Thursday, December 30, 2010

Inside The Bungalow

In the heart of downtown Mesa, there's a hidden gem: Inside the Bungalow. It's an historic craftsman, bungalow house that's been converted into a cafe and yoga studio. When I was little my mum and I would go on lunch dates to the old house, I loved walking into a real-life Alice in Wonderland fantasy. Full of cozy chairs, fireplaces and charming decor, it's a wonderful spot to spent a day reading (and sipping on a handcrafted latte, complete with latte art). My favorite is the chicken curry salad, made fresh daily.

Hidden on Robson Street in Mesa's downtown district, Inside the Bungalow's entrance calls my name every time I walk by. 
The patio is just as charming as the interior of the cafe and yoga studio. There are gazebos, fountains and greenery to provide an hour's escape from the real world.

One of the rooms of the cafe portion of the Inside the Bungalow. See the Mad Hatter type character on the back wall? Notice the awesome tile work floor, too.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Fair Trade Cafe

One block away from ASU's downtown campus, this coffee shop offers students a way to get caffeinated while supporting local businesses and ethical, fair trade sourcing. In addition to great coffee, Fair Trade Cafe also offers breakfast and lunch.

During finals week I stopped by for lunch (and to redeem my Groupon for the cafe!) and spent my afternoon cuddled up with my favorite book, sipping a cinnamon latte and munching on a chicken curry salad sandwich (that came with an amazing chocolate chip, peanut butter cookie).

I love the coffee bean bags used as decor for their counter front and their chalkboard menu!

I try to eat at local, Arizona restaurants whenever possible. For a list of other Phoenix restaurants I'm dying to taste test, check out this post.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Shortbread Cookies

Passed down from my grandma, Christmas hasn't arrived until my family has baked a batch of these delish, buttery cookies. We love decorating them together, personalizing them for all our friends and family. After rolling them out and before cooking, we gather around the kitchen to add our personal touch to each cookie.

What are your family's holiday food traditions?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Arizona Oranges

It's the most wonderful time of the year--and not just because it's Christmas season! It's also citrus season in Arizona! Oranges, grapefruit, lemons...we've got trees full of delicious, ripe citrus. Today Jesse and I picked a bucket of oranges to make fresh, right-off-the-tree orange juice. It's so much better than anything you can buy in the store!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Spaghetti & Chickpeas

My dad loves chickpeas. Really. He eats them on salads, by themselves and even sauteed with green beans. They're one of his favorite foods. So naturally, any recipe that features chickpeas gets an automatic turn at the dinner table. This one was no exception. I never would have considered mixing spaghetti and chickpeas together, but Smitten Kitchen did, and we loved it. I liked the idea of the chickpeas adding some extra protein to a pasta dinner without adding the extra calories of meatballs.

15 ounces canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained or about 2 cups, freshly cooked chickpeas
1/2 cup chicken stock
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup pancetta, diced (a little shy of 2 ounces)
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
Pinch chile flakes
1 14-ounce can tomatoes, chopped
10 to 15 basil leaves
Salt to taste
1 pound spaghetti
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese to taste

Get Cookin'

Set 1/3 cup of chickpeas aside. In a blender or food processor, combine remaining chickpeas with chicken stock and pulse a few times until chickpeas are chopped.

Place a large pot over medium heat and add EVOO and diced pancetta. Sauté for 3 to 4 minutes until lightly browned. Add onions, garlic, and chile flakes; cook until onions and garlic are translucent, about 5 to 8 minutes.

Add chickpea mixture, tomatoes, and basil, and simmer for 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt. While sauce is cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add spaghetti, and cook until al dente. Reserve one cup of pasta water and drain the rest.

Toss pasta with chickpea sauce, reserved chickpeas and half of the reserved pasta water until evenly coated and heated through, about one minute. If sauce still feels too thick add reserved pasta water as needed. Season again, as needed, and serve with grated Parmesan to pass.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Mac & Cheese

How was everyone's Thanksgiving? Both of mine were delicious. We first ate with Jesse's family and then came to my parents house for round two. Both meals were so different (mashed potatoes & green bean casserole at his house, homemade noodles and desserts from scratch at mine), we were utterly stuffed when we were finally finished.
 Awesome montage of mac & cheese box mixes from here

Continuing my comfort foods made healthy theme, I made macaroni and cheese, one of my absolute favorite meals ever, a bit healthier this time (from Right at Home). I was nervous about the broccoli in this dish, but it was surprisingly good and didn't take away from my mac & cheese! Homemade macaroni and cheese is so much better than the Blue Box--honestly, if you've never made if from scratch, do it! It's worth it.

8 ounces multigrain elbow macaroni (about 2 cups)
4 Tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
4 Tablespoons butter
1 cup skim milk
1 cup fat-free half-and-half
2 cups shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese
2 cups broccoli, chopped into small pieces
2 plum tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/4 cup whole-wheat bread crumbs (my family makes bread crumbs from scratch)

Get Cookin'

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, lightly grease a 9-by-12-inch baking dish

Cook the macaroni and drain.

Mix the flour, salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder in a small bowl. Set aside.

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the seasoned flour whisk constantly until the mixture is thick and smooth, about 2 minutes.

Increase the heat to medium-high. Whisking constantly, gradually add the milk and half-and-half until the mixture is smooth. Bring to a gentle boil and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture is very thick and smooth, about 5 to 10 minutes.

