Thursday, December 22, 2011

Must Haves and Go-To's: The Essentials

As you saw in my Pantry Raid post, I am usually well-stocked in the food department.  The same goes with my freezer and fridge, too.  There are some things I always have on hand, and if you combine 2, 3, or 4, of these ingredients together, you can usually make a meal.  It's all about testing out different flavors and mix and matching.  Have fun with it!  Here's some of my favorite standbys.


  • Eggs.  I LOOOOOVE eggs.  They're great for breakfast, for stir fried rice, for baking, and for use in the breaded [whatever] conveyor belt.  Other options: egg salad, hard boiled eggs, "French" burgers (inspired by The Met Bar & Grill), breakfast for dinner.  A great protein substitute if you're bored with beef or chicken.
  • Cheese.  I always have at least 3 kinds of cheese on hand: One sliced variety fresh from the deli, any variety of shredded cheese (usually Mozz or Mexican blend), and American slices (they're the best melting cheese).
  • Salsa.  Use it in omelets, on baked potatoes, or for unexpected guests (everyone loves chips & salsa!)
  • Milk.  I hate drinking milk but I use it for cooking occasionally, and for the ever-necessary late-night bowl of cereal.
  • Sour Cream.  It's just great on everything.  Baked potatoes, pierogies, and Taco Tuesdays....bam. 
  • Butter.  Duh.
  • Condiments. My fridge is basically 70% condiments.  I ALWAYS have the following on hand:  ketchup, Dijon mustard, Italian dressing, Siriacha, Red Hot, mayo, marinara sauce (yes I consider this a condiment), Worcestershire sauce, and relish.
  • Ground Turkey.  Since I don't eat a lot of red meat, I use turkey in everything.  I always have at least 2 packages ready to go.  Uses (just a few):  tacos, burgers, stuffed peppers, meatballs/sauce.  We also have a ton of turkey bacon, too.
  • Chicken Breast.  So versatile.  We stock up on the big pack when it goes on sale!
  • Edamame.  I stock up on the shelled edamame whenever I go to Trader Joe's.  It's so versatile and takes 3 minutes to defrost.  Great for Asian-inspired dinners and cold in a salad.
  • Chopped Onions. The frozen bag of chopped onions is such a time-saver and super cheap.  
  • Frozen Veggies.  I love using these for omelets, pasta dishes, and fried rice.  We usually have the "fiesta" blend on hand, and a mix of the peas/corn or broccoli/cauliflower.  The possibilities are really endless with these.
  • Pierogies.  I love Mrs T's pierogies because they come in a variety of flavors and they're a great meal alone or as a side with my next go to...
  • Kielbasa.  We eat a TON of this stuff (probably not the healthiest...but most of the time it's the turkey or chicken variety).  Use in stir-frys, as the Polish do (see above go-to), or grill for a super-quick meal.  Great for BBQs.
  • Hot Dogs.  Sometimes you just don't feel like cooking.
  • Pasta.  Whether it's orzo, cavatappi, spaghetti, or farfalle, I always have at least 2 boxes of pasta. It's like a blank canvass.  Go cray.
  • Canned Veggies.  Corn and artichoke hearts are my favorite.  Add to everything.
  • Beans.  Garbanzo (chickpeas), black, and  kidney are the most common in my pantry.
  • Baking essentials.  Flour, baking soda, and baking powder, vanilla extract.  More recently, chocolate chips.  You never know when the mood will hit ya!
  • Breadcrumbs.  I use these to make home made burgers, and anything, well, breaded.  Just a great item for your arsenal.  You should keep regular and Panko on hand.
  • Marinades.  Always have an Asian, BBQ, and lemony one on hand.  So easy. 
  • EVOO.  Probably the most essential item in my whole kitchen.  Self explanatory.
What do YOU always have around the kitchen?  SHARE your pantry must-haves below!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Recipe: Butterrnut Squash & Black Bean Chili

Last weekend I hosted a gift swap for my girlfriends and made this delicious, hearty chili to enjoy while we swapped gifts. (We also enjoyed artichoke dip, buffalo chicken dip, PB chocolate chip cookies, fruit salsa, a hummus dip, a rotisserie chicken, stir-fried rice, macaroni and cheese, cheese/crackers, aaaand an ice cream trifle.  It's fine. I'll diet in 2012.)  One of my friends is a "mostly vegetarian", as I like to call her (hi Al!), and another friend doesn't eat cheese.  I just call her weird (hi Doodle!).  Finding an entree to satisfy both--as well as the rest of my party-- was a challenge!  But I like challenges, and this recipe is super easy and full of flavor.  I found this online and can't remember where, but I just have to give the inventor prrops for this one.  Perfect for winter.  Enjoy :)

