The truth is, I don’t always write my own recipes, but another truth is that I never follow a recipe to the tee. I almost always modify them, either adding and omitting ingredients or making substitutions. And I did just that recently with a recipe from one of my favorite cooks, Ina Garten aka The Barefoot Contessa. I replaced orzo with quinoa in her roasted shrimp and orzo recipe, as well as adding grape tomatoes and omitting the red onion (one of the few foods in this world I dislike is raw red onion). The more you cook, the more you learn how to do this with recipes, which makes cooking that much more fun and adventurous.
Quinoa is much healthier than orzo (rice-shaped pasta), being a whole grain that is a complete protein and a good source of fiber, phosphorous, magnesium, iron, and calcium. It is also very easy and fast to cook, with no soaking or rinsing required. Most grocery stores carry it, either in the bulk bins or in a box.
This dish would be great for a picnic, preferably a beach one, which is where I originally intended on consuming it with my boyfriend. However, the weather was not permitting for this, so eating it indoors had to suffice. It can be eaten cold or at room temperature, so transporting it is easy. You can keep it in your fridge and eat it throughout the week without having to heat it up, so you have an instant lunch or dinner ready to go any time.
Oh, and here are a couple of general tips that are relevant to this recipe:
- Feta is a great cheese to use for healthy cooking. It’s naturally low in fat and has a TON of flavor, so a little bit goes a long way in a recipe. I like to buy a pound of real feta (not the kind that comes in a plastic container – it’s not very good and way overpriced) from the deli, and then keep it in a Tupperware container filled about halfway up with water. It will keep for several weeks like this. Most ethnic markets will have good quality feta, usually imported, for the best price – I get mine from a local Middle Eastern market.
- Buy whole grains such as quinoa from the bulk bins. It’s more economical and you can buy as much or as little as you like at a time.
- I find that frozen shrimp is usually less expensive per pound, so always keep an eye out for it, especially when it goes on sale.
- 1 cup quinoa
- 1 pound shrimp, peeled and de-veined (can use frozen and thaw it beforehand)
- 6 ounces feta cheese, large crumbles
- 1/2 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved (or quartered if they’re large)
- 1/2 cup green onions, white and green parts, minced
- 1/2 hothouse or English cucumber, diced
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cover a sheet pan with aluminum foil and spread the shrimp out evenly on it. Drizzle them with extra-virgin olive oil and add salt and pepper. Toss. Roast in the oven for 5-6 minutes until they are pink and slightly curled. Put the 1 cup of quinoa in a saucepan with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then let simmer until all of the water is dissolved, about 10-15 minutes. Let the shrimp and the quinoa cool, then combine them and toss with the veggies and herbs. To make the dressing, stir together the lemon juice and olive oil and add pepper to taste (the feta is already salty so no salt is needed). Pour the dressing over everything and make one final toss.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending my first ever Food Bloggers of Los Angeles (FBLA) meeting, held at a fellow blogger’s home in Tustin, CA. The theme was egg dishes, hence the title of the meeting, “Egg-stravaganza”. (I will spare you any more egg puns for the duration of this post)
And speaking of eggs – check out what the owner of the house had in her backyard!
They even left us a little party favor:
Yep, straight from the source, fresh as can be. And did you know that hens like to sing a little song after they’ve laid an egg? It’s one of the cutest things you’ll ever hear.
For my egg dish, I decided to make shakshuka, a Middle Eastern dish made up of eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce. It’s inexpensive, healthy, and loaded with flavor. I absolutely love Middle Eastern cuisine and have been eating it constantly lately, so I figured it’s time to finally share a traditional Middle Eastern recipe on this blog.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 white onion, diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 chili pepper, seeds removed, sliced (I used a serrano)
- 2 14-oz. cans diced tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 5 eggs
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Chopped fresh parsley for garnish
In a cast-iron skillet or large, deep sauté pan, heat the olive oil on medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until translucent. Add the sliced chili pepper and sauté until tender. Add the spices and stir, coating the vegetables. Add the two cans of diced tomatoes, juice included, and let the sauce reduce for 5-7 minutes. Once the sauce is reduced, carefully crack each egg on top of the sauce, being careful not to break the yolks.
