Archive for August, 2010

August 28, 2010

Lunch Bunch – Sandwiches

Spicy Pastrami

(above is my Spicy Pastrami

With kids returning to school comes the pressure of packed lunch ideas. Maybe you’re not a parent but need ideas for your own packed lunch. Besides, bringing your own lunch to work is a much healthier option than going out to eat everyday, and it saves money. If you are like me, if my weekly lunch menu is not planned, I end up making more PB&Js and plain cheese and turkey sandwiches then I would like. Things get boring!

Below is a chart of my most favorite sandwich ingredients. This way everything is laid out in front of me and I don’t have to think up ingredients off the top of my head. It even helps me get a little more creative with flavor combos. Walk around your produce section to come up with your own list, or add to mine. Think about your leftovers – grilled steak, chicken, pork, grilled fish, slice those up and make a sandwich the next day.  

Having a chart can help remind kids of options they may not otherwise think up. Let them add their favorites to the list. At the beginning of each week make sure to choose a few sandwiches for the week and make sure you have the ingredients for those. I use lists for everything at home and work, so it only made sense to come up with a list for lunches! (Another idea is to also keep a list of items kids can chose from for sides and snacks to complete their lunch).

Bread Meat cheese Veggies Spreads/Toppings
Whole Wheat Cibatta Rolls
Pumpernickel Artisan
smoked cheddar
smoked gouda
goat cheese
blue cheese
bell peppers
broccoli slaw
Pesto Mayo
Sun-dried tomato spread
Goat cheese spread
olive tapenade
stone ground mustard
red wine vinegar
balsamic vinegar
olive oil
parmesan cheese
fresh or dried herbs

peanut butter
marshmallow creme

My daughter’s favorite is peanut butter, marshmallow cream, and strawberry on whole wheat bread.

As for the spreads here are a few really easy and great tasting spreads for your sandwiches:  

Pesto Mayo 

½ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup prepared or homemade pesto

Mix ingredients together in a bowl.   

Jalapeno Aioli 

1 whole jalapeno, stem cut off
½ cup mayo
¼ cup sour cream
½ bunch cilantro
salt and pepper 

Place jalapenos in a food processor or blender until coarsely chopped. Add the rest of the ingredients and process until all combined. 

Sun-dried Tomato Spread 

½ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup goat cheese (goat cheese can be substituted with cream cheese or another soft cheese)
¼ cup Sun-dried tomatoes 

Place ingredients in a food processor (or blender) and process until smooth.

Goat Cheese Spread

½ cup soft goat cheese (Chevre)
3 mint leaves
¼ c parsley
½ lemon jucied
1/8 tsp honey

In a food processor (or blender) mix all ingredients together until the mixture is smooth.

August 18, 2010


Such an amazing, exciting thing has happened! I can now call myself a published food writer! So I have one article under my belt – but there are more to come! The Nevada Appeal has brought me on as one of the food section contributors.  As simple as it may sound to some, this is truly an exciting new opportunity for me and means so much more to me. This could be the boost I needed to really get myself out there and into the world of food which so consumes me! Anyone who knows me, know’s how passionate I am (and maybe a little crazy) about food,  making food, learning about food, and feeding people food!  So I am very thankful for this opportunity. I am especially thankful Charlie Abowd and Linda Murrone for presenting the opportunity and making it happen! GREATLY appreciated!

Here is a link to what the article looks like in print!

August 15, 2010

Fish Tacos


My 4 year old daughter loves fish tacos, when I told her I was making fish tacos she said “YUUUUM.”  Usually when you see fish tacos in the restaurants they are made with Mahi-Mahi. So out I went to find US caught Mahi at the stores, because that is what the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch guide says to get, instead of imported Mahi (btw if you have an iPhone, there is an App for the Seafood Watch guide! Get it and use it).

SIDE NOTE: What I have noticed while using this guide there are some general rules you can remember and follow when choosing fish if you don’t have a guide with you. 

  1. Non-imported fish and if you can find out,
  2. Fish that is “troll, pole-and-line gear” caught, (if you can find out).
  3. Sick with wild-caught fish rather than farmed fish. Apparently there are environmental concerns related to farming some fish, plus wild fish are usually healthier for you.