2 lbs peeled & chopped butternut squash (BJ's has a 2-lb containter all ready to go, if you're looking to save time!)
2-3 onions, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, diced
2 jalapeno peppers, diced (remove ribs & seeds for milder flavor)
4 15 oz cans black beans, drained and rinsed
2 bell peppers (I used one red and one orange for a sweeter flavor)
2 14.5 oz cans fire-roasted tomatoes (The "fire-roasted" is key! use Hunt's brand)
3 Tbsp. chili powder
2 Tbsp. cumin
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
1/4 c. EVOO

Cook onions & garlic in EVOO in a skillet until transparent.  Add bell peppers and continue cooking until tender.  Meanwhile, add all other ingredients (besides squash) to a slow cooker.  Add onions and peppers when ready.  Stir to combine.  Finally, add butternut squash on top of other ingredients.  Cover and cook on LOW for 6 hours.

*This chili is a bit spicy so if you want to omit the jalapenos or use less chili powder, feel free.  I added a dollop of sour cream to my bowl before eating, which helped to balance out the spiciness.  

Special thanks to my loves Jamie, Allison, Jenn, Lou, OJ, Jam, Bin, and Court for coming by and bringing all of the other deliciousness we devoured.  Love you all!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Recipe: Chicken Tarragon

Hi Friends!

When I first started this thing, I promised to blog one of my favorite recipes from childhood: Chicken Tarragon.  Today's the day! This recipe NEVER comes out the same way twice.  Sometimes it's soupy (perfect over brown rice) and sometimes it's creamy (again, perfect over rice).  There are no exact measurements to this one; it's the ultimate "eyeball it" meal so you really can't screw it up!  Thanks for the recipe, mom!

1-2 lbs. boneless chicken breast, cut into 1-in. pieces
dijon mustard
Italian dressing
garlic powder
onion powder
splash of lemon juice
mushrooms, sliced (optional)

Turn broiler on LOW.  Place chicken in casserole dish.  In a large bowl, combine mayonnaise, mustard, Italian dressing, garlic powder, onion powder, lemon juice and tarragon until mixed well.  Pour over chicken and mix until coated.

  Broil for 30-40 minutes, checking and turning chicken every 10 minutes or so.  Serve over rice.  For an extra kick, add a little Siriacha hot sauce to your plate!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Pantry Raid.

Let's talk about my favorite part of my apartment.  It's not my bed, or my incredibly comfy sofa, or even the fact that I live so close to the water that I can smell the ocean almost every day.  No, it's none of those things.  It's my pantry. 

The shelves were there when we moved in and I didn't waste any time filling them.  Like, TO THE MAX.  For those of you who have ever seen my pantry in the flesh, you know that I keep it stocked to feed at least a family of 6.  I can't help it.  I just keep buying canned goods and condiments and baking supplies for all those times I won't bake.  I'm a pantry hoarder and I don't care who knows it.

Today I decided to reorganize the pantry because I really couldn't stand looking at it anymore.  There was crap everywhere and nothing was strategically organized and therefore everything was a hot mess (I tried to take a video to show you the monstrosity but I'm having some technical difficulties...just try to imagine it).

Here's how it turned out after I was done.  It took me 2 hours, I broke and cleaned up an entire HUGE bottle of balsamic vinegar, and now the apartment smells like shit.  Even after giving away a  bag full of canned goods for the food pantry, I still have all of this left:

(Top shelf: cookbooks, random bowls I have no room for anywhere else, K-cups for days.  Middle shelves:  cereals/snacks, pastas/rices, condiments galore.  Bottom shelf: Baking supplies, canned goods, and anything I think I'll use in the next 2 weeks.)

(Side shelves:  spices, sauces, mixes)

I know I'll use most of this eventually.  My next step is to clean of the freezer and fridge, but let's not get carried away today....

In other news...please tell you friends to follow me on Twitter! @dsmolokoff

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Recipe: Pulled Pork Nachos

I had every intention of making tacos with this pulled pork recipe, but we just decided to throw everything on top of a bed of nachos.  Wasn't the worst idea we've ever had.