Reduce the heat to medium. Add the cheese, half a cup at a time, stirring thoroughly each time until the cheese is melted. Remove from the heat. Add the cooked macaroni, stir to combine.

Layer the bottom of a baking dish with the broccoli and tomatoes. Spoon the macaroni and cheese over the vegetables. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and bake in the oven for 30 minutes, until the top is crisped and lightly browned.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Tuna Casserole

I'm so excited it's finally getting chilly in PHX! Right now it's 59 degrees and everybody around campus is walking around bundled up in ASU sweatshirts and sweatpants with a cup of hot coffee in their hand (like Starbuck's Christmas Blend, my favorite!).

Anyways, winter weather means delicious comfort food, like tuna casserole. While I may not eat the tuna casserole served at the dining hall downstairs, I'll never pass up a homemade one. This recipe is from Eat Better America, which "healthifies" traditional comfort food. So, don't feel too guilty about eating this for dinner tonight!
 photo from here

2 1/2 cups uncooked multigrain pasta (your favorite shape!)
2 teaspoons EVOO
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped 
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped 
1 medium onion, chopped 
1 package (8 oz) fresh mushrooms, chopped
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
1 can (10 3/4 oz) cream of mushroom soup (buy the 45% less sodium, condensed 98% fat-free kind)
1 container (8 oz) sour cream (reduced-fat )
2 oz cream cheese, softened (1/3-less-fat kind is best)
1/2 cup fat-free milk
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 cans (6 oz each) solid white albacore tuna in water, drained
1/2 cup shredded reduced-fat sharp Cheddar cheese 
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
12 stone-ground wheat crackers, coarsely crushed (about 1/2 cup) 
Frozen peas (I added this to the original recipe, maybe 1/2 of a frozen package?)

Get Cookin'

1  Heat oven to 350°F. Spray 13x9-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Cook pasta as directed on package; drain.         
2  In a nonstick skillet, heat EVOO over medium-high heat. Saute bell peppers, onion, mushrooms and garlic until vegetables are tender.               
3  Stir in soup, sour cream, cream cheese, milk and pepper until well blended. Stir in tuna, pasta and Cheddar cheese. Spoon into baking dish; spread evenly. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and crushed crackers.
4  Bake uncovered 35 to 40 minutes or top is golden brown and mixture is bubbly.   
I think this could be converted to a crockpot, I'm going to experiment with that next time I make this!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Spanish White Beans with Spinach

I read a depressing statistic a few days ago: The average American adult gains 10 pounds between Halloween and New Years. Eek. That's a whole jean size. Yuck!

So, I'll be focusing on giving you some healthy alternatives over the next month to help keep us all fitting into our jeans! Today: Spanish white beans with spinach, originally from Gourmet (November 2009 issue).


  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped

  • 1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped

  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

  • 4 garlic cloves, minced

  • 1/2 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika 

  • 2 (19-ounces cans) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

  • 1 cup water

  • 2 (10-ounces) bags spinach, tough stems removed

  • Get Cookin'

    The original recipe wasn't made for a slow cooker, but I converted it into one to fit into my week. If you don't want to use a crockpot, just sautee the recipe in a pan on the stove--quick and easy, too.

    Throw everything into the crockpot for 4-5 hours on low (you're really just letting the onions cook down and allowing the flavors to come together). About an hour before you're ready to eat, add the spinach to the slow cooker.

    Monday, November 8, 2010

    Salsa Chicken & Black Bean Soup

    This is a favorite around my dorm! It's easy, cheap and pretty healthy. Thanks to 365 Days of Crockpotting for this recipe! 

    --1 pound chicken (can still be frozen)
    --1 cans black beans (drained and rinsed)
    --4 cups chicken broth
    --1 cup sliced mushrooms ( I used canned ones)
    --1 cup frozen corn
    --1 jar prepared salsa (16 oz)
    --1 1/2 tsp cumin
    --1/2 cup sour cream (to stir in at the end)
    -- avocado slices, cilantro (all optional)

    Get cookin'

    Throw everything except the sour cream, avocado and cilantro into the crockpot and cook on low for 8 hours. If you'd like to thicken the broth use an immersible blender to blend a bit of the beans and chicken. If you don't have one, scoop out 2 cups of the soup and carefully blend in your traditional blender. Stir the mixture back into the crockpot.

    Stir in the 1/2 cup of sour cream before serving, and garnish with cilantro and avocado slices.

    Friday, October 22, 2010

    PHX restaurants to try

    I've had a Microsoft Word document on my desktop for a while where I'd add new restaurants I want to try. But, I keep telling people about the list, but then don't think to email it to them (who'd want to read it via email, anyways!). So, here's my incomplete list of must-try PHX eateries.

    If you've got another great restaurant in PHX, especially on the light rail, send it my way!

    Switch Wine Bar

    Hula's Modern Tiki

    Postinos Wine Cafe


    Blue Nile Cafe 

    Luci's Healthy Cafe

    Mrs. White's Golden Rule Cafe


    Ticoz Resto-Bar

    Verde 12/30/2010 update: Sadly, Verde went out of business before I was able to try it. Open less than a year, they closed due to a slow dinner crowd. :(

    Sunday, October 17, 2010

    Pumpkin Recipes

    I wish the window for cooking pumpkin was bigger! Trying to fit in all the yummy pumpkin recipes I've found across the web it tricky. Here's an on-going list of new pumpkin recipes to try!

    photo from here 
    Pumpkin Pancakes
    Moroccan Pumpkin and Lentils
    Pumpkin Party Mix
    Pumpkin Bean Soup 
    Pumpkin & Black Bean Soup
    Gingered Pumpkin Soup
    Iced Pumpkin Cookies
    Pumpkin-Bourbon Pudding
    Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake (no-bake!)

