Friday, April 29

Breakfast Sandwiches

I'm a big fan of breakfast sandwiches (I swear Deli Zone's Kong is the world's best hangover cure) because they can be easily customized and are a great way to use up leftovers. I had some bacon and eggs in the fridge that I needed to use, so I bought an avocado and whole wheat bread from the farmer's market to create this open-faced version. It was a great way to start off a weekend morning, but I could also see myself eating this as a quick lunch or dinner during the week.

Bacon, Avocado, & Fried Egg Sandwich:
  • Add four pieces of thick-cut bacon to a skillet and cook over medium-heat until desired doneness.*
  • Meanwhile, mash one ripe avocado and the juice of half a lime in a mortar and pestle. Season with salt.
  • Remove bacon from pan and fry two eggs in the bacon drippings until desired doneness. Season with salt and pepper.
  • To assemble sandwich, toast two slices of whole wheat bread and place on plates. Top each slice with mashed avocado, two slices of bacon, and one egg.
  • Cut each sandwich in half and serve with hot sauce.**

Serves two
*I like my bacon well-done and cook for about 6-7 minutes per side.
**My boyfriend likes Texas Pete hot sauce.

Thursday, April 28

Seafood & Meyer Lemon Fettuccine

Bon Appetit recently re-vamped their entire staff, look, and editorial style, and debuted their newest issue with a focus on everything Italian. After reading it from cover-to-cover I had only one thing on my mind: pasta. My boyfriend was craving fish, so we compromised and I made a fettuccine with mixed seafood and a sauce from white wine, butter, and meyer lemon. The sweet and tangy lemon was a great addition to my standard white wine and garlic sauce, and we both agreed this dish was easily one of the best I've made in weeks.

Seafood & Meyer Lemon Fettuccine:
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook fettuccine until two minutes before al dente. Drain and set aside.
  • Meanwhile, heat 2 tbsp. of olive oil in a large skillet and add 10 littleneck clams*, 4 cloves of minced garlic, and 1 tbsp. meyer lemon zest.
  • Cook clams for 1-2 minutes, until garlic is fragrant.
  • Add 1/2 c. white wine and cover skillet with a lid until clams just open, another 3-5 minutes.
  • Remove lid and add 8 large shrimp and two scallops; cook for another 3 minutes, until seafood is almost opaque.
  • Add 1/4 c. pasta cooking liquid and 1 tbsp. meyer lemon juice to the skillet and cook for another minute.
  • Add pasta to the skillet and toss over low heat for another minute.
  • Add 2 tbsp. cold butter and 4 torn basil leaves and toss with pasta until butter melts.
  • Serve immediately, with more fresh basil on top.

Serves two
*Make sure to soak and scrub clams ahead of time to remove any sand and grit.

Wednesday, April 27

Crispy Turkey Tacos

Crispy taco shells loaded with spiced ground turkey and a slew of toppings

I don't have much experience frying food, but I was inspired to make crispy taco shells after discovering how easy it is to fry tortillas in this recipe. I usually opt for healthier versions of Mexican food, so I balanced the fried taco shells with a lean ground turkey filling. The seasoning blend and chipotle peppers add a lot of flavor to the meat, making it a good alternative to a traditional ground beef filling. Load up on whatever topping you like - I used cheese, guacamole, and chopped tomato here. It's the perfect cheap and easy weeknight meal and leftover turkey is great in a burrito or rice bowl.

More Taco Recipes:
- Crispy Ground Beef Tacos
- Breakfast Tacos
- Lamb Carnitas Tacos

Crispy Ground Turkey Tacos:
  • Heat 1 tbsp. vegetable oil in a skillet. Add 1 lb. ground turkey and 1 tbsp. taco seasoning*.
  • Brown turkey in the pan for 3 minutes, then add 1/2 c. chicken stock and 1 tbsp. adobo sauce.**
  • Cook turkey, breaking into small pieces as you go, for another 5-7 minutes, until almost all liquid is absorbed and meat is cooked through.
  • Meanwhile, heat 1/2 c. vegetable oil in a large skillet until very hot.
  • Add corn tortillas, one at a time. Fry on one side for 30 seconds, then flip and fold into a U-shape. Continue frying for another 30 seconds.
  • Remove hard taco shell from oil and drain on a paper towel. Immediately season with salt.
  • To assemble tacos, divide meat mixture into hard shells and top with cheese, guacamole, and tomatoes.***
  • Serve with Mexican rice or beans for a complete meal.

Makes six - eight tacos
*I use the spice packet in Near East Spanish Rice Pilaf.
**From one can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce.
***Use whatever toppings you like.