Let the eggs cook to your liking for 10-15 minutes. If your pan has a lid, cover the pan to speed up the process and help the tops of the eggs cook. If not, they will take a few minutes longer.
Garnish with chopped parsley, and serve with bread or pita to sop up the sauce.
Here it is with the rest of the fabulous spread!
I was fortunate enough to grow up in Sonoma County, California, where some of the world’s best food and wine can be enjoyed. I’m not kidding – any good foodie has heard of it or been there, and tourists flock to the region just to wine and dine. I would say growing up there is a large part of the reason I have loved cooking pretty much my whole life. One of my favorite Sonoma County restaurants is a pizzeria called The Red Grape. They are known for their New Haven-style pizza with paper-thin crust, but my favorite menu item is one of their salads. My mom and I simply call it “The Red Grape Salad”.
To finish off my review of organicgirl good clean greens, I am using their SUPERGREENS! in this recipe. It’s a nutritious and tasty mix of baby red chard, baby tat soi, baby spinach, baby green chard, and baby arugula. The Red Grape uses a similar mixture.
The Red Grape Salad
Makes one side or small entrée serving
- 2 cups spring mix greens, such as SUPERGREENS! (link above)
- 1 lemon, halved
- Small handful of grapes, halved
- Handful of store-bought glazed nuts (I used pecans)
- 1/4 cup blue cheese crumbles
- Granny Smith apple slices (feel free to use my easy method for slicing an apple)
- 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon red or white wine vinegar
- Salt and pepper
Lay the greens out onto a plate. Slice up the apple and drizzle the slices with lemon juice to prevent them from browning. Place the apple slices atop the greens, then sprinkle the grapes, glazed nuts, and blue cheese crumbles over the salad. Drizzle with the oil and vinegar, and add salt and pepper.
Based on personal experience, this salad is always a hit at dinner parties or pot luck gatherings. Serve it as an appetizer salad before the entrée to make your guests feel fancy and wonder how the main dish will top it. And to be honest – it might not!
For part two of my review of organicgirl good clean greens, I made a recipe using their i heart baby kale. I first took a taste of it raw, and wow! I find kale too bitter to consume raw, but baby kale has a much milder, delicate flavor. I could definitely see myself using it raw in a salad. However, I really wanted to make an egg white frittata with kale, which I used to eat all the time but haven’t had in a while. And with the baby kale already washed and ready to use, why not?
It doesn’t even look like kale, right? The leaves are tender yet sturdy at the same time, and I imagined they would wilt and saute easily like spinach, making them perfect for this frittata.
Egg White Frittata with Baby Kale, Tomato, and Feta Cheese
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 2 cups baby kale
- 1 tomato, diced
- 1/4 cup reduced fat feta cheese
- 3/4 cup liquid egg whites (or the whites of 4 eggs)
- Salt and pepper to taste
Heat up a medium pan on medium-high heat, and add the olive oil and garlic. Saute the garlic until tender. Add the tomato and baby kale, and saute for a few minutes until the kale is wilted.
Add the egg whites, pouring them over everything in the pan. Resist the temptation to move them around. Just leave them alone.
Once the egg whites start to look opaque, sprinkle the feta cheese on top.
If your pan has a lid, put it on now to help the egg whites finish cooking. Mine doesn’t, so I moved the pan around, swirling around the loose egg whites. Continue cooking until all of the egg whites are opaque. Add salt and pepper, and you’re done.
Almost looks like a crust-less pizza, doesn’t it?
Stay tuned tomorrow for my last recipe of this product review series, using SUPERGREENS!
