Tag Archives: veggies

Getting Better all the Time

I’m trying a new thing. It’s called Let’s Try Not to Waste So Much Time Doing Dumb, Useless Stuff.

I started a new job a couple months ago and one of the many wonderful things about it is the renewed sense of productivity I seem to have gained. When I walk out of the office at the end of the day, I don’t feel like collapsing on the couch as soon as I get home and only getting up to relocate to my bed. Considering I get up insanely early AND have a 40 minute commute, this new development is indeed headline worthy in my little corner of the world.

I’ve been running the errands that typically cut into my weekend. I’ve been cleaning. And exercising! Exercising, people! As in moving around in a healthy-like way. More than that, I’ve been taking the time to do a few things that just make me happy. Enjoying a little retail therapy at the end of the week. Browsing the library, cracking the spines on musty books and discovering new worlds. Sitting at the kitchen table carefully painting my fingernails with my favorite tunes or podcasts on in the background. Snuggling up with Eric on the couch and watching movies we both enjoy. I know that stuff doesn’t sound particularly productive, but seriously, I don’t think I’ve felt this all around awesome in a long time. I think it’s because I’m pushing myself a little harder, but rewarding myself at the same time. Balance. That’s the word.

The most surprising side effects of this new found productivity, aside from feeling like a rock star, is the way I’ve unplugged. Instead of picking up the remote, I’m picking up a book. Instead of the two us in different rooms on different laptops, we talk and laugh and spend time together. Instead facebooking and tweeting and email checking, I’m leaving my computer closed. For hours at a time. This is unheard of!

Unfortunately, unplugging is not so good for blogging. It’s the one area I haven’t quite figured out how to work into this new balance. I get distracted by all the things I’ve spent hours not looking at when I’m trying to post and while I’m off doing other things my Google Reader is exploding. My twitter handle is silent. I’m not commenting enough. I’m not pinning enough. I’m not engaging in the blogging community I love so much which is, by nature, ummm…plugged. Yes. This has put a slight damper on my productivity excitement.

So how do you guys do it? How do you balance your blog and everything that comes along with it? Tell me about how blogging fits into your busy life because I desperately need the advice of experts! That’s YOU! I’ve been doing this for almost four years and I still do it wrong most of the time 😉 So give me your secrets. Just don’t say give up watching Parenthood. I mean, I can let Pan Am and possibly The Office go, but I gotta draw the line somewhere. 😉

While you mull that over, let’s eat! Here’s a simple pasta dish fitting for any productive person who needs to get that silly dinner thing out of the way so she can move on to more important things – like painting her nails. 😉

I’m a big fan of sauce-less pasta. If the pasta has enough flavor, it really doesn’t need a thick, goopy sauce masking all the deliciousness. Here we have quite a few textures and flavor profiles combing into something truly outstanding. The broccoli lends a fresh, earthy flavor. The jarred roasted red peppers, a bright, briney tang. Spicy sausage brings meatiness and sustenance and Romano cheese, a salty, nutty bite. Tossed together with chewy orecchiette pasta, it is so completely satisfying. So satisfying, I must say, that I made the entire recipe and ate it for lunch and dinner in one day not once but TWICE before it was all gone. That’s good eating people. And so simple and quick. Add a loaded green salad to up your veggie intake and put this entire meal on the table in 30.

On to more productive things!

ORECCHIETTE WITH BROCCOLI, SAUSAGE AND ROASTED PEPPERS (Recipe adapted from: America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook)


  • 4 ounces hot Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 cup jarred roasted red peppers, rinsed and chopped (about one 12-oz jar)
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 bunch of broccoli (about 1 1/2 pounds), cut into 1 inch florets
  • Salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 pound orecchiette pasta
  • 2 ounces Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (about 1 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Fresh basil, for garnish (optional)


  1. Bring 4 quarts of water to boil in a large pot for the pasta.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the sausage in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, breaking it up as it cooks, until browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in the peppers and garlic and cook until just fragrant, about 15 seconds.
  3. Stir in the broccoli, 1/2 teaspoon salt and water. Cover the skillet, increase the heat to high and cook until the broccoli begins to turn bright green, about 2 minutes. Uncover the skillet and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid has evaporated and the broccoli is tender, about 5 minutes.
  4. When the water is boiling, stir in 1 tablespoon of salt and the orecchiette. Cook, stirring often, until the pasta is almost tender but still a little firm.
  5. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Site in the sausage mixture, cheese and oil, tossing to coat. Add the reserved pasta water as needed to loosen before serving. Serve with chopped fresh basil and additional cheese, if desired. Serves 4 to 6.




Filed under pasta, sausage, veggies

Love it or hate it.

Here’s the thing. My husband did not like this meal. At all.

He did not like it in his bowl, he will not touch it with a pole. He didn’t come right out and say he didn’t like it, but I could tell. I dig.

He was quiet. Ate slowly. Pushing food around with his spoon hoping it would magically disappear. He took giant sips of his drink after every bite. Eventually he told me to stop looking at him. It got awkward real quick. At the end of a silent 15 minutes, he brought picked over his bowl to the kitchen sink and apologized.

