Major Key: Philly’s Florida Keys Cookoff

In 2014, I saw a very long line for a photo opportunity. It was at the Southernmost Point of the continental United States. Luckily, I was able to push my way to the front by letting the line know something especially important:

Hello, everyone. In three years, I’ve got this cooking competition I’ll be doing. If I win, I get to come back. Would you mind if I snapped a quick shot?

And, just like that, the crowd parted and I nabbed this gem.

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Finally, last week, the time had come.

I, along with 23 other hungry bloggers, radio hosts, and news anchors, filled the kitchens of The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College  for tours, tastes, and tests of skill. Our assignment seemed simple enough:

  • Cook up two dishes.
  • One will be seafood.
  • One’s a Key Lime Pie.
  • You can bring ONE special ingredient for your Key Lime Pie.

Now, I’ve gotta say, this event is not WHY I got into blogging… but my WORD it was easily the most fun, and certainly the type of event that keeps me putting all these words out into the ether. (P.S. Thanks for reading. Seriously.)

The team from the Florida Keys and Key West, in hopes to encourage us chilly Philly folks to head south more often, wanted us to bring a Taste of the Keys to town.

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My very official station

We started with dessert. Because we’re grownups and we can.

My secret ingredient was a way to bring a taste of Philadelphia to the Keys: Pretzel Crust! The crust recipe was loosely based on The Gold Lining Girl’s Recipe, but I pulverized my pretzels at home and added a teensy bit of cinnamon to my crust.

We had 50 minutes. We were given all the other ingredients.

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Almost no one drank the “cooking wine”. We all tried to avoid mixing the seafood ingredients with the pie ingredients.

At times, things got a little sticky…

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Probably flexing for the camera. Definitely cramming butter sugar pretzel dust into a pie tin.

I’ve never made a Key Lime Pie. It’s SO easy. You should try the Florida Keys Key Lime Pie Recipe at home. I personally would recommend the pretzel crust but (spoiler alert) that probably won’t win you a trip to the Florida Keys.

While our pies cooled, we were able to sample some of the cocktails downstairs AND mingle. I even got to mingle with the most petite chef of the night, Emily of HerPhilly!

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And then it was onto the seafood. In this case: SNAPPER!

My dish was a blackened yellowtail snapper with a mango and lime salsa. I didn’t have an exact recipe but I’ve linked to a similar one.

Things really heated up…

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Moments later, I switched to a cast iron skillet, making this a simply useless photo

In the end, I was pretty pleased with what I produced:

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Sure, I didn’t win. But I did immediately look for flights back down to Florida ($98 RT to Miami from PHL, in case you were wondering…)

All in all: I LOVED living my TopChef dreams. In case you weren’t sure if I had fun…

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The MOST fun

Thank YOU to everyone, from Aversa PR  for the invite to the Restaurant School  for hosting us to the Florida Keys crew, for bringing the heat to West Philly!

 

DIY Juicing on a Budget

In the fall, the term “basic” is tossed around in the direction of those well-coifed women clutching their pumpkin spice lattes and rocking boots and vests for 3 months straight.

I think the summer equivalent would have to be a Lululemon-clad lady, yoga mat swinging from her shoulder strap and a pricey green juice in the other.

And if that’s basic…. I’m guilty as charged.

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you’re damn right I am.

Nothing like a fancy juice after a workout class to make you feel like you’re on a different level of healthy.  Which is why, after 2-3 weeks of straight up INDULGENCE on the eating front, I decided to reboot with juice (let’s take it down a notch from Jordan’s Whole30 experience). 3 days, 5 juices, on meal of vegetable and lean meats.

Unfortunately, Ryan Crown Juice Club seems to be MIA, and is more expensive than I’d be able to handle. Even if I nabbed my juices at Philly’s most affordable “juice bar”, Fuel, it’d be over 20 bucks a day, and I’d be working with what they offer. Even the cheapest “juice cleanse” I found online seemed steep, and I hate paying for what I can do at home.