I recently had the pleasure of receiving a free sample of organicgirl good clean greens to review. The company is celebrating their debut on Lifetime Network’s “All Mixed Up” reality cooking show. I received their baby spinach, i heart baby kale, and SUPERGREENS! as seen below:
Who doesn’t love the names of these products? They certainly stand out in the grocery store. Buying organic can be intimidating to some people, but organicgirl makes it much less so. I love that they are pre-washed, and the containers they come in are very practical. They fit perfectly on your fridge shelf, and easily open and close. It certainly beats a flimsy bag that has to be rolled up and secured with a chip clip or rubber band. Lastly, but not least, these greens are vibrant, crisp, fresh, and full of flavor. Usually when I buy a bag of spinach at the grocery store, I’m lucky if it’s not full of soggy, wilting, sometimes rotting pieces on the bottom of the bag. With orgainicgirl, you know it’s fresh and of the utmost quality.
I decided to use the baby spinach first, since the weather has been heating up here in Los Angeles and I was reminded of a pasta dish I like to make on hot days: lemon spaghetti. It’s great with wilted greens added to it, especially spinach.
Lemon Spaghetti with Spinach, Feta Cheese, and Walnuts
- 2 oz. whole wheat spaghetti
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 lemon
- 1/4 cup pasta water (see below for details)
- 1 tablespoon low-fat or non-fat Greek yogurt
- 1/4 cup reduced fat feta cheese
- 1 cup spinach
- 1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons walnuts, chopped
- Pepper to taste
First, heat up a dry pan (meaning no oil or cooking spray added) on high heat. Add the chopped walnuts and toast them for about a minute. Be careful not to burn them – they will smell nutty as soon as they’re finished. Set aside. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the spaghetti for about 8 minutes. Right before you drain the pasta, grab a coffee cup and take out about 1/4 cup of the pasta water and set it aside. Heat up a pan on medium heat and add the olive oil and minced garlic. Saute the garlic until it is soft. Add the drained pasta and coat with the olive oil. Using a microplane zester, zest half of the lemon and add it to the pan. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze each half onto the pasta. Add the pasta water, Greek yogurt, feta cheese, and spinach, and let simmer until most of the liquid is absorbed and the spinach has wilted. Add some fresh cracked black pepper. Plate the pasta and add the parmesan cheese and walnuts, and it’s ready to eat.
Check the site tomorrow for a recipe using i heart baby kale, and the next day for a SUPERGREENS! recipe!
It’s hard to escape the buzz about salmon and its health benefits. The American Heart Association recommends eating a fatty fish such as salmon at least twice a week to ward off cardiovascular disease and lower cholesterol. But unfortunately, if you’re like me, salmon can sometimes seem a little boring. I prefer that it has been sitting in a hefty marinade for hours or glazed with a flavorful sauce, which is easy to find on a restaurant menu but can be time-consuming to replicate at home. A great middle-ground is store-bought smoked salmon. It can be purchased in bulk at Costco – I especially enjoy Honey Smoked Fish Co.‘s products, which have a flavorful crust, a wonderful smoky flavor, and a flaky texture. It’s more than enough to get me to eat salmon and actually enjoy it. Since its texture is similar to that of canned tuna, I made a salad out of it, which I then spread on whole wheat toast along with a fried egg and some arugula. It makes a great breakfast, brunch item, or light lunch, and it almost feels fancy and gourmet even though it is very easy to make.
Smoked Salmon Salad:
Makes 2 servings
- 4 oz. smoked salmon, flaked or chopped finely
- 2 tablespoons nonfat Greek yogurt
- 1 teaspoon light mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons capers
- 5 olives, chopped finely (any kind you like)
- 1 tablespoon chopped dill or chives
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
Combine all ingredients and stir.
- 1 slice whole wheat bread, toasted
- 1 wedge Laughing Cow cheese (optional)
- 1/4 cup arugula
- 1 egg
- Cooking spray
Spread the Laughing Cow cheese wedge on the whole wheat toast (if using) and top with the arugula. Fry the egg in a pan sprayed with cooking spray on high heat, however you like it – I prefer mine over-easy, but sunny side up certainly works as well. Place the egg over the arugula, and spread with half of the smoked salmon salad.
Now you can have your Omega-3s and eat them too!
