Archive for the ‘food’ Category

Skinny Oven "Fried" Pickles

Remember how a couple of weeks ago I was so excited about the deep fried pickles I had in a pub in Big Sur?

Well I have been craving them since. But since I am no longer on vacation, I can’t indulge in every fried food craving I get (believe me, that’s all I’d eat).  Enter Pinterest, where a quick search of “fried pickles” brought me dozens of recipes. What I concocted is my combination of a few recipes, with my favorite secret weapon added in.

Here’s what you need:

  • Pickle chips, either the classic sandwich kind of bread and butter pickles. I experimented with both, and they each tasted good to me; just depends on your taste.
  • About 3/4 cup of wheat flower
  • about 1 1/2 cups of Panko bread crumbs
  • 2 egg whites
  • your favorite hot sauce
  • Parmesan cheese, if you’re feeling it
  • And probably my newest favorite ingredient, this:
If you can get your hands on this smoke seasoning, do it! It adds an incredible smoky spice that isn’t overwhelming and is phenomenal when mixed in with the bread crumbs in this recipe.
So here’s what you do:
Preheat your oven to broil, and spray non-stick cooking spray on wire racks, then put them on top of a baking sheet.
Whisk some egg whites together, and add in your favorite hot sauce (for these I like Frank’s Hot Sauce) and some salt and pepper.
In a shallow bowl, mix the bread crumbs with the smoke seasoning and the Parmesan cheese, and set up another shallow bowl with some flour.
Then dredge each pickle through flour, dip into the egg mixture, then coat with the bread crumb mixture. Place the coated pickles on the wire rack, and broil for about 3 minutes, then flip them over and broil about 3 more minutes.

Voila! A guilt-free snack that is perfect for summer BBQs and lazy weekend afternoons. They’re great dipped in ranch dressing (TJ’s had a low fat Parmesan ranch dressing that is good, or you can also make a healthy concoction of your own from greek yogurt and your favorite seasonings). 

And yes, I totally double dipped this bad boy!

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Sexy Shepherd’s Pie

You’ve maybe heard of Engagement Chicken. You can’t seem me now, but I am rolling my eyes, as I do every time that stupid idea is mentioned. Well, this dish probably won’t get a man to produce a ring (though if it does, let me know!), but I will guarantee that it will lead to some snuggles and probably sexy time.

Hey, I’ll take that.

Or maybe you want to cook something nutritious for your family; this is a good go-to for that as well!

The best part about shepherd’s pie is that you can customize it to your preferences. At the heart of it, it’s meat and potatoes, so you’re already off to a good start. Don’t like peas? Don’t add ’em. You can add whatever veggies you want and spice it up however you like.

Sorry, I have no self-control to take a good picture when this is in front of me. Also, I covered my plate in freshly ground pepper.

Here’s what you need:

1lb ground sirloin. Go for the 90/10 stuff; you want lean and good quality meat.
About 3/4 cup of diced white onion
About a spoonful of minced garlic
Your favorite kind of mushrooms (optional. I like crimini here)
A can of diced tomatoes (with juices)
about 1/2 cup of good red wine (I think a syrrah goes well in here)
Some ketchup
Crushed red pepper (optional. I like my food spicy)
Whatever veggie mixture you want. I like Trader Joe’s frozen veggie blend, but you can also add canned veggies, freshly diced veggies, whatever you want.
Mashed potatoes. You don’t have to make them from scratch, but it’s better that way
Parmesan cheese.

 To Make:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Sautee the onions, garlic, and mushrooms on medium heat until soft and golden. Add in the sirloin and cook through until it’s no longer, well, raw. Add the tomatoes and red wine, and let simmer for about 15-20 minutes until it reduces. Add as much salt, pepper, crushed red pepper as you like. Once the sauce has reduced, add in a little ketchup to thicken up the sauce and to your own taste preference.

In the mean time, make the mashed potatoes. I take 3 large, peeled potatoes, dice them, and add to boiling water for about 7 minutes. Strain the potatoes, then add about half a stick of butter, a cup or so of milk, a small spoonful of minced garlic, and some parmesean cheese. I like to beat them with a hand mixer to get them nice and soft for this dish– lumpy potatoes don’t work as well.

If you’re veggies are raw or frozen, sautee them for a couple of minutes until they’re warm and soft.

In a large glass baking dish, layer half of the meat and sauce, the veggies, half of the potatoes, and then layer again the remaining meat and veggies. Grate or shave Parmesan cheese over the top, then bake for about 25 minutes until the edges are golden brown.
Let cool for about 5 minutes, then serve while hot.

Pair this with a bold red wine like a syrrah or cab. I like serving this with roasted asparagus or a crisp green salad.
Easy-peasy and delicious. And for what likely follows this meal if you’re making it for your significant other…you’re welcome…

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Cookin’ With Trader Joe’s, Again. Yes, Again.

