Archive for the 'tomatoes' Category


whole wheat carbonara & spicy turkey burgers.

Ah, blog! Look at you! It’s been ages! There’s soo much to catch up on. Like, where to begin? Let’s begin with the sweaty side of things. First off, I am fully committed to spin, I’ve found a dance class I just lurve, and I joined a fancy new gym that actually makes me want to partake in Jacob’s Ladder cardio machines and saunas and shit. I just want to go inSANE. Rut, you have officially been beaten. All signs are pointing to 2012 being the most well rounded fitness year yet. No longer will I fall into trendy fitness money sucks or obsessive cardio. It turns out that, despite several attempts at brainwashing, I have not been lacking the secret to fitness or food intake. Not in the least. The key is simply moderation and variety, and I, like, vow not to forget that this year. I’m thisclose to conquering both. Insert evil laugh ‘here.’ Muahaha.

I recently discovered Weight Watchers recipes are kinda fun. They take foods I like and make them less fatty! Now that sounds like something I’d be into. I’ve always been terrified/fascinated of a few meals that are infamous for being incredibly indulgent and defibrillator-compatible. One of those is spaghetti carbonara, which has been on my “sigh, if I had 6 more inches of height, I’d totally eat a bowl of that one day post day-long boot camp sesh and not follow it by 6 straight hours of self loathing” wish list for decades. Imagine my surprise when I found this whole wheat carbonara recipe! Delightful.


whole wheat carbonara

8 oz uncooked whole-wheat spaghetti
3 slices turkey bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed
1 large egg, beaten
1 large egg white, beaten
6 tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated
1 c baby spinach
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

I altered the recipe a little, since the original called for regular bacon and no spinach. I added that in for funsies.

Anyways, you start by cooking the pasta as instructed on the box. Drain and set aside.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over a medium-low heat. Add bacon and garlic; cook, stirring frequently, until bacon is crisp, about 4 to 6 minutes. Remove garlic; leave bacon and bacon fat in skillet. Add spaghetti to skillet; toss well, add spinach, cook until just wilted. Remove from heat. Add eggs and cheese; toss well to coat. Season to taste, and eat immediately. ‘Twas a good diet version. I may be ready to try the real thing at some point. Of course, I’ll have to wait for a day with ample time to self-loathe afterward.

I’ve also become pretty enamored with the Whole Foods app on my phone. What? I can juggle multiple apps. I made this Tomato Bulgur soup with quinoa a few weeks ago:

tomato quinoa soup

4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth, divided
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup uncooked bulgur wheat (I used quinoa)
1 (14-ounce) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 tablespoon feta cheese crumbles (optional)

In a medium pot over medium-high heat, bring 1/2 cup broth to a simmer. Add onion and garlic and cook about 5 minutes or until onion is translucent and tender. Stir in coriander and cinnamon and cook 1 minute. Add quinoa and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. As I said, the recipe calls for bulgur. Nothing against the original star, but I happened to have some unused quinoa just hanging out in my freezer, so that’s why I went with the substitute. Add remaining 3 1/2 cups broth and tomatoes with their juices and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 10 to 12 minutes or until quinoa is tender. Stir in lemon juice. Garnish with parsley and feta.

Ugh, I LOVE this soup. It has all the Indian and Moroccan spices one could ask for, and I’m a big fan of any soup that you top with lemon juice, parsley and feta. So delicious. I highly recommend this one.

One of my less successful dishes came in the form of spaghetti squash. To be fair, I didn’t follow a recipe and just improvised, but that’s because I was totally sold by some infomercial where a woman makes it due to her easy-chop device and I thought it was about time I tried that, sans device.


spaghetti squash pasta

1 spaghetti squash
2 tsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
cocktail tomatoes, halved
2 tbsp basil, fresh, chopped
3 tbsp Parmesan, grated

I pre-heated the oven to 350 degrees like a recipe instructed, and cut the squash in half length-wise. I scooped out the seeds and pulp and baked the squash for about an hour. At this point, I was starvles the clown yet it was still tough to the touch. I had eaten more than a socially acceptable amount of Parmesan while waiting for the squash, so I had a “eff this” moment and made do. I cut the squash into fry-like pasta and topped with tomatoes, garlic, basil, olive oil and Parmesan. Don’t judge me. It was decently delicious, actually, because you can’t really go wrong with that combo.