For what, I’m not sure. Hey, not everyone likes the same things. It’s cool. Different strokes for different folks, as they say. If anything *I* should have been the one apologizing. Contrary to what he might think sometimes, I don’t set out to feed him things I know he won’t like. Sure, I push the envelope every now and then, that’s just plain fun. But if I seriously think he won’t like a dish, I save it for a night he’s not around.

But, you know what? I’m not apologizing. Because I didn’t think he’d dislike this as much as he did. It was a fluke, I tell ya! There is nothing to be sorry about with this meal. I absolutely loved it. More for me.

I’m usually a purist when it comes to chili – thick, beefy and bursting with beans. A good kick of spice but not melt your face hot. And cheese! Lots of that, please and thank you.

This recipe is so different. It takes all that familiar chili heat and adds a bit of sweet to the mix with tender sweet potatoes and apples The gobs of cheese are swapped for crunchy, healthy pepitas. It’s not as thick as a traditional chili (I actually added a bit of cornstarch slurry at the end to tighten it up) but the flavorful broth of beer and a pepper puree makes the perfect vehicle for dunking a sweet cornbread muffin. It’s delightfully different.

Be brave. Try it. You’ll love it. Or you won’t. 😉

HARVEST CHIPOTLE CHILI (Recipe Source: Midwest Living)


  • 3 medium orange sweet peppers, halved and seeded
  • 2 canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground pork, ground beef or uncooked ground turkey or chicken
  • 1 large onion, chopped (1 cup)
  • 1 pound sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 15 ounce can reduced-sodium pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 14 1/2 ounce can hominy or one 15.5-ounce can butter beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 14 1/2 ounce can chunky chili-style tomatoes or stewed tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 12 ounce can beer or one 14.5-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 14 1/2 ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 medium Granny Smith or tart red apples, peeled, cored and coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Roasted, salted pepitas and chopped green onions, for serving. (optional)


  1. In a food processor, combine process sweet peppers, chipotle peppers and garlic and pulse with on/off turns until very finely chopped. Set aside.
  2. In a large Dutch oven, cook ground pork and onion over medium-high heat until meat is brown and onion is tender. Drain off fat and return to the pot. Add pepper mixture; cook and for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
  3. Stir in the sweet potato, pinto beans, drained hominy, undrained tomatoes, beer, chicken broth, apples and salt. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low. Simmer, covered, for 25 to 30 minutes or until sweet potato is tender.
  4. Top each serving with pepitas and green onions. Makes 8 servings.



Filed under pork, soup, veggies

The Last Song

This time of year always feels a bit odd. For years late August meant only one thing – school. The start of a new school year was a rejuvenating renewal, a chance to reinvent yourself. Start over. Forget about that highly embarrassing slip on the ice getting off the bus the previous winter. Things like that.

Those day are gone. Let’s be honest, they’ve been gone for a while. Now when late August rolls around I find myself clinging to summer, savoring those last few fire-hued sunsets that fade into inky blue and blue and black. But the heat of day has mellowed and there’s that unmistakable chill first thing in the morning as fall starts creeping in, slow and hushed. Part of me wants to give in to hoodies and scarves that are just around the corner, the spicy, smoldering scent of burning leaves, the piles of plump pumpkins, but the other part is sad another summer is coming to an end. I always hate to see it go. It’s usually when August starts drawing to a close that I start looking around wondering where another year went. September? That’s officially closing in on the end of the year. Blink and it’ll be Christmas. Scary.

I’m not quite ready to let go of summer just yet. All of summer’s bounty is at peak here in the Midwest. Piles of sweet corn fill the backs of old farm trucks. Tomatoes, perfect in their imperfections, scatter across tabletops and fresh herbs permeate the air with they’re savory/sweet fragrance. It’s hard to imagine another growing season coming into an end.

This Fresh Corn Soup with Roasted Corn Guacamole a light and refreshing summer soup to try before fall. I know what you’re thinking – soup in the summer? That’s crazycakes! But soup doesn’t have to be a weighty meal full of meat, pasta and cream. This one right here is the proof. The delicious, delectable proof.

The base of this soup reminded me of a chowder but there’s not a drop of cream in sight. Hooray! The pureed fresh corn adds a great creamy texture and I loved the slight heat in the background from the jalapeno. The soup is wonderful and flavorful on it’s own but the roasted corn guacamole really takes it over the top. The corn gets a bit crispy and pops in your mouth. The avocado adds that unmistakable richness. A bit of fresh brightness is a welcome addition here so I even went ahead and used the cilantro the recipe called for (I know! Shocking!) I did cut the amount way back so it wouldn’t overpower the other flavors. The final product creamy, sweet and savory with great contrasting textures – truly a perfect summer send off.