2 lbs. boneless pork tenderloin
12 oz jar of salsa (I used chipotle flavor for some smokiness)
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons cumin
3 gloves minced garlic
splash of red hot

Place pork in slow cooker.  Combine all other ingredients in a large bowl and mix until blended.  Pour over pork.  Cook on LOW for 8 hours.  Shred with a fork and cook on WARM for another 15-20 minutes.

Top your nachos with the shredded pork and any or all of these (we chose all...):
-cheddar cheese

-diced chiles
-diced tomatoes
-black olives

-black bean salsa
-dollop of sour cream


Friday, December 2, 2011

Recipe: Tomato-Pancetta Linguine

Welp. It happened.  I got laid off.  But let's not dwell.  All that means for you is more (and cheaper!) blog make sure you stay tuned :)

I found this recipe in my "Almost Vegetarian" cookbook and it was too easy to leave alone.  I used my own measurements and it came out delish...enjoy!

1/4 lb. pancetta, sliced thick at the deli and chopped into bite-size pieces at home (You can use bacon too if you can't find or don't like pancetta)
1 medium shallot, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 springs fresh rosemary, chopped
white cooking wine (about 1/4 cup)
sherry cooking wine (about a splash)
1 28-oz. can of chopped tomatoes, juices reserved
1 lb. whole wheat linguine
shredded parmesean cheese

Heat pancetta in a dry, hot saute pan for about 5 minutes, until crispy.  Transfer to paper towels and reserve.  

Add shallot to leftover pancetta fat and saute until transparent.  Add garlic and rosemary and cook about 3 minutes.  Add sherry and white wine and cook until there's almost no more liquid.  Add tomatoes and juice.  Simmer on low for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package.  Transfer about 1/4 cup of starchy cooking liquid to the tomato simmer before draining the pasta.  Add pasta to tomato mixture.  Add cheese and pancetta back into the pan and toss to coat.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Sweet Treats: Thanksgiving Edition

I have a lot to be thankful for this year, including but not limited to my amazing fiance, my incredible parents, and my beautiful friends. This Thanksgiving we're off to Dave's Aunt's house, and I decided to bring a dessert (and Dave's mac & cheese...but more on that in another post) for the holiday.  I am the first to say I'm not the most advanced fact, I can go so far as opening a package of Pillsbury slice and bake and that's about it.  But I found two great recipes from two Food Network legends and thought I'd try them out as they seemed easy enough and didn't require a standing or electric mixer, which I am eagerly awaiting to receive via my wedding registry (thank you in advance, oh kinds friends).  I've yet to try either of these since I'm waiting for the fam, but I will tell you that the Nutella Fudge tasted RIDICULOUS on the spoon, and the Pecan Pie smells like a dream.  Happy Thanksgiving folks!

Chocolate Nutella Fudge with Sea Salt (From Cookin' Canuck)
Basic fudge recipe by Giada De Laurentiis-
Butter, for greasing pan
1 (14 oz. ) can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
8 oz. high-quality bittersweet (60% cacao) chocolate chips
1 cup Nutella, room temperature
3 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
Sea salt, approximately 1/2 tsp

spring for the good chocolate!
Grease the bottom and sides of an 8- by 8-inch baking pan with butter. Line the pan with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overlap on the sides.
In a medium glass or stainless steel bowl, stir together sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, bittersweet chocolate chips, Nutella, and butter.
Form a double-boiler by setting the bowl on a medium pot of gently simmering water. The water level should be low enough that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Stir until the chocolate chips are melted and the mixture is smooth, 5 to 7 minutes.

my ghetto double the job done.

Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan, spread the top smooth with a spatula, and sprinkle with sea salt. Refrigerate until the fudge is firm, at least 2 hours.

Run a knife under hot water, dry it off, and run it around the edges of the pan to loosen the fudge. Using the overhanging parchment paper, lift the fudge out. Peel off the parchment paper. Cut the fudge into 3/4-inch squares. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container or wrapped well in plastic wrap and foil.
Makes approximately 50 3/4-inch squares.

Have we ever discussed my love of sea salt chocolate?  There is NOTHING better.