Continuing on my quest of have less-fatty versions of foods I fantasize about, I decided to make turkey burgers tonight. I found this great recipe on Epicurious and made a few adjustments, as per usual. Since it was a holiday (?) today, I was off work and able to make it to Trader Joe’s at the off-peak-ish hour of 2 p.m. Since there was no cranky elderly lady ramming into me with her obscenely full cart, I was able to actually browse. I ended up buying some of my old stand-bys from the earliest days of this here blog! Like, I got my Habanero Lime salsa and this Champagne-Pear Vinagrette I almost proposed to back in ’09! It was magical.

lover from '09


1 1/4 pounds lean ground turkey
1/2 c Panko bread crumbs
1 cup Habanero Lime salsa
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon Sriracha hot sauce
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
cooking spray

I altered this recipe quite a bit. The original called for cilantro, but I had parsley on hand so I went with that. Also, I added in the bread crumbs to help the burgers stick and eliminated the vegetable oil to save calories. All proved to be nice alterations.

You start by mixing the ground turkey, bread crumbs, salsa, shallots, parsley, hot sauce, cumin, salt, and pepper in large bowl. Shape turkey mixture into six round patties. The recipe said 4, but I found this makes 6 quite large patties.

Heat large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; add cooking spray. Add burgers; cook until brown, about 3 minutes per side. Reduce heat to low. Sauté until burgers are cooked through, about 4 minutes, turning occasionally.

I roasted some kale and mushrooms in a 375 degree oven with a couple of cloves of minced garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. I served this fancy garlic aioli mustard sauce atop the burger and alongside the kale. Delicious. My champagne-pear vinagrette better watch out. It can be replaced. See below:

spicy turkey burger, roasted kale and mushrooms


spinning round two, pumpkin soup.

Breaking news: I am ready to give spin another chance! I know; I’m just as shocked as you are, Sweaty/Spicy masses. It seemed we were wholly unmatched when I attended my first 6 a.m. class nearly three years ago, but it’s possible there was just a learning curve to dealing with the pitch black room, blasting techo and overly amped-potentially-roided-out instructors? Either that, or tastes change and that’s what I now consider motivation? In any event, I went to a class here last Friday, and I’m dying to return. The class was short (45 minutes), I sweat (buckets), and I got two entirely separate endorsements of how toned Soul Cycle-enthusiasts become (once they drop several hundies). SOLD.

This new obsession couldn’t have come at a better time, because I’m starting to lose my daily gym motivation as it’s turning to Winter far too early. It’s just not the same when you need to strip away 17 layers of clothing to change into gym clothes at lunch. And going before or after work is out of the question these days. The days are getting shorter and it’s already getting darker earlier, and that’s a notorious motivation assassin. Blerg.

I’m making more of an effort to eat healthy these days to make up for my gym aversion, though. I made this quinoa primavera courtesy of my Whole Foods app:


quinoa primavera

1 c quinoa
2 c water
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ c finely chopped red onion
½ lb asparagus, ends cut off and discarded, the rest cut into spears
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 c frozen peas, thawed
1 c shredded cooked chicken
1 c thinly sliced spinach leaves
1 tsp paprika (my addition)
juice of one lemon (my addition)
salt and pepper, to taste

You start by rinsing quinoa under cold water, and then drain it. Combine water and quinoa in a medium saucepan, and bring it to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 15-20 minutes or until water is absorbed.

I had no cooked chicken in the house, so I bought thin breasts and seasoned them with paprika, salt and pepper. I baked in the oven at 350 degrees for 40 minutes, and removed from the oven.

Meanwhile, I heated the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, and then added onion and asparagus. Cook about 5-7 minutes, stirring often. Add garlic and peas, cook for one more minute. Stir in chicken and quinoa, add spinach and stir until it wilts, 3-5 minutes. I added lemon juice, salt and pepper, and ate.