Luckily, I had all I needed to DIY my juice on a budget:

  • An affordable juicer (the least “budget friendly” portion of this, I received mine as a gift, and isn’t that exact model, but is similar. I’m not going to include this cost in the price, as I received mine as a gift, but “I get it”, they don’t grow on trees.)
  • A few hours of free time

I modeled my juice “recipes” and timing off of BluePrint, one of the better known “Juice Cleanse” companies online (who ships your prepared, bottled juices directly to your home!) And then I made a list of ingredients I needed and headed STRAIGHT to Reading Terminal Market to bring back fruits and vegetables from Iovine Brothers and OK Produce. (This is Philly specific but I’d recommend you just go straight to your local produce market, if possible).

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New FRIENDS!!

Green Juice (2/day)

  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 apples
  • Little bit of parsley
  • KALE!
  • ROMAINE!
  • SPINACH! (the amounts on the greens are up to you, but you truly can’t taste them at all)

Snack Juices (2/day)

  • Spicy Lemonade  (I just used honey instead of “Agave” because we had some)
  • PAM (Pineapple Apple Mint)

Dinner Juice (1/day)

  • 2 large green apples
  • 2 beets
  • 3 large carrots (or 1/3 bag of mini carrots!)
  • 1 lemon
  • Honking chunk of ginger

I got all the ingredients for these (other than the honey, which I already had) for $33.86, or about $11.28 per day. I used the leftover kale for my “greens” and I did buy a pound of turkey for $3.99, making the total cost for all the food-products I put into my body $37.85 for 3 days.

A 3-day “Renovation Cleanse” from Blueprint costs $195 (and does NOT come with turkey, though they do include a sort of dessert juice with cashews and blueberries).

The cost difference is $157.15. That’s enough to buy a juicer and still have money for savings.

I’ll admit, it took me about 40 minutes a night to make the juices for the next day and they didn’t come in sexy BluePrint bottles. Toting them was a bit weird, as I’d have glass bottles in my bag headed to work each day.

But I’ll take a tasty and fresh juice that clanks when I walk if it saves me $157.15…

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This is kinda pretty, right?

After the three days, I actually had enough ingredients for another green juice in the morning. I also felt fantastic and refreshed. I didn’t weigh myself, and I didn’t take photos. I just wanted to remind my body what all those good veggies and fruits tasted like, and see if I could do it on a budget.

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Mission: accomplished.

Now, can someone pass me a carb?

Confections and Cocktails at Williams-Sonoma

What’s better than dessert?

Dessert when you add BOOZE!

Whoah, did I jump into this too fast? Let me rewind.

Kory over at Aversa PR gave me the opportunity of a new-Philly resident’s lifetime: a chance to join a number of fellow Philly bloggers at Williams-Sonoma on Walnut Street for an event featuring the Executive Chefs at the Bellevue Hyatt and Restaurant XIX and a selection of Confections and Cocktails? You KNOW I couldn’t say no.

Just a selection of the tasty treats!

White turtle cheesecakes, pear pumpkin trifle, mini apple pies, ginger snaps, brownies…. I can’t even.

Kory was moving and shaking, so I tried to make a few moves myself.

Kory was unstoppable.

Williams-Sonoma showed us how they run their in-store classes, and chefs from
showed us the ropes as well.  It was incredible.

Pumpkin bars were first and foremost. And delicious.

Jeff, master chef (err… cook… W-S master of ceremonies.)

Brenda from Williams-Sonoma handing out the finished product!

These were delicious and SO easy to make!! (Link to the recipe)

We also got a chance to meet Judy Ellis-Taylor from the Hyatt at the Bellevue (AND their beloved restaurant, XIX) who shared with us the glory of Pinot Grigio-soaked apples as a cocktail ingredient.

Brilliant

The result was a fresh, tart, sneakily-boozy cocktail perfect for all the tasty apples that are so perfect in the fall season. And Judy was pretty fantastic herself…

Also sweet and tart!