Emeril Lagasse's Rich Chocolate Pecan Pie (originally printed at

1 1/2 cups pecans

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell

4 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar 

1/2 cup corn syrup 

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 

Pinch salt


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Spread the pecan pieces and the chocolate chips evenly on the bottom of the pie shell.
In a mixing bowl, whisk the remaining ingredients together. Pour the filling over the pecans. Bake until the filling sets, 50 to 60 minutes. 

EDITOR'S NOTE! I read a lot of reviews about this recipe before I made it and people had complaints about burnt crust.  So I covered the pie crust with aluminum foil for the first 30 minutes, then placed the pie back in the oven sans foil for 20 more minutes.  Perfect brown crust!
Remove from the oven and cool for 30 minutes before slicing.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Recipe: Baked Eggplant Parm

I don't remember every really loving "Eggplant Parm Night" growing up.  Something about the flavor of the veggie just didn't sit well with me and left me with the same dread as the ever-scary "Meatloaf Night".  Thankfully my taste buds evolved over time and I gave the pretty purple thing another try.  It's hearty and filling and a good alternative to that chicken you've had in your freezer for 9 months (yeah, I see you...).  I went the baking route with this one to avoid the excess oil from frying (and I find that eggplant gets very soggy when it's fried).  I'm happy to say that this recipe was a complete redemption from my last catastrophe!

1 eggplant
2-3 eggs, beat
1-2 jars marinara sauce (My absolute favorite sauce brand right now is Barilla. I used the "Basilico" variety for this recipe and it's just the right amount of sweet and savory!)
a few basil leaves
2-3 cups (or 1 1/2 bags) part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
salt & pepper

Preheat oven for 350 degrees.  Set up a conveyor belt with a bowl of breadcrumbs and the beaten eggs.  Peel and slice eggplant into 1-1/2 in. slices and begin to dip into the eggs, then the breadcrumbs, and place slices on a sprayed baking sheet.  (Be sure to drain all of the excess egg mix off of the just want it wet enough to coat the pieces in breadcrumbs.)  Bake for 5-7 min on each side until slightly tender.

 the first layer...

While eggplant is baking, line a casserole or baking dish with a thin spreading of marinara sauce.  Once eggplant is done in the oven, transfer a layer of it over the sauce in the baking dish, then add more sauce, basil leaves, and cheese.  Repeat order once.  Bake uncovered for 35-40 minutes.

 I SWEAR there is a vegetable under all that cheese...

Recipe: Pulled BBQ Chicken

My fiance Dave took the day off yesterday and I left him in charge of making this delicious recipe ALL BY HIMSELF! After calling me once to clarify which measuring cups to use (....crickets...), he pulled this one off without a hitch.  I knew he was good for somethin'! Dave ate his portion on an onion roll and I went with a quesadilla topped w/ shredded cheddar and b&b pickles.  This would also be good as a taco or fajita or straight out the Crock! 

I found this once again using All Recipes and pretty much stuck to the recipe as it's written.  

4 boneless chicken breasts, trimmed of fat
1 c. ketchup 
2. tblsp. mustard (yellow preferably)
cayenne pepper
chili powder
garlic powder
1/2 c. real maple syrup (not to be confused with the EGGO syrup you might have in the fridge...)
a few splashes of Worcestershire sauce
a few splashes of Tabasco sauce

Place chicken in Crock Pot.  Mix all other ingredients in a large bowl until smooth.  Pour over chicken and cook on LOW for 6 hours.  (If the chicken looks "soupy" at this point, don't worry).  Shred chicken w/ fork and cook another 30 mins. Serve how you like!

 i was literally so hungry that i had to take a bite  of that pickle before i snapped a pic! don't act surprised.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Kitchen Oops: Not So Stuffed Shells

Today's blog is a little different.  Every once in a while I think I have a fabulous idea for a recipe, and I go ahead and attempt it.  That was the case the other night.  I wanted to take a healthier spin on stuffed shells so I used whole wheat mini shells and conjured up a sauce made with fat-free ricotta, spinach, grated parmesean and a little bit of low-fat milk. It looked really great and even smelled pretty tasty.  In retrospect, the dish was a complete failure (one look at my fiance's face as he tried a bite at dinnertime and I knew it was a goner).