    Saturday, October 9, 2010

    Chocolate, Pumpkin Shortbread Bites

    I'm so excited it's finally fall (and the weather is in double, not triple, digits)! To celebrate,  next weekend my family is having a pumpkin bake fest. Can't wait. Pumpkin pie milkshakes, caramel pumpkin cupcakes, this recipe...our friends and family are going to love us!

    This recipe is from Picky Palate, which always has the cutest holiday snack and dessert ideas. Hope you'll be able to get all your favorite pumpkin recipes cooked before the end of November!


    2 sticks softened butter
    1 Cup granulated sugar
    1/4 Cup packed light brown sugar
    1 3/4 Cup all purpose flour
    1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    2 Cups canned pumpkin
    1/2 Cup granulated sugar
    1/2 Cup heavy whipping cream
    2 large eggs
    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/2 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
    1 Cup chopped chocolate or chocolate chips
    Sprinkles of choice if desired

    Get Cookin'

    1.    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Use an electric mixer cream the butter and sugars until well combined.  Slowly add in flour and salt until dough forms. 
    2.    Press into the bottom of an 8×8 inch baking dish, lined with foil and sprayed with cooking spray.
    3.    Next, for the pumpkin layer,mix pumpkin sugar, cream, eggs, cinnamon and nutmeg into a mixing bowl until well combined. 
    4.    Pour over shortbread layer. 
    5.     Bake for 45 minutes or until pumpkin layer is golden brown.
    6.    Let cool for 30 minutes then cut into bars. 
    7.    Melt chocolate over a double broiler or in microwave until smooth then spread over bars. 
    8.    Sprinkle with white sprinkles if desired and serve room temperature or chill until ready to serve.

    Tuesday, October 5, 2010

    Chocolate Kaula trifle

    Instead of a birthday cake this year, my mum made me a chocolate, Kaula trifle. We'd talked about Kaula a few weeks before my birthday and I said I wanted to try it. What better way than to try it in my birthday cake!

    This was amazing-everybody loved it. It actually isn't too sweet, Jesse's mom doesn't like sugary-sweet things and she enjoyed it. We will be making this before my next birthday!

    This is another recipe that's better to make the day before so the flavors have time to come together.

    My birthday trifle and me!
    1 pkg. chocolate cake mix
    2 pkgs. (4 serving size) instant chocolate pudding mix
    2 cups milk (only) for pudding mix
    2/3 c. Kahlua
    1 pt whipping cream, whipped
    6 Heath bars, crushed in food processor

    Get Cookin'

    Mix cake mix as directed on package and bake in 13 x 9 inch pan.   Let cool (can do this the day before).

    Make chocolate pudding using only 3 cups of milk instead of 4.  Set aside to cool.

    Cut cake into 1" x 1" chunks. Put half of them into glass serving bowl.

    Sprinkle with half the Kahlua.

    Spread half the pudding over cake and sprinkle with half the Heath bars.
    Repeat all layers.  Refrigerate

    Top with homemade whipped cream to serve.
    We served them in wine glasses, but you could serve them in bowls, too.

    Monday, September 27, 2010

    Barley and Black Bean Salad

    I'm in recovery mode from a wonderful birthday weekend! My two close friends, Kristen and Sarah, from my days at Starbucks took me out on Friday night for drinks and dinner--we started at Oreganos, a fun, vintage themed Italian restaurant. They've got locations across Arizona--make sure to save room for their famous pazookies: warm cookie dough with ice cream on top. They've also got some spectacular drinks, too.

    On my actual birthday, my parents and Jesse took me to RA Sushi! I loved it. I think I was the only one that did, though. We all had fun, but I don't think any of them will want to go there for their birthday dinners!

    On Sunday the rest of our family came over for cake and ice cream. Actually, we made a kalua chocolate trifle. It was to die for. I'll post the recipe later this week.

    For now, it's back on the band wagon with a good lunch salad: barley and black bean salad. This makes a lot, so plan to bring it to work all week. This recipe is from: Real Age.

    photo from here

    • 1 cup barley, cooked according to package directions
    • 1 cup black beans, rinsed
    • 1/2 cup corn (thawed if frozen)
    • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
    • 2 tablespoon lime juice
    • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1 avocado, sliced
    • cayenne pepper
    • Salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste
    Get Cookin'

    Combine cooked barley, beans, corn, cilantro, lime juice, oil, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper in a medium bowl.

    Immediately before eating, slice avocado to put on top.

    It's better if you make it the day before to help the flavors mix together. 

    Friday, September 24, 2010

    Let me Eat Cake!

    This weekend is my birthday--anticlimactic 22 year birthday. But, I'm still excited. See, I adore celebrating birthdays (not just my own, everyone's)! Have you ever visited Birthday Girl? Her blog has the best of the best birthday parties- I love seeing the beautiful decorations and fun themes featured on her blog.

    I'm most excited for birthday cake. JRM loves white on white cake, but I love double chocolate. Can't wait for a beautiful, chocolate cake! This one-bowl chocolate cake recipe from Martha Stewart looks amazing. Saturday can't come soon enough!

