November 11, 2010

Cheesy Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

Cheesy Brussels Sprouts with Bacon
(1 serving)

2 cups brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
2/3 cup organic vegetable stock
1 TB organic goat cheese
1 TB parmesan cheese, finely grated
6 slices, uncured pork bacon (I like a lot of bacon!)

In a large skillet over medium heat, brown the bacon until crispy. Remove from pan and set aside. In the bacon grease, saute' the garlic until brown. Add the brussels sprouts and saute' for 4-5 minutes until they have browned on all sides. Pour in the veggie stock, cover the skillet and let the sprouts become tender and the stock to evaporate. When almost all of the stock has evaporated, remove the skillet from the heat. Crumble in the goat cheese and add the parmesan and bacon. Add salt and pepper to taste.

I ate this over whole wheate fettuccine but it can be used as a side dish. And as always this can be quadrupled to accommodate more brussels sprout lovers.

October 29, 2010

Spooky Deviled Eyeballs

Spooky Deviled Eyeballs

12 hard-boiled eggs
¾ cup Miracle Whip
Blue and red food coloring
Black olives, sliced
Pimentos, diced
Plastic Ziploc bag

Peel the eggs and slice length-wise. Mix the yolks with the Miracle Whip (you can add more or less). Salt yolks to taste. Drop in 3-4 drops of blue food coloring and mix until it becomes a gross green tinge. Put yolk mixture into the Ziploc bag and cut one corner. Pipe yolks into eggs. Put one slice of olive and one pimento in each yolk. Mix 1 teaspoon red food coloring with ½ teaspoon of cornstarch. Using the toothpick draw veins on the egg whites. These are pretty easy to make and they are very tasty. I make my deviled eggs pretty simple but you can add relish, mustard, and paprika if you like yours with more ingredients.

Happy Halloween!

October 15, 2010

Swiss Chard

Have you ever cooked with swiss chard? I was watching The Today Show on Saturday morning and Giada de Laurentiiss was cooking at pasta with swiss chard and spinach. I found it at the Farmer’s Market and thought I might as well try it, I love greens. On Wednesday, I threw together this quick pasta dish with a leftover chicken tender from lunch that my nephew didn’t eat.

Whole Wheat Fettuccine with Chicken and Swiss Chard
(1 serving)

1 chicken tender, diced
3-4 swiss chard leaves, chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
8 baby zucchini and squash, diced
2 scallions, chopped
Dashes of: crushed red pepper and thyme
1 TB Extra virgin olive oil
1 TB Butter
Fresh basil, chopped
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
½ tsp lemon zest (optional)
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1 serving whole wheat fettuccine, cooked

I used a combo of olive oil and butter because I like the taste. This dish is not very saucy, so if you like more sauce, you can add some marinara sauce or even more butter. Warm up the olive oil and butter over a medium flame (I miss my gas stove in Fiji). I still talk about flames even though I use an electric stove. Anyway, throw in the garlic and scallions and let them brown up for a few minutes. Sprinkle in the thyme, crushed red pepper and lemon zest. Add the squash and zucchini and sauté’ for 3-4 minutes until they start to soften and brown; then the swiss chard. The swiss chard will cook down tremendously (as seen in photos), so don’t worry if you think it’s too much. When the swiss chard has wilted, chuck in the chicken tender pieces. When the chicken has warmed up for 1-2 minutes with the veggies, turn off the flame and set aside. Season with salt and pepper to taste and then fold in the fettuccine. Finish it off with grated parmesan cheese and the fresh basil.

P.S. I’m still trying out online dating. Maybe eventually my recipes will go from “1” serving to “2”!!

September 28, 2010

Garbage Bowl Salad

When I haven’t thought about what to make for my lunch; I throw together whatever I have in my kitchen. I absolutely love sweet potatoes. I have just about converted from regular potatoes to sweet. If you haven’t you should try it. With this salad, I didn’t have any lettuce at home, so I bought some from the cafeteria at work and added it to my salad.

Roasted Sweet Potato, Pepper, and Black Bean Salad

1 roasted sweet potato, cubed
½ cup black beans, rinsed
¼ cup red onions, diced
½ cup grilled eggplant, diced
1 cup romaine lettuce, torn into pieces
1 cup spinach

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper

Pour into Mason jar and shake.

Toss together all the ingredients, add the vinaigrette and enjoy!