Tuesday, April 26

Spinach & Ricotta Stuffed Shells

After the 100° weather I experienced in Palm Desert a few weeks ago, the cooler L.A. temperatures and my new cold have been a shock to my system. I've been craving something warm and comforting, so I decided on stuffed pasta shells. I haven't had this dish in years, but it's similar to lasagna (and easier to make). Stuffing each shell with the cheese mixture can take some time, so I got my boyfriend to help me crank them out.

Spinach & Ricotta Stuffed Shells:
  • Place one package of dried jumbo pasta shells in boiling, salted water. Cook for half the time the box suggests (probably about 6-7 minutes).
  • Drain shells and rinse with cool water. Set aside.
  • Meanwhile, combine three egg yolks, 2 c. ricotta cheese, 1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese, 1 c. de-frosted frozen chopped spinach, three minced garlic cloves, salt, and pepper, in a large bowl.
  • Coat the bottom of a large baking dish with marinara sauce.
  • Stuff each pasta shell with a heaping tbsp. of cheese mixture and place in baking dish.
  • Repeat until all shells are filled and arranged in one layer in the baking dish.
  • Cover shells with remaining jar of marinara sauce and sprinkle with 1/4 c. grated Parmesan.
  • Bake in a 400°F oven for 35-40 minutes, until cheese is browned and sauce is bubbling.

Serves six


Monday, April 25

Easter Lunch

 I celebrated Easter with a late lunch at my parent's house, and although it's not my favorite holiday, I love getting a chance to hang out with my family and friends over a good meal. I offered to bring a vegetable side dish, so my boyfriend and I went to the Santa Monica Farmer's Market the day before for inspiration. The pencil-thin asparagus we picked up were so flavorful and were complimented by the zest of just in-season meyer lemons. It was a perfect side to go with the lamb chops and roasted baby potatoes that my mom made.

Roasted Asparagus with Meyer Lemon Zest:
  • Trim the ends off four bunches of thin asparagus.
  • Toss with 2 tbsp. meyer lemon zest*, 3 tbsp. olive oil, salt, and pepper and divide onto two sheet pans.
  • Roast in a 400F oven for 5-7 minutes, until vegetables are crisp-tender.
  • Transfer onto a platter and top with shaved Parmesan cheese**.

Serves ten
*Meyer lemons are sweeter than regular lemons. You can substitute with 1 tbsp. lemon zest and 1 tbsp. orange zest if you can't find meyer lemons.
**I used a vegetable peeler to make large Parmesan shavings.

Friday, April 22

Asian Grilled Flank Steak

My boyfriend's always been my sous chef in the kitchen, but lately he's taken an interest in grilling. I've been trying to encourage his new hobby as much as possible and decided to create an Asian marinade for flank steak that he could throw on the grill. The meat was delicious (good work, baby!), and I was able to create a quick side of sauteed snow peas while he was outside cooking the steak.

Asian Grilled Flank Steak:
  • Combine 1 tbsp. minced ginger, 1 tbsp. sesame oil, 3 cloves minced garlic, 1 tsp. Sriracha hot sauce*, and 1/4 low-sodium soy sauce in a large plastic bag.
  • Place 1.5 lb. flank steak into the bag and massage marinade into the meat. Let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, pre-heat the grill** to medium-high heat.
  • Add the marinaded steak to the grill and cook for 5-6 minutes per side.
  • Remove the meat from the grill, place on a plate, and cover with foil. Let rest for 10 minutes.
  • Cut meat against the grain*** into thin, long strips.
  • Serve with brown rice and snow peas sauteed with garlic and ginger.

Serves three - four
*Sriracha is available at most grocery stores, but you can substitute for any hot sauce you like.
**I used a gas grill but you can use a charcoal grill or grill pan.
***Flank steak must be cut against the grain or it will be very tough.

Thursday, April 21

Lemon Fusilli with Tomatoes, Arugula, & Goat Cheese

Pasta is a great dish because it can be rich and filling (like this or this) or healthy and fresh (like this). With the rising temperatures, I've been gravitating towards lighter meals that focus on fresh ingredients. This recipe for lemon fusilli with tomatoes and arugula is a great tribute to spring's bright flavors. It takes less than a half hour to make from start to finish, which gave me time to take a relaxing walk around the neighborhood with my boyfriend before the sun went down.

Lemon Fusilli with Tomatoes, Arugula, & Goat Cheese:
  • Cook 1/2 lb. whole-wheat fusilli pasta in boiling, salted water, according to package instructions.
  • Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a large, non-stick pan.
  • Add 1 pt. halved grape tomatoes, 3 cloves of chopped garlic, 1 tsp. lemon zest, salt, and pepper.
  • Saute tomatoes for 3-5 minutes, until they start to soften.
  • Add 1 c. white wine to the pan and cook mixture for another 5 minutes, until sauce reduces by half.
  • Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 c. pasta cooking liquid, and add pasta to the sauce pan.
  • Toss pasta with the sauce, 2 c. arugula*, 3 oz. garlic and herb goat cheese, and the juice of half a lemon. Moisten with pasta cooking water as necessary.
  • To serve, divide pasta into bowls and top with extra goat cheese crumbles.