    Photograph: Dennis Gottlieb/Getty Images/StockFood


    Unsalted butter, softened, for pans

    3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch cocoa powder, plus more for pans

    1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

    1 1/2 cups sugar
    1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

    3/4 teaspoon baking powder

    3/4 teaspoon salt

    2 large eggs

    3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk

    3/4 cup warm water

    3 tablespoons safflower oil

    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

    Get Cookin'
    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans and dust with cocoa.
    Sift cocoa, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of a mixer. Beat on low speed until just combined. Raise speed to medium, and add eggs, buttermilk, water, oil, and vanilla. Beat until smooth, about 3 minutes.

    Divide batter between pans. Bake until set and a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes. Turn out from pans. Transfer, faceup, to wire racks. Let cool completely.

    Spread 2 cups chocolate frosting onto top of 1 cooled layer. Top with remaining layer; frost top and sides with remaining 2 cups frosting.

    Thursday, September 23, 2010

    Mulligatawny Soup

    Last semester the dining hall served mulligatawny soup for dinner one day--I was skeptic, but tried it. It was amazing, and I've been looking for a recipe to recreate it. Stephanie O'dea at A Year of Slowcooking has the winning recipe for mulligatawny soup! 

    I thought this was fitting for the first day of fall. The leaves don't change color in Arizona, but a girl can live vicariously through NY pictures!
    photo from here

    The name is weird and the ingredients may sound weird, but it is superb! Give it a try, please!

    2 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
    1 cup peeled and chopped apple
    1 cup chopped carrots
    1 (15-ounce) can fire roasted tomatoes
    1 tablespoon dried minced onion flake
    1/4 cup raisins
    1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
    2 teaspoons curry
    1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
    3 cups chicken broth
    1/3 cup long grain white rice (to add later)

    Get Cookin'

    Put the chicken thighs into the bottom of the crockpot--add apple, carrots, tomatoes (juice, too), onion flakes, and raisins,lemon juice, spices, and broth.

    Stir to mix the spices.

    Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours. 
    Turn to high and stir in the uncooked rice about an hour before serving. 

    Monday, September 20, 2010

    Chocolate Nutella Cookies

    Chocolate chip cookies are my favorite, but these must come in a close second--chocolate + nutella = heaven. You must try them, as soon as possible! The cookie dough by itself is even better than the cooked cookies!
    After working on my honors prospectus all weekend (plus 3 honors contract proposals and studying for a poli sci exam) I loved relaxing and baking these on Sunday!

    photo and recipe from here
    • 1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter, room temperature
    • 3/4 cup of brown sugar
    • 3/4 cup of white sugar
    • 1 cup of Nutella
    • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
    • 2 eggs
    • 2 cups, plus 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
    • 1/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa
    • 1/2 tsp baking soda
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1 cup of chocolate chips
    Get Cookin'

    1 Preheat oven to 350F. Cream butter in an electric mixer for about 3 minutes until light and fluffy. Add the sugars and Nutella and mix well.

    2 Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for 30 seconds between each. Add the vanilla and mix.

    3 Sift together the flour, cocoa, salt, and baking soda. Mix into the butter mixture on low speed. Fold in chocolate chips and refrigerate the dough for ten minutes (I refrigerated mine for an hour).

    4 Spoon tablespoon-sized drops of dough onto parchment paper lined cookie sheets. Bake at 350F for 10-12 minutes. Allow to cool on the sheets for a minute or two before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling.

    Makes 6 dozen.

    Monday, August 23, 2010

    Let Us Eat Cake!

     photo from Poppytalk

    If you wish to be glamourous,
    become a cake baker. It is a simple
    accomplishment, rewarding beyond
    its desserts! At birthdays and 
    weddings, as well as on otherm ore
    casual occations, a cake is 
    frequently the center of interest.
    -Irma S. Rombauer

    Tuesday, August 3, 2010

    Lemony Grilled Lamb Kebabs With Peppers and Onions

    I love Mediterranean food. Give me the lamb, hummus, pita, anything! This is easy, healthy and would go great with the orzo salad I blogged about earlier today.


    • For the kebabs:
    • 3 1/2 pounds lamb top round or boneless leg, cut into 1 1⁄2-inch pieces
    • 3 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
    • kosher salt and black pepper
    • 4 bell peppers, seeded and cut into 2-inch-wide strips
    • 2 medium red onions, each cut into 6 wedges (root ends left intact)
    • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice, plus lemon wedges for serving
    • For the relish:
    • 1/2 cup olive oil
    • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
    • 2 teaspoons honey
    • 1 small clove garlic, finely chopped
    • kosher salt and black pepper
    • 1 cup chopped fresh mint
    • 4 scallions, chopped

    Get Cookin'
    1. Heat grill to medium-high. Thread the lamb onto the skewers. Brush with 1 tablespoon of the oil and season with the oregano, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper.
    2. In a large bowl, toss the bell peppers and onions with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper.
    3. Grill the lamb skewers and the vegetables, turning frequently and brushing with the lemon juice, until the lamb is medium-rare and the vegetables are tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Serve with the Mint and Scallion Relish and the lemon wedges. 
    4. For the relish:
    5. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, lemon juice, honey, garlic, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper.
    6. Stir in the mint and scallions.

    Orzo Salad With Zucchini and Feta

    My father eats more zucchini than the average person. It's his favorite veggie. He's kind of picky about some other veggies, so we are always trying to find new spins on zucchini. This sounds delish. Thanks, Real Simple!