Also of note, which you might already know. the higher up on the food chain the fish, the higher levels of mercury the fish will likely have: swordfish, shark, rock cod (is really shark), sturgeon, Rockfish (buyer beware: Rockfish is marketed as red snapper or Pacific snapper – there are no snappers on the US West Coast, per the Seafood Watch guide, so if it’s marked as Pacific – it’s rockfish and high in mercury and PCBs). Eat with caution.

So I went against the rules and purchased Peru Mahi – next time I will head to Whole Foods to get Mahi from the US (or you can choose another white fish such as, cod, halibut (Pacific, not California) or shrimp even.

(Serving 6 Tacos)

1 lb fish with skin on or shrimp

2 limes, juiced

1/2 bunch cilantro, coarsley chopped

1/2 jalapeno, thinly sliced rounds

1t. paprika

1t. cumin

S & P

Spicy Jalapeno Coleslaw (see below)

6 corn tortillas (or flour if you prefer)


sliced avocado


cotija cheese

lime wedges

In a plastic seal bag or shallow glass dish, lime juice, cilantro, jalapeno, paprika, cumin, salt and pepper. Then add the fish and marinate for 30 minutes.

Heat your grill. this is why I said skin-on it’s easier to cook on the grill so the fish doesn’t fall apart.  Flesh side down, cook the fish for 3 minutes with the grill covered.  Then finish the fish off on the skin side for about 3-5 minutes with grill covered. Cut the fish into 1 inch pieces.

While the fish is finishing up heat the tortillas on the grill.


 Spicy Jalapeno Coleslaw

1 head of cabbage, thinly sliced

1/2 c. Jalapeno aioli

1T. McCormick Salad Supreme seasoning

S & P

Toss all ingredients together and let sit in the fridge while marinating and cooking the fish. Enough time to allow the slaw to, as Emeril would say, “get happy.”


Top tortilla with slaw, fish, and your favorite garnishes. Squeeze a lime over the entire taco and EAT!

August 15, 2010

Jalapeno Aioli


1 whole jalapeno, stem cut off

1/2 cup mayo

1/4 sour cream

1/2 bunch of cilantro


Place jalapenos in a food processor or blender until coarsely chopped. Add the rest of the ingredients and process until all combined.

Yep that’s it! The shortest recipe ever! Enjoy!

August 9, 2010

White Peach and Blackberry Muffins

In the spirit of eating what’s in season and eating local…meet this muffin. Blackberries are in season right now, and the ones I got from the farmers market were so juicy and sweet, they melt in your mouth.  Since my good friend and I were making blackberry infused vodka, I decided the theme of the week would be blackberries. Except for the crumb topping (which is optional) these muffins don’t have any oil or butter, and are low on sugar. But they taste amazing! I used greek yogurt and apple sauce so there is a lot flavor and moisture which you would get from butter or oil.  



1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. old fashioned oatmeal
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 stick butter

Mix together with your fingertips until crumbly. Set aside.



2 c. all-purpose flour
1 T. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
2 large eggs
1 c. Greek yogurt
2/3 c. sugar
1/2 c. of applesauce 
2 t. vanilla
3/4 cup white peaches, peeled and diced
3/4 cup blackberries, large ones quartered

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl.  Whisk eggs, yogurt, sugar, applesauce and vanilla together in a separate bowl.


Add the dry ingredients into the wet just enough to get all the dry ingredients moist. Just like pancakes don’t overmix! You still have fruit to fold in, that will help incorporate the batter the rest of the way.


Using a spatula fold in the fruit.  I use a small ice cream scoop when making muffins, cupcakes, or cookies, which helps with consistency. Scoop batter into muffin cups.


Top with crumb topping.


Bake 17-20 minutes. Use a toothpick to check whether the muffins are done.


The photo above is a photo of a muffin in a parchment paper cup – a Martha Stewart method…kinda cool and a great idea when you run out of muffin/cupcake cups…which happens to me often. They work well too with the crumbly topping – it holds the topping in better – no mess!

I hope you enjoy these, they are so good and really considerably healthy. They would work with frozen fruit as well. Even mix it up and try with apples and cinnamon, or orange and cranberry. Any other combination you can think, be creative!

