Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Happy Winesday!!!

As many of you know, I LOVE wine! When a report came out that stated a glass or two a day is actually GOOD for your, I was leaping with joy!!
However, I get really frustrated when ordering wine at restaurants. I do not make a lot of money and now that I am a student, I am not making any money, so I of course don't want to spend a wad of cash on a nice bottle of wine at the restaurant. What really puts a fire under me, is when I see several bottles of wine on the list that I purchase at the grocery store often. I know for a fact these bottles retail for around $10 at the store, but in the restaurant they are charging $10 for a glass and $35 for the bottle. It drives me crazy! So, how do you find a good value when perusing a wine list that might as well be written in code. I consider my self a connoisseur, but there are so many varietals out there that it can sometimes make my head spin.
I came across this article on Salon regarding this very subject. In this article you can even find a link to a one-page (front and back) document that you can print out to put in your purse. This way you have it on hand to help you decipher a wine list whenever you go to a restaurant. Of course, I would just print out the second page that is all about Red wines. This document details the varietals that are very distinct and are usually not dependent on the vineyard/brand the restaurant carries. For example, I really like Cabernet. This document lets me know to look for Cabs that are from Mendocino or the Sierra Foothills if from California, Long Island if from NY (getting a wine made in New York scares me in general though), or from a single vineyard if getting one from Chile.
I thought this was really helpful and wanted to pass it along! Enjoy your Winesday. :)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Yummy Soup when I'm Sick

Hi everyone! So I haven't been feeling well the past few days. What does that mean? It's soup time! I know chicken noodle soup is the go-to for feeling sick, but I actually like to eat something a little spicy (go figure). For me, the spice helps clear up my congestion and coughing and I can start to taste things again! I found a recipe on that I modified to make it a little tastier. I though the original was way too bland. I hope you enjoy it on this beautiful fall day!!

Black Bean & Corn Feel-Good Soup

Fire Level: yellow-blue

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (or 1 tsp of jarred minced garlic)
  • 2 carrots, chopped (I recommend chopping these up very small. I didn't and my soup took REALLY long to cook because of it)
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 4 cups vegetable stock (I used chicken broth because Walmart didn't have vegetable stock, but I think vegetable stock would have been better)
  • 2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained (to make the recipe easier, you can get one can black beans and one can refried beans)
  • 1 can whole kernel corn
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can stewed tomatoes (to make the recipe easier, you can get crushed tomatoes instead)
  • 1 small can diced green chilis
  • For Fire Level orange-red: 1 tsp - 1 tblsp cayenne pepper
  • For Fire Level blue: add a couple diced jalepeno as well

STEP 1: Heat oil
In a large saucepan, heat your oil over medium heat.

STEP 2: Add first ingredients
Add in your onion, carrots, and garlic, stirring occasionally so they don't burn. Cook until onion is softened (about 5 minutes).

STEP 3: Spice it up
Add chili powder, cumin, and optional cayenne pepper. Stir for 1 minute.

STEP 4: Make it soup
Add your stock or broth, 1 can of beans, corn, and black pepper. Bring it all to a boil.

STEP 5: Meanwhile...
While your soup is heating up, in a food processor or blender, puree your tomatoes and remaining can of beans. To make the recipe easier, just use the refried beans and the crushed tomatoes and skip this step all together. I don't think it will make a bit of difference! Add these to the pot.

STEP 6: Finish it up!
After everything has been added, reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for about 20 minutes or until the carrots are tender. I was an idiot and cut my carrots up way too thick. Therefore, I had to let my soup cook for over an HOUR until they were tender. Therefore, heed my warning above and make your carrots very small.

I recommend sprinkling the mixture with a bit of shredded cheese, a dollop of sour cream, or even some sliced avocado for additional texture. You can even crush up some tortilla chips onto the top of the soup for some added crunch!