    • 8 ounces orzo (1⁄2 box)
    • 3 tablespoons olive oil
    • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
    • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
    • kosher salt and black pepper
    • 1 1/4 pounds small zucchini (3 to 4), cut into thin half-moons
    • 8 ounces Feta, crumbled (2 cups)
    • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
    Get Cookin'
    1. Cook the orzo according to the package directions. Drain and run under cold water to cool.
    2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the oil, vinegar, red pepper, ¾ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Add the zucchini and let marinate, tossing occasionally, for 20 minutes.
    3. Add the orzo, Feta, and dill to the zucchini mixture and toss to combine.

    Peanut Butter Cup and Pretzel Terrine

    Happy Summer to All!
    I read an article in the Arizona Republic today that Arizona is having a 'cool' summer. I admit it--it hasn't been quite as scorching as usual. But, it's still hot. This is another alternative dessert that doens't require the use of an oven.

    1. Line a loaf pan with parchment, leaving an overhang. Press 1½ pints softened vanilla ice cream into the pan, top with 20 chopped mini peanut butter cups, another 1½ pints vanilla ice cream, and ¾ cup broken pretzels. Freeze until firm, at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.
    2. To serve, remove from pan and slice.

    Caramel-Almond Ice Cream Torte

    My family had a birthday dinner a couple that are close family friends--their birthdays are two days apart! Trying to find a light dessert to replace birthday cake, my mum was struggling on choosing a recipe. I'd seen this 'ice cream cake' type dessert in the June issue of Real Simple and was dying to try it--this gave us the perfect excuse!

    1. Press ½ gallon (4 pints) softened vanilla ice cream into a 9-inch springform pan. Freeze until slightly firm, 10 to 15 minutes.
    2. Top with 1 cup caramel sauce (slightly warmed, if too thick) and ½ cup toasted sliced almonds. Freeze until firm, at least 1 hour and up to 2 days. To serve, remove from pan and slice.

    Saturday, July 24, 2010

    Fire-Seared Antipasto Platter

    It's sweltering in Arizona. It's monsoon season which native Arizonians aren't prepared for. The humidity is high and I feel like I have to swim through the air because it's so thick and heavy. Yugh! Where's the dry heat we talk up to the rest of the nation? Thanks to Cooking Light for the recipe!

    Anyways, I found a delicious, hot weather dinner option that's perfect for August.

    Photo credit: Cooking Light



    • 6  tablespoons  fresh lemon juice
    • 3  tablespoons  balsamic vinegar
    • 2  teaspoons  extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1/4  teaspoon  kosher salt
    • 2  garlic cloves, minced 
    • Vegetables:
    • 3  plum tomatoes, halved
    • 2  red bell peppers, quartered and seeded
    • 2  yellow bell peppers, quartered and seeded
    • 2  zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick slices
    • 1  red onion, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
    • 1  (1 1/2-pound) eggplant, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices
    • Cooking spray

    • Garnishes:
    • 4  ounces  prosciutto, thinly sliced
    • 1  ounce  capocollo, thinly sliced
    • 2  ounces  fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
    • 2  tablespoons  chopped fresh basil
    • 2  teaspoons  capers
    • 6  green olives, sliced
    • 1/8  teaspoon  kosher salt

    Get Cookin'

    1. Prepare grill to medium-high heat.

    2. To prepare dressing, combine first 5 ingredients in a bowl, stirring with a whisk.

    3. To prepare vegetables, brush 1/4 cup dressing evenly over tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, onion, and eggplant. Place vegetables on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 5 minutes on each side or until lightly charred. Arrange vegetables on platter; brush with remaining dressing. Arrange prosciutto, capocollo, and cheese on platter. Sprinkle platter with basil, capers, olives, and 1/8 teaspoon salt.

    Thursday, July 8, 2010

    Spinich & Shrimp Salad

    We had a 4th of July bbq with our families before going to the local fireworks show. I brought the dessert and salad--both were new recipes that turned out delish. The home-made dressing is what made this salad good enough to share. I'll share the dessert recipe soon.

    1/2 lb. cooked shrimp (medium size 51-60 per lb.), thawed, tails removed
    5 oz. spring mix greens
    1/3 cup julienne cut tomatoes in oil
    1 avocado, sliced
    1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
    1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
    3 T. capers
    1 T. Dijon mustard
    1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
    1/2 cup olive oil

    Get Cookin'

    Make the salad dressing as far in advance as possible (I made mine the morning of the bbq). Refrigerate. Immediately before serving, put together salad ingredients and toss with salad dressing.

    Friday, June 25, 2010

    Edamame Salad

    When I was at Costco a few months ago I purchased a lifetime supply of edamame. We're still eating them. I was excited to find this recipe to add some variety to our weekly edamame serving. Thanks to Week of Menus for the recipe! I modified the original recipe by using fire roasted bell peppers instead of raw ones and green onions instead of scallions.

    I suggest letting the salad sit in the refrigerator for 24 hours to let the flavors come together. I liked it better the second day.

    2 packs frozen edamame beans in their shells ( If using preshelled beans, you'll need around 2 1/2 cups.)
    1/2 cup roasted red bell pepper, finely diced
    1/2 cup green onions chopped
    1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped

    for the dressing:
    2 tablespoons rice vinegar
    2 tablespoons oil
    1 1/2 teaspoons honey
    1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
    1/2 teaspoon salt

    Get Cookin'

     Cook edamame beans according to package directions. When done cooking, make sure to rinse well with cold water to stop cooking. Dump the beans into a bowl full of ice water. Set aside.

