Thursday, July 31, 2008

10 Foods You Should Always Splurge On

I am in love with Google. I use Gmail, read all my blogs on Reader, blog on Blogger, and organize my photos with Picasa. I started using Google Reader when I was planning my wedding so that I could efficiently keep up with about 10 different blogs. I slowly added on some food and local blogs as well. Now that I'm fully entrenched in food blogging, I'm ashamed to tell people how many blogs I keep track of. The beautiful thing is that Google Reader will recommend even more blogs for you to read! Through this remarkable tool, I discovered Cheap Healthy Good. Now that is a blog name I can get behind. Not only is their information helpful, but it is relayed with a particular wit and humor. I found the following article to be absolutely brilliant and suggest you read it thoroughly.

10 Foods You Should Always Splurge On

"With that in mind, here are ten edibles on which you might want to splurge.

10) Coffee. The disparity between cheap, bulk, pre-ground joe and a pound of fresh beans from Dunkin Donuts is immeasurable. One is bitter, weak, and flavored with evil, while the other (for a few dollars more) will keep you awake, happy, and gastrointestinally balanced for hours. If my office replaced their bottom-dollar devil’s brew with … well, anything, I bet worker efficiency would increase tenfold."

And the list goes on.

The foods that I will splurge on are as follows:
  • olive oil (not the $50 kind, but not the $3 kind either)
  • wine
  • cheese
  • canned tomatoes
  • good, fresh produce, especially locally-grown peaches or strawberries

What are your splurges?

Ground Pork with Spicy Peanut Noodles

This may be the most successful dinner I have ever made. It was so good and easy to throw together. Since I currently work from 12-7, I prep everything in the morning so that way I can come home and start cooking immediately. I had no idea how this would turn out as this is the first time I've made anything remotely like this, but Joe and I both loved it. Next time I might throw a few more vegetables in, maybe some peas or green onions depending on what I have around the house.

Also, I didn't really measure anything. I was a little worried that it would turn out a little bland, and there's nothing that Joe and I like less than a bland meal, so I put in quite a bit of the Thai chili garlic sauce. That stuff is extremely potent. I may have overdone it (though Joe insists I didn't). My lips were burning by the end of the meal. Next time I will go a little easier on the chili garlic sauce for my sake.

The taste of this dish is out of this world. On your first bite, the creaminess of the peanut sauce gradually gives way to the spice of the chili garlic sauce. It's a great combination. Too bad I didn't think of it first. I got this wonderful recipe from Kristy at Cook, Eat, and Write. Major props to her.

1/2 lb ground pork (I used a whole pound.)
3 T All Natural Peanut Butter
Soy Sauce
Thai Chili Sauce (I'm not sure if this is different from what I used. Mine was Srircha sauce, the red paste with flecks of pepper in it that comes with the green cap.)
1/2 box linguine (I used whole wheat spaghetti.)
1 red bell pepper
1/2 medium onion (I used a red onion because I needed to use it up.)
3 garlic cloves
frozen peas (I omitted because I ate the rest of my frozen peas in my guilty-pleasure macaroni and cheese the night before.)
2/3 cup pasta water
for spice: crushed red pepper and red curry powder
(Mine certainly did not need any additional spice help.)

Brown the ground pork in a large wok or saute pan. Thinly slice the onion and bell pepper and mince the garlic. Add to pork. After the vegetables have been combined and cooked, add some shakes of soy, 3 spoonfuls of the peanut butter, and about 1/4 cup Thai chili sauce. Mix to melt and combine peanut butter. After noodles have cooked, reserve some of the liquid to add to the pork mixture to make it saucy. Toss noodles with pork mixture and serve.

I really like that this dish is so versatile. You could substitute any long, thin noodle or even ground turkey for the pork. I also like that I can throw in any sort of vegetable I'm feeling. If guests were coming over, you could top it with some crushed peanuts, scallions, and lime or throw in some bean sprouts. The possibilities are endless!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Chicken Fajitas

When I was meal-planning for this week, I was having trouble deciding what to cook. I think this is the third or fourth week that I've been really planning what we eat, and I have started to run out of ideas. So, I asked Joe if he had any special requests, and he asked for fajitas, which we haven't had in a while.