FRESH CORN SOUP WITH ROASTED CORN GUACAMOLE (Recipe Source: Simply Mexican by Lourdes Castro, as seen at Epicurious)


For the Roasted Corn Guacamole:

  • Kernels from 3 ears fresh corn, or 2 cups frozen corn, defrosted
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped red onion
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, finely chopped (I used 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 lime, finely grated zest and juice
  • 1 jalapeño, stemmed and seeded, finely chopped
  • 1 avocado, pitted and chopped

For the soup:

  • Kernels from 5 ears fresh corn, or 3 cups frozen corn, defrosted
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, stemmed and chopped
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • Cilantro sprigs, for garnish


Roast the corn for the guacamole: Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or aluminum foil.

Put the corn kernels on the baking sheet and toss with the oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and black pepper to taste. Spread the corn out evenly on the baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes, until the corn turns a deep golden brown. Remove the corn from the oven and set aside.

Prepare the soup: Put the kernels in a blender or food processor. Combine the oil and the garlic in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and jalapeño, season with salt and pepper and sauté until the vegetables are translucent, about 6 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to the blender or food processor and puree until smooth. (You may need to pulse or stir the corn mixture in order to achieve a smooth consistency, but do not add any more liquid.)

Pour the corn mixrure into the soup pot and place over medium heat. Stir constantly until the soup begins to thicken. Slowly whisk in the broth. Bring to a boil, then decrease the heat to a simmer. Cover the soup and cook for 15 minutes.

Prepare the guacamole: In a bowl, combine the roasted corn, red onion, cilantro, lime zest and juice, and jalapeño. Gently stir in the avocado. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To serve: Ladle the soup into soup bowls. Spoon guacamole into the center of each bowl. Garnish with additional cilantro, if desired. Serves 4 to 6.



Filed under soup, veggies

Summer in a Bowl

I recently told Eric I would like to see us do meatless dinners at home three days a week.

You should have seen his face fall. The look he gave me can only be described as crushed. The same look, I imagine, he would give me if I scratched my name into the pretty orange paint on his precious 1969 Chevelle SS just because I thought it needed a little something extra. A look of complete devastation.

I married a meat and potatoes man, no doubt about that. But I find that pairing kinda boring night after night. There is so much more out there. So many other ways to challenge yourself and enjoy food. Plus, I shop and I cook. So….basically, what I say goes. The kitchen is not a democracy.

Sorry. Tough love and all that stuff.

Now, I love my husband very much and what I want more than anything is for him to be happy. He would not be happy if I just yanked the meat out of our dinners and told him tough noogies, you’re eating this instead. That wouldn’t be very nice.

I haven’t given up on the idea of meatless three nights a week, but until he gets a bit more used to the idea, I’ve taken a more subtle approach to ease us into this new territory – I just make meat the garnish of the meal, not the star. I find the most flavor-packed and effective way to do this is to add a small amount of bacon. Keyword here is SMALL. Small as in no more than one slice per serving. When cooked crisp, crumbled small and scattered over or mixed into a dish, bacon adds just the right amount of a salty, satisfying bite that my husband doesn’t even realize he doesn’t have much meat on his plate. The fresh bounty of local summer favorites are the star of the meal. The meat is an afterthought.

See, win-win. We’re getting there!

Let me tell you how much I loved this pasta dish bursting with summer goodies. Zucchini, fresh corn cut from the cob, and earthy basil pesto are tossed with whole wheat pasta and topped with a smattering of bacon and just a touch of Parmesan cheese. It’s ready in minutes and feels fresh and comforting at the same time.

This dish embodies everything I love about this time of year. From the vibrant colors and flavors of pop-up roadside produce stands to the breaks in the heat that whisper autumn, this meal is like summer’s last hoorah. Make it quick. The good stuff’s about to disappear into shorter days and a shower of amber leaves.

ZUCCHINI, CORN AND BASIL PENNE WITH BACON (Recipe source: Gourmet, July 2008 via Epicurious)


  • 6 bacon slices
  • 1 pound whole wheat penne pasta
  • 3 ears corn, kernels cut from cob
  • 1 1/2 pounds zucchini, coarsely chopped (1/2-inch pieces)
  • 6 oz. basil pesto (store bought or homemade)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Parmesan cheese, for serving


  1. Cook bacon in a heavy skillet over medium heat until crisp. Drain on paper towel lined plate; discard drippings or save for another use.
  2. Meanwhile, cook penne in boiling salted water according to package directions until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta-cooking water, then add vegetables to pasta in pot and cook, partially covered, until just tender, about 2 minutes (water will stop boiling). Drain.
  3. Add pasta with vegetables, pesto, and 1/4 cup reserved cooking water and toss. Season with salt and add additional cooking water until sauce evenly coats the pasta, if necessary.
  4. Top each serving with one slice of crumbled bacon, shredded or shaved Parmesan cheese and a generous amount of freshly ground pepper. Serves 6.


One Year Ago: Grilled Corn with Tequila Lime Butter
Two Years Ago: Apple and Apricot Stuffed Pork Tenderloin
Three Years Ago: Loaded Sweet and Salty Chocolate Ice Cream


Filed under pasta, veggies

Simple Things

Coming out of the office after a long, hard day and turning on the car just in time to catch the beginning of a favorite song on the radio.