August 8, 2010

Blackberry Lavender Vodka

UPDATE: Success! The Blackberry Lavendar vodka turned out SO good. I added the blackberries and vanilla bean for two days, strained the vodka keeping the vanilla bean and adding fresh berries for another two days. Came out beautiful!

Blackberry Spritzer

For those of you who follow, you’ll know a while back I tried making Mango Lavendar Vodka and it did not turn out! I’m certain it was the vodka quality so this time I am using Skyy Vodka, a good medium in the vodka world.  (Recipe is at the bottom of this post)


A few things I’ve learned and read along my few trials in infusing vodka:

VODKA – while lots of sites will tell you that any vodka really will do – it won’t! If you cannot sip it because it smells of rubbing alcohol and burns when it goes down – DON’T USE IT! However, there is no need to choose a top shelf spendy vodka either. So choose something you like because if you start with nasty vodka, infusing flavors won’t fix that!

INGREDIENTS (I follow the same rules for ingredients as I would cooking or baking with the ingredients, such as which parts of the produce I use and how I prep it for best flavor)

FRUITstart by cleaning your fruit. If you have berries, crush them a little in your hands. If you’re using citrus use the skin and fruit (you use the peel in cooking definitely want to use it to infuse, the peels contain most of the flavor). Any fruits like apples, plums, pears etc… peel the fruits then cut in small pieces. For chilies, slice into strips and keep the seeds if you want the heat.  It would be my recommendation NOT to use frozen, dried, canned, jarred ingredients, use the freshest ingredients for the best flavor and infusion. These other items may be packed with preservatives and if sitting in liquid already may be filled with liquid and not very good for infusing good flavors. Frozen fruits may be used, but as a last resort, just not as good as fresh. Just like cooking/baking the better ingredients, the better the product!

HERBS – to get the most flavor just tear the herbs and rub them in your hands just a little to release the oils.

THE PROCESS – The more subtle flavors (vanilla , apples, pears, melon, cucumbers) may take a week or two to infuse well enough on their own. The stronger flavors (berries, peaches, plums, citrus) may only take a few days to infuse.

PREP – remove skins, rinds, seeds, and pits. Then dice the fruit into 1 inch pieces to expose lots of the flesh to help infuse the vodka. If you use berries crush them in your hands a little (strawberries can be cut).Keep the skins on any citrus fruits (or any veggies in which the skin harbors much of the flavor) and thinly slice the citrus fruits. Think of big chunks of fruit and vegetables rather than a fine dice or puree.

FILLING – Using a glass jar with an airtight lid, such as one of those jars with a spigot used for lemonade and tea. (I got these cool glass jars with an air tight lid and little chalkboard label on the jar at World Market – $4.99) Also, The Container Store is a cool website.)  Place your ingredients in the jar. Now you don’t want the ingredients to fill the jar, I would start with a modest amount of ingredients. It doesn’t take equal amounts of fruit or veggies as vodka. Check out my photo below to give you a good idea. You can adjust this after you’ve tried it a few times. Now add the vodka I used 750ml bottle.


Cover the air tight jar and put it in a nice dark room temperature place (under the sink, in a pantry, in a hall closet, somewhere dark where sun will not get to it).

Each day taste test your vodka – ingredients all infuse at different rates.  Once your infusion is complete, you will need to strain the vodka to get all the little pieces of fruit, herbs, veggies, etc. out of the vodka. Place a coffee filter in a strainer and pour the vodka through it into a bowl or container. Then you can add it to a pretty container or back into the vodka bottle…your choice! 

Alright, I know that all sounds like lots of information, but it’s really easy and all about trial and error with some helpful ground rules! So here we go with the recipe for the Blackberry Lavendar (Shawnee decided this flavor and I’m hoping that it will come out – since the mango lavendar did not! Here we go….)


1 pint of blackberries

750ml Skyy Vodka

1/2 vanilla bean

1tsp lavender

We purchased FRESH blackberries from the farmer’s market this weekend to make this vodka. Let me tell you these berries were so good! They melted in your mouth – amazing! Great time for blackberries!

I washed 1 pint of berries then crushed them all a little between my fingers before adding them to the jar.

I cut one vanilla bean in half and sliced it down the middle then stirred it up with the blackberries. Then I added the vodka placed the lid on the jar and placed it in my pantry.