    2. Mix ingredients for dressing together.

    3. Shell the edamame. Place the beans into a bowl. Pour dressing on top. Add cilantro, bell peppers, scallions. Toss to coat. Chill in the refrigerator for 24 hours to allow flavors to amalgamate.

    Wednesday, June 16, 2010

    Indian Lentils

    My dad and I planned on going out to eat tonight, but decided we had eaten out too much lately. To avoid another processed meal (and extra calories) I decided to crockpot cook. Thanks to A Year of Slow Cooking for the recipe!

    The dish turned out great but didn't take nearly as long to cook as expected. Next time I'd start cooking them at noon, not 9 a.m.
    photo from here
    2 cups lentils (any color-mine were a mixture of brown & red)
    4 cups chicken broth (you could use veggie)
    1 small yellow onion, diced
    1 cup diced celery
    1 teaspoon cumin
    1/2 teaspoon corriander
    1 teaspoon kosher salt
    1/2 teaspoon dried mustard
    1/2 teaspoon turmeric
    4 cloves garlic, chopped
    1 (4 ounce) can diced chiles (no need to drain)
    1 tablespoon dried parsley (or 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh)
    2 large chicken breast halves (we only had a can of chicken, so I used that)

    Get Cookin'

    Use a 4 quart slow cooker. Rinse the lentils under cold water until it runs clear. Dump into the slow cooker. Add broth,diced onion and celery. Add all spices, the garlic, and chiles. Stir to combine.

    Lay the chicken on top.

    Cover and cook on low for about 7 hours, or on high for about 4. Before serving, remove chicken from the slow cooker, chop it up, and stir back in. I didn't have to do this, thanks to canned chicken. :)

    Serve over rice. Jesse kept asking for pita bread, so next time add pita bread, too!

    Friday, May 21, 2010

    No Sugar Cookies

    My dad found this recipe that totally cheats the system. The cookies taste like there's sugar (or sugar substitute) but there isn't. Applesauce and raisins do the trick.

    1/2 c. oil
    2 eggs
    1 c. flour
    2 teaspoons cinnamon
    1/2 c. chopped nuts (optional)
    1 c. applesauce (no added sugar kind)
    2 teaspoons vanilla
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1 c. oatmeal
    1/2 c. raisins

    Get Cookin'

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

    Mix the oil, applesauce, eggs and vanilla.

    Add remaining ingredients and mix well.

    Drop teaspoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes.
    My dad  and our dog, Sparky. 

    Wednesday, May 19, 2010

    Raspberry Lemonade Bars

    Dessert for our Mother's Day picnic--these bars were perfect for an outdoor event. Thanks to for the recipe.

    for the crust:
    9 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick, plus one tablespoon)
    1/4 cup  sugar
    1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
    pinch salt

    for the filling:
    1 1/2 cups sugar
    3 egg whites
    1 egg
    2/3 cup  freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 3 lemons)
    2 tablespoons lemon zest (from 2 lemons)
    2/3 cup  unbleached, all-purpose flour
    pinch of salt
    1 cup of frozen raspberries, defrosted
    1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar

    Get Cookin'

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (180 degrees Celsius). Line a 8×8″ * square baking pan with a strip of parchment paper (8×14″) that covers the bottom and overlaps on either side. (This is so after it cools, you can pull out the entire pan of lime bars and cut them neatly. You can omit this step completely, though. You don’t even need to butter the pan.)

    2. Cream butter, sugar, and salt with an electric mixer. Mix in flour until just incorporated. Flour hands and press dough into 8×8″ square baking pan, so that it comes up about a 1/2 inch around the sides.

    3. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until slightly golden brown. While it cools, prepare the filling.

    4. Whisk sugar, egg whites, egg, lemon juice and zest, flour, and salt in a large bowl. Pour raspberries into a sieve and press through to extract all the pulp and juices. Whisk into lemon mixture and pour into crust. Bake for 30-35 minutes until filling is completely set. Let cool completely. (I help mine along in the freezer for about an hour.) Using the overlapping edges of parchment paper, gently lift the dessert from the pan. Cut into 16 squares. Dust with confectioner’s sugar.

    Chickpea Salad with Roasted Bell Peppers

    I made this for a Mother's Day picnic Jesse and I did for our families. It was a big hit! We served it on a bed of mixed greens, but it would be good with pita wedges, too. Thanks to Smitten Kitchen for the recipe.

    2 large red peppers, roasted and skinned
    3 cups of cooked chickpeas, rinsed if canned (about 2 15-ounce cans)
    1/4 cup of parsley, chopped
    2 tablespoons of chopped mint
    3 tablespoons of capers, rinsed
    2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice  ( orred wine or sherry vinegar)
    1/4 teaspoon of salt
    2 cloves of garlic, minced
    4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

    Get Cookin'
    Cut the peppers into half-inch wide strips and put them in a large bowl together with the chickpeas, herbs and the capers.

    In a smaller bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, salt, garlic and oil. Pour over the chickpea mixture and combine.

    Refrigerate it for a day to get the flavors to amalgamate.
    Jesse's sister, Cortni, and I at the picnic.

    Banana Chocolate Breakfast Smoothie

    A delicious, fast, full of protein smoothie for rushed mornings.