An unexpected drink special at a favorite restaurant.

Stepping into a fitting room and discovering it fits, it makes you look smokin’ hot and it’s on sale.

The perfect candid photo.

Celebrating the good news of family and friends, even the little things.

Waking up early on a Saturday morning and realizing there’s no such thing as an alarm clock that day.

Warm, gooey chocolate chip cookies and ice cold milk.

A baby’s laugh.

Finding a piece of jewelry you thought was long gone.

Beautiful weather on the day of an outdoor event.

New recipe success.

Pushing a little bit harder during a workout. Then feeling like a rock star afterward.

A book that stays with you long after you turn the last page.

Finding a favorite movie on TV on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Comfortable heels.

A plate of pasta topped with a homemade tomato sauce and just sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.

You may think that last one isn’t simple at all. Homemade tomato sauce? Doesn’t that take…like hours? Isn’t there lots of like…onion chopping and garlic mincing? Isn’t there all these herbs to deal with and stuff? Ugh. Who has time for that? That’s what those jars at the grocery store are for.

This here’s a recipe that is as simple as it gets. Not only is it simple, it’s good. Really good. I’m talking about good in The Best Sauce I’ve Ever Made kind of way. I try not be overly effusive when describing the food in my blog because, let’s face it, not every single thing can be the best thing ever. But this sauce…this really is the best tomato sauce I’ve ever made at home. Seriously. Honestly. Cross my heart and hope to die.

Here’s a needle. I will stand here quietly and let you stick it directly in my eye if you make it and don’t agree. If that’s not a promise I don’t know what is.

Let me walk you through the ingredients. I hope you’re taking notes. There may be a quiz. Here’s what you need: 1 can whole tomatoes. 1 yellow onion. A little bit of butter. Salt if ya need it.

Don’t worry about pureeing the tomatoes. Just pour them into a stock pot. Don’t even think about dicing that onion. Just lop it half and remove the peel and plop it in the tomatoes. Don’t cut the butter into tiny pieces or melt it carefully over low heat until it clarifies. Just drop it right down in there with the others.

Turn on heat. Simmer. Stir occasionally. You can totally go do something else. Just come back every now and then and give it a whirl with your wooden spoon. Crush the tomatoes against the side of the pot while you do it. This is far from a chore because you get to stand there and just inhale the yumminess on the stove top. How can three ingredients smell so good? Tell me. HOW? It shouldn’t be! But it is.

I’ve had my eye on this recipe ever since Deb posted it at Smitten Kitchen. I’m not sure what took me so long to get around to making it but now that I have, I’ll be making it all the time. It’s so easy, there’s no excuse not to!

A couple of notes here. The recipe recommends San Marzano tomatoes. These are tomatoes grown in a specific region of Italy and (supposedly) the best canned tomatoes out there. I can’t speak for those in them-there-big-city-fancy-pants-places 😉 but out here in my much smaller Midwest market, I have never seen these at the regular grocery store. I happened to have the San Marzanos around this time around because I picked some up the last time I was at Whole Foods in the Chicago area. That was kind of a fluke, since the closest Whole Foods is two hours from me, so I will probably be trying this sauce with a good old grocery store tomatoes some day soon. I’ll let ya know how it turns out!

And also, check the ingredient list on your can of tomatoes to see if they come pre-salted. Mine were unsalted so I added kosher salt until I like the taste of it. If your tomatoes are salted, I’d taste before adding salt to see what you think.

Now go make this simple recipe and make it dinner tonight!!

TOMATO SAUCE WITH ONION AND BUTTER (Recipe Source: Originally adapted from: Essentials of Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan, as seen at Smitten Kitchen)


  • 1 – 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes (San Marzano, if available)
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium-sized yellow onion, peeled and cut in half
  • Salt to taste (if needed)


Combine tomatoes, onion and butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Bring the sauce to a simmer then lower the heat. Cook the sauce at a steady simmer for about 45 minutes, or until droplets of fat float to surface. Stir occasionally, crushing the tomatoes against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon. Remove from heat, discard the onion, and add salt if needed. Serve with hot pasta and grated Parmesan if desired. Serves 4 as a main course.


One Year Ago: Texas Caesar Salad with Grilled Sirloin
Three Years Ago: Candy Kiss Cupcake Bites


Filed under pasta, vegetarian, veggies

Risk and Reward

If I had a personal assistant, I would tell her to go ahead and file this Creamy Blue Cheese Chile Dip under “Things the Boss Shouldn’t Like but For Some Reason Does.”

I’d also tell her to hold all my calls because my mouth would be too full of the stuff to yell at people over the phone. That is, if there was somebody that needed yelling at over the phone. If I was big and important I bet I could come up with someone that needed berating.


The words creamy and blue cheese are not ones you’ll come across very often in the Encyclopedia of Stuff I Like To Eat. In fact, based on history of eating that goes back nearly 30 years, these two words should never appear together in my world in any way, shape or form.