While I was out for a run on Monday evening, I got to thinking about the ginormous burrito I wanted to demolish after running.
Yes, I think about food while I run.
But then I realized that eating a huge burrito would sort of defeat the purpose of the run, and so I came up with this beauty made of ingredients I had recently bought from Trader Joe’s.
So here’s what I whipped up:

Pesto Linguine with Shrimp and Asparagus

All you need are these items:
Frozen shrimp (pre -cooked and deveined)
A bag of the frozen pesto linguine with tomatoes
A few stalks of asparagus

Heat up a little olive oil and toss in as much shrimp as you’d like. While those bad boys are defrosting, chop up a few stalks of asparagus, and toss them in with the shrimp. Let them heat on medium heat for about 3 minutes, and add some pepper. Or don’t. I like my food very pepper-y.

Then add the little pasta nests from the pesto linguine, cover, and let simmer/defrost for about 5 minutes. Once the nests have separated and defrosted, remove from heat, and add crushed red pepper and Parmesean cheese.

Then eat! It would be distasteful of you to not pair this with a glass of pinot grigio.
It could serve 2, but honestly, no judgement if you eat the whole thing. I do.

I am sorry if you live in a place that doesn’t have Trader Joe’s. Maybe consider moving?

Cookin’ With Trader Joe’s: Fettuccine with Mushrooms and Broccoli

You know how I love a good semi- homemade meal with Trader Joes‘ products, and so I thought I’d share tonight’s dinner: Fettuccine with Mushrooms and Broccoli.

If Fettuccine Alfredo is your guilty pleasure, then this one is for you. It’s satisfying and flavorful, but guilt free. I make this for myself on nights when Cliff works, because:

1. Cliff doesn’t eat carbs,
2. I eat the whole thing, and at about 550 calories, who cares? This could make a good side dish, though,
3. Broccoli makes me gassy. It’s best if I eat this on a night when I am sleeping alone.
Here’s what you need:
Trader Joe’s Broccoli Florets
Frozen Fettuccine and Mushrooms
Parmesan Cheese
Plenty of Sriracha sauce. 
I like to cook everything in one pan, so in a large skillet, I saute the broccoli for a few moments before adding a few tablespoons of water, cover, and let steam for about 4 minutes or so.
Then, add the fettuccine. It comes in noodle nests with small chunks of frozen sauce. Doesn’t sound appetizing, but freezing it that way keeps the food from getting too mushy.
Cover and simmer until the nests defrost but before the sauce begins boiling.
Add lots of Parmesan and as much Sriracha as you can handle. 
Voila! 10 minutes and you’ve got a nutritious, decadent, guilt free dinner. Since the whole bowl is only 550 calories, grab a glass of wine, or 2 or 3…
Also, linking up over here:
Aloha Friday Blog Hop

Cookies Fit For a Princess

Lemon Lavender Shortbread Biscuits

Now I know that I am trying to cut back on desserts, but when I learned of lavender biscuits, and heard that Kate Middleton uses them as a remedy to cure morning sickness, I just had to try these. Lavender in cookie? And lavender in cookies for a princess? Yes, please. So I got this recipe from Helena at A Diary of Lovely , which is no surprise since just about everything that girl does is indeed lovely.

On this side of the pond, in Orange County, to be exact, citrus fruits are in full effect right now, and if you live here you surely have a neighbor happy to unload some lemons or oranges on you (BTW, please come take some of our oranges!). One of the tutors who works in my writing center brought in some ginormous lemons for us to take, but apparently when you leave fruit in the break room, this is what you end up with:

HAHA! I felt very guilty cutting into one of these. The content one in the center went into these cookies, in case you’re wondering.

Back to princess cookies. They are incredibly easy to make, and I was pleased to see that they don’t call for too much sugar. You also make them all in a food processor, which saves a lot of clean up time.

Here’s what you need:

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest + 2 tablespoons juice from 1-2 lemons
  • 2 teaspoons dried lavender
  • 1-3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 12 tablespoons (1-1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


In a food processor, process the sugar, lemon zest and lavender until the sugar looks damp and the zest and lavender are fully incorporated, about 30 seconds. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt, then add to the sugar mixture; pulse to combine, about (10) 1-second pulses.

Scatter the butter pieces over and pulse until the mixture resembles fine cornmeal, about (15) 1-second pulses. In a measuring cup, beat together the lemon juice, egg yolk and vanilla. With the machine running, add the juice mixture in a slow stream (should take about 10 seconds) and continue processing until the dough forms into a ball, 10 to 15 seconds longer.

Turn the dough and any dry bits onto a clean work surface and gently gather into a ball. Working quickly, roll the dough into a cylinder about 12″ long and 1-1/2″ in diameter. Center the dough on a piece of parchment or plastic wrap and wrap tightly, twisting the ends together to seal. Chill the dough until firm and cold, about 45 minutes in the freezer or 2 hours in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or spray them with nonstick cooking spray.