My buddy, Martha, and I are already planning a happy hour trip to XIX for a visit with this lovely lady…

Speaking of which, I asked around and found my ideal plus one in Martha who, despite being gluten-free, enjoyed the heck out of the event. I think she just likes sipping fancy cocktails. And dressing up. And looking fabulous doing both.

Too cute.

After watching Bradley from XIX whip up some gingersnaps (which were SO much better than classic gingersnaps you get in the box that end up being rock-hard and miserable), we enjoyed the event that it seemed every was hyped up for: Watching bartender Nate craft some cocktails!

Atta boy

He showed us how to make the most DELICIOUS version of a whiskey sour I’ve ever had.

Ingredients?

  • 2 oz Jameson
  • 1 oz Grand Marnier
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • 1 oz simple syrup
  • 1/2 oz OJ
  • 3/4 oz honey
  • 2 pieces of candied ginger
  • 3 dashes orange bitters
  • pumpkin spice
  • sugar
  • honey

The recipe was pretty simple:

  1. Rim glass with honey, sugar, and pumpkin spice
  2. Dry shake other ingredients to mix well, and add to a tumbler filled with ice

Couldn’t get enough, it was like some sort of apple pie in a glass.

Beautiful, warm colors to compliment any seasonal dessert!

After observing the creation of the confections and cocktails for a bit, we were invited to sample everything… Don’t have to ask me twice.

bottoms up!

Cocktail made with Patron XO Cafe, pear and pumpkin trifle, and chocolate brownie with cream cheese frosting (I think.)

Other highlights? That time that I won a giftcard in the end-of-event raffle!

For ME?!

I know I’d obviously be back to Williams-Sonoma otherwise, but the gift card might make that sooner rather than later…. Gotta get some holiday shopping done, right?

BUT, as a newbie in Philly, I’d never known about XIX or all the tasty experiences I could have just a few blocks away… Looks like Happy Hour planning might ALSO be taking place sooner rather than later.

Thanks to Kory at Aversa PR, Judy and her team at XIX, and Brenda, Jeff and the gang at Williams-Sonoma for my FIRST blogging event as a Philly resident (and HOPEFULLY not my last!)

Cheers!

What’s your favorite seasonal fall dessert?

I once won a pie-eating contest with a pumpkin pie. Get on my level.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Revolution Without [Cleaning] is Not a Revolution Worth Having

Ok, so I know I wasn’t the only one…. BUT I recently was asked to participate in the Finish® Sticky Dish Challenge and:

Create an amazingly tasty, messy, sticky, and difficult-to-clean meal to put Finish to the test

The folks at Finish offered me a gift card to Williams-Sonoma in order to nab something shiny to mess up with food and goop, along with a sample of their Finish® Quantum® 10-pack to see what it could take. The rules were simple:

  1. Get dish.
  2. Make food (and, by default, make mess.)
  3. Do NOT clean, just let it sit overnight and get funkier/stickier.
  4. Try out the goods.

Best mail EVER!

Since I’ve been obsessed with enchiladas lately, and had about 7 oz of goat cheese to use, I went for something extra special.

Sara (from The Sprouted Kitchen)’s Roasted Zucchini, Black Bean, and Goat Cheese enchiladas! It had all the stickiest ingredients: roasted veggies, so much sauce, cheese, black beany goodness (just TRY not to make a mess with black beans). I was ready.

Let’s do this!

(bonus: Since I already had the goat cheese, the whole dish cost me about $10 to make!)

(Except the wine. That was brought by my cooking buddy, Jess, to make our dish more creative.)

This recipe was a blast to make. We laughed as we chopped and roasted….

So vibrant

We I cried while I chopped the onion.

Don’t cry for me Onion-tina

And filled the enchiladas with delicious healthy ingredients. Black beans, goat cheese, roasted zucchini and red pepper, and spinach, of course!

Steamy

Then, I got to make the mess I’d been waiting for…

Saucey

So much filling all OVER that pan!

All cooked, let’s check it out!