The low fat substitutions did not lend themselves well to the overall taste of the dish that I was hoping to recreate.  It needed way more salt and just that "something else" that was clearly missing.  I think that "something else", in this case, was nutmeg.  I know nutmeg and spinach work really well together and because I didn't have any, I tried to make a combination spice using a little curry powder and cinnamon.  When I tasted the two spices together before adding it to the dish, it actually worked.  It was by no means a substitution for the nutmeg but I thought it would be better than nothing. It wasn't.  It was pretty awful.  Like, eating potpouri awful.
In the end, I still wanted to blog about this because it's a lesson learned.  Cooking is all about experimenting, trying new things, and hoping for the best.  Sometimes it'll end up a success, other times it will end up in the trash.  This dish was still edible but just not what I was hoping for, and since I wasn't thrilled I'm not even going to give you the recipe.  But here's how she looked anyway...

Monday, November 7, 2011

Recipe: Hungry Girl Shepherd's Pie

So I'm trying to eat a little better BEFORE the holidays completely throw me off-guard, so the first person I turned to for dinner tonight was Hungry Girl.  I. LOVE. HUNGRY. GIRL.  Her recipes are all SUPER low fat, incredibly easy, and really tasty.  I pretty much used her Squash-tastic Shepherd's Pie Recipe to a T, but here's what you need to make your own:

1 lb. ground turkey
1 can fat-free gravy
1 bag frozen mixed veggies
3.5 cups butternut squash, cubed
minced garlic
chopped white onions
1 tbsp. butter
garlic and onion powder

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a large microwave-safe bowl, cook squash (covered) with 1/2 c. water for 12-15 in the microwave.  Meanwhile, brown turkey meat with onions, garlic/onion powder, and minced garlic.  Drain fat and set aside.  When squash is finished cooking, mash w/ butter and salt until smooth.

In a casserole dish, layer the ground turkey, then the gravy, then the frozen veggies, and finally the squash.  Bake for 25 minutes until browned.

the not-so-pretty layers: turkey/gravy

the pretty layer (that was obviously in my freezer a little too long...cares)

fresh out the oven

so hearty & filling...don't feel bad if you want to eat the whole dish

EDITOR'S NOTE:  The squash totally makes this dish.  Next time I might use more than recommended, for a thicker layer.  For more flavor, I added Tabasco sauce to the ground turkey and a little on top for an extra kick.  If I had had any cinnamon or nutmeg, I would have added it to the squash for sure.  I also ate a ridiculous portion of this recipe.  It's basically guilt-free and now I'm not reaching for the Edy's because I'm beyond full!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Recipe: Turkey Meatballs

Last week I went to visit my college roommate, her husband, and their beautiful week-old baby boy.  It could not have been a more perfect day. We just sat and watched that precious little man sleep the day away, not a care in the world, and while he was dozing, I made the new parents a big 'ol batch of meatballs so they wouldn't have to cook all week.  For them, I used beef, which is totally acceptable and super delicious.  For you (and for me & the man this week at home), I'm going with turkey.  Feel free to mix it up however you like!  This recipe is an eyeball-it, kitchen-sink, ingredient free for all...if you don't have one or some of these ingredients, it won't really make or break the dish...just substitute any other Italian herbs in your pantry.  Experimenting is key!

1-2 lbs. ground turkey (or beef)
2 egg whites
1-2 handfuls of breadcrumbs (I tend to use Italian-flavored here but if you want a lighter meatball you could try Panko)
Minced garlic
Onion powder
Crushed red pepper flakes
Splash of Worcestershire sauce
Handful of grated Paremsean cheese

Two (2)- large cans tomato sauce
One (1) 8-oz. can tomato paste
Garlic Powder
Onion Powder
1-2 bay leaves (be sure to remove these before serving!)
Salt & pepper to taste

I love a meal that cleans out the cabinets.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Mix all of the meatball ingredients together and form into meatballs on a non-stick pan.  Bake for 10-15 minutes, turning halfway through.

While the meatballs bake, mix sauce ingredients in a Crockpot or large stock pot.  Once meatballs are browned, place is pot and cook on Low 4-6 hours.

 fresh out the oven and ready for a sauce bath :)

Note: I noticed that the beef meatballs were sturdier than the turkey and that you may end up with more of a meat sauce if you use turkey meat.  I'd suggest cooking the turkey meatballs all the way through in the oven and make sure they have a nice brown "crust" around them before placing in the sauce.  They'll stay together better that way.