We have been eating a similar version of these fajitas for quite some time. Fortunately, we have graduated from using the tiny George Foreman in my 1-bedroom apartment in Houston to actually grilling the chicken on a real grill. I just love the flavor the real grill gives the chicken. And nowadays I even marinate the chicken! Also, I noticed that bell peppers were relatively cheap at Kroger, so I could buy fresh this time around instead of using the frozen packages of pre-sliced tri-color bell peppers (which also work very well, by the way, when you're on a budget). I also splurged and bought an avocado.

- 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1 red bell pepper, sliced in strips
- 1 green bell pepper, sliced in strips
- 1 cup red onion, chopped roughly
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- salt & pepper to taste

I marinated the chicken breasts (marinade recipe below) for about an hour. Joe manned the grill and cooked the breasts over medium-high heat and then sliced them into strips. I sauteed the peppers and onions until soft but not soggy. We ate these on whole wheat tortillas and garnished with cheese, lite sour cream, and salsa.

Marinade (from here)

1/4 cup beer (not lite beer)
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon olive or canola oil
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
salt to taste

Combine ingredients and mix well. Pour marinade over chicken in a non-reactive container (We use a big Ziploc freezer bag.) Refrigerate for 1 to 3 hours.

Buttermilk Waffles with Glazed Banana Topping

As I said in my blueberry pancakes entry, next stop: waffles! Joe's day off was Sunday, so I whipped these up for breakfast before we headed off to church. We also had some bananas that were ripe, so I did a little glazed banana topping. This was the first time I had ever made waffles from scratch, and I thought they came out quite well. I personally prefer waffles to pancakes as I like the little crevices that hold the syrup. I tried to walk the line between being completely overindulgent and using a ton of butter and making a good waffle that wouldn't cause a heart attack.

The George Foreman that we registered for and received is amazing. It practically does everything except my laundry. It's so much better than my old single gal apartment version. If you're in the market for an appliance, it's the George Foreman G5, and then you can get rid of your griddle, panini maker, waffle iron, etc. It's the best.

- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3 eggs
- 1/4 cup to 1 cup (1/2 to 2 sticks) butter, melted (I used 1 stick of butter.)
- 1 1/2 cups buttermilk (I used light buttermilk.)

Preheat a waffle iron. Whisk together dry ingredients in a large bowl. Thoroughly blend eggs, butter, and milk in another bowl. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Combine with a few swift strokes of the whisk.

While last batch is cooking, heat 2 tbsp butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then add 1-2 bananas, sliced, in 1 layer and cook until golden, about 1 minute per side. Remove from heat and add syrup to skillet.

Spoon bananas over waffles, then drizzle with warm syrup before serving.

We sprinkled the tops with cinnamon.

recipe for waffles from Joy of Cooking, 75th Anniversary edition

recipe for glazed banana topping from here

Monday, July 28, 2008

Grilled Salmon

The original plan was to make this on Friday night, but by the time Joe and I got home, we were tired and didn't want to cook, so it got shuffled to Saturday night and we went out for beer and Mexican food.

For a wedding present, my brother and his girlfriend sent us a box of assorted fish fillets from Omaha Steaks. The salmon fillets were the only ones remaining. The box came with mahi mahi, Swordfish steaks, and halibut and were all delicious. Definitely a present to keep in mind if you know someone who really likes fish.

Saturday was very nice. Joe and I had gone to a wine tasting at our neighborhood wine store, grabbed frozen coffee drinks at a local coffee shop, and then had a friend over for beers so that we could discuss the party that we're throwing at our house in August for my incoming Divinity School class. So this meal was a great way to top off the day.

Glazed Salmon On The Grill (marinade from here)

We marinated the salmon in 1/3 cup soy sauce and 1/3 cup maple syrup for about an hour, laid some aluminum foil over the grill, and cooked the salmon on medium heat.