September 22, 2010

Smashed Eggplant Sandwiches

I can honestly say I never ate eggplant before I joined the Peace Corps. The only recipe I had ever heard it used in was eggplant parmesan. It appealed to me, but I still never ordered it at a restaurant. I know most people are the same. They don’t know how to cook it nor think it takes very good. At my flat in Fiji, I was blessed with four eggplant bushes in my yard. I could pick it every day and would still have some leftover. Eggplant was frequently curried by the Indo-Indians and fried by the Fijians. I began to love eggplant and started cooking other dishes with it.

I went to the Bluegrass Farmer’s Market yesterday for the first time. It’s located on Richmond Road in the Pedal Power parking lot which is right across from my work. There were only 3 tents set up but I was pleased with what I found. I bought mushrooms, green peppers, eggplants, and white raspberries. The farmer selling the eggplant asked me how I was going to cook the eggplant. I told her my many recipes and different ways to prepare it. She grows it and doesn’t even cook with it, it amazed me. I loved sharing my recipes and I even shared some of my Peace Corps experience. She definitely didn’t want to stop talking. I pulled myself away and jetted home to make my eggplant and mozzarella smashed sandwiches for my date that night.

Smashed Eggplant and Mozzarella Sandwiches with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto
(2 servings)

1 large eggplant
1 block mozzarella cheese
½ cup sun-dried tomatoes (I didn’t buy oil-packed but it works)
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 fist-full of fresh basil, chopped
2 whole wheat baguettes
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
Salt and Pepper

Eggplant can be bitter, so it’s always a good habit to salt the slices and let the bitter juices come out before cooking. Slice the eggplants into ½ inch pieces. Salt both side and set aside. After 15 minutes, rinse and pat dry. Place the sun-dried tomatoes in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Heat a grill or in my case, a George Foreman. Spray both sides of the grill with olive oil and place the slices on. Let cook for 5 minutes or until eggplant is squishy. Remove from grill. The tomatoes should be re-hydrated now. Remove from water and squeeze out excess water. Put the sun-dried tomatoes, garlic cloves, and 2 glugs of EVOO in a food processor and process until it forms a thick paste. Add salt, pepper, and the basil and pulse several times more. Place aside. Shred the mozzarella and slice the baguettes. Smear the sun-dried tomato pesto on each side of the bread. Place the cheese and cooked eggplant in between. Smash with your hand. Put the entire sandwich back on the GF and close. I then put a cast iron pan on top to smash it even more. (This is my version of a Panini press.) Cook for 1-2 minutes.

I hope this recipe gives you the guts to try eggplant sometime! Please let me know if you do.

September 15, 2010

Chicken Curry & Tomato Chutney

I ate curry so much while I lived in Fiji, I have only cooked it once since I’ve been home and that was for my brother. A few weeks ago, my friend Matt, asked for my help with his class project. His group was assigned India and since I lived and breathed Indian customs for two years, I told him I’d teach him how to make curry. And to make it even more interesting, he hadn’t tried any Indian food before.

I decided on two simple recipes: chicken curry and tomato chutney. I would also cook white rice to accompany the dish. Matt wanted the recipe to be as authentic as possible, so I tried my best. I had bought Indian spices previously at the International Grocery Store off Richmond Road. I purchased garam (hot) masala, turmeric, black mustard seeds, and whole cumin. I also told him we would only be cooking with bone-in chicken. There is no boneless, skinless chicken in Fiji, believe me. Most locals purchase a whole frozen chicken and have it cut into pieces by the butcher or they chop it themselves. I decided on two bone-in chicken breasts for our recipe since it was only for the two of us. The recipe below is for 4-6 people.

The tomato chutney is meant to be added to the chicken curry like a condiment. Just mix in a little chutney with each bite or mix into the rice. I like lots of curry sauce and chutney with my rice. It makes it easier to stick together, especially when you are eating with your hands.

The curry turned out great, just like I remembered. The smells wafting through my apartment definitely took me back to my host family’s house. Matt loved the food and ate it traditionally with his hands. He is definitely a fan of Indian food now.

Chicken Curry

3 lb whole chicken fryer, cut into pieces
1 garlic bulb (yes that’s right!)
1 medium onion, diced
1 TB black mustard seeds
1 TB whole cumin
2 tsp gingerroot, peeled and chopped
4 chilies
2 tsp turmeric
3 TP garam masala
4 TB oil
1 cup cilantro, chopped
Salt to taste

Using a large heavy pan, heat the oil over medium to medium high heat. Add the mustard and cumin seeds to the oil. When the spices start popping, add the diced onion. In a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic, ginger, and chilies together. Add salt to make a paste. After the onions start softening, add the garlic mixture. Cook for 2-4 minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic. Put the garam masala and turmeric in a small bowl and add water to make a runny paste. Add to the pan. Stir quickly and watch the heat, this will burn very fast if you are not careful. Add the chicken pieces and stir. 1-2 minutes later, add water to the pan. This will help make the sauce for the chicken and rice. Cook the chicken until tender. After removing from the stove, add the cilantro.