Ready for my closeup

Yep, that’s caked-on-the-pan, gooey enchilada goodness.

I shall call YOU lunch

If the enchiladas looked like gorgeous supermodels, the pan looked like…. a crusty lady in red after a salsa fight.

ew.

 

Gross.

Luckily, I had a (not-so) secret weapon… Wanna see how Finish Quantum did? CHECK OUT MY FIRST VLOG IN WHICH MY VOICE SOUNDS REALLY WEIRD!!

I swear, this was USED! Not brand new, as it looks…

I’ll admit, I’ve used a LOT of different dishwashing detergents before. In fact, when I was living abroad in Italy for a month, we used Glass Cleaner for the first wash before realizing it wasn’t detergent (oops…. poison? Nah, we rinsed the dishes….)

That being said, this stuff was the JAM! We also put our used dishes in there, some nice wine glasses…. not a streak in the bunch, and no food bits left behind. Incredible. I was blown away.

Big ups to the #FinishRevolution for making a convert out of me. I know I appreciated the opportunity, and I’m pretty sure my buddy Jess enjoyed the fruits of my cooking labor. Check out below if you’re trying to get in on the Finish Quantum action!
*I received this Finish® product free of charge in order to try it out and share the results with my readers (that’s y’all!!). The opinions are mine alone (though I did ask my buddy, Jess, what she thought, and the results are based on our delicious experience. I had a BLAST with this, and am happy to let anyone know that if they’d like to try out this awesome product, you can get a free sample on their Facebook Page!

DIY Chipotle’s Salsa

Just another perk of living in the city of Philadelphia (or, I assume, any city) – Sometimes you come across something like this:

Fancy meeting you here.

A mid-day salsa tasting and technique class in the middle of the garden?  Don’t mind if I do.

I’ll admit, I’ve attempted to make salsa before. It involved a food processor and resulted in a big watery mess, which I tried to remedy with some hot sauce… Hot sauce in salsa?

I know, I recognize how ridiculous this is in hindsight.  Luckily, I let the pros show me how to do it right before this attempt.

First cut is the deepest….

The Chipotle employee showed me that the best way to chop an onion is by not cutting it all the way apart at the end, that way it stays together when you cut the other direction.

Like this:

Safety first, she had a chain-mail glove on

She dumped a perfect pile of chopped onion into the bowl before moving onto the next ingredient.

That’s how she gets her jollies 

She sliced the jalapenos into itsy bitsy bits, not bothering to remove the seeds. I’ve never heard of such a practice, but who am I to argue with greatness?

I forgot to snap shots of the chopping of the tomatoes, distracted by this little jewel.

Freebies flock to me on my birthday

A miniature order of chips and salsa distracted me just long enough to miss the (vine-ripened) tomato chopping BUT don’t worry, I developed laser-like focus when it came time to watch the cilantro be chopped finely as I’ve ever seen cilantro chopped.

Beautifully green, and grown in Jersey!

Apparently, Chipotle’s done a great job of trying to focus on as much locally sourced and organic ingredients as possible. About 80% of the cilantro they use is organic, so you know it’s good.

Let’s mix it up!  Squirt some lime in there and….

Got that cilantro sprinkle…

Since they couldn’t serve me the good stuff they’d just showed me how to make, I had to take matters into my own hands. Luckily, the Rittenhouse Farmer’s Market was the next day and, since the Chipotle folks gave me my own little recipe card, I went to work.

Ingredients from the market!

I got everything but the cilantro from the market, and got to chopping.

I love how Chipotle uses red onions (my favorite of the onion family) for color and taste, and all that chopping, though tedious, resulted in a MUCH more successful salsa.

The final product!!

I halved the recipe here, but here’s the version they gave out:

  • 6 vine-ripened tomatoes
  • 1/2 a red onion
  • 2 jalapenos
  • 1/3 cup of chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sugar (which I did not use in my version)
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Dice the tomatoes, onion, and jalapenos (and go super fine with those jalapenos). Combine all the ingredients and season to taste!