As much as I love variety when it comes to food, I’m also a creature of habit like most human beings. I tend to get hooked on a certain dish and it’s so good that I just want to eat it every.single.day – and I do, for maybe a week or two. When I lived in Italy during the summer of 2011, that happened with a salad I threw together one day for lunch. I basically went to the market, came home, put everything I bought into a bowl, and tossed it with oil and vinegar. It turns out that what I made is a beautiful marriage of three famous Italian salads: prosciutto and melon, caprese, and panzanella. Accordingly, I call it the “Italian Salad Trifecta”. Here’s how to recreate it at home:
The Italian Salad Trifecta
- 2 cups arugula
- 2 slices crusty bread (French bread, ciabatta, sourdough, etc.)
- 1 cup cantaloupe, cubed
- 1-2 slices prosciutto
- Handful of cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
- 2 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced or torn into small pieces (look in the imported cheeses section)
- 1 tablespoon chopped nuts of your choice (I like walnuts or pistachios)
- 2-4 leaves basil, chopped
- 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- Salt and pepper to taste
Prep the ingredients, place in a bowl, add the oil and vinegar, and toss. Add pepper and a teeny bit of salt (the prosciutto is already salty).
What’s great about this dish is that, first of all, it’s a great way to use up stale bread. The oil and vinegar give it moisture and bring it back to life. Fresh bread can also be used, but who doesn’t have a loaf of stale bread lying around that you just don’t have the heart to throw away?
Also, it’s a very light yet filling salad that’s perfect for lunch on a hot day. That’s why I got so addicted to it in Italy – it was terribly hot there so I wanted something light and fresh yet satisfying. The fruit gives you fiber, and the cheese and nuts give you protein. Lastly, it’s sweet, salty, and savory, which is a wonderful balance of flavors that is incredibly satisfying.
I hope you get as addicted to this salad as I was!
If you remember my recipe for Drunken Spaghetti, you know that pasta doesn’t always have to be cooked in water. This time, I cooked it in soy sauce. There’s nothing more comforting than a noodle bowl, and you don’t have to go out and buy a bunch of specialty Asian ingredients in order to make one. Plain old spaghetti can work just fine as your noodle of choice. It also doesn’t need to have meat in it. Instead…behold the almighty Portabello Mushroom:
These mushrooms are simply amazing. They mimic the texture and flavor of red meat. Heard all the buzz lately about umami? Well, mushrooms are FULL of umami flavor, giving you that meaty, savory taste that you want without having to use meat. Using portabello mushrooms instead of meat not only makes this dish vegetarian, it makes it much quicker and easier to cook. No need to slice the meat up and let it cook before you add the rest of the veggies in. The recipe makes one serving, and although it’ll seem like a large portion, it only has 400 calories – so go ahead and clear your plate and don’t feel guilty about it!
Soy Spaghetti Noodle Bowl
- 2 oz. whole wheat spaghetti (1/8 of a 1 lb. package)
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 portabello mushroom
- 2 stalks celery
- 1 cup bean sprouts
- 1/2 bundle of green onions
- 2 tablespoons frozen peas
- 2 tablespoons frozen corn
- 4 spears broccolini (also called Chinese broccoli or baby broccoli)*
- Ground ginger
- Red pepper flakes
* If you can’t find broccolini, use regular broccoli or another vegetable of your choice.
Bring a pot of water to a boil, and add in the spaghetti.
While the spaghetti is cooking, prep the veggies. Chop the garlic into thin slices. Pull the stem out of the mushroom, then use a spoon to scrape away the brown “gills” from underneath the cap (for a detailed description of how to hollow out a portabello mushroom, consult this). Wipe off the mushroom with a damp paper towel to clean it, then cut it lengthwise into spears (the way you’d slice a bell pepper). Cut the celery into 1/4 inch pieces on a diagonal, and cut the green onions into 1 inch pieces, also on a diagonal. Once you’re done prepping the veggies, drain the spaghetti.
Into the same pan that you just cooked the spaghetti in, add 1/4 cup soy sauce and 1/2 cup water and bring to a boil. Add the spaghetti and all of the veggies into the pan, and let simmer until most of the soy sauce and water has been absorbed. Add a dash of ground ginger and a pinch of red pepper flakes, and garnish with a small handful of raw bean sprouts.
On another note, as you can see…I need to work on my chopstick skills.