    1 frozen banana, cut into pieces
    2 tablespoons peanut butter (or other nut butter)
    1 tablespoon cocoa powder
    2 tablespoons vanilla protein powder
    1 tablespoon agave syrup
    1 tablespoon ground flax
    1 c. milk

    Place ingredients in blender, enjoy!

    Pumpkin Sandwich Cookies


    I'm saving this recipe for October, can't wait to try them for fall. Yum. I got the recipe from Land O Lakes butter.

    for cookie:
    2 c. all-purpose flour
    1 tsp baking soda
    1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
    1/2 tsp baking powder
    1/2 tsp salt
    1 c. brown sugar, backed
    1/2 c. butter, softened
    1/2 c. canned pumpkin
    1/4 c. milk
    1 egg
    1 tsp vanilla

    for filling:
    1 package cream cheese (8 oz), softened
    2 tsp butter, softened
    1 tsp ground cinnamon
    1 tsp vanilla
    4 c. powdered sugar

    Get Cookin'

    Heat oven to 350 degrees.

    Combine flour, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder and salt in medium bowl. Set aside.

    Mix brown sugar and 1/2 cup butter in large bowl; beat with mixer until creamy.
    Add pumpkin, milk, egg and vanilla; beat until well mixed.

    Reduce speed to low and add the flour mixture.

    Drop better by level measuring tablespoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet.

    Bake for 9 minutes and cool.

    Next, Combine all filling ingredients except powdered sugar into a large bowl. Beat at a medium speed until smooth. Gradually add 4 cups of powdered sugar until creamy.

    Spread 2 teaspoons of filling on the bottom-side of 1 cookie. Top with another cookie.

    tip: for perfectly round cookies, pipe batter in 1-inch circles on parchment paper, using a piping bag without a tip.

    Monday, April 26, 2010

    Cupcake Art

    photos: here

    Craving cupcakes? Head over to Ming Makes Cupcakes for beautiful cupcakes and tasty, original recipes for them.

    Fish Sticks, revisited

    When I was little and my parents went out on 'date night' and I was left with my super cool babysitter that I loved and adored, I always got to pick the menu for dinner. Usually it was mac&cheese or fish sticks. (Sorry babysitter Ashley, I'm sure you hated my dinner choices!)

    Here's a great recipe for fish sticks that you don't have to feel guilty about eating! I love knowing what goes into my food. Thanks to A Life Less Sweet for the recipe. We always make our own bread crumbs, too. Store bought ones tend to have way.too.many unnecessary ingredients.


    1 lb fish fillets (I used cod)
    1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
    1/2 cup panko bread crumbs (read the ingredients!)
    2 eggs, lightly beaten and thinned with about 1 TBSP of water
    1/2 cup flour
    1/2 tsp ground thyme
    1/2 tsp garlic powder
    1/2 tsp seasoning salt
    cooking spray (like Pam)

    Get Cookin'

    Preheat oven to 400 F. Spray baking sheet with cooking spray.

    Mix flour, thyme and garlic powder in a bowl. Pour the thinned egg into a separate shallow bowl. Last, combine the breadcrumbs and panko in a third shallow bowl or plate.

    Cut the fish fillets into 1" wide strips. Sprinkle the fish on all sides with the seasoning salt. Dredge each strip first in the flour mixture, then in the egg, and last in the breadcrumbs. Place the coated strips on the baking sheet. Lightly spray all of the strips with oil.

    Cook the fish for 10 min or until flaky.

    To freeze:
    Place cooked strips neatly on a baking sheet. Make sure that there is a little space between each strip. Cover with foil or plastic wrap and put in freezer for a few hours until the strips are completely frozen. Store in a container of your choice.

    To reheat, cook the frozen strips in a 400 F oven for 10-12 min or until strips are completely warmed.

    Wednesday, April 21, 2010

    Starbucks Reduced-Fat Banana Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake Recipe

    I've eaten my share of Starbucks coffee cake, after working there for two years. A few months ago the company re-introduced their reduced fat banana chocolate chip coffee cake (the longest pastry name ever). It's delicious.

    I stumbled upon this recipe for a banana chocolate chip coffee cake and it almost exactly like the Starbucks recipe (minus walnuts).

    photo courtesy of

    Monday, April 12, 2010

    Grilled Chicken and Pineapple Sandwiches

    photo courtesy of:

    Ready for summer? Today the high is 83 today. YAY! Jesse's sister went swimming this weekend, I'll wait for the water to get to the high 70s, but it's potentially warm enough for some of us to go swimming. I found this sandwich recipe from Cooking Light that looks amazing and just right for spring weather. Grilled Chicken and Pineapple Sandwiches

    Update: 7/23/10--I finally got to make these burgers for dinner (sans the whole wheat bun) and they were delicious! My family loved them.

    Wednesday, April 7, 2010

    School Lunch

    School lunch programs have been under a lot of fire lately. When I recall my elementary school lunches I remember real food being served and chocolate milk being available only on special occasions. We did have the occasional chicken nugget but for the most part Mesa Public Schools did a great job feeding wholesome food to us.

    Here are some links to people bringing attention to the school lunch problems in public schools:

    Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution: Watch previous episodes and learn more about what's going on with America's school lunch program.

    Fed Up with School Lunch
    : An elementary school teacher is posting daily blogs about her school's lunch program. See first-hand what's going into the mouths of our youth.

    Article about the new legislature for school lunches.