I also grilled some zucchini that was brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper. The salad dressing is a new one for me, a creamy vinaigrette made with non-fat yogurt. I thought the tanginess of the yogurt really made the dressing. The salmon was delicious too, though I think next time I would use lite soy sauce as it was a tad salty for me.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Artichoke Chicken

There is no picture for this entry because I was lazy, and it wouldn't have been pretty. The first time I took it out of the oven, it wasn't quite cooked yet, so Joe and I went ahead and ate our salad. So the picture would've just been of the lone artichoke-covered chicken breast on my dressing-stained plate. Ick.

This recipe, however, was delicious. Joe took one bite and then asked, "So, what's in this? Because it's amazing." (I think he is either extremely easy to please or just flattering me.) It was a little heavy for me for the mood I was in, so I just ate half a chicken breast. Plus we had snacked on cheese and banana pudding at a Happy Hour gathering before going home for dinner. I will definitely keep this in mind when I want some good comfort food in the winter.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, it looks just like the photos on the recipe page that is linked at the bottom of this post.

- 1 (15 ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
- 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 3/4 cup mayonnaise (I used lite mayo)
- 1 pinch garlic pepper (I used lemon pepper)
- 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
In a medium bowl, mix together the artichoke hearts, Parmesan cheese, mayonnaise, and garlic pepper. Place chicken in a greased baking dish, and cover evenly with artichoke mixture.
Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until chicken is no longer pink in the center and juices run clear. (Mine needed a little longer, more like 45 minutes.)

recipe from here

Chocolate Chess Pie

On my chess pie entry, Kelly left a comment that I should try her version of chess pie, which is her great-aunt's recipe for chocolate chess pie. Joe seemed particularly excited by this, so since he was on-call Wednesday night, I decided to have it waiting for him on Thursday when he came home. Besides, nothing is better than an older Southern woman's recipes for pie.

Let me tell you, this is an incredibly sexy pie. It has all of the smooth creaminess of the chess pie with the darker flavors of the chocolate. Joe came home and ate a whole quarter of the pie; that's how good it is. It's the kind of pie that will make you moan when you take that first bite. And it still has everything I love about the plain chess pie, namely that great hardening on top, almost like creme brulee.

Kelly's Great-Aunt Jeanne's Chocolate Chess Pie

1 9" single pie crust
3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
1 1/2 cups of sugar
1/2 stick of butter
2 eggs
1 small can of evaporated milk (5-6 oz)
1 tsp of vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Mix cocoa with sugar; add melted (but cooled) butter and stir well. Mix in 2 eggs, then evaporated milk and vanilla. Beat for 5-6 minutes. Pour mixture into pie crust. Bake on 350 for 40 minutes or until set in middle. Let cool and chill until ready to serve. It's best served chilled.

I was a little nervous at first because the filling was really liquid-y, but I had no problems with it setting.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Single Girl Spaghetti

Please pardon the terrible picture.

This may seem a little silly, but you have no idea how proud of myself I am for actually cooking dinner last night. Joe was on-call in the hospital, and initially I was planning on having some 15-bean soup I made a few weekends ago and froze but then I decided I didn't want soup because I would be hot after riding my bike home from work and wouldn't be in the mood for soup. So I had talked myself into getting Chinese take-out from this incredibly cheap place near us. I got home and was looking at the menu when I remembered when I was there last week they had a sign up that they were going to be closed this week for vacation (it's a hole-in-the-wall to say the least). Back to square one.

I was in the mood for noodles, when I remembered that there was a little leftover spaghetti from before the wedding when Joe's best man had made dinner for us. I looked, and it was a perfect amount for me so I figured I would do just a little olive oil and parmesan cheese. Then I got to thinking. I had half of an onion I needed to use and some garlic, so I quickly chopped up the onion and garlic and threw it in a pan with some olive oil. Now the house was starting to smell good. I felt a little guilty eating such a "white" dinner so I looked in the pantry. Lo and behold, there was a can of basil and oregano-flavored diced tomatoes! I threw that in the pan with some more basil and oregano and a little parsley.