In addition to substituting the ingredients above, to make this easy recipe even simpler, after sauteeing the onion and carrot mixture, throw everything into a crockpot/slow cooker at the same time. Turn it on its lowest setting and head to work or out to run errands. The soup will be done when you return.

If you are a solo gal (or even just cooking for two) a big pot of soup can be too much. Do what I did and freeze the rest of it. You can remove it any time later when you are in the mood for a yummy soup and don't feel like cooking!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

One of my FAVORITES!!!!

Turkey Tacos!

I love Mexican food!!! But the problem is usually that it is pretty unhealthy. I came up with a really simple turkey fajita/taco recipe that I absolutely love and it isn’t loaded with calories and doesn’t leave me feeling as if I’m going to explode!!! It’s such an easy throw-together dinner recipe. Yummy!!


  • Ground turkey meat (it depends on how much you are making tacos for but 1 lb. should be plenty for two people)
  • A packet of fajita seasoning (you can get this at the grocery with all your other seasoning packets like chili, etc.)
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 1 sweet yellow onion
  • shredded lettuce
  • shredded cheese
  • salsa
  • tortillas (I go with the “whole wheat carb plus” kind to save on calories)
  • Avocado (because I LOVE them)
  • Sour Cream (of course this is optional depending on how many calories you want to save and whether you like it)

STEP 1: Cook the turkey

Fry your turkey in a large skillet on the stove top over Medium heat.

STEP 2: Cook your vegetables

In a SEPARATE skillet, sautee your vegetables in a little bit of EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil) or Pam on Medium heat.

STEP 3: Get rid of some of the fat

When the turkey is finished, strain it in a colander to drain off all the fat. You can run the ground turkey under warm water to remove even more. Then, put the turkey back into the skillet and it put it on the stove top on LOW heat.

STEP 4: Mix it up

Add your sautéed veggies to your meat and sprinkle the mixture with your fajita seasoning. Let the mixture simmer on LOW while you prep your toppings.

STEP 5: Gather your toppings.

Lay out all the fixin’s for your fajitas/tacos: salsa, chopped avocado, sour cream, lettuce, cheese, and tortillas. I suggest either heating the tortillas in the microwave for about a minute or throwing them on a frying pan, 30-seconds on each side.

STEP 6: Eat ‘em up!

Throw your favorites onto your tortilla and enjoy!


You can easily pair these with chips and salsa or queso or even some Spanish or Mexican Rice. I really like the Spanish Rice side made by Lipton. It comes in a packet.


I had these for dinner last night and I of course had a lot of leftovers, so tomorrow, I’m going to have a taco salad for lunch. I’m going to throw the meat/veggies, cheese, salsa, and avocado over some mixed greens and I am all set. For some added crunch, I might even sprinkle the crumbs from the bottom of my Baked Tostitos bag onto the top. TOTALLY delicious and I am not destroying my calorie count for the day!!! Not that I count anyway… J

Cheap and Easy Dinner

If you’re like me, you have one of those large bags of frozen chicken breasts hiding in the back of your freezer. I usually buy it because I think it’s good to have, but then I forget about it or buy fresh chicken breasts because they are easier to cook with. Well here is a recipe I threw together last night with some items hiding around my kitchen. I was in the mood for Asian food and thought I’d try some chicken teryaki.

Fire Level: Yellow

Chicken Teriyaki and Rice


  • Brown Rice (I made enough for two servings according to the box directions)
  • Shallots or pearl onions (1/2 cup chopped)
  • Green onions (1/2 cup chopped)
  • Carrots (1 cup chopped)
  • Celery (1 cup chopped)
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • Teriyaki sauce (I used one that is really meant as a marinade, so I recommend a sauce and not a marinade)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

STEP 1: Defrost your Chicken

I put the chicken breasts in the microwave on defrost for about five minutes and it thawed them pretty well.

STEP 2: Chop Vegetables

STEP 3: Chop Chicken

Chop your chicken up into edible chunks

STEP 4: Prep your pans

Begin boiling your water for the rice and heating some olive oil in a large skillet.