Admittedly, this dish is kind of bland. I hate to waste food, so I added hot sauce when I ate it the next few nights. In retrospect, it would have been good if it were made to be creamy, so I think next time I’ll add Greek yogurt or something to give it some body.

That was the first Whole Foods app recipe I made, and it was kind of a fail despite looks. I learned my lesson judging the spin class too soon last time, and have deprived myself of nearly 3 years of a rock hard bod because of it. And, so, I gave it another chance.

I made a kale, mushroom and polenta sauté courtesy of the Whole Foods app.

kale, mushroom, tomato and polenta saute


Canola oil cooking spray
½ lb button mushrooms, sliced
salt and pepper
red pepper flakes (my addition)
red onion, sliced (my addition)
5 Roma tomatoes, slice (my addition, it called for sundried tomatoes)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 bunch kale, roughly chopped
1 18-oz roll pre-cooked polenta, sliced
¼ c grated Parmesan cheese

I learned my lesion before with the bland quinoa recipe, so I manipulated this one a bit. You start by heating a large skillet over medium-high heat with cooking spray. The recipe actually calls for olive oil, but I’m not one for greasy kale so I went spray instead. Add onions, mushrooms, salt and pepper, and cook for 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, garlic and polenta, and cook for another few. Add kale and ¼ c water, cover, reduce heat to medium-low and cook for another couple of minutes until the kale wilts. Toss well, season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes, and serve in a bowl. Top with Parmesan, and consume.

I’ve made many iterations of kale, but this has to be one of my favorites. It ties with the cannellini beans and lemon juice recipe, which is one of my old stand-bys. Delicious. Whole Foods app, you’ve redeemed yourself.

Now that it’s basically committed to Winter outside, I’ve decided it’s time to start making soups. Unfortunately, my immersion blender croaked earlier this summer while I was making salsa (sigh), and so I bought a new one earlier today. It’s Halloween weekend, so I figured it would be economically sound if I made a pumpkin soup that also happens to be a Weight Watchers recipe.

Don’t mind if I do.



3 ½ lb pumpkin
2 cloves garlic, peeled
3 c vegetable broth
1 ½ tsp fresh sage, minced
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground allspice
¼ tsp ground cinnamon

This guy has nothing to do with anything, but I thought he was precious so he made this blog’s guest list.

You start by pre-heating the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a large baking sheet with aluminum foil. Cut pumpkin in half, horizontally, and scoop out seeds and membranes. Set pumpkin halves cut-side down, place garlic clove under each half. Bake one hour.

I baked these earlier this afternoon as make-ahead, and then stored them in the refrigerator as I dragged myself to yoga. I will never understand why I go to yoga so begrudgingly, but I’m always so insanely proud I went. It’s one of life’s mysteries, I suppose.

Later on, I scooped the pumpkin flesh out of the shells into a large bowl. Add garlic and two cups of broth. I then pureed with the immersion blender, which not surprisingly resulted in a kitchen covered in pumpkin guts. After the mixture is smooth, pour the puree into a large saucepan. Stir in remaining one cup of broth, sage, salt, allspice and cinnamon. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, reduce to low and simmer for about 10 minutes. Top with sage and serve.

I would add butter to this soup and a little heavy cream; although I’m not surprised Weight Watchers omitted those two fatties. They’ll make the guest list next time:

pumpkin soup with sage



Midday gym and mussels provencale.

I used to think I was incapable of a midday gym. I thought, “Oh, give me two hours after work when I’d want nothing more than some Seinfeld and a leisurely prepared meal to, rather, duke it out with the overly-chatty after-work crowd for some poorly matched free weights and a sliver of floor space.” Then, it dawned on me that more than 20 minutes of cardio at non-interval speeds is the cardio equivalent of white rice, in that it provides no legitimate value to my life and makes me resent sushi for favoring its kind. I used to think my high maintenance hair wouldn’t allow me to compress my routine into an effective half hour, but I found my way back to the oft-neglected ponytail of dance team performances past. I wear it these days without my puff painted hair ribbon with “GJHS” on one side and “Eagles” on the other, though. I’ve moved on.