After the spaghetti was cooked and drained, I just tossed it with the sauce, put some in a bowl, and sprinkled some parmesan cheese on it. It was delicious. You'll have to pardon the bad picture. I wouldn't have normally taken a picture and blogged about something so simple except that a year ago (Okay, who am I kidding? Three months ago.) I would've needed a pre-made sauce or would've skipped making anything altogether. This is further proof to me that I'm becoming much more fluent in the kitchen, and it's also a testament to the benefits of stocked pantry!

Anyway, making this dish for myself even though Joe was gone was a) cheaper than take-out b) much healthier than take-out and c) honestly took about as much time as calling in my order, going to get it, and coming back. Plus, it tasted delicious and made me feel good, and there are even some leftovers for when Joe gets home from the hospital. Then I spent the rest of the night watching La Vie En Rose and being amazed by Marion Cotillard's acting. All in all a wonderful evening.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Chicken Pad Thai

Okay, confession time. I made this from a kit by Thai Kitchen that comes with the rice noodles and sauce. I'm trying to screw up my courage to make real pad thai, but I wanted to be sure I could master this before I bought a bunch of ingredients from the International Market.

It was pretty good. Joe and I could've dealt with it being a little spicier, but I'll keep that in mind when I graduate to making the real deal. It was a perfect amount for 2 people. It was actually nice to not have to worry about putting away leftovers. I think that I may have overcooked the noodles just slightly. They weren't quite as firm as I prefer. The thing I really liked about this pad thai was that it had all of the texture variations that I love: the slippery noodles, the crunch of the peanuts and the bean sprouts, and the texture of the chicken.

- Thai Kitchen Pad Thai kit for two (includes rice noodles and sauce)
- 4 oz chicken, tofu, shrimp, or vegetables (I used chicken. This might not be enough protein for people who are big meat-eaters.)
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup crushed peanuts
- 1/2 cup bean sprouts
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- (I also used some green onion I had.)

1. Boil 4 cups of water. When water reaches a boil, remove from heat source and soak rice noodles for 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
2. Pour 1 tbsp of oil into a large frying pan or wok. Place egg in pan and cook until scrambled through. Remove and set aside.
3. Heat the remaining 2 tbsp of oil and cook the chicken, tofu, shrimp, or vegetables. Once cooked, put the noodles and sauce in the pan and toss until noodles have completely absorbed the sauce. Toss with egg and bean sprouts. Garnish with lime and peanuts.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Grilling Out Menu

Joe's mother came into town from Wisconsin this weekend so we decided to entertain her on our deck on Saturday night. Her wedding present to us was our grill, and we wanted to use it to prepare this meal. The simple choice was hamburgers with accompaniments. It ended up being very hot on Saturday, so I was glad I picked two cold side dishes for the hamburgers.

Deviled eggs are another food (like the blueberry pancakes) that I thought must be very hard to prepare since we always got deviled eggs from the deli at the grocery store. It turned out that the hardest part of preparing these was peeling the hard-boiled eggs!

Having first tried this Ramen noodle salad at my aunt and uncle's house in the Poconos, we dubbed it "crack salad" since it's so addictive. The toasted almonds add so much to the flavor of the salad, so don't skip them! I just toasted regular sliced almonds under the broiler for a few minutes.

- 1 lb ground beef 93% lean
- 1/4 cup bread crumbs
- 1 egg
- garlic salt, onion powder, and Worcestershire sauce to taste

I shaped them into 4 patties. Joe manned the grill, and I don't think you can see it here, but he even got some nice grill marks on the burgers. I served them on wheat buns with sliced tomato and avocado.

Deviled eggs (recipe from The Little Big Book of Comfort Food)
- 3 hard-boiled eggs
- 2 tablesppons mayonnaise (I used light mayo.)
- 3/4 tsp Dijon mustard
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tbsp minced fresh parsley (I used 1/2 tbsp dried parsley)
- Dash of paprika (I omitted and topped with fresh ground pepper, salt, and parsley.)