Serve with your favorite chips or do as I did and top your favorite taco salad with this chopped salsa.

Or, if you’re tired and lazy, go to your nearest Chipotle and get the pros to serve you some…

Tomato, to-mah-toe.

Ever make your own salsa? What’s your recipe??

If not, where do you get your favorite salsa?

 

 

 

 

Veggie-Packed Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese

That title, that was the inspiration of my day yesterday.  I wanted mac and cheese, I wanted buffalo chicken and I KNEW I needed some veggies in the mix.  It was all I was thinking about all morning.

It was on my mind while I was eating breakfast.

Oh, it is love.

Welcome the newest addition to my breakfast lineup: Almond Breeze Almond Milk & Coconut Milk Blend. My local Harris Teeter featured this as a NEW ITEM and I can’t resist bold letters and coconut anything.

The verdict? It’s amazing. It’s like a little pina colada in my morning cereal!! Adding in some pineapples, I basically feel like, even though I’m eating twigs (errr… I mean Fiber Fruit & Nut cereal), breakfast time has become a mini-vacation. I mean, I’m not off in the tropics (yet) but it’s delicious.

The mac and cheese was still on my mind when I stopped by the grocery store (to pick up the ingredients).  Luckily, I also picked up a little amuse-bouche from the in-store Starbucks.

Hand shown for perspective

I present the tiniest, tastiest Starbucks shot.  I wanna tell you it was a strawberry smoothie, but I honestly don’t know. It was pink, covered in whipped cream, and even had it’s own tiny straw.  Irresistible.

And, of course, it was on my mind when I got home.  So I did some searching on the internet, scouring Pinterest to see if this had been done before.  And maybe it had, but I got lazy and decided to do it on my own.

The results were cheesy, healthy(ish), and delicious.

Appetizing looking? Maybe not. Fantastic? Absolutely.

I didn’t write down exacts, but here’s the best I got for a recipe.

Ingredients:

  • One cup of whole wheat rotini pasta
  • 2 Cups of water (for cooking the pasta)
  • 1/5 of a red onion, chopped
  • 1/4 of a red pepper, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of EVOO
  • 1/2 to 1 cup of finely riced cauliflower
  • 1 Laughing Cow Blue Cheese wedge
  • 1/4 cup of Frank’s Red Hot (original is my favorite)
  • 1 Chicken Breast (grilled and chopped in bits)
  • 1/4 cup of milk
  • As much shredded cheese as you’d like (I went with about 1/4 cup of sharp cheddar, and a few sprinkles of mozzarella and “Mexican blend” cheese)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cook pasta as directed, and set aside.
  3. Sauté onion and pepper in the olive oil until soft and delicious.
  4. Place pasta, chicken, and veggies (onions, cauliflower, red pepper) in a loaf pan, stirring to mix up ingredients.
  5. Put milk, Laughing Cow wedge, and 3/4 of the cheese in a microwave safe bowl and microwave in 20 second spurts, stirring so that it becomes creamy.
  6. Pour creamy cheese over mix, adding Frank’s Red Hot to the mix and stir, coating all the pasta/chicken/veggies (liberally).
  7. Sprinkle extra cheese over the mix for a meltiness.
  8. Place pan in the oven, and cook until hot and melted.
  9. Enjoy the HECK out of it!!

Add some extra Frank's if you are addicted to heat.

So good.

What food (foods) do you get cravings for?

Mac and Cheese is always one of mine.

Weekend Eats

Seafood Celebrations!

Whoever said Pescatarianism was a challenge clearly has never been to Harry’s Savoy Grill.  After hopping off a late night (and sort of last minute) flight that landed in Philadelphia around 9:30, I hopped into my parents’ car to join my mom and dad for a little late night dinner and drinks at Harry’s. While my folks dined on mini versions of steak sandwiches and bratwurst bites, I got a salmon burger slider (the description of which I cannot seem to find online, but it was served with a curry mayo that was totally complimentary and delicious) and the “Tempura Key West Pink Shrimp tossed in a sriracha aïoli”.