So, I’ve embraced the midday gym these days. I’m sold on its ability to allow me some midday Cooking Channel and its non-compete policy with happy hour. Also, I realized all too late (several hundred dollars late!) that I was temporarily rendered insane by Physique 57’s feminist messaging and nostalgia-provoking ballet stretches. Nothing tones my body more than weights, and cardio allows for some fat burning and stress releasing. Period. No need to shell out hundreds for less-effective exercises and group motivation, no matter how fancy it makes me feel. And I DID feel fancy. Bring on the fuzzy high heeled slippers and ear plugs that double as chandelier earrings, please. I’m just CRAZY about Tiffany’s.

Since I’m all freed up with the cult-like group exercising, I decided I had some bandwidth to join a dietary cult. My office is kind of enamored with the Four Hour Body, which preaches a dramatic change in physique if one adopts a slow carb mentality. Meaning, you have to cut out all dairy, grains, sugar and fruit, and eat meals of just lean protein, legumes and vegetables. I turned my nose up at first, naturally, but I allowed myself to get sucked in. It’s somewhat challenging to make interesting meals on the diet, but I’ve been doing it for about two weeks and have made some delicious seafood-centric meals.

I made this spicy shrimp dish last week, which I based on this recipe from Epicurious:


spicy shrimp with peanuts and black beans

3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tsp sesame oil
4 tsp vegetable oil
1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 1/2 tbsp peeled fresh ginger, finely chopped
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1 large red bell pepper, sliced
6 green onions, thinly sliced
1 bunch broccolini, chopped (my addition)
1/4 c peanuts, chopped (my addition)
1/4 c black beans (my addition)

The recipe actually calls for pineapple and bok choy, but I’m off fruit for now and Whole Foods was out of bok choy, so I improvised. I used broccolini instead, mostly because I think it’s adorable. It’s baby broccoli! How cute is that? Also, it tastes good and adds some color.

You start by blending together the soy sauce, rice vinegar and sesame oil in a bowl. The original recipe wanted me to blend cornstarch and honey in there also, but neither are 4hb compliant, so I abstained. You then heat a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat and add 2 tsp vegetable oil, shrimp, garlic, ginger and pepper for about two minutes. Transfer to a bowl, and then add 2 more tsp of oil to the skillet. Add peppers, onions, and broccolini to the skillet and stir fry until wilted. Then add black beans, peanuts, and eventually recombine with the shrimp mixture in the skillet. It should only take about 5 minutes, and dinner is served.

I made mussels for dinner last night, and they came out pretty amazing. Emphasis on the pretty. Are they not the classiest shellfish around? That they are. My first run-in with a mussel happened just a month ago, and I had wrongly assumed that I had a mussel aversion since my mom is not a fan. It’s the same way I assumed that I, too, hated beets since they had always disgusted her. I temporarily remembered that I am a separate human with separate opinions, and I sat down to several buckets of mussels for dinner. It turns out, I’m a fan. Shocking.

I made this dish from Epicurious:



2 lbs mussels, cleaned
1/2 c dry white wine (I used Sauvignon Blanc)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 tsp fresh basil, chopped, and some extra for bouquet garni
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 14 oz can chopped tomatoes
salt and pepper
crushed red pepper (my addition)
1 tbsp balade butter (my addition)
You start by heating the olive oil in a large saucepan and adding the onions, celery, garlic, basil and bouquet garni, which I took to mean a bundle of un-chopped basil. Cook over low heat for 5 minutes or so. Add the tomato paste, tomatoes, salt, pepper and red pepper, and simmer for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the mussels in a large skillet with the white wine and butter over high heat. Put the lid on to trap the heat, and cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. The mussels will all open to reveal their innards, and those who haven’t are still alive and must be discarded. Pour the tomato sauce over the mussels, and sprinkle with chopped basil.

They were incredible. Seriously. This is one of the easiest and tastiest meals ever, and it looks so damn classy. Unfortunately, the picture quality is a little fuzzy due to the steam. I’m including a somewhat distorted picture of the finished product, since it was the best of the bunch. See below:

moules provencale


grilled ratatouille, seared tuna, lentil Israeli salad, stuffed peppers.