Serves two-three
*This may seem like a lot, but arugula will wilt down to almost nothing. 

Wednesday, April 20

Grilled Squid Salad

I love calamari, but it's almost always served deep-fried with cocktail sauce (which is delicious, don't get me wrong). Instead of the usual fried fare, I created a lighter version by grilling it in lemon juice and olive oil and serving it over a fresh arugula salad. It's the perfect meal for the warm spring and summer months ahead.

Grilled Calamari & Arugula Salad:
  • Butterfly 3/4 lb. of calamari tubes (no tentacles), so that the tubes are opened into one flat sheet.*
  • Using a pairing knife, create a criss-cross pattern on each piece of calamari.**
  • Toss calamari with 1 tbsp. olive oil, 2 tsp. lemon juice, red chili flakes, salt, and pepper.
  • Place calamari on a hot grill or grill pan and cook for 1 minute each side.***
  • Remove calamari from the grill, cut into bite size pieces, and set aside.
  • Meanwhile, soak 1/2 yellow onion in 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar and salt. Let sit 20 minutes.
  • In a large bowl, mix together 1 c. halved grape tomatoes, 1 package of washed arugula, and balsamic-marinated onions.
  • Toss salad with 2 tbsp. olive oil, 1 tbsp. lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
  • To serve, divide salad onto plates and top with grilled calamari.

Serves two for dinner
Serves four for starters
*I used kitchen scissors to cut open the tubes.
**Only score the surface, do not cut all the way through.
***Calamari will puff up and curl around itself.

Tuesday, April 19

Pork Chops with Pomegranate Reduction

There’s a Williams-Sonoma store located just a few blocks from my house, and I can’t help myself from stopping in and browsing on a regular basis. On my last trip I picked up a bottle of pomegranate vinegar* with the intention of kicking up the dressing for my spinach, feta, and pomegranate salad, but was inspired to try and create a quick pan sauce with it. The sweet and tangy sauce was a great compliment to roasted pork chops and was quick and easy enough to make after a full day of work.
Roasted Pork Chops with Pomegranate Reduction:
  • Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over high heat.
  • Meanwhile, season 2 bone-in pork rib chops with salt and pepper.
  • Add chops and one bunch of fresh thyme to the hot pan and cook for 3-5 minutes per side, or until browned.
  • Transfer pork to a baking sheet covered in aluminum foil and cook in a 375°F oven for 10-12 minutes, or until pork is cooked through.
  • While chops are in the oven, add ½ c. pomegranate vinegar to the skillet and cook until reduced by half, about 5 minutes.
  • When sauce is reduced, whisk in 1 tbsp. cold butter.
  • To serve, place each chop on a plate and top with sauce.

Serves two
*Williams-Sonoma only sells their pomegranate vinegar in-store.

Monday, April 18

Oven-Baked Pancakes

Serving pancakes for a crowd is easy with this Barefoot Contessa recipe

When it comes to breakfast, I'm more of a waffle person, but these oven-baked pancakes (adapted from a recipe in this Barefoot Contessa cookbook) are to-die-for. They are more like a cross between and dutch baby and a crepe, but they are baked in the oven like a souffle. The best part is that you can make them all at one time, instead of cooking the cakes in small batches on a skillet. I like to serve them with fresh berries and a side of maple roasted bacon.

More Pancake Recipes:
- Strawberry Whole-Wheat Pancakes
- White Peach Upside-Down Pancakes

Oven-Baked Pancakes:
  • Whisk together three large eggs and 1/2 c. milk.
  • Add 1 tsp. orange zest, 1 tsp. vanilla extract, 2 tbsp. melted butter, and 1/2 c. all-purpose flour and mix until combined.
  • Meanwhile, arrange 6 ramekins on a sheet pan and place a small pat of butter in each.
  • Heat ramekins in a 425F oven for 3-4 minutes, until butter is melted.*
  • Divide batter evenly into the ramekins and bake for 12-15 minutes, until each pancake is puffed and golden.
  • Remove pancakes from the ramekins and place onto plates.
  • Top with powdered sugar and fresh fruit.**

Makes 6 pancakes
*Melted butter should coat the entire bottom of the ramekins or pancakes will stick.
**I used fresh strawberries and raspberries.