STEP 5: Boil and Sizzle

Cook your rice and begin sautéing your vegetables in the skillet. Once the vegetables begin to soften a bit, add in your raw chicken. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cover skillet to let chicken and vegetables to simmer.

STEP 6: Finish Rice

Finish cooking your rice according to package directions. Add in some teriyaki sauce to let it soak in.

STEP 7: Combine it all Together

When the chicken is no longer pink, add the rice/teriyaki mixture into the skillet with the chicken and vegetable mixture.

STEP 8: Taste

Taste it and see what you think. Add salt, pepper, and teriyaki according to how sweet you like it.



I added too much teriyaki sauce and it was way too sweet. Make sure you be careful about how much you add. J

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Best thing I Ever Ate!

Monte Cristo Kahlua Pork Egg Rolls

How the Monte Cristo sandwich was derived from Dumas’ book, I may never know. What I do know, is someone needs to shake the inventor’s hand and say thank you for making a comfort food that so perfectly combines breakfast and lunch. The chef and owner of the North End Caffe in Manhattan Beach took this scrumptious sandwich even further by adding an Asian flare and stuffing it into a crispy egg roll. Oh… My… God it is so GOOD!!! Zerek and I first heard about the delectable dish while watching Diners Drive-Ins and Dives one day before I had a work trip to Los Angeles. What luck! He visited me while I was out there and making the trip down to Manhattan Beach was the first item on our To Do list. It was an A-MAZING experience. We loved these egg rolls so much I knew I just had to try to make them, whatever it took. So, I watched the show several times, taking copious notes, and I scoured the Internet for the transcript and any other bits and pieces I could pick up. I made them the weekend before last for the TCU tailgate at Cowboys Stadium. Although they weren’t hot and crispy by the time we were out there, they were still a hit!

I will warn you, this is going to look like a difficult recipe, but in fact, it’s not at all. It was so EASY! The hardest parts are 1.) having patience while the Kahlua Pork is cooking and 2.) finding some of the ingredients. Follow my easy directions below and you will be the envy of any tailgate, dinner party, or gathering you have. So, after all that rambling, here we go…

Fire Level: yellow-red (Only one ingredient can change the spice level, so I think this is definitely a yellow unless you get carried away with the sriracha)

STEP 1 (try to do this a day or two before): Gather your ingredients. Of course this is important in all recipes, but especially important here because it might be difficult to find some of the items. You will likely have to find an Asian Market in your hometown. If you are in Dallas I suggest the Asian World Market in Plano. I have put the items that you will likely need to purchase at the Asian Market in bold.


  • 1 Large Pork Butt
  • Smoked Sea Salt (Difficult to find and can be pricey. Zerek found it at Central market for $10 but you can use it again and often. It smells wonderful!)
  • 1 Package Banana Leafs (If frozen, let thaw before cooking)


  • 3 Cups Mayonnaise
  • 1 Tablespoon Minced Garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons Teryaki (I suggest getting a high quality, thicker Teriyaki sauce, not the thin kind you would use for marinade). Make sure to buy a whole bottle because you will need the rest.
  • 1 Tablespoon Wasabi Powder (Feel free to add a bit more if you are a huge fan of Wasabi)
  • 1 Tablespoon Honey
  • 1.5 Teaspoons Sesame Oil
  • 1 Teaspoon Fresh Ginger (I just used ginger powder from the spice aisle)


  • 1-2 Packages of Swiss Cheese (If you just want a hint of swiss cheese in the egg rolls you can get by with one package, but I suggest getting two so that the egg rolls are more cheesy)
  • 1 lb. Black Forest Ham
  • 1 bunch Scallions
  • 2-3 Eggs
  • 1 Package of 25 Egg Roll Wraps (If frozen, let thaw)


  • Sriracha (A.K.A. Rooster Sauce)
  • Peanut Oil (I suggest a medium to large bottle)
  • Sesame Seeds

STEP 2: Cook your pork butt!