Monday, October 10, 2011

GUEST RECIPE! Ma's Mandel Bread

So this past weekend was Yom Kippur, and aside from fasting and ultimately being delusional all day, I have to say I love this holiday.  Each year we get together with longtime family friends to break fast, and my mom has been making Mandel bread for years.  Mandel bread is really like the Jewish biscotti- loaves of cakey bread with chocolate chips, sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar, served for dessert (and best dipped in coffee!).  Here's my mama's recipe...thanks Ma!

3 cups flour
1 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
3 eggs
3/4 cup canola oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. chocolate chips
cinnamon & sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix flour, sugar, and baking powder in a large bowl.  Make a well in the center and add eggs, oil, and vanilla.  Mix well.  Add chocolate chips and stir.

 "the well"

Divide mixture into 3 loaves and place on greased cookie sheet.  Bake for 25 minutes.  Cool for 10 minutes and then sprinkle cinnamon/sugar mixture over loaves.  Bake another 5 minutes.
i don't reccommend eating this dough raw...well maybe just a taste...or two

the final product! Imagine how hard it is to make this while you're fasting :)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Recipe: Bowtie Pasta with Spinach & Feta Cheese

Yesterday was Wednesday, or as I like to call it, WINESDAY! Whatever gets you through the week, right? I had some friends over for dinner and whipped up this quick and easy (and fairly healthy) pasta dish in between playing with my friend's 7-month-old adorable little mini-me and indulging in a glass of vino (did i mention it was WINESDAY?).  Needless to say, this meal requires little concentration and is pretty hard to mess up.

Sorry there isn't a picture of the final the time the meal was done I realized I forgot about it...whoops!

1 box bow-tie pasta (or any other pasta you have layin' around...we don't discriminate here, folks)
1 onion, chopped
1 package fresh spinach leaves
1 yellow pepper(red would work too, but I don't think green has the same affect)
1/2 c. sundried tomatoes, chopped
chopped garlic to your desired garlicky-ness
1 c. reserved cooking water from your pasta
feta cheese, crumbled
white cooking wine (hello...WINESday!)
lemon juice
S&P to taste

Bring pot of water to a boil for the pasta.  In a separate saucepan, get the EVOO and add onions once the pan is hot.  Cook until transparent.  Add pepper and white cooking wine, simmer 5-10 mins on low.  Once pepper is soft, add garlic and spinach and cook until spinach is wilted.  Add sundried tomatoes at the end.

Once pasta is cooked, reserve a little bit of cooking water before you drain, then set the pasta aside.  Add cooking water the veggies, and some crumbled feta.  Cook until feta is melty.  Toss pasta in sauce and garnish with feta, salt and pepper, and a squeeze of lemon juice.  Grab a glass (or judgment) of wine and you're good to go!

Don't forget to let me know what you thought of this recipe in the comment section below.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Recipe: Chicken & Rice Stuffed Peppers (with creamy tomato-basil sauce)

I literally just chewed the last bite of this on-the-fly supper and I couldn't wait to share.  This is another one of those "clean the pantry" dinners that took about 2 minutes to create and 20 minutes to cook.  Perfect for a Monday night meal that's filling but not fussy.  I kid you not when I say a legit threw things in a pan and hoped for the best...that being said, eyeball all measurements!

2 whole peppers, cored and sliced at the top
1 lb. ground turkey, beef, or (in tonight's case), chicken
1 onion, chopped
garlic powder
red pepper flakes
Italian seasoning
4-5 basil leaves, chopped
1 cup rice (any kind will do...i used jasmine), cooked according to package - sort of.  see note below!
1/2 marinara sauce and 1/2 Alfredo sauce, combined (OR just use vodka sauce and the work is done for you)
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cut the tops off the peppers, and the bottoms too so that the pepper stands flat.  Line a baking sheet with nonstick foil and put the peppers on there, tops included. Cook empty peppers about 5 minutes just to give them a head start. 

In a pot, boil rice and cook about 3 minutes less than package suggests (the rice will continue to cook in the next step).

In a saucepan, heat EVOO and add onions.  Cook until transparent.  Add ground meat and spices and cook until brown.  Drain fat and transfer back to pan.  Add rice to meat mixture, as well as basil and sauce combo.  Mix well to coat.  NOTE: You want a pretty 'moist' (worst word ever but totally necessary here) mixture because once it goes in the oven, you don't want it to dry out.  If you need more sauce, add accordingly.