1. Remove the eggshells and slice the eggs in half lengthwise.
2. Scoop out the yolks and mash them in a bowl along with the mayonnaise, mustard, salt and pepper, and parsley. With a mini whisk or fork, beat the mixture until it is light and fluffy.
3. Arrange the egg whites on a plate. Spoon equal amounts of the egg yolk mixture into the hollows of the egg whites. Sprinkle the top of each egg with a dash of paprika.

Oriental Ramen Noodle Salad
- 1 bag cole slaw mix
- 1 package chicken or beef ramen noodles crushed (I used chicken.)
- 1/2 cup toasted almonds
- 1 bunch chopped scallions

- 1/2 cup oil (I used extra-virgin olive oil.)
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 tbsp vinegar
- flavoring packet from ramen noodles

Mix first four ingredients together. Mix next four ingredients together separately to make dressing. Toss with the salad. If preparing early, wait to add almonds and noodles so they don't get soggy.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Chess Pie

As far as I know, chess pie is a very Southern pie. I had certainly never heard of it before moving to Tennessee where it's served in many a diner and meat-n-three. The Thursday night before Joe and I were married, before going to the CMAFest concert at LP Field, we ate at Sylvan Park Restaurant with our maid of honor, her boyfriend, and our best man. The best man wasn't too hungry, so he just ordered a slice of chess pie which he shared with the rest of us. My first bite of chess pie was very sweet but offset by creaminess. It was different from anything I had ever really had before in a pie crust.

My favorite story surrounding the name of chess pie is one that I found on 'A creative Southern housewife came up with the concoction and tried it out on her husband, who loved it. "What kind of pie is this?" he is said to have exclaimed. His wife shrugged and smiled. "I don't know," she said; "it's ches' pie."'

After the success of the peach pie, Joe suggested I try out chess pie. I had another pie crust leftover from when I made the quiche, so it was perfect. The chess pie turned out very well. Joe astutely noted that chess pie is a lot like "the southern-version of flan" with the caramelized sugar on top and the sweet custardy goodness underneath. Served room temperature with a few blueberries or strawberries on the side, it's a great finish to a meal.


2 cups white sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
5 eggs
2/3 cup buttermilk (I used low-fat. Every little bit helps!)
1/2 cup melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (9 inch) unbaked pie crust (I used deep dish. It was what I had, and the filling worked perfectly with it.)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C.)

In a large bowl, combine sugar and flour. Beat in the eggs and buttermilk until blended. Stir in the melted butter and vanilla. Pour filling into the pie crust.

Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until filling is set. (In my case, the filling took closer to 1 hour and 15 minutes to set. I just watched it every 10 minutes or so after 45 minutes had passed.)

recipe from here

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Blueberry Pancakes

Growing up, we usually had pancakes made from Bisquick, so I always thought that making pancakes would be hard enough to require a shortcut like Bisquick. Little did I know they are actually pretty easy.

Joe has the day off today, and I don't work until noon, so I thought I would make a special breakfast for the two of us. I had some blueberries that I needed to use and decided I would try some blueberry pancakes. I lugged out my trusty Joy of Cooking and got to work. I mixed the dry ingredients yesterday so all I had to do was add the wet ingredients. This was also the maiden voyage of our fancy new George Foreman grill. I laid the bottom plate flat and used the griddle plate. Joe is very excited about the food blog and decorated the serving plate with strawberries so the picture would look pretty.

- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 tbsp sugar
- 1 3/4 tbsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 3 tbsp butter, melted
- 2 eggs
- (1/2 tsp vanilla extract) (I omitted this optional ingredient because I'm lazy.)
- (I added 3/4 cup of fresh blueberries)

- Whisk dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
- Combine milk, butter, eggs, and vanilla extract (and blueberries!) in another bowl.
- Mix the liquid ingredients quickly into the dry ingredients.
- Cook like pancakes (My words. Joy of Cooking has a two page explanation of how to cook a pancake.)