Holy MOLY, that aïoli!!  I know that just about every restaurant that serves seafood lately has jumped on this “fried shrimp + sriracha + mayo” combination (Volcano Shrimp, Bang Bang Shrimp, Firecracker Shrimp…. you know the deal) BUT this version was probably the best I’ve ever tried. I convinced my parents to each take one to try it out and, after watching the glee on their faces as they realized the joy of the combo in their mouths, I could hardly keep their skewers out of my bowl!

I have fond memories of Harry’s, as I celebrated the “after party” of my first Communion there as a little girl.  Since I was wearing an insanely fancy and frilly white dress, my mother didn’t let me near anything that could stain (read: curry mayo + sriracha aïoli) BUT I get the feeling that even picky-eater baby Jordan would’ve appreciated these tasty shrimp bites.  If you’re ever at Harry’s (which I’d totally recommend), skip the fancy seats and head over to the bar for anexcellent beer selection, well-made cocktails, and some of the most well-crafted appetizers and tapas selection I’ve seen in my limited experience bopping around the Wilmington, DE area.

There were amazing meals tossed into the mix while I was at home (as per usual) including everything bagels, scrumptious egg scrambles, a veggie stromboli jam-packed with broccoli, olives, cheese, peppers, and rich marinara sauce, and a fantastic shrimp caesar salad, but all of it paled in comparison to the next treat…. The grand finale.

The Ultimate Chocolate Layered Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Birthday Cake!!

I know, is your mouth watering already?  Mine certainly was when my sister and I found the recipe over at Picky Palate.  I’ll admit though, I was thoroughly intimidated.  See, when it comes to baking, I’m more of a “throw everything into the mix and hope for the best” kind of gal.  This recipe involved chopping, homemade icing, refrigeration, layers, drizzles, the whole kitten caboodle.  I suggested we try to make some cookies instead.

Kiley: No.

Jordan: Oooh, how about like… some cupcakes.

Kiley: Definitely not.  Come on Jord, what are you, scared?

Jordan: CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!

We got to work, slaving in the kitchen for hours.  And by slaving, I mostly mean listening to Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me Maybe on repeat as we waited for the frosting and cakes to cool.  We discovered a rare finding, as well.

Once in a blue moon

This mini Reese’s cup had not one, not two, not even THREE but FOUR liners!!  That’s like cracking an egg with two yolks.  You get weirdly excited, and wanna share it with the world.  Or your blog.

Speaking of blogs, ever since seeing all the chaos on Get Off My Internets and the forums, I’m a little scared to post pictures where you can see my fingernails.  People apparently aren’t happy with long, short, painted, or otherwise.  But I braved it to share the rarity with all of you.  I’m brave like that.

We melted a ton of PB, for a gorgeous layer-by-layer drizzle.

Do the Drizzle, yeah.

Since we liked the peanut butter taste so much, we also tweaked the recipe a tiny bit by adding a HEAP of it into the icing.  And that made all the difference….

Ain't no party like a peanut butter party

Four layers, a bag of mini Reese’s cups, about 520 calories worth of frosting consumed pre-icing, and a full day in the fridge later, we had our finished product!!

Since we’d missed the birthdays of my mom and my brother’s girlfriend, we celebrated both with this cake (trust me, it was big and heavy enough to support two, or five, birthday wishes) and dove in.  It was rich, it was creamy, it was cold, and all that was missing was a big scoop of PB ice cream…. maybe next time.  That is, if I can ever build up the courage to bake another four-layered ANYTHING again.

What’s been your biggest baking undertaking? And how’d it go?

Because this was DEFINITELY mine.

Sloppy Sams: A Lentil Adventure

Here’s a few thoughts:

  1. Lentils are dirty.  If you’re going to use them, rinse the heck outta them.  And then, if you’re me, after you cook them, rinse them again.  Gross.
  2. Despite wolfing down many during camp lunches, I don’t really remember what Sloppy Joe’s taste like.
  3. I know that Sloppy Sams taste great.