Take peppers out of the oven and spoon meat/rice mix into each.  Place tops on peppers and stick them back in the oven for 8-10 minutes.  Then, for 5 minutes, switch to the broiler (on low) to char the peppers.

Enjoy, folks!  PS- tell me how you like this! comment button below :)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Recipe: Pork Tenderloin with Creamy Dijon Mustard Sauce

I took a much-needed and well-deserved day off today and headed to the grocery store to get cookin'.  Now that it's getting colder and I'm getting lazier, I am HIGHLY relying on my biffle, the CrockPot,to get me through the fall and winter. 

This recipe is actually borrowed from  I was in the supermarket and the pork tenderloin was on sale and lookin' good, so I immediately used my AR app on my phone to plug in "pork", "slow cooker" and "main dish".  I had all of the other ingredients at home so this worked perfectly! Here's what you need:

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, or more as needed
2 1/2 pounds whole pork tenderloins
salt and black pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, or to taste
1 onion, chopped
1 (8 ounce) package sliced fresh mushrooms
1/4 cup white wine
1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup sour cream

 I have only recently started eating pork again after years of shunning 'the other white meat' (except for bacon...which is in its own food group...i mean really).  But i really like boneless pork tenderloin because they're fairly lean and can easily be substituted in a ton of chicken recipes when chicken gets boring.  Start with thin, boneless pork cutlets if you're easing back into pork.  It'll still take me a while to eat a pork chop.

Season pork with S&P and garlic powder.  Add EVOO to skillet and turn to medium heat.  Once hot, sear pork on each side until browned, 5-6 minutes per side.  *THE PORK WILL NOT BE COMPLETELY COOKED THROUGH - but that's OK because it will be in the Crock for 8 hours :)
Once pork is browned, remove from pan.  Add mushrooms and garlic to pan and cook until softened.  Meanwhile, add white wine to your slow cooker, adding mushrooms and onions when cooked.  Place pork on top of onion and mushroom mixture.
In a small bowl, combine mustard, cream of mushroom soup, and sour cream.  Mix well and pour on top of pork, completely covering.  Cover the Crock and heat on low 7-8 hours.  

OK, so admittedly not the prettiest meal.  But it tastes SOOOO good! The tenderloin shreds like a pulled pork and the sauce is creamy and delish served over rice.  I'd add a little salt about an hour left in the cooking cycle and maybe a splash of hot sauce to garnish...but otherwise, perfection and SO EASY! 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Recipe: Fish Tacos

Last night my parents and I went to the Cheesecake Factory and dad ordered the fish tacos, which also happens to be one of my favorite dishes there.  After being inspired by their version I decided to try my own. 

Disclaimer: THIS IS THE FIRST TIME I'VE EVER MADE THESE and probably only the fourth time I've ever cooked fish in the house (grilling is usually the way to go, fish can get stinky!).  These came out really tasty and are surprisingly low in fat.  Check it!

1-1/2 lb. haddock, scrod, or any other white fish filet (tilapia would work well)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (aka EVOO)
fresh cilantro, chopped
chili powder 
juice of 1-2 limes
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place filets in baking dish and coat both sides with a healthy seasoning of salt & pepper.  Mix remaining ingredients in a bowl and pour over fish.  Cover with foil and refrigerate 15-20 mins.  Once marinated, place fish on foiled baking pan that has been sprayed w/ nonstick spray.  Place in oven to cook 10-15 minutes.  The fish is ready when it flakes away from a fork.  Let cool and break apart with fork for easy distribution on tacos.

This is arguably a LOT of cilantro.  Scale it back a bit if you're not that big a fan.  If you don't like it at all, try marinating with lime juice, EVOO, and garlic/onions.

small white (or red) onion
tomatoes, chopped
fresh cilantro, chopped
fresh lime juice
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced

Mix all ingredients, refrigerate and let the juices to their thing.

GARNISHES (optional)
small flour tortillas
1 mango, cubed
1 avocado, sliced
shredded cabbage (a.k.a Dole coleslaw in a bag)
sour cream
Red Hot

 i picked a perfect avocado.

Once fish is cooked and cooled, assemble tacos with pico de gallo and any garnishes you like.  My favorites are the cabbage and mango.  You could also add corn and black beans if you have. 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Recipe: Turkey & Bean Chili

grThe weather outside was pretty frightful this weekend.  Hurricane Irene came in here uninvited and just owned shit.  Although she ruined my initial weekend plans, I can't say I was that upset to have the entire afternoon to myself to lounge around and let the CrockPot do most of the work.