I kept the pancakes on this fancy oven-proof serving plate in a 200-degree oven until I had cooked all the batter. Joe and I loved these. We served them with Country Crock light, Lite syrup, and coffee. They were so much better than our previous discus-like pancakes that we had attempted with Bisquick. Next time I will attempt waffles with the new fancy George Foreman.

recipe from Joy of Cooking, 75th anniversary edition

BBQ Pork Pizza

When we lived in Houston, Joe and I used to occasionally go to a brewery called Two Rows on Monday nights because they had half-price pizza and cheap beer. Joe would almost always get the BBQ Chicken Pizza. Because we had all the leftover pork from the slow-cooker, I decided to try my hand at a similar pizza for dinner last night.

- 1 (12 inch) pre-baked pizza crust
- 1/2 cup barbecue sauce (I used Kroger brand honey barbecue sauce)
- 1/2 cup diced grilled chicken (I used shredded pork)
- 1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper (I omitted. Have you seen the price of red bell peppers lately?)
- 1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
- 1/4 cup chopped red onion
- 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese (I used part-skim mozzarella instead.)


- Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C).

- Place pizza crust on cookie sheet. Spread with barbecue sauce. Scatter chicken over top. Sprinkle evenly with red pepper, green pepper and onion. Cover with cheese.

- Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes, or until cheese is melted.

So I didn't really measure any of the ingredients, and it turned out I used a little too much barbecue sauce. Also, I used a Kroger brand pre-baked crust, and it was not that great. Next time I will use a little less barbecue sauce, either splurge for the Boboli crust or make my own, and perhaps flash-saute the veggies before going on the pizza. Joe liked the crunch of the veggies, but I think that the flavor could be brought out a little more by sauteing them. I have an extra crust and more pork leftover, so I think I'll make another one and freeze it. Also, if we had a pizza stone, I would've used that instead of the cookie sheet.

I served this with a side salad of mixed greens with a Dijon vinaigrette dressing, and we ate outside on the deck because it was such a nice evening.

recipe from here

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Peach Pie

Last week I was over at my parents' house when my dad came in with a big basket of peaches. My family has a little bit of an obsession about peaches. We won't touch the ones in the grocery store, but if there is a ripe, juicy locally-grown peach, we are there. When we lived in Texas, it was Freestone County peaches. Last summer I bought a small paper bag full of them for $8. Joe thought I was crazy until he had one. Almost every summer, they make my grandma's recipe for homemade peach ice cream, so when my dad walked in with all of those peaches, it immediately popped into my head to make a peach pie.

I had never made a two-crust pie or even a fruit pie. My only pie experience was with pumpkin pie around the holidays. Despite my lack of experience, the pie turned out phenomenally, though I give most of that credit to the peaches being so ripe and tasty.

- 1 (15 ounce) package pastry for a 9 inch double crust pie
- 1 egg, beaten
- 5 cups sliced peeled peaches (about 10 medium-large peaches)
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons butter

-Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F (220 degrees C).

-Line the bottom and sides of a 9 inch pie plate with one of the pie crusts. Brush with some of the beaten egg to keep the dough from becoming soggy later.

-Place the sliced peaches in a large bowl, and sprinkle with lemon juice. Mix gently. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Pour over the peaches, and mix gently. Pour into the pie crust, and dot with butter. Cover with the other pie crust, and fold the edges under. Flute the edges to seal or press the edges with the tines of a fork dipped in egg. Brush the remaining egg over the top crust. Cut several slits in the top crust to vent steam.

- Bake for 10 minutes in the preheated oven, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) and bake for an additional 30 to 35 minutes, until the crust is brown and the juice begins to bubble through the vents. If the edges brown to fast, cover them with strips of aluminum foil about halfway through baking. Cool before serving. This tastes better warm than hot.