Until now. I’ll get my personal assistant on the task of alerting the media. I can see the headlines now: Erin Makes and Eats a White and Creamy Dip. Family Stunned.

Creamy foods and dips have almost always turned me off. There are a few exceptions, but they are rare. And blue cheese? Never been one of my favorites. But, I gotta say, trying things you’re not sure you’re going to like it is kind of fun. It’s like being back in the grade school cafeteria and having a friend dare you to mash up everything on your lunch tray and eat it in exchange for a dollar. It’s a risk/reward situation. The risk is relatively small. What’s the worst that could happen? It tastes horrible, you spit it out and you eat something else. The possible reward is great! A whole dollar! Oh, and for us grown ups, the expansion of our foodie horizons. Which beats the crap out of a dollar. So…take that, kids! 😉

I recently came across this recipe for filets topped with a sauce made from cream cheese, blue cheese and jalapeno. For some reason, even though it goes against every fiber of my foodie belief system, I decided I just had to try it.

It was so good. Like seriously good. Something about the tangy kick of blue cheese and subtle hint of heat from the chile pepper made for an amazing topping for steak. I didn’t photograph it because lumpy white cheese sauce on top of hunk of meat is kind of….ew-looking. But when I found myself scooping up what was left of the sauce (I made all of the sauce even though we only cooked two steaks) with crunchy veggie dippers, I thought I just might be on to something.

So I just turned right around and changed that steak topping into a veggie dip. I sure did. It couldn’t be easier, it’s a fantastic out-of-the-ordinary replacement for your standard ranch dip (which I totally loathe anyway), and it makes vegetables taste like candy! Well…not candy. But still, good. It makes vegetables taste good.

It makes sense for the steak topping to be a cream cheese base as you need something sturdy that’s going to hold up after being plopped on top of a hot off the grill piece of meat. When it comes to dipping veggies, not only is cream cheese a little stiff and hard to dip, it’s also pretty high in fat. A substitution was in order…

Greek yogurt! Cool, creamy, tangy AND fat free. Whoop! I just took all the ingredients in the steak topping, mixed them into Greek yogurt, chilled it in the fridge so flavors could marry and called it delicious. The rich tang of the blue cheese plus the heat of the jalapeno is reminiscent of  the flavor of the ever popular buffalo wing – just without the greasy, fried chicken pieces. I wish I had some celery on hand this week for the dip because then it would have totally been a wing-like experience. Either way, after making this dip, I didn’t miss the wings OR the hunk of red meat underneath it. 🙂

CREAMY BLUE CHEESE CHILE DIP (Recipe adapted from: Bon Appetit, April 2005 via Epicurious)


  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup finely crumbled blue cheese (about 1 ounce)
  • 1 small red or green jalapeno chile, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon very finely minced shallot or red onion
  • 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Additional minced parsley or chopped chives, for garnish (optional)


Mix first six ingredients together in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and chill at least two hours before serving. Transfer to a serving bowl, sprinkle with garnish, if desired. Serve with the crunchy raw veggies of your choice or toasted pita chips. Makes about 1 cup.


One Year Ago: Cherry Berry Crumble Pie
Three Years Ago: Dijon Garlic Glazed Shrimp


Filed under appetizers, veggies

Bean Me Up

A few weeks ago there was a wonderful gathering of food bloggers in Atlanta for a yearly conference known at BlogHer Food. As the Twitterverse popped and sizzled with exciting tweets from conference goers makin’ friends, takin’ names, soaking in swag and learning from the best, I found myself, as one might imagine, quite jealous.

I wanted to be one of the cool kids who does cool things with cool people. Perhaps for the first time EVER. Cool people go to conferences. Obvs.

Of course, there is one slight problem. If I were to attend a conference like that I believe my name tag would read:

Hello, my name is:
The Most Socially Awkward Person in the World
Author of: A Mediocre and Mostly Forgettable Food Blog

I’m really not good at things like…talking to people I don’t know. I’m thinking something like a blog conference would involve a lot of that. And here I thought all bloggers are quiet, sensitive, writer-types full of angst and adjectives.

No? Just me? Okay, got it.

I’d probably spend the entire weekend standing in a back corner staring down at my phone like I’m texting Big and Important People when really I’m just checking the extended forecast. Again.

Even so, I do wish I could have attended for no other reason to meet one my absolute faves who just happened to be there. I would have spotted her across a room, awkwardly called out BRANNY! even though that’s totally not her real name.*

*She would have turned around though. We all call her that. ‘We’ being all us food bloggers. 😉

Branny is kind of fantastic. And I kind of have a tiny girl crush on her even though we’ve never met. She and her husband live on this amazing farm where they learning all about the wonderful world of horses. How cool is that? She also cooks up some of the most unique (and mostly vegetarian) eats of the web. The way she combines different cuisines, unique ingredients and bold flavors into tasty veggie dishes even her meat-loving husband adores is straight up genius. She’s creative, funny, and has a heart as big as the sun. I’m pretty proud to say I “know” her! 🙂

I sure am glad she’s around because, if left to my own devices, there is no way I would have discovered the awesomeness that is sweet potatoes and black beans smashed together and stuffed into a tortilla. Thank you, Branny, introducing me to these wonderful Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burritos!