Tomato Chutney

1 can whole peeled tomatoes
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp whole cumin
1 small onion, chopped
1-2 chilies
1 TB oil

Heat the oil over medium heat. Add the mustard and cumin seeds. When they start to pop, add the onion. In a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic and chilies together. Add salt to make a paste. After the onions start softening, add the garlic mixture. Cook for 2-4 minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic. Add the tomatoes, crushing and mashing them in your hands as you add them to the pan. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Stir in sugar and simmer for 5 minutes.

September 10, 2010

Deja vu?

I had another online date last night. I had been in contact with this guy for a few months and finally decided to meet him at the movies. From text messages, I knew that he English wasn’t going to be good (he’s from Pakistan) but I knew I could handle it after living overseas.

Little did I know I was going to time warp myself back to Fiji. I felt myself straining to comprehend his words, I had to consciously talk more slowly, and I started speaking to him like I spoke to locals in Fiji. It turned into broken English and my British accent came out again. I wasn’t frustrated at all. It actually put a smile on my face because I felt like I was at the movies in Fiji again. He also choked me the entire night with his cologne. I am not big fan of cologne, I like a guys natural scent....I don’t see this going anywhere, but it was fun. I totally recommend the new Barrymore flick, Going The Distance. It was very funny and romantic.

I'm going to Knoxville for the weekend for Megan's 29th birthday. I am so excited! Until next time...

September 9, 2010

Spicy Marinara & Chicken Sausage Pasta

I haven’t had a chance to blog lately and I really miss it. I am officially a Lexingtonian now and I love it. I like having my own apartment and having a short commute to work.

Last night, I made a fantastic pasta dish and wanted to share my recipe. This dish is just made for one person, but I did have leftovers. It could easily be doubled. I discovered these tasty chicken sausages at Meijer. The brand is All Fresco and they have several varieties. The sausages have no artificial ingredients, preservatives, or nitrites. I have only tried the sweet Italian style, but Meijer also carries sweet apple and sun-dried tomato. I also purchased the eggplant and sweet red pepper in my recipe at the Richmond Farmer’s Market. I encourage you to buy local ingredients if you are able.

Spicy Marinara and Chicken Sausage Rotini

1 Al Fresco sweet Italian-style chicken sausage, halved
1 handful organic baby spinach, chopped
1/2 eggplant, sliced
1 sweet red pepper, sliced into strips
1-2 cups homemade marinara sauce
Sun dried tomato and basil feta cheese
Red pepper flakes
Whole wheat Rotini pasta

I love grilling on a gas grill but now that I’m at my new apartment, I must rely on my George Forman. I like grill marks on my food and I just think it tastes better. I grilled the sausage, eggplant, and pepper on the GF for 5-7 minutes. While it is grilling, combine the marinara sauce, spinach, and 2-3 shakes (or more!) of the red pepper flakes in a pan and simmer. After the items are finished grilling, cut into bite-size pieces and add to marinara sauce. When the pasta is cooked, combine with sauce, throw on some feta and you are set for dinner! The spicier the better!

September 1, 2010


I usually write about food, but I thought I’d take a different route today and entertain people with my dating life. Back in June, I joined okcupid, an online dating site to meet new people. So far I have met 3 guys and have 3 very good stories. The last one I met was on Monday night. We have previously emailed a few times and texted over the past weekend. I had officially named him LOL guy because after every sentence in his text messages he writes “lol.” I asked him about it and all he could say was LOL. I was annoyed already, but I thought I’d give him a chance to redeem himself.