If you haven't used or invested in a CrockPot, you are not living.  Just the best invention ever created.  I love my Crock so much that when I got engaged I squealed at the thought of adding another, new and improved Crock to my collection (thank you, gift registry...).  I make this chili quite often because it's one of those dishes you can leave on LOW for pretty much the entire day, lasts almost a week in the fridge, and is so easy to freeze in small batches for easy defrosting later.   Try my turkey version for all the flavor and less of the fat.  Even the boys will like it!

 not the prettiest meal, but damn tasty :)

the chickpeas give this chili a nice texture.

NOTE: this recipe is VERY "kitchen sink", meaning I make a different version depending on what's on hand.  Feel free to swap turkey for beef, chickpeas for red beans, etc., etc.

1 lb. ground turkey
2-3 15 oz. cans of chickpeas, rinsed and drained (kidney and black beans work great, too)
1 26 oz. can tomato sauce
1 8 oz can tomato paste
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 can green chiles (optional)
diced red pepper
diced white onion 
mined garlic
Red Hot to taste
chili powder to taste
shredded Mexican-blend or cheddar cheese
light sour cream

Brown turkey meat with onions and garlic.  Drain fat and add to CrockPot.  Add remaining ingredients (except cheese and sour cream) and mix well.  Set Crock to LOW and cook 4-6 hours (or longer).  You can also cook this on HIGH 2-4 hours.

Garnish with cheese and/or sour cream and dig in!

BONUS! This recipe is a GREAT way to clean out your pantry.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Recipe: Coconut Shrimp & Pineapple Salsa with Jasmine Rice

I was in the mood for seafood last night and wanted to try a new recipe.  My fiance has been working like a dog 7 days a week so as a treat for him I decided to attempt coconut shrimp, one of his favorites.  I managed to whip up a great healthy alternative to the deep-fried classic by simply baking these instead.  Try this recipe soon for a vacation from the average shrimp cocktail! One note: all measurement in this recipe were the "eyeball" method :)

3/4-1 lb. shrimp, peeled and de-veined
panko style breadcrumbs
all-purpose flour
sweetened shredded coconut
2-3 egg whites, whisked until frothy


fresh pineapple,finely chopped
cilantro, chopped
red onion, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
salt and pepper
fresh lime juice

1 c. rice
1 3/4 c. water

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  For rice, boil water.

Set up a "conveyor belt" setup with one bowl of egg whites, one bowl of all purpose flour, and one bowl of combined panko breadcrumbs and coconut.  Make sure shrimp are not too wet when you begin.  First dredge shrimp in flour, shaking off any excess.  Then dip in egg white, then the breadcrumb mixture.  Repeat with all shrimp and place on sprayed baking sheet.  

Panko Mixture

Bake for 15-20, flipping shrimp once halfway through for even browning.

While shrimp are baking, add rice to water and simmer on low, covered, for 15 minutes.

For salsa, combine all ingredients and mix well.  Refrigerate until ready to eat.

Close-up of the Pineapple Salsa! Gorgeous summer colors :)
The final product! SO happy with the results!

Serve shrimp over Jasmine rice with salsa.  For a dipping sauce, try mixing equal parts pineapple preserves and orange marmalade.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Recipe: 'Naner Bread!

Banana bread is one of my FAVORITE ways to use produce that you would normally need to chuck.  I constantly buy a huge bunch of bananas, and we eat 2 or 3 before the others turn brown.  I started freezing the rest of the bunch when it was no longer edible (at least to my liking; i love green-yellow bananas but don't really love them when the start to freckle) and defrosting them later to make bread!  This recipe is super easy for the non-baker and you don't need any fancy baking equipment except a wooden spoon!  Add chocolate chips to the mix if you want to get fancy...LOVE!

Banana Bread
3-4 ripe bananas
1/3 c. melted butter
1 egg, beaten
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
pinch of salt


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix butter into mashed bananas with a wooden spoon.  Mix in sugar, egg, and vanilla.  Sprinkle in baking soda and salt.  Add flour last.  Pour mixture into greased 4x8 loaf pan and bake 1 hour.


 These will be delicious soon :)