the patties, flipping to place the top side down on the preheated baking sheet.

Place the baguette slices on the baking pan with the patties and bake for approximately 10 minutes. Remove the sheet and place one patty on 6 of the baguette slices. Top with 1/2 tbsp of blue cheese crumbles. Bake for an additional 2 minutes until the blue cheese is hot.

Top each sandwich with another slice of the baguette and enjoy.

Makes 2-3 servings.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Black Bean and Mango Curry

There is a certain day that I always dread. If you are a girl or live with a girl, I'm sure you know what I'm talking about.

The morning you are standing in the shower and you realize that the water is not draining out as rapidly as normal. The morning you realize that it is once again time to clean the hair out of your shower drain. 


Seriously one of my least favorite days ever. 

It happens maybe 2-4 times a year for me. I have to get down on my hands and knees, unscrew the shower plug and use a bent paper clip to remove the wet clumps of hair. I always follow it with a little bit of drain-o with hopes of extending the time between this unfortunate event.

My sister once told me that she knew she was going to marry her husband when he volunteered to clean out the shower drain in the house she shared with two other girls. I think he used one of those fancy sewer snake thingys, which I'm sure is a better fix than my paper clip contraption. I look forward to the one day when I can pass this unfortunate duty onto my husband (provided he wants to take over the job). I promise that I'll make him yummy food when he is done (and all 361 other days of the year as well).

I'll probably make him this delicious mango and black bean curry. The curry is spicy and the mango brings some sweet to the table. It is very refreshing.

Perfect for the day after cleaning out the drain.

Black Bean and Mango Curry (adapted from Get Cooking)
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon butter
1/2 medium red onion, diced
1/2 heaping tablespoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced
1 mango, chopped
1/2 cup water

brown or white rice, prepared as directed, for serving
diced scallions, for garnish

Melt butter and oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onion, bell pepper, curry powder and salt and cook while stirring about 5 minutes, until the onion begins to soften.

Add the beans and stir to coat completely with onions and seasoning. Cook on medium-low for about 5 minutes. Add the mango and water, bring to a boil, cover and cook for 5-10 minutes.

Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes.

Serve over cooked rice, garnished with scallions.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Indian Eggplant Casserole

Today is one of those days that I am longing for bangs. Could be those bangs from elementary school that started in the middle of my head. Or the ones I curled so perfectly every morning during 8th grade as I was growing out the layers. Today, I am regretting my lack of bangs.


I was so inspired by Michael Phelps and his 22 Olympic medals (holy-moley, what an accomplishment!) that after I soaked up some sun at the pool yesterday, I decided to try a few laps. Now, you should know that I quit swimming before I learned how to dive, I can tread water but I really have no skill for any of the traditional strokes, and I have a fear of opening my eyes under water. Which is why I ended up banging my forehead on the lip of the pool yesterday. Now it hurts and I'm supporting a very attractive bump (hence, the sudden desire for bangs). Actually, the bump isn't super noticeable, but it is a little red and swollen and kinda looks like rug burn (or maybe sunburn from afar). Fail, Julie, Fail.

           I suppose there will be no gold medal for me in Brazil 2016. :(

What wasn't a fail was my second attempt at Indian cuisine this weekend. I came across this stuffed eggplant recipe a few weeks ago. I picked up an eggplant from the Farmer's market with the recipe in mind. Of course, the recipe calls for smaller Asian eggplants instead of the large purple one I got. Also, it called for ground bison; I have no idea where I would get bison and how much money it would cost me, so I opted for ground turkey instead. I decided to be inspired by flavors the stuffed eggplants and create a "lasagna" of sorts. The eggplant separates layers of the Indian spiced ground turkey, mushrooms and rice. It really turned out great.

Once again, you'll have to ransack your spice cabinet to get all the correct flavors. But it is worth the long ingredient list. You can certainly remove the mushrooms if you are adverse to them or replace the ground turkey with tons more mushrooms if you are going for a vegetarian meal. I made the dish for me, myself and I, but have included how I would adapt it for four servings at the end of the recipe.

Indian Eggplant Casserole (inspired by Eating Well)
4 1/4 inch slices of eggplant (about 1/4 large eggplant)
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 lb ground turkey
1/2 cup long brown rice, cooked
2 button mushrooms, chopped
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tbsp minced fresh ginger
1/2 tbsp paprika
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tbsp tomato paste
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 tbsp breadcrumbs
Cooking spray
Greek yogurt or sour cream, for serving

Preheat the oven to 450 F.

Arrange the eggplant slices a baking sheet and brush with 1/2 tbsp olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Bake for approximately 15 minutes, flipping halfway through, until the eggplant is roasted thoroughly.

Heat 1/2 tbsp olive oil over medium heat in a medium skillet. Add the onion, garlic and ginger. Cook for 5 minutes until softened and fragrant. Add the ground turkey, paprika, cumin, coriander, turmeric, garam masala and crushed red pepper. Cook until the turkey is cooked through and no longer pink. Add the rice,  mushrooms, and tomato paste and cook for approximately 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Lightly spray a mini-loaf pan with cooking spray. Layer 1 eggplant slice on the bottom followed by 1/4 of the turkey mixture. Follow with another eggplant slice, followed by 1/4 turkey mixture again. Repeat until all is added. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until pipping hot.

Serve with a dollop of Greek yogurt or sour cream.

Serves 1.