UPDATE: I will added the lavender after the berries were all moved, and only left it in two days. Lavender can be strong and I don’t want that to over power the vodka and come off perfume like. The vanilla really shines in this vodka, it compliments blackberry so well.

(See also my vanilla extract recipe – that is pretty much infusing vodka too)

I will keep you all posted this week on the progress of our Vodka!

August 5, 2010

Meatloaf Burger

By request I have made a burger version of my meatloaf, just for my Shawnee.  It’s really yum!


2lbs ground beef (ground chuck is good because it has some fat, which is good for tender juicy burgers)

1/2c. bread crumbs

1/2 packet of onion soup mix

1T Worchestershire sauce

1T ketchup

1 onion, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 egg

salt and pepper

sauteed red onion

avocado (optional)

Toss first 7 ingredients together, don’t mash it all together just toss it so everything is incorporated throughout. Once it’s incorporated, beat the egg in a bowl then incorporate into the meat. Work the meat just a little. The more you handle the meat the tougher it will be so handle it minimally.

Form into patties and generously sprinkle salt and pepper on each side of the patties.  Grill on medium-high heat until cooked to your liking.

Sauteed Red Onions

Thinly slice a red onion. On medium-low heat, melt butter in a saucepan, add onions and cook stirring occasionally until the onions caramelize. salt and pepper at the end.

Serve burger on a toasted ciabatta roll with mayonnaise, ketchup, and sauteed onions. MMMMMMM….good! It’s like a cozy winter meal, fit for a hot summer weekenight!

August 5, 2010

Cheesecake Cupcakes

For Kim’s birthday I decided to make cheesecake cupcakes since her favorite is cheesecake.  I have been making cupcakes each month we have birthdays in the office, which helps me develop better baking skills too. So I came up with this genius idea! Ha Ha I know I’m sure there are plenty of cheesecake cupcake recipes out there, but they are NOT all as good! This one got requests for the recipe…so they must be pretty good.

I made three different flavors – chocolate cheesecake, regular, lemon curd…


Chocolate Cheesecake Cupcakes

2 – 8 oz packages of cream cheese, softened
1c. sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/4c. sour cream
2 eggs
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 package of crushed Oreos

Heat the oven to 350°

I like to use my food processor to crush the Oreos, they come out more consistently. You can also put them in ziploc bag and pound them or roll over them with a rolling pin, or glass cup.

Mix together the softened cream cheese and sugar until forms a whipped consistency. Add vanilla and sour cream until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time and incorporate each one well before adding the next. stir in the cocoa powder.

I have found the foil cupcake cups are sturdier and work better for all cheesecake cupcakes. Put foil cups in each muffin tin. Add some crushed Oreos in the bottom of each cup, just enough to cover the bottom. Fill the cups all the way full with cheesecake mixture (unlike regular cupcakes you want to fill these to the top so they are full and you get thicker cupcakes).

Bake the cupcakes for 18 minutes.

Makes 24 cupcakes.

IMG_4375 For decoration I cut an Oreo in half and pressed it in the cupcake. The key is to do this immediately after pulling the cupcakes out of the oven otherwise the cupcakes crack and get messy.


Tragedy strikes…

I dropped the whole carton of eggs and an egg broke…but not the one you’d think! The one that broke wasn’t the one that hit the floor, but the one in the egg carton!!! WT….ha ha ha!


Okay on with the rest of the cupcakes…

Regular and Lemon Curd Cheesecake Cupcakes


This is the same recipe used for both of these cupcake versions, and just a slightly altered version from the chocolate cupcakes.

2-8oz packages of cream cheese, softened
1c. sugar
1t. vanilla
2T. sour cream
2 eggs
1T lemon zest
1 box vanilla wafers

Heat the oven to 350°

Mix together the softened cream cheese and sugar until forms a whipped consistency. Add vanilla and sour cream and lemon zest until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time and incorporate each one well before moving on.

Put foil cups in each muffin tin. Add a vanilla wafer to the bottom of each cup. Fill the cups all the way full with cheesecake mixture.

Bake the cupcakes for 18 minutes.


For lemon cupcakes, just add a dab of your favorite brand lemon curd and spread over the top of the cupcake.

That’s all! It’s that simple and just about that fast too. These are very impressive but simple cupcakes. Let me know what you think!