Coat the pork butt all the way around in the smoked sea salt. Take a deep roasting pan (I used one of the disposable tin ones) and line the bottom of the ban with banana leaves. Place the pork butt on the banana leaves and wrap the top of it in more banana leaves. Add about a cup of water to the bottom of the pan (under the banana leaves) so that nothing burns. Cover the pan with foil and place in the oven at 220 degrees for 10-12 hours – yes I said HOURS. I told you this required patience. If you have a pork butt that takes up the entire pan, you will need more like 12 hours. Mine was a bit smaller so I checked it at 10 hours and it was just slightly pink so I went ahead and took it out. Slightly pink is good. That means it still has a lot of the moisture and flavor and hasn’t dried out.

STEP 3: Prepare the Wasabi Mojo

At some point while the pork butt is cooking (and you will have quite a while to do this), put together your Wasabi Mojo. Combine all the ingredients above, from the Mayonnaise to the Ginger and whisk together in a bowl. Feel free to tweak the ingredients to your taste. If you can’t taste the wasabi, add a bit more.

STEP 4: The Pork is Done

Once your Kahlua pork is done, feel free to try a bite. Go on, you know you want to do it!! Break apart the pork into a large bowl. It should fall right apart. You won’t even need a knife. Add a little bit of the juice from the bottom of the pan to add some additional flavor. Stir it into the pork. If you are going to immediately go to finishing your egg rolls, great! If not, feel free to place the pork into the refrigerator until you are ready to make the egg rolls.

STEP 5: Heat the Oil

I don’t have a deep fryer at home and I doubt many of you do. Therefore to cook the egg rolls, I put a big pot on the stove top and filled it halfway full with peanut oil. You need to make sure you can put several egg rolls into it and have them be completely submerged in oil. Cook the oil on Medium High until you can sprinkle a few drops of water into the oil and hear it crackle.

STEP 6: Make your egg wash

Crack a couple eggs into a small bowl and whip them up so that you have some egg wash to hold the egg rolls together.

STEP 7: It’s Wrapping Time!

It’s now time to put it all together. Take one of your wrap pieces and place it onto the counter top in a diamond shape, so that one of the points is at your belly. Layer the egg roll ingredients onto the center: half a slice of Black Forest Ham, half a slice of Swiss cheese, some pork, a few one-inch pieces of scallion, drizzle a bit of teryaki on top, and sprinkle with some sesame seeds. Use a basting brush (or your fingers if you don’t have a brush) to spread some egg wash around the edges of the wrap. Fold the bottom point up to the top point and press the edges of the triangle together. Fold the left and right corners into the center and roll the egg roll until closed. Make sure to wrap very tightly so that none of the ingredients fall out when cooking.

STEP 8: Cook ‘em up!

Drop the egg rolls into the oil and cook until golden brown. Don’t be surprised if parts of the outside turn black. This is likely due to the teriyaki showing through the wrap and not because you burned the egg roll. When finished, place the cooked egg rolls unto a paper towel to soak up some of the access oil.

STEP 9: Prepare the sauce (YUMMY!!)

In my opinion, the sauce is one of the best parts of this dish. This is also the part of the dish where you can make this spicy! Take a small saucer or tiny sauce bowl and put the three sauces into it: The wasabi mojo you made earlier, some teriyaki, and some sriracha. Only use a bit of sriracha if you don’t like spice, but feel free to use a lot if you want the sauce really spicy. If you haven’t had it before, sriracha has a GREAT flavor so at least include some of it. Refer to the picture to get an idea of the amount of each of the sauces to include. You want mostly wasabi mojo. Sprinkle with some sesame seeds and serve!!



Because I love the sauce so much, I like to use the leftover sauce for other Asian dishes too. For a quick dinner idea, pick up some egg rolls or wontons from the frozen section of your local supermarket and serve with this sauce. Add in some chicken fried rice and you have a delicious dinner.