Firstly, a small announcement…I’ve decided to venture into the world of pescetarianism. This means basically being a lacto-ovo vegetarian (eggs and dairy products are OK, but no meat), yet still consuming seafood. I’ve been an on-again-off-again vegetarian for most of my life, but I notice that whenever I go vegetarian, I find myself hungry all the time from not eating enough protein. Plant-based sources of protein (nuts, legumes, etc.) just don’t cut it for me. The perfect solution: going pescetarian. I’m not against eating meat by any means, and I don’t plan on staying pescetarian forever. I may only do it for a few months. But for the time being, my two main reasons are 1) it’s cheaper, and 2) non-organic meat is full of hormones and antibiotics that I don’t feel completely comfortable eating, and organic meat is very expensive.
Appropriately, I made tuna salad today. I love a good old-fashioned tuna salad, but I decided to add Kalamata olives and capers to this one for some extra flavor. I also used green onions instead of the traditional red onion, since I find raw red onion to be a bit too pungent for my taste. Enjoy!
Tuna Salad with Olives and Capers
Makes 1 or 2 servings
- 1 can tuna packed in water, drained
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 2 tablespoons chopped green onions
- 6 olives, chopped (any kind you like)
- 1 tablespoon capers, drained
- 1 tablespoon light mayonnaise
- 1/4 teaspoon celery salt
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- Salt and pepper (to taste)
There really are no instructions to give besides “mix everything together in a bowl”. Don’t you just love recipes like that?!
I decided to eat mine with some heirloom cherry tomatoes and sliced avocado, rather than putting it in a sandwich. If you put it in a sandwich, I would use about half of it. It’s extremely filling – I didn’t even need a snack between lunch and dinner. Just what I was going for!
I took a drive to San Francisco last week with a friend to eat at The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen, a restaurant recently recommended to me. It’s owned by Nate Pollak, brother of Breitbart.com editor-in-chief Joel Pollak (was that enough hyperlinks for you?) and a fellow UCLA alum. It’s in one of my favorite areas within San Francisco – South Park, a quaint little neighborhood almost reminiscent of Greenwich Village in NYC. It’s also right down the street from AT&T Park, where my beloved San Francisco Giants play and a huge part of my childhood. Being in that neighborhood just makes me want warm comfort food, especially on a chilly Fog City day, so a grilled cheese and some tomato soup absolutely hits the spot.
First of all…check out that menu. Short and simple, yet sophisticated. That’s exactly the kind of menu I like to order from. I’m not a huge fan of gigantic menus with an overwhelming amount of choices. I’ll just want to order EVERYTHING, and I end up choosing something I know I like and not trying anything new. I also like the concept of ordering your food at the register, grabbing your number, sitting down, then having your food brought to your table. It’s the perfect happy medium between a fully sit-down restaurant and a take-out place. So far so good. Now onto the main attraction…
I had the Mushroom Gruyere (top), and my friend had the Mousetrap (bottom) with bacon added and some housemade Smoky Tomato Soup. The first thing I noticed was how perfectly, evenly browned the bread was. I’m always trying to achieve that when I make grilled cheese at home, but can never quite get it. The Mushroom Gruyere has, you guessed it, gruyere cheese, a nutty, creamy Swiss cheese without the holes. It also has fontina cheese, which is somewhat like mozzarella – a cheese you don’t eat for its flavor as much as for its texture. In other words, it melts beautifully, making it perfect for grilled cheese. There were also wild mushrooms inside which are chopped up very finely, giving you that earthy mushroom flavor in every single bite. The roasted gold potatoes were an interesting touch, adding to the earthy flavor profile of the sandwich, and the melted leeks and caramelized onions added some sweetness and a little bit of punch. Lastly, how cool is it that you get a plum on the side? Wasn’t expecting that at all. In summary: the best grilled cheese you’ve ever had.
Next to the menu in the restaurant, there’s a chalkboard full of “cheesy puns” thought up by patrons. A day later, I finally had one hit me…
The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen is cheddar than anything you’ve ever tasted.
Boo yeah. Moral of the story: I approve. Go there!