    Sunday, March 21, 2010

    Orange Date Muffins

    I went into a baking frenzy during spring break since I can't cook as much as I used to in my new dorm. I love having muffins to eat on the weekends before going to work at Starbucks and thought these sounded good (plus I had all the ingredients in the house). I got the recipe from Eat Better America, but tweaked it a bit. I didn't have any whole wheat flour, so I used all-purpose flour instead. The muffins tasted good but were heavy, maybe it's because I didn't use any whole wheat flour? I also added some textured vegetable protein. The original recipe is here: Orange Date Muffins.


    2 1/4 cup Gold Medal® all-purpose flour
    3 teaspoons baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/4 cup packed brown sugar
    2 teaspoons grated orange peel
    1 cup rice milk
    1/3 cup applesauce
    1 egg
    1/2 cup chopped dates
    1/4 cup textured vegetable protein

    Get Cookin'

    Heat oven to 400°F. Grease bottoms only of 12 regular-size muffin cups ( The directions told me not to use paper baking cups).

    Mix flours, baking powder and salt; set aside. In medium bowl, beat brown sugar, orange peel, rice milk, applesauce and egg until well mixed. Stir into flour mixture just until flour is moistened. Fold in dates and textured vegetable protein. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.

    Bake 18 to 22 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean and tops begin to brown.

    Next time I'd double the amount of protein. I started off with a small amount in case it left a weird texture or taste; it didn't. Since 1/4 cup spread over 12 muffins doesn't give much added protein to a single muffin I want to increase the amount next time I make these.

    According to Eat Better America (based on the original recipe), each muffin has 190 calories and 4 grams of protein.

    Friday, March 12, 2010

    Flavored Coffees

    When I drink black coffee I add cinnamon to the coffee to give it some flavors without adding calories. A barista I know adds cinnamon to her ground coffee before she brews it at home. It's better to flavor coffee yourself since companies typically use chemical flavoring. Yuck.

    Here are some other tips to flavor coffee from Joy of Cooking. Add any of the following to one pound of ground coffee (before brewing).

    4 ounces ground chicory
    4 ounces cocoa nibs
    4 ounces cracked cinnamon sticks
    4 star anise
    4 vanilla beans (halved lengthwise and cut into pieces)
    several large pieces of citrus zest

    photo from here

    Wednesday, March 10, 2010

    Eating Gluten Free Without Breaking the Bank

    Trying to maintain a gluten-free diet on a budget can be difficult. This list offers suggestions on how to lower grocery bills for a gluten-free household. Cooking at home with a focus on budgets is a hot topic this year. As a result, the web is full of web sites and blogs to help. One great resource is the blog, Gluten Free on a Budget, it hasn’t been updated since 2008, but the low-cost recipes still are current.

    Tip 1: Eat naturally gluten-free foods. Processed foods that are labeled “gluten-free” are expensive because a chef, dietician or scientist had to figure out how to substitute gluten in a recipe. However, foods that naturally do not contain gluten will be cheaper because there wasn’t a middle man involved. For example, chicken, veggies, fruit, rice, quinoa, beans and fish are all gluten-free. Look at regular recipes and find ones that are already gluten-free; don’t start by searching for “gluten-free recipes” and “gluten-free food.”

    Tip 2: Buy pantry items on sale and in bulk. This is common knowledge, but not many actually follow through. Grocery stores have semi-annual case-sales that heavily discount canned items. offers many gluten-free products in bulk at a discounted price such as Tinkyada White Rice Pasta and Bob’s Red Mill All-Purpose Gluten-Free Baking Flour. Sprouts Farmer’s Markets has gluten-free sales occasionally as well. At these sales, all gluten-free products in the store are usually 25 percent off the usual price.

    Tip 3: Make friends with your crockpot. Cooking with a crockpot makes cheap food taste better. This is not an overstatement. Cheap cuts of meat turn out great in the crockpot. The energy used to cook in the crockpot is the same as a light bulb, so you’ll save in food and energy costs. Stephanie O’Dea’s blog, A Year of Crockpotting, is solely dedicated to gluten-free crockpot recipes.

    Tip 4: Eat less animal protein. Lentils, beans and grains serve as main sources of protein. Try eating meatless meals twice a week; it will save money and some say it’s good not to eat meat every day. Some good vegetarian recipes are: lentil burritos from $5 Dinners (instead of using tortillas I used corn taco shells, making lentil tacos), bean stew, or

    Tuesday, February 23, 2010

    Taco Soup

    This is an easy, filling soup perfect for chilly weather. It's made from ingredients that are pantry staples so you shouldn't have to go to the store. I usually don't use the meat that is listed as optional. The beans are plenty of protein. Thanks to for the recipe.

    2 cans of kindey beans
    2 cans of pinto beans
    2 cans of corn
    1 large can of diced tomatoes
    1 can tomatoes and chiles
    1 packet taco seasoning (if you are gluten free, stick to McCormick)
    1 packet ranch dressing mix (make sure there isn't hidden gluten, I went with Hidden Valley)
    1 lb browned ground turkey or hamburger (optional.)
    shredded cheese and sour cream for embellishment

    Get Cookin'

    Put the meat in the crockpot if you're using it. Sprinkle the seasoning packets on top. Drain and rinse the beans, add the entire contents of the tomato and corn cans. Sir.

    Cook on high for 8-10 hours.

    The longer it cooks the better. Stir well, serve with a handful of shredded cheese and a dollop of sour cream.