    Thursday, April 14

    Maple Glazed Bacon

    Breakfast just got a serious makeover with this sweet and salty oven-roasted bacon

    Oven Roasted Maple Bacon Barefoot Contessa

    There aren’t many things more delicious than a perfectly cooked piece of bacon, but standing over a skillet and getting spritzed with hot grease can be an unpleasant experience. I’ve been using an adaptation of this recipe for Ina Garten’s maple roasted bacon, and it makes cooking bacon so much easier! It’s especially helpful when making breakfast for a large crowd because you don’t have to watch over multiple skillets or cook the bacon in batches. If you're in a pinch and don’t have maple syrup, try sprinkling 1 tsp. of brown sugar over each piece during the last five minutes of cooking.

    Maple Roasted Bacon:
    • Preheat the oven to 400°F.
    • Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place a baking rack on top.
    • Arrange 8 pieces of thick-cut bacon in a single layer on the baking rack and place in the oven.
    • Cook for 15-20 minutes, or until starting to crisp.
    • Remove the bacon from the oven and brush each piece with pure maple syrup.
    • Place back in the oven and cook another 5-10 minutes.
    • Immediately remove bacon from the baking rack* and drain on paper towels before serving..

    Makes 8 pieces of bacon, can easily be doubled or tripled
    *If you let bacon cool on the rack, it will stick and be impossible to remove in one piece.

    Wednesday, April 13

    Baked Honey & Walnut Brie

    Warm brie cheese with a sweet and crunchy nut topping

    I've had a love of brie cheese since an early age, and almost all my significant relationships have resulted in a shared love of some of the world's greatest cheese. I went to a lot of happy hours in college, or would host my own "wine and cheese night" where my girlfriends and I would buy bottles of cheap wine and spend double or triple the price on a nice wedge of brie. It was at one happy hour where I discovered a dish that incorporated brie, honey, and nuts, and I've been making a version of this appetizer ever since. It's a great dish to serve for friends... if you're willing to share.

    More Cheesy Recipes:
    - Great Grandmother's Cheese Ball
    - Homemade Ricotta Cheese
    - Mozzarella & Italian Sausage Queso Dip

    Baked Brie with Honey & Walnuts:
    • Place a large wedge of brie cheese into a small baking dish.
    • Drizzle brie with 1-2 tbsp. honey and sprinkle with 1/4 c. roughly chopped walnuts.
    • Meanwhile, slice one large baguette into 1/2 inch rounds.
    • Place bread slices in one layer on a large baking sheet.
    • Bake brie and toast in a 375°F oven for 5-10 minutes, until brie is slightly melted. Make sure bread does not burn.
    • To serve, carefully remove the brie from the baking dish and place in the center of a platter. Arrange bread slices around the cheese.

    Serves four for hors d'oeuvres 

    Tuesday, April 12

    Farro, Asparagus, Tomato, & Feta Salad

    A hearty grain salad featuring fresh summer vegetables

    Farro Salad with Asparagus, Tomatoes, & Feta

    I was visiting my parents last weekend and insisted on learning my mom's farro and vegetable salad recipe. It's one of her go-to recipes and a standard side dish at most family gatherings. It makes a delicious and healthy addition to any meal and I've been known to make an afternoon snack of it as well. You can substitute whatever vegetables and cheese you like, but this combination of asparagus, grape tomatoes, scallions, and feta is her signature recipe. It tastes great with the zesty lemon dressing that gets folded in before serving. Try adding in a handful of arugula too!

    More Farro Recipes:
    - One-Pot Tomato Farro with Sausage
    - Farro & Root Vegetable Salad
    - Fava Bean, Meyer Lemon, & Parmesan Farro

    Farro, Asparagus, Tomato, & Feta Salad:
    • Whisk together 1 1/2 tbsp. lemon zest, 3/4 c. olive oil, 5 tbsp. fresh-squeezed lemon juice, 1 1/2 tbsp. chopped dill, and 3 minced garlic cloves. Set dressing aside.
    • Meanwhile, add 1 lb. farro* to a large pot filled with 6 c. cold, salted water.
    • Bring pot of water to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, cover the pot with a lid, and cook for 20 minutes or until farro is tender.
    • Once farro is cooked, drain and place in a bowl to cool.
    • Add 1 carton halved grape tomatoes, 3 bunches sliced scallions, 2 bunches chopped and blanched asparagus** to the cooled farro.
    • Toss salad with 4 oz. crumbled feta cheese and salad dressing***.
    • Refrigerate. Can be made one day ahead of time.

    Serves six
    *I used Montebello Perlato Organic Farro and try to soak it overnight before cooking. Unsoaked farro will take a little longer to cook.
    **Place asparagus in boiling, salted water for two minutes, then transfer to a bowl of ice water.
    ***Reserve a small amount of dressing to add immediately before serving. Farro will observe dressing over time.