It’s happened again. I’ve allowed so much time to lapse between posts that I’m no longer confident with all the spice I’ve been eating and the sweat I’ve been doing. And I’ve been consuming massive amounts of spice and sweating TONS, my friends. Remember that Physique 57 I spoke of not too long ago? I’m now in the intermediate class and going about four times a week. I’m also severely limiting carbs from my repertoire, cutting out processed anything, and moving towards a more protein-focused regimen. If that’s not progress, then I’m not sure what is? Aside from in-flight wifi. No one can deny the absurdity/brilliance of that. Remember when we had to fly without facebook? Shudder.

I could try and condense a month’s worth of meals into one post, but I choose to feature only the most colorful of what’s been sustaining me. I made this great Grilled Ratatouille Salad with Feta that I found on Epicurious. It came about when I was thinking of making ratatouille, and then instantly self voting against it due to the pasta.

grilled ratatouille salad


1 12-14 oz. eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch rounds
1 zucchini, quartered lengthwise
1 red bell pepper, cut lengthwise into strips
1 medium onion, cut into 1/2 inch thick rounds
2 tbsp fresh basil, slivered
2 tbsp garlic flavored olive oil (I used garlic mixed with olive oil)
3 tsp balsamic vinegar
2/3 c feta cheese
salt and pepper, to taste

This recipe is meant to be made on the barbecue, but I have neither a workable outdoor space (hello, bustling Avenue A? Don’t mind the charcoal) nor a barbecue (nevermind, Avenue A. Go on about your day), so I used my version of the indoor grill with my Panini Press. That thing is a sweatandspicy legend, right? It’s been along for this more than two year ride, and it still has shotgun.

Anyways, you start by drizzling the vegetables with olive oil, and then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Since I made my olive oil garlic-infused, I started by mincing 2-3 cloves of garlic and letting them soak in the oil while the Panini Press heated up and I chopped all the vegetables. Grill for about 10-15 minutes, or until the veggies look all blackened and delicious, and then remove from grill. Drizzle with vinegar, sprinkle cheese and basil, and eat. It was ridiculously easy, delicious, and colorful. Winner.

Next, I made a Seared Tuna with Green Onion-Wasabi Sauce, also courtesy of Epi. Trader Joe’s is always good for $4 frozen Ahi tuna steaks, so it was actually a pretty cheap meal, too.

Seared Tuna with Green Onion Wasabi Sauce


1/2 c of water
3 tbsp wasabi powder (I used crushed peas)
1/3 c soy sauce
3 tbsp peanut oil
1 tbsp dry sherry (I used sherry vinegar)
1.5 tsp sesame oil
1.5 tsp minced fresh ginger
4 green onions, thinly sliced
4 6-oz ahi tuna steaks (I used two)
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and thinly sliced into matchstick-sized strips

You start by whisking water with the wasabi powder, which I made by putting a handful of wasabi peas into a plastic bag and taking a hammer to them on the floor. Such a good stress reliever, and it made the perfect crunchy consistency. Then, whisk in soy sauce, 2 tbsp peanut oil, Sherry, sesame oil and ginger. Stir in onions, and set aside.

Sprinkle tuna with salt and pepper, heat skillet with 1 tbsp peanut oil over high heat, and sear tuna for about 3 minutes a side. Spoon cucumber on a plate, top with tuna, and spoon sauce on top. The recipe called for radish sprouts also, but Trader Joe’s had nothing of the sort, so I left them out. I served alongside sugar-snap peas, and it was so delicious. Highly recommended, if only for the fact that I got to hammer wasabi peas. Delightful.

I was getting relatively close to introducing meat back into my diet, but I had a temporary setback with some unwilling bacon grease consumption and a subsequent bout of food poisoning. It wasn’t pretty, and so I’ve decided to steer clear of meat and limit even the pescetarian side of me for a bit. It really was jarring when I went an entire day in which I consumed just one slice of toast (ah, so sorry Passover!) and about a 1/2 cup of yogurt. A little breaksie is necessary.