Another dinner idea if you don’t like Asian food very much – just make the pork!! It is so tender and delicious; it would be great for sandwiches. Add your favorite barbeque sauce or just use the pork by itself and you have a wonderful pulled pork sandwich.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Dinner Times Two...or Three!!!

So, it's Sunday night, and if you're like me you are thinking about your meals for the week. When are you going to grocery shop? What are you going to make that is going to keep you from picking up some quick, unhealthy To Go food? Well, I have a recipe that a lot of my friends have come to LOVE! Not only is it delicious in one meal, but you can make it into two or three meals if you are like me and are cooking for only one or two people. It's a sweet and spicy marinara sauce and it is absolutely delicious! This is definitely one of those recipes to hang on to. So let's first start with the sauce. Then, I'll tell you how to make it into different recipes.

Sweet & Spicy Marinara

FIRE LEVEL: yellow - blue (I will make notes on how to make this not at all spicy to REALLY spicy)

  • Approximately 2-3 tablespoons of Olive Oil
  • 1.5 pounds of meat (**see below for explanation on how to vary this for spice and nutrition)
  • 1 large yellow, sweet onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1, 28 oz. can Whole Peeled Tomatoes
  • 1, 12 oz. can Tomato Paste
  • 1, 12 oz. can of crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce
  • 4 tablespoons of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of Oregano
  • 1 teaspoon of Cayenne pepper (if you want to go for a yellow level of spice, omit this ingredient)
  • 2 bayleaves, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper (if you want to go for a yellow level of spice, omit this ingredient)

STEP 1: In a large, deep skillet (a.k.a. "dutch oven"), over medium heat, warm up the olive oil.

STEP 2: Add in your onions and all of your spices. Cook for about five minutes, then push them all to the side of the pan.

STEP 3: Add in the meat, probably about a half pound at a time until it is medium rare-type cooked.

STEP 4: Mix together and add in the whole tomatoes. Before placing the whole tomatoes into the pan, poke them with a knife so that they seep out al their juices.

STEP 5: Then add the paste and the sauce

STEP 6: Mix it all together and reduce the heat to low. Partially cover and simmer for about 40 minutes until the sauce is pretty thick.


What meat I use usually depends on how healthy or spicy I want to be. You want to most likely use a mixture of meat and sausage. For a completely lean option you can use all turkey meat and turkey sausage. However, keep in mind this usually produces a lot of juice so you may need to strain some of that out. If you don't want any spiciness, you can cut out sausage all together. I recommend a mixture of a 1/2 pound of sausage, 1/2 pound of ground sirloin, and a 1/2 pound of ground white turkey meat. I think this gives you the best spice/lean/taste mixture.

You can use this recipe for a lot of meals. I try to start the week with just the sauce over spaghetti noodles or penne pasta. Serve with some warm French and/or garlic bread and you have a great Italian meal.

I use the leftover sauce to make a delicious lasagna. Boil lasagna noodles until they are al dente. Mix some Ricotta cheese with garlic, ground pepper, and Italian seasoning. Layer the sauce, noodles, and cheese mixture into a casserole dish (In that order). Top with Mozzarella cheese, cover with foil, and bake in the oven at 325 degrees until the cheese is completely melted.

The third option is to use the sauce as a dipping sauce. You can serve it with warm bread and an assortment of cheeses for an Italian appetizer/meal.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Recipe Layouts

Before we get started...

I was going to start my blog off with the incredible Monte Cristo Kahlua Pork Egg Rolls Zerek and I made last weekend, but as I was writing out the recipe it became so long that I was afraid I’d scare you all away with a complicated first recipe. Therefore, I decided I would start off with a much simpler recipe. Also, one that you can take to your favorite tailgate this weekend! I also want to get you accustomed to the layout I will use for my entries.