Unlike the whole Soy Chorizo situation, I didn’t seek out this recipe to replace some sort of meat that was missing in my life. I just saw a recipe online, and figured “I have good memories of Sloppy Joes, right? Lots of camp memories, lots of laughter at the old lady in Billy Madison, let’s do this thing.”

Alas, I didn’t don a sexy lunchlady outfit for y’all.  But I found a great recipe!  Then I changed it to fit my needs.

Sloppy Sams from Marian at All Recipes!

Ingredients

  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup lentils, rinsed (THEN RINSE THEM AGAIN!!)
  • salt to taste (optional)
  • 1 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped tomato One can fire roasted tomatoes, and a handful of fresh tomato
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup ketchup a liberal squirting of ketchup, but I didn’t measure it out
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder RATS I didn’t have any, I wish I did
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder (then more because I’m a spice monger)
  • 3 tablespoons molasses Tomatoes are already sweet, why add more sweetness?
  • 1 dash Worcestershire sauce
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 4 hamburger buns, split Whatever bread you have!
  • Cheese and jalapenos for topping!
Makes about six servings!

Directions

  1. Combine water and lentils in a saucepan; season to taste with salt if desired. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until tender, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Meanwhile, cook onions with the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat until the onions have softened and turned translucent, about 4 minutes. Add tomatoes (and can of tomatoes) and garlic, and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, ketchup, mustard powder, chili powder, molasses and Worcestershire sauce; simmer 5 to10 minutes until thickened.
  3. Drain lentils and reserve cooking liquid. Stir lentils into sauce mixture, adding cooking liquid or water as needed to obtain the desired “sloppy joe” consistency. Serve on buns toasted wheat breadwith a sprinkle of cheese and some jalapenos!

I enjoyed the HECK out of this!

De-LIGHTFUL!

I also sprinkled a bit of cheese on top and, next time I’ve got em, I’ll add some jalapenos (pickled or fresh) on top for a little heat.

I will say, though, this recipe makes enough for about 6 servings.  Now I have a Simba-sized tub of leftovers.

How about THIS?!

Consider me Rafiki!

That ought to tide me over (had to check on that phrase, I never know if it’s Tie or Tide) for a while.

Dessert was what I like to call The Friend Killer.

DESTROYER OF LIVES!

It may look like just a banana with some peanut butter to YOU but, to me, this is basically a weapon.  In college, two of my the people I was closest with (and one that I continue to be close with, since he’s my boyfriend and all) were deathly allergic to these two ingredients (one to bananas, one to nuts).  If I’d eaten this around them, they’d basically both go into anaphylactic shock and die.

Well, when the friends are away, the Jordan will play…. with her food. I may or may not have “Pew Pewed” holding this banana like a gun a few times, before eating it.  Normal.

(No friends [or enemies] were hurt during the writing of this blog).

Back to work!

Are you allergic to anything? Especially food?

When I was younger, I was allergic to eggs…. but clearly that’s faded. Nothing else, other than that. I guess I’ll just have to keep eating random foods until I find something.

Eggplant Stack Attack!

You know what I don’t use enough of?

a. My grill pan.

b. My loaf pan.

c. Eggplants.

d. All of the above

If you guessed d, you might already have an idea of what I whipped up for dinner the other night.  One of this week’s goals in my fitbook was to try a “Meatless Monday” this week. It had nothing to do with plans to be vegetarian or vegan (I have 3 pounds of pork in the slow cooker right now, and just used bacon grease to cook my beef burger for dinner).

Might as well be a burger. (not.)

Part of the move followed an episode of The Chew from last week, in which the entire hour was devoted to meat-free meals and snacks, which is normally what they mock Daphne Oz for pushing.  But as often as I’m laughing AT Daphne and not with her, I like the idea of reducing my carbon footprint.  It’s so hot, right now (by it, I mean the Earth… global warming and all).