These are so good. With just a few ingredients, all of which can be prepped ahead of time, these tasty treats are becoming one of my favorite quick dinners. The ingredients are so simple, but the combination of sweet potato and black bean is so flavorful. The sweetness of the potato plus the smokey bite of cumin and kicked up coriander makes the filling really stand on it’s own without the typical burrito add-ins like rice and cheese. The leftovers are perfect for freezing and make a great lunch on the go. Thanks again, Branny, for another great meatless meal to add to the rotation. Oh, and also for being awesome. 😉

SWEET POTATO AND BLACK BEAN BURRITOS (Recipe Source: As seen at Branny Boils Over, originally adapted from a Moosewood recipe)

*I didn’t have burrito-sized tortillas on hand so I rolled them up taquito style in taco-sized tortillas. Whatever you’ve got around works.


  • 2.5 cups cooked sweet potato, cubed (about 2 medium potatoes)
  • 2 cups cooked black beans
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 garlic clove, minced
  • 4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp cumin
  • 4 tsp lemon juice
  • 8 tortillas (whole wheat preferred, not what I had on hand this time around)


Pulse the onions and garlic in the food processor. Add onions and garlic to a skillet and cook on the stove top with coriander, salt and cumin until softened.  Return ingredients to food processor with cooked sweet potatoes and beans. Add lemon juice.  Pulse to combine.  Stuff the mixture into tortillas and roll up. Place on a baking sheet and bake in a 350 degree oven until golden and hot all the way through; about 30 minutes.


One Year Ago: One of my absolute favorites – Tequila Lime Tart!
Two Years Ago: Pasta with Creamy Red Pepper Sauce
Three Years Ago: Fried Vermicelli with Green Onions


Filed under vegetarian, veggies

Summer Roast

The other day, I temporarily lost my mind and decided to try on last year’s bathing suit.

I’m not sure what prompted such a crazy idea. Let me tell you how often I put on a bathing suit. Try almost never. Yes, I realize summer is around the corner. Yes, I realize this makes me a bit of weirdo. But I don’t know anyone with a pool or a yacht or a canoe, I’m pretty sure my neighbor would give me the side eye if I appeared in his yard frolicking beneath the spray of his lawn sprinkler, and there is nay a beach to be seen within hundreds of miles of my house. Unless you count the Mississippi River, which I can actually see a tiny sliver of from an upstairs window (Water views, anyone? We be fancy like that.) Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure you couldn’t bribe me with all the cupcakes in the world to even dip my pinky toe into that body of water. Just saying.

But I do own a suit. You know, just in case some kind of life and death swim suit emergency should arise. Like when I get those spam-tastic recorded calls on my cell about having won free airline tickets and suddenly there’s a tropical vacation in my future. Stuff like that. 😉

So I’m putting away some (still wintery) laundry recently and my lonely, waded up, wrinkled bathing suit caught my eye. I thought, what a nice suit. Look at the cute little ruffle. And pink straps. I like pink.

I contemplated just leaving it there and forgetting about it. Putting on a bathing suit after a long, cold winter does not a happy girl make. In fact, it sounded like a great way to straight up ruin the day. But, then I thought, hey, what the heck, ya know? Just do it.

I held my breath as I shimmied into the bottoms. I shut my eyes as I eased into the top…and then…

It was not quite the soul-crushing, self-esteem-slashing experience I built it up in my mind to be. Whew. Deep breath out. Okay, so the term muffin top is something on my radar now. Awesome. And maybe my butt is a little jiggly, but last’s years bottoms still cover it completely so…yay? Nobody’s perfect. Considering how much I like dessert and how sometimes I only get as far as putting the 30DS in the DVD player before I give up, we’ll call it a win.

Are there things I would pinch and tuck and trim and tone? Yes. Am I supermodel status? Absolutely not. But, I am me. I kinda like Me. Hear that, Me, you’re okay. Thumbs up, girlfriend.

And I do try my best. Isn’t that all you can do in your life in every situation you’re in? I pay attention to what I put in my body most of the time so I enjoy the HECK out of the times I don’t. I try to stay moderately active. So I’m not a rugby player or a derby girl or a marathon runner, I probably like sausage a little more than a dainty lady as myself should, and I know I watch too much TV. Even so, I can cook with fresh ingredients. I can get my fiber and eat my veggies. I can drink my water. I can do a modest workout and feel a sense of accomplishment. I may not look like a 10 in last year’s bathing suit, but I have succeeded in maintaining a healthy weight and I try to make good choices.