I had 2 free tickets to a Legends game that needed to be used, so I met him at Applebee’s ballpark. Let’s just say, it was one of the most boring dates I’ve been on in awhile. As soon as I greeted him in the parking lot, I had a feeling it was going to be weird. Awkward Moment #1 He didn’t act excited or anything, he hung his head and didn’t speak. We proceeded to get our tickets, food, and seats. It was actually the best seats I’ve ever had at a Legends game, right on the 3rd base line, six seats back. Awkward Moment #2 We sat down and he just sits there and stares at the field. He doesn’t engage in any conversation, so I chip in here and there just to see if he will talk. Nope. Then he asks me if there is just seven innings in a baseball game. I guess I’m a baseball snob, but I couldn’t believe he didn’t know how many innings were in a game. He supposedly goes to Reds games all the time, so how did he miss that? It seemed like the longest game ever. I went to the bathroom and actually contemplated ditching the game and leaving, but I didn’t. I wouldn’t want it to happen to me, so I erased the thought from my mind.

The game ended and we walked out to our cars. I said my breezy goodbye, got in my car, and peeled off. Awkward Moment #3 Within minutes of leaving the ballpark, he texts me and says, “I have a question lol what did you think of me?” I replied “LOL”…

Some might think another bum date would cause me to rethink the whole online dating scene. But not me, it makes for great stories to tell.

Another one down…batter up!

August 30, 2010

Grilled "Chicken" Wraps

For lunch today, I have created something quick and easy. If you have never tried Morningstar's Grillers Chicken, I highly recommend it. It is made of soy but it tastes just like chicken right off the BBQ.

  • 1 Morningstar Grillers Chicken
  • 2 garden vegetable and spinach tortillas
  • lettuce
  • tomatoes
  • pickles
  • mustard
Zap the soy patty in the microwave in 90 seconds, then the tortillas for 20 seconds. Tear patty into bite size pieces and place in wrap along with a ton of your desired veggies and your favorite condiment. Voila! Grab a piece of fruit and I promise you this meal will fill you up.

August 23, 2010

Quick lunch

My interest in chickpeas heightened while living in the Fiji Islands. The Indo-Fijians, who are originally from India cook with chickpeas frequently and make wonderful curries. The only downfall was you could only find them dried. I would boil the heck out of them and they still wouldn't be the same texture as canned chickpeas. I made the most of it and still ate them all of the time. I mostly made hummus.
I haven't made many chickpea salads but I found this one in Better Homes and Gardens and decided to try it. I used cherry tomatoes instead of roma and substituted pita chips for the regualar pita bread. It's good but I am going to play around with the ingredients next time and make it even tastier.

Chickpea Salad with Pita Chips
  • 2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 container cherry tomatoes, sliced
  • 4 ounces feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup mint leaves
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt/pepper to taste
  • pita chips

Combine the vinegar, oil, and salt/pepper to taste. Mix with chickpeas, tomatoes, and mint. Add feta right before serving.

August 21, 2010


My good friend Crystal was telling me about this spicy green pepper relish that her grandfather used to can. He has passed and she hasn't eaten it since and has been really craving it. I love a challenge and set out to replicate this relish that reminded her of her grandpa. She read me his barely readable diction of the recipe and I looked up green pepper relish recipes online to compensate for parts of the recipe that were unclear. This is what I came up with.

Spicy Green Pepper Relish
  • 12 green and red bell peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 6 white onions, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, chopped
  • 3 poblano peppers, chopped
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 TB mustard seed
  • 1 TB celery seed
Using a food processor, grind the peppers and white onions to the desired size. I chopped mine very finely. Place in a huge bowl and mix in the salt. Cover and refrigerate overnight. The peppers and onions will sweat and there will be a lot of liquid left over. Strain out all of the liquid. Add water and strain again. For the best result, I used a cheesecloth to remove excess liquid. You want to make sure and remove most of the salt.

In a saucepan, bring the vinegar, sugar, mustard and celery seed to a boil over low heat. Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Add veggies and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
You can either refrigerate or can the relish. I chose to can. If you refrigerate, it will last 3 weeks. If you can the relish, it will be good up to 1 year if placed in a cool, dark place.

August 13, 2010

What's for Lunch?

I found a new recipe in Redbook magazine that looked quite good. Salmon Nicoise Salad with mustard vinaigrette. Nicoise salad is comprised of boiled eggs, tomato halves, lettuce, nicoise olives, boiled new potatoes, steamed green beans and tuna. I exchanged the tuna for grilled salmon. Brush a little oil on each side of the salmon, sprinkle with salt and pepper and grill approximately 3-4 minutes on each side over medium heat.

Vinaigrette's are very easy to make and so much better than the over-processed salad dressings in the supermarkets. First, grill 2 lemon halves which gives the juice a nice flavor. Then squeeze the juice of the two lemons in a bowl with 2 tablespoons of spicy mustard and 2 tablespoons of honey. Again, use locally harvested honey. Local honey is available at the Richmond Farmer's Market and it is really tasty! Whisk it all together, add salt if needed and pour over the salad. Homemade salad dressing will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 months!