It was actually easier than I thought it’d be due, in part, to the fact that I can’t resist a good deal on a giant purple fruit tube.

Sorry tube, you go in a tummy

I cut the eggplant into slices and pretended that they were like the noodles in a lasagna.  This is especially important to note because I don’t really love lasagna all that much.

But I loved this meal.

Sauce Boss

I loved it even more when the cheese melted.

Loaf Pans are supposed to be full of cheese, veggies, and sauce. Never bread. Is that right?

So I missed that part of the Healthy Living Summit where everyone learned to write perfect, printable recipes.  Here’s what you get, instead:

Ingredients

  • 8 slices of giant eggplant (cut relatively thick)
  • Sauteed spinach (I prefer fresh, but have tried it with frozen and it worked A-ok!)
  • Sauteed onions, peppers, or whatever you like (If I ate olives, I bet there would’ve been some in there)
  • Mozzarella cheese and parmesan cheese
  • Sauce (Sockarooni if you’re a smarty)
  • Crushed red pepper and oregano
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and spray a loaf pan with some cooking spray (I like the Olive Oil kind)
  2. Grill those eggplant slices.  I did it in olive oil and salt and pepper, on a grill pan.
  3. Layer them in a loaf pan, four across.
  4. Top THAT layer with your sauteed spinach and veggies.
  5. Top THAT layer with a sprinkling of parmesan and mozzarella.
  6. Repeat steps 2-4 again
  7. Top the final layer of cheese with a flew blobs of sauce
  8. Cook in the oven for about 15 minutes-ish, or just check it periodically until you like the “done-ness” of it all.
  9. Spatula it out of your loaf pan, cover it in crushed reds, and serve!

    You should have about 2 servings, so save one for the next day’s leftovers (it just gets better after a night in the fridge).

Certainly won’t be featured in the Joy of Cooking anytime soon, but that’s exactly how I did it.

Hot enough for ya?

What’s your favorite “Meatless Monday” recipe?

Share, it’s a new thing for me! I’m always late to the party (especially when the party has no meat.)

Candied Christmas Cashews!

Yesterday, I received one of my first “holiday” gifts from a coworker.

Merry, indeed!

Though that festive looking Snowman tried his damndest to hoard all the sugared almonds, I finagled the bag away and managed to enjoy the entire little baggy over the course of yesterday afternoon/evening. I was totally hooked, and after she mentioned that the “recipe” was basically “Pour, mix, let them cool, gobble them up!” I knew what I had to do when I got home.

All I really needed. I like recipes like that.

With the help of a barely-eaten bag of raw cashews that I got a while ago for a Foodie Penpal Exchange, some sugar, and cinnamon, I was on my way.

Mixah Mixah Mixah!

Here’s the recipe, full credit to my coworker Anne, though she’s blogless, so just imagine a lovely blonde California marathon runner serving up a warm batch of these:

Cinnamon Sugar Almonds Candied Christmas Cashews!!

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar

3 cups raw almonds Cashews (or any other nut)

1/2 Tablespoon cinnamon

1/4 cup water

 

Directions: In a large skillet combine the sugar, cinnamon and water. Add the almonds cashews and stir constantly with a spoon over medium heat, coating the almonds nuts with the syrupy mixture. Keep stirring until the sugar crystallizes. Remove the pan from heat and scoop the almonds cashews onto wax or parchment paper. Let the cinnamon almonds cashews cool before serving. These can be made a few days ahead.

I could hardly wait for them to cool before I popped a few in my mouth.

Terribly tempting

Trust me, though, they’re just as tasty the next day during lunch as they are right after making them.

Color block Jordan APPROVED!

And since I wanted to show off my bag of goodies and my brightly colored outfit, I even nibbled a few outside in the crisp 65 degree December weather.

Though it doesn’t feel as cold as Christmas time, yet, these would make great presents for anyone who isn’t allergic to nuts. So much so, in fact, that I hope to receive a 3lb bag of my own.

Have you ever gifted or received a DIY present?  What was it ?!