I find a really quick way to sabotage an entire day’s worth of healthy habits is to get hungry in the afternoon between lunch and dinner. Now that I’m in between jobs because of our move and home during the day, it becomes way too easy to reach for that bag of Eric’s potato chips or slice off a slab of brownie from the pan and call it a snack. Working-Full-Time Me would be horrified. With her strict weekday food rules and tendency to empty her purse of all singles and loose change before leaving the house so she couldn’t hit the vending machine, she would NOT approve. Scraping-Window-Stickers-and-Sock-Folding Me is hungry so LAY OFF. 😉 Heh.

So I’ve started working my snacks into my meal plan to cut down on the 2:00 p.m. cookie temptation. Apples with a bit of natural peanut butter, carrots and bell pepper strips with hummus and now, this crunchy, salty, roasted edamame.

This is a super simple, completely customizable, protein packed, fiber full snack. It’s so easy and totally addictive. Frozen edameme (don’t even have to thaw it, how’s that for convenient?) is seasoned and roasted in a hot oven until the little, green soy pods get golden and crunchy. I like them simply dressed with just a bit of olive oil, kosher salt and lots of freshly cracked black pepper. Any seasonings or spices you have on hand would work – chili powder, cayenne, cumin, garlic or onion powder – whatever you’ve got and whatever you like. These are best made in small batches as they do lose their crunch as they sit around, but since they are so easy to make, it’s really no big deal. You could toss these in the oven while you’re getting for work and have an afternoon snack ready just in time to walk out the door.

Keep this recipe in your back pocket. Just in case a bathing suit emergency should arise. 😉

ROASTED EDAMAME (Recipe Source: The Kitchn)


  • 16 ounces frozen shelled edamame
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly-cracked black pepper
    (or 1-2 teaspoons alternate seasoning)


  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Pour the edamame in a strainer and run under warm water for a few seconds to melt any ice crystals. Spread the edamame on a clean dish towel and pat gently with another dish towel to dry them as much as possible.
  3. In a mixing bowl, toss the edamame with the olive oil, salt, and pepper (or other seasonings). Taste one of the edamame and add more seasonings if desired.
  4. Spread the edamame in a single layer on a sheet pan and roast for 30-40 minutes. Stir every 10 minutes and watch for the edamame to begin puffing and turning golden-brown. Their color will also darken, the exterior will be dry, and you’ll hear them “singing” as steam escapes from inside the bean.
  5. Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the roasted edamame to a serving bowl. They are best if eaten within a few hours of roasting.


One Year Ago: Creamy Frozen Smoothie Pops
Two Years Ago: Strawberry Rhubarb Streusel Muffins


Filed under appetizers, veggies

Flex it.

Flexibility. I think more people need to rally behind this underrated concept. The world would be a happier place, don’t you think, if everyone maybe just took it down a notch and stopped getting so upset when things don’t go according to plan.

Flight delayed? Sit down, put your feet up and read a smutty novel. Take it easy, stop answering work emails because you’re supposed to be mid-flight anyway, and eat a three dollar candy bar as an I’m-allowed-because-I’m-super-irritated treat. Maybe stop yelling at the person behind the desk like the snowstorm in Chicago that is preventing you from getting to Atlanta is all her fault.

Unexpected traffic jam? Turn up your favorite angry 90s girl power jam and belt it like its 1997 and you’re 15 again.*  Ugly cry and tear up a picture of your crush if you have to, but remember there are others stuck in traffic too and they *may* quietly judge you. Or film you on their phone and take you viral. Just do whatever you have to keep from obnoxiously honking at nothing or getting out of the car and punching out someone’s driver side window.

*Not that I’ve ever done this or anything. Alanis’ Hand in My Pocket is totally NOT my personal anthem. Uh, yeah…totally not. 😉

So, I guess what I’m saying, in a round about way, is maybe we wouldn’t all have our undies in such a bunch if we just read more smut and sang more 90s pop.

Um. Actually, maybe a few cliches will communicate my thoughts better. Go with the flow. Relax. Chill out. The glass is half full.

See, this is why I love cooking. Cooking is insanely flexible. Cooking and I get along like two laid-back roommates. Peppers don’t holler when you decide to add tomatoes to a recipe that didn’t actually call for them. The peppers are chill, yo! Look to the pepper, people! See the light. 🙂

Here’s a really fast and flexible meal. Not too mention very good! I took some liberties, decided I didn’t *love* my liberties, but posting it anyway because I will definitely make this again. Hey, I’m flexible like that.

This Mexican-style, one skillet meal starts with an interesting technique – toasting dried pasta in a bit of oil in the pan before cooking. The noodles get all golden brown and nutty. It really infuses the pasta with a different and fun taste.

Now, I really, really wanted to add chorizo to this dish per a suggestion in the recipe. I’ve never actually had it, but given my fondness for the encased spiced meats, I just know I’ll love it. I’ve never been able find it at my regular grocery stores, but now that I’m in a new (and bigger!) city, I’ll being scoping out the various specialty and ethnic stores which I’m sure are plentiful and chock full of exotic goodies to rock my country bumpkin world. I know there is chorizo in this town. I can just feel it!