August 12, 2010


My favorite thing to make this summer has been pesto. Freshly picked basil is available at the Richmond Farmer's Market for $1.50/bundle. The farm stand that sells the basil is also organic, which is awesome!!

I make pesto a variety of different ways. I use basil or cilantro, almonds or walnuts, Parmesan or feta. It's fun to mix it up and try different recipes to suit your taste and the dish.
Pesto can be basted on grilled shrimp, mixed with whole grain penne pasta, or spread on a toasted baguette for a quick appetizer.
I don't measure ingredients when I make pesto, just throw it in and it will come out just fine.

Basic Pesto:

  • A bunch of basil or cilantro, roughly chopped
  • A handful of nuts (almonds, walnuts, pine)
  • A few glugs of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic (add more if you love it, like me!)
  • grated cheese (feta, parmesan)
  • salt to taste
Put everything in a food processor and pulse until it forms a choppy texture. Add more olive oil if you want it more runny. If you want a fine pesto, just keep it in longer. I prefer big chunks of basil/cilantro in my pesto. Pour mixture over cooked pasta or a salad for a healthy, fresh dish. (No cooking is required of the pesto.)

It is best served fresh but the pesto will keep in a sealed container in the refrigerator for several days. If you want to save any for later use, just freeze in an ice cube tray, pop out when frozen and put in a freezer bag.

August 9, 2010

Catching up.

It has been 2 weeks since my last post and I have to apologize. I went on a family trip to visit friends in St. Louis and it threw off my cooking for a good week. I have been looking for beets at the Richmond Farmer's Market lately and finally found some. But, they were tiny! I don't know if they picked them too early or if they are supposed to be this small, but I bought them anyway.

Beets have always been on salad bars, but I notice most people would not go near them. I tried them out once and loved them and have eaten them ever since. My only thing was I had only tried canned beets and I wanted to eat fresh. So I bit the bullet and bought the tiny beets.
I keep seeing recipes for roasted beet salads, but since I won't have enough beets for a salad I decided to still roast them in the oven.

I cut off the tops and bottoms, brushed with a little extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper. Throw in a 400 degree oven for 40 minutes or until tender when poked with a fork. After they were cooked, I just peeled them and popped them in my mouth. It took about 30 seconds to eat them.

July 28, 2010


I would grill out everyday if I could in the summertime. I just love the taste of food when it's grilled.

I found a recipe in Southern Living for Southwest Shrimp Tacos that I absolutely love. I've made it twice in the last week. Mix together 2 TB hot sauce, 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin, 1 1/2 tsp chili powder, 2 TB oil, and 3/4 tsp salt. Throw this sauce on some raw shrimp (I like using a silicone baster like the one shown below) and skewer. Grill for 1-2 minutes each side. Make sure you don't over cook, they will become rubbery. Then slide a few tortillas on the grills for 30 seconds to warm; cut up some tomatoes and lettuce and you're set to go with your spicy shrimp tacos!

July 27, 2010

The end...for now.

I finished up the last of my canning this morning. The szechuan beans smell so good. The mixture you pour over it has several ingredients including sesame oil and fresh garlic and ginger. The garlic and ginger smells wafting through the house reminded me of making curries in Fiji.

I am completely exhausted today and contribute it to canning 12 straight hours. I won't be able to buy more vegetables until two weekends from now, but I plan on getting cucumbers and beets.

The stove is still on.

It's almost midnight and I'm still waiting on the last round of jars to finish. It's been a long day. I got everything canned except the half runner beans. I ended up with 9 quarts of marinara sauce, 6 pints of pickled squash, and 2 pints of salsa verde. It all looks yummy!

July 26, 2010

Let the canning begin.

My family has been canning green beans and blackberry jam since I was born. I first started canning in 2008 while a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Fiji Islands. I made dill and bread and butter pickles and chillies.

I was visiting my best friend in Portland last week and decided to begin canning again after finding the book, "Put 'em up! by Sherri Brooks Vinton. I went to the Richmond Farmer's Market on Saturday to get lots of veggies for canning. I bought half runner beans, tomatoes, tomatillos, basil, summer squash, and corn. This week I am going to make (can) marinara sauce, green tomatillo enchilada sauce, italian-flavored pickled squash, and szechaun beans.