While I was midway between my cardio routine (30-45 minutes of a combo of interval treadmill running, elliptical or the bike) and my Physique-ing, I invented and devoured this little salad earlier today:

lentil "Israeli" salad


1/2 c yellow lentils
1/4 c grape tomatoes, sliced
1 mini-cucumber, sliced
1 c arugula
1/8 c feta, crumbled
2 tsp olive oil
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper, to taste
dash of cumin

I was inspired when I dug some long-forgotten lentils from my freezer immediately after the cardio side of my workout. I had been craving this chopped Israeli salad I get from this place, but I’m conserving the slight remainder of my monies for my sister’s visit this coming weekend. Armed with a bag of newly bought groceries, I decided to make my own take on the salad with lentils rather than chickpeas.

I started by boiling one cup of lentils in 2 1/2 cups of water, and then simmering for 5-10 minutes. I then chopped the tomatoes and cucumbers, and laid them atop my bed of arugula. Once the lentils were done, I drained in my handy Giada colander (shameless plug for my girl) and added about half to the top of the salad. I seasoned with cumin, salt and pepper, and then topped the whole salad with the feta, olive oil and vinegar. Easy and delicious, just like I like it.

After my salad, I headed to Phyqisue for some more body sculpting. I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time in those studios doing moves like the one you see below, and it’s all in the hopes that I’ll get somewhere near Kelly Ripa-ripped. I mean, that’s the goal. It’s her preferred workout and they taunt you with press pieces all over the place that she swears by it. Any day now, I guess.

Staying with the whole originality thing, I made my own version of a stuffed bell pepper for dinner.



3 large green bell peppers
1 c black eyed peas, pre-cooked
2 ears of corn, grilled and sliced off the cob
1/2 c grape tomatoes, sliced in half
1/2 red onion, chopped
1/2 c feta, 3/4 mixed in and 1/4 on top
salt and pepper, to taste
dash of cayenne pepper
lemon juice from 1/2 lemon, to finish
1/4 c dried cranberries to top (not pictured)

First, I pre-heated my oven to 350 degrees. I started by cutting the tops off the peppers and gutting the insides, removing the ribs and seeds. I par-boiled the peppers in water for about 5 minutes, and then I removed them to drain with their “business ends” in the air.

Meanwhile, I spent about 15 minutes grilling the corn on all sides with my Panini Press. Once that was done, I stood an ear up on a bowl and sliced the kernels right off. I learned that little trick from Rachael Ray, and it really does make it to where no kernels fly across the kitchen. Easy clean-up, my friends. I’m a fan.

I combined the onions, tomatoes, peas, corn and feta in a bowl. I mixed those ingredients together, and then added the salt, pepper, and cayenne. I filled each pepper with the mixture, and then topped with more feta. I put them on an aluminum foil covered baking sheet and popped them in the oven for 30 minutes. I removed, cut one in half, and served with a squeeze of lemon juice for added flavoring. About midway through, I realized some dried cranberries would be a welcome addition to the party, so I added those as well. They know how to get the party started. Anyways, they were really good and pretty, in a Georgia O’Keefe kind of way:

stuffed bell pepper with black eyed peas, onions, tomatoes, corn and feta


phyllo dough pizza, fruity/nutty couscous

There are few things in life that terrify me – roaches, drowning, life without peanut butter – but phyllo dough may have just made that elite list. This is no slight to baklava; I’m a huge proponent of all honey soaked foods. In fact, I’ve been known to seek them out as late night drunk food in the hood. I guess my aversion stems from the fact that I finally tried to cook with phyllo dough, and I found it to be crazy laborious. It’s just so damn unreasonable. It’s this paper thin pastry that, in the grand scheme of things, takes up so little mass that it could be disregarded altogether. Then certain people (Greeks) find the most amazing uses for  it, so some decide to try their hand at it. Sooo I decided to make a vegetable pizza on phyllo dough.

First of all, phyllo dough requires you defrost it overnight in the refrigerator. Ordinarily I turn my nose up at such rigid defrosting rules and try and expedite everything in the microwave, but