I should have just gone veg and added black beans, another suggestion offered by the recipe but I wanted to give my loving husband his precious meat after rescuing him from nearly wasting away in bachelorhood for the last three months. (tee hee.) Since I didn’t have the chorizo, I added…breakfast sausage.

Erm. So yeah, that was probably a mistake. I mean, it wasn’t AWFUL (or maple-flavored), but if I had to do it over again, I would leave the breakfast sausage to the pancakes and egg casseroles. A shredded spiced chicken would have been a much better addition. Also the original recipe calls for cilantro, and we all know how I feel about that mess, so I garnished with scallions instead. Next time, I’ll use my go-to cilantro sub – parsley. A bit of freshness and brightness from a fresh herb would be a welcome addition here. If you are a cilantro fan, absolutely go for it.

Overall, I loved the spicy, toasty, smokey flavor of this dish. The sauce coats the noodles without being too loose and the chipotle peppers add just the right amount of kick. Add a sprinkling a smooth, creamy Monterey Jack and it’s a great mix of flavors and textures. This dish is satisfying, comforting and makes excellent leftovers. I need to make a couple changes for next time, but that’s okay. I’m flexible.

MEXICAN-STYLE SKILLET PASTA (Recipe adapted from: America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, pg. 244)


  • 8 oz. vermicelli pasta, broken in half
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes (I used fire-roasted, I really like the flavor)
  • 8 oz. diced chorizo sausage OR shredded cooked chicken OR 1 15.5 oz. can black beans (optional – you could leave all these out if you want!)
  • 1-1/2 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 to 2 chipotle chiles in adobo, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 oz. Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro or parsley
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, for serving (optional – I omitted)


  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat in a 12-inch skillet and add vermicelli. Toast the pasta until golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate to cool.
  2. Add remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the skillet and heat over medium until just shimmering. Add onion and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and cook until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in the garlic and cumin and cook until fragrant. Stir in the tomatoes with their juice, your protein (if using), the broth and chipotle pepper(s). Bring mixture to a boil.
  4. Stir in the toasted pasta. Reduce heat to low, cover the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until all the liquid is absorbed and the pasta is tender, about 15 minutes.
  5. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide among 4 serving bowls, top with cheese and cilantro or parsley. Pass the sour cream separately. Makes 4 servings.


One Year Ago: Andouille Sausage & Shrimp in Creole Mustard Sauce
Two Years Ago: California Medley Pasta Toss


Filed under chicken, pasta, sausage, veggies


Hey. Um, World? Yeah…can you just slow down for me? Like just a tiny bit? I’m getting dizzy. Oh boy. Get the sawdust out. This isn’t going to end well.

I’ve been busy. Can you tell? And while I’m busy at work (oh, man SO busy at work) busy at home (SOOOO busy at home), I should really take a lesson from myself and make things like this delicious fresh salad to get me through these packed to the brim days.

Let’s not talk about that three straight days of takeout pizza this past weekend. Don’t you judge me! 😉

I made this delightful fall-inspired salad for my Project Food Blog dinner party. We’re more than a month past this event and I’m STILL trying to get you the recipes from the party. That should be proof enough how busy I’ve been as of late. Sheesh! I’m dropping the ball here.

This salad is light, refreshing and flavorful. I’m a sucker for citrus flavors so I thought the dressing was the perfect compliment to the bold greens and sweet pears. The goat cheese adds a bit of richness and makes it taste and feel hearty. Love that creamy bite. I could easily make a meal out of this with some crusty sourdough bread on the side. YUM.



For the dressing:

  • 1  tablespoon  finely chopped shallots
  • 1  teaspoon  Dijon mustard
  • 1/4  cup  fresh orange juice
  • 4  teaspoons  fresh Meyer lemon juice
  • 1/4  teaspoon  kosher salt
  • 1/8  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • 4  teaspoons  extra-virgin olive oil

For the salad:

  • 2  tablespoons  fresh orange juice
  • 2  firm ripe Bosc pears, cored and thinly sliced
  • 6  cups  mixed baby lettuces
  • 1  head Boston or butter lettuce, torn (about 2 cups)
  • 3/4  cup  (3 ounces) crumbled goat cheese


  1. Make the dressing: Combine shallots and mustard in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Stir in 1/4 cup orange juice, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Gradually whisk in oil, stirring constantly. Dressing can be made ahead. Cover and store in the refrigerator. Whisk well to combine before using.
  2. Make the salad: combine 2 tablespoons orange juice and pears, tossing to coat. Combine lettuces in a large bowl. Drizzle with dressing; toss gently to coat. Arrange about 1 cup lettuce mixture on each of 8 salad plates. Top each serving with about 1/4 cup pear and 1 1/2 tablespoons cheese. Serves 8.


One Year Ago: Stella Cookies (Cinnamon Pecan Crescents. My favorite Christmas cookie)
Two Years Ago: I was NaNo-ing and therefore not cooking much. 🙂

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Filed under salads, sides, veggies