  • I will start off with an introduction – telling you perhaps where and when I use it, how I came about it, etc.
  • I am the fiery foodie and that doesn’t just pertain to my personality (although I am an Aries so you can usually expect a lot of emotion in my writing and in my life). But, it also means that sometimes I like to make things a little spicy! At the beginning of each recipe I’ll give a spiciness rating if it pertains to the dish: Yellow (no spice), Orange (a little bit), Red (pretty spicy), and Blue (so spicy that I can’t stand it but then again, I can be a wimp). Sometimes I will give a range of spiciness and throughout the recipe I’ll make suggestions on how to tone up or down the heat.
  • Then I’ll follow with the typical ingredient list and step-by-step instructions. I will finish with some pairing suggestions or ideas of what to do with the leftovers. So, let’s get to it!

Time To Tailgate!!!

TEXAS CAVIAR (no snails are used in the making of this recipe)

I can’t remember the first time I had this delicious dip, but I’ve been making it for years. I often bring it to parties and tailgates and I always bring it to the annual Jimmy Buffet tailgate in Dallas. The recipe makes a large batch so there will be plenty to go around.

FIRE LEVEL: Yellow - Red


  • 1 green bell pepper (stemmed, deseeded, and chopped)
  • 1 red bell pepper (stemmed, deseeded, and chopped)
  • 1 orange bell pepper (stemmed, deseeded, and chopped)
  • 7 Roma tomatoes chopped (it is necessary to use Roma tomatoes in any sort of dip like this – more skin, less juice)
  • 1 red onion chopped or 1 bunch of green onion chopped (use the red onion if you really like the taste of raw onions. I don’t so I usually use green onion)
  • 1 can black eyed peas drained
  • 1 can whole kernel corn drained
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1-2 Jalapeños (stemmed, deseeded, chopped) **optional (use no jalapenos for yellow, one for orange, two-three for red)
  • 1 bottle zesty Italian dressing

STEP 1: Chop all of your fresh ingredients into dip-sized pieces. If it can’t fit onto a chip without a few of the other ingredients, the pieces are too big.

STEP 2: Combine all ingredients into a large bowl.

STEP 3: Add the Italian dressing, stirring into the ingredients until everything is well coated.

STEP 4: Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.

PAIRINGS: Pair the dip with tortilla chips. I suggest Tostitos Scoops (you can get the baked kind if you’re going low-calorie).

OTHER IDEAS: What to do with the leftovers? There are so many options! Use it as a fresh salsa to fajitas or tacos. Grill a chicken breast, melt some cheese onto it, and top with the Texas Caviar. Bake a tilapia filet and top with the Texas Caviar. For a side, you can cook up some rice and mix in some of the Texas Caviar for a zesty take on a sometimes-bland side dish.

Enjoy tailgating this weekend everyone, and be safe!! GO TIGERS!!!!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Welcome friends, family, and culinary experimenters such as myself! If you’re here, you are likely interested in trying new recipes, wine, and restaurants. As many of you know, I LOVE cooking! A lot of you have had my sweet and spicy marinara sauce, my enchiladas, or even a random appetizer I made for a party and you’ve likely asked me to send along the recipe. I usually forget to send it and more often I made up the recipe on the fly and would probably struggle to remember what I did in the first place. I have a stack of recipes two feet high in my bedroom that I have torn out of magazines, printed off the Internet, and made notes on to tweak the final product when and if I try them. They are in no order and it is completely chaotic. This blog is my attempt to put organization into my cooking. As I experiment with new recipes, try new wines, dine at new and fun places – I am going to share those experiences with you so that you can recreate them if you’d like. I hope you enjoy and feel free to ask questions, make comments, and link to other recipes/blogs you’ve tried and loved. My goal is to make this a community of food lovers that doesn’t believe in “secret recipes” or proprietary information. Food should be as social as the parties we organize to serve it at. Enjoy and bon appétit!!

Stay tuned later in the week when I post about the Monte Cristo Egg Rolls I made for the first tailgate of the season. DELICIOUS!!