**To make four servings, multiple everything by four and layer eggplant and turkey in an 8x8 baking dish.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Sausage and Tortellini Stew (Crockpot)

Y'all know that I love food, right? I mean, you can't be reading this blog and come to any other conclusion, right? But what you might not know is that I love some people almost as much as food. I have a number of really great friends from different stages in my life. People, who I may live halfway across the country from, who are my best friends. We can pick up exactly where we left off and be totally real with each other and have an enjoyable time together.

I was lucky this week to have a visit from one of my dearest friends from college-- Jenny. Her family lives outside of Chicago and she is home visiting for a couple of weeks, so she popped down for an evening of catching up. I was very tempted to skip out of work the next day, just to spend more time with her.

Let me tell you a few things about Jenny. Actually, I sometimes call her Ney because in college I learned that she doesn't like that Forrest Gump calls his Jenny, Jen-ney. So, of course as the wonderful and kind friend I am, I started calling her Je-ney-ney, that got shortened to Ney eventually. Anyway, Jenny is a high school math teacher in NC (she moved there after college when I did!!) and her love and compassion for her students is quite amazing. I admire that she has the patience and strength to deal with teenagers on a daily basis.

We've been friends since we were freshman in college. Since then, there have been way too many wonderful memories to tell you even a small fraction here. However, I think the time that brought Jenny and me the closest was during our month long trip to South Africa.

We stayed crammed in little bedrooms together:

We got to interact with some many wonderful kids together:

We braved the cold, cold, cold nights (who knew it got so cold in Africa?!?) together:

And we strengthened our friendship daily:

I know that she will always be one of my besties. :)

Jenny's trip was too short but luckily I got to cook for her. I chose a crockpot recipe because I didn't want to spend our already limited time in the kitchen. The sausage and tortellini are great and the cabbage and tomatoes really fill it out. It makes gobs (Jenny, you should have eaten more!) and I've been eating leftovers for days. You could easily cut it in half if you wanted to feed only 2 people (and still have a some leftover).

Sausage and Tortellini Stew (adapted from Better Homes and Garden)
1 cup of chopped onion
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp molasses
1 cup beef broth
2 tbsp corn starch
2 14.5 oz cans Italian style diced tomatoes
3 cups water
2 cups frozen green beans
8 oz fully cooked turkey sausage, cut into 1/2-in slices
2 cups shredded cabbage
9 oz package of refrigerated whole wheat three cheese tortellini
Freshly grated parmesan cheese, for serving

Combine the onion, olive oil and molasses in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook for approximately 6-7 minutes until the onions soften. Dissolve the corn starch in the beef broth and add to the pan. Bring to a boil while stirring until it thickens.

Add the contents of the saucepan to your slow cooker. Add the tomatoes, water, green beans and sausage and stir. Cook on low for 8-10 hours (or high for 4-5 hours).

Turn the slow cooker to high and stir in the cabbage and tortellini. Cover and cook for an additional 15 minutes.

Garnish the soup with parmesan cheese.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Jalapeno Caramel Sauce

My apologies on the tardiness of this post.

I actually made this recipe back during the disaster night in my kitchen. Remember then? Remember the candy thermometer? I was just keeping you in suspense, on the edge of your seats, coming back to my blog every day (I'm pretending that you have been in suspense since June when you first saw that I used the candy thermometer; please don't burst my bubble by saying you don't remember).

Anyway, I had been wanting to try my hand at homemade ice cream toppings and Father's day gave me an excuse. I was heading home to see my dad the weekend after the holiday and I wanted to make him something special. He enjoys ice cream, so I figured this would be perfect. He also likes spicy things so I thought it would be fun to add a little extra flavor to the caramel by infusing the heavy cream with jalapeno before making the sauce. It really added something to the caramel (in my opinion, and agreed upon by my dad and sister. My mom didn't love it, but then again she isn't a big jalapeno fan). The caramel isn't overly spicy but you definitely get an aftertaste in the back of your throat of a jalapeno kick. I think it compliments some vanilla bean ice cream perfectly.

You can certainly skip the infusing the milk stage (or try infusing the milk with something). The caramel making isn't too difficult although you certainly need a candy thermometer to make it. Temperature is key in making candies.

Jalapeno Caramel Sauce (Caramel recipe and instructions from Brown Eyed Baker, addition of jalapeno Julie's own concoction)
1 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp diced jalapeno pepper (about 1/2 of a pepper)
2 cup granulated sugar
12 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
1/2 tbsp kosher salt

Warm the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once it has nearly reached a simmer, add the jalapeno and stir. Cover and let steep for at least 2 hours (the longer you let it go, the more the jalapeno flavor will infuse in the cream). After steeping, place a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and pour the cream into it. Using a wooden spoon, squeeze all of the cream from the peppers.

Allow cream to cool to room temperature.

Add the sugar in an even layer over the bottom of a heavy saucepan. Heat over medium-high heat, whisking as it melts. Don't worry about clumps that form, as you continue to stir everything will melt. Once all of the sugar melts, cook until it has reached a deep amber color and the temperature reaches 350 F.

Once the caramel reaches 350 F, add the butter all at once. Be prepared for it to bubble up, but continue to whisk until it is completely melted.

Remove the pan from the heat and slowly pour in your room temperature jalapeno cream. Be careful because it will bubble up a lot again. Whisk until all of the cream as been incorporated. Add the salt and whisk again.

Allow the sauce to cool for 10-15 minutes and then pour into a glass jar. Let it cool to room temperature and then store in a refrigerator.

In order to use, you will need to warm the sauce (in the microwave for 30 sec to 1 minute).