Some of the comments on allrecipes said it was too soggy and needed to cook longer. I didn't have this problem. I took it out of the oven at 32 minutes, and it was perfect. I served it microwaved with a side of Purity 98% Fat-Free Vanilla Ice Cream.

recipe from here

My Favorite Mexican Chicken Casserole

As many brides-to-be do, I was feeling like I should lose a little weight before the Big Day. My weight had been slowly inching upward for a while, and I thought I could look better. After some internet sleuthing, I joined It's a free website that includes community boards, health and fitness articles, a food diary system, and an exercise diary system in addition to many more features. With Sparkpeople, I lost 20 pounds before the wedding and felt and looked great. Sparkpeople also has a sister site called Sparkrecipes which I frequently browse for simple healthy meals such as this one.

Last week I did pulled pork in the slow-cooker and had a ton of leftovers. I didn't want to eat that many pulled pork sandwiches, so I decided to get creative. I subbed in the pork for the shredded chicken in this recipe, and it was delicious. The pork contributed a lot more flavor than the chicken would have.

- 1.5 cups crushed lite Tostitos
- 1 lb shredded cooked chicken meat (I subbed shredded pork)
- 1 can (15.5 oz) garbanzo beans, drained
- 1 can (15.5 oz) kidney beans, drained
- 1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
- 1 cup prepared salsa
- 1 cup chopped red onion
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves (I subbed parsley)
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 6 oz reduced fat shredded 4-cheese mexican cheese
- 6 oz fat-free shredded cheddar cheese (I omitted. It didn't need that much cheese.)

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F). Grease a 13x9 inch baking dish, then scatter the crushed tortilla chips evenly on the bottom.
- Combine chicken, beans, tomato sauce, salsa, onion, cilantro, garlic, salt & pepper in a bowl.
- Place half the mixture evenly in a baking dish. Combine the cheeses, then sprinkle half over the mixture.
- Cover with the remaining half of the chicken mixture and sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top.
- Bake for 30 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

I served with some fat-free sour cream and a side salad with Dijon vinaigrette.

recipe from here

Mom's Quiche

So maybe I was a little harsh in my introduction. My mom did pass down this delicious quiche recipe that meets my fast, cheap, and easy criteria. Joe was wary of it since it didn't have any meat, so this time I fried up a little bacon that I had left over and tossed it in the bottom of the pie crust.

- 9-inch unbaked pie crust (I use deep dish)
- 10 oz frozen spinach, cooked and drained
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 8 oz swiss cheese cut in 1/2" strips
- 2 tbsp flour
- 3 eggs
- salt and pepper

Scramble eggs and mix with cream. Toss swiss cheese with flour and add to egg and cream mixture. Add spinach and season with salt and pepper. Mix ingredients and pour into pie crust. Bake at 350-degrees for 1 hour.

One of my favorite things about this dish is that it's so versatile. It's just as good hot and gooey as it is slightly cold. It can go with me for lunch or to a potluck dinner. Plus, there are always plenty of leftovers!


I can't believe I'm starting a food blog. Growing up, my family didn't cook much. In fact, I have a very difficult time remembering exactly what my brother and I ate. With swim practices, lacrosse games, and track meets, we didn't have many family dinners either. My mom's cooking repertoire was limited to the occasional meatloaf and tacos.

Fast-forward and now I'm 23, newly married, and living in a new city. My husband, Joe, is a medical resident and works 80-hour weeks. I will be starting grad school in August. When we were dating, Joe and I made an effort to at least eat dinners together and that has carried over into our married life. Now there are just a lot more of them! I don't have a lot of time to cook or money to buy fancy ingredients with or a lot of experience, hence the "fast, cheap, and easy" theme, but healthy meals are important to me.

This will be a place for me to share what I've made as well as the occasional story. It probably won't be glamorous, but it's what keeps us fed. I love food and the way it can bring people together, recall a memory, and feed the soul as well as the body. I love that, when I cook, I am making something with my hands that I can see and taste and feel. I love exploring new techniques and ingredients and recipes, so I hope this blog will help me push myself.