Remove the dough log from its wrapper and use a sharp knife to slice the dough into 3/8″ thick rounds. Place the rounds on the prepared baking sheets, spacing them 1″ apart. Bake until the centers of the cookies just begin to color and the edges are golden brown, about 10-12 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through the baking time. Cool on sheets about 5 minutes, then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes approximately 4 dozen.

Now, you will want to watch these cookies closely, as they go from golden to over-crisped (read: burnt) very quickly. I had to throw out a first batch that um, crisped within 10 minutes, so if you’re cookies are on the smaller side, they probably only need about 8 minutes or so.

If you were to wear a tiara while eating these, I wouldn’t judge you.

Blackened Salmon Caesar Salad, Trader Joe’s Style

Did you see that episode of Real Housewives of Atlanta (come on, you can admit to watching it) when Kenya, in hopes of getting her beau to propose to her, “cooks” a special dinner by microwaving a meal from Trader Joe’s and telling him how hard she worked on it?

Well, minus the whole lying about the work part, I have to confess that is often my style of cooking. On nights when I don’t get home until after 7 and I am starving, even a 30 minute meal is too much work.

But unlike Kenya from RHOA, I like to brag about how easy a delicious meal was. So this is one of my favorite go-to healthy meals. I didn’t do too good of a job of taking pictures because I was too busy salivating and whispering, oh salad, get in ma belly…

Blackened Salmon Caesar Salad, Trader Joe’s Style

What you need are the fillets of Cajun style salmon, a bag of Caesar salad mix, and a container of mini sugar plum tomatoes.
I usually just grill up the fillets in a pan for about 5-6 minutes on each side. While they’re grilling, I cut the tomatoes into halves. Then I mix the dressing with the lettuce, tomatoes, croutons, and parmesean cheese. Once the salmon is ready, I pull it apart with a fork into large chunks, and toss into the salad.
That’s it.
Now, the Cajun salmon has a good kick to it. I add Sriracha or crushed red pepper to almost all of my food, and I thought that the salmon had a good amount of spice, so some may call it extra spicy. The lettuce helps cool down your tongue, though. It makes a big ol’ salad, more than enough for 2, but don’t worry about pigging out on it, because the dressing is lite and the salmon is good for you. 
Warning: this salad is highly addictive and you may want it several times a week. 

Banana Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting!

It’s 10 o’clock on Sunday night, do you know what that means? It means that Monday, the first Monday fo the new semester, is almost here. Uggghhhh. I am NOT ready for a new semester to begin.

Fortunately, tomorrow morning I will at least have a lovely treat waiting for me!

This weekend, I baked Andie @ canyoustayfordinner.com‘s banana bread cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. She is right; nothing beats cream cheese frosting! Aaaannnd, these are low sugar and low fat! For reals!


You can find her recipe here.

Since I’ve been running regularly, I’ve been craving carbs and sweets like whoa. Since I am running I can afford to treat myself now and then, but I don’t want to undo an entire run with one dessert. So I experimented with substituting some ingredients from Andie’s recipe to cut down on sugar and fat. Here’s what I did:

Banana Cupcakes
makes 1 dozen
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
5 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon of Splenda Brown sugar blend (it’s not exactly sugar free, but a drastic reduction in sugar)
2 eggs
1 ¼ cups mashed very ripe bananas (2 very large bananas or 3 small)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup vegetable oil and 1/4 cup of organic applesauce. I’ve tried substituting all of the oil with applesauce, but the consistency wasn’t right. So half of the oil that the recipe calls for mixed with applesauce that has no sugar added to it does the trick (the recipe originally called for 1/2 cup of veggie oil).  
For the frosting:
4 ounces lite cream cheese, softened
½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 cups confectioner’s sugar, made from Splenda. To make powdered sugar from Splenda, simply add 1 tsp cornstarch for every cup of splenda, and blend in a food processor on high for a few minutes, until the sweetener has the consistency of the powdered sugar you’re used to seeing come out of a box.
To make the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a standard 12-cup muffin pan with paper cupcake liners. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.
In a small bowl, whisk the sugar, eggs, mashed banana, vanilla, and oil. Add this wet mixture to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan; each cup should be about three-quarters full.
Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into one of the cupcakes comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached, about 15 to 18 minutes. Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for two minutes before removing and allowing them to cool completely on a wire rack.
Make the frosting: Beat the cream cheese in a large bowl until smooth. Add sugar and beat for 3 minutes on high speed until the sugar is fully incorporated and the mixture is silky. Add lemon juice and beat for one additional minute. 


Talk about a guilt-free snack! The original recipe, with real sugar and oil made each cupcake only about 250 calories each; the reduction of sugar and oil DRASTICALLY reduces the calories, though, to be honest, I haven’t done the math. 

When they’re this good AND low in sugar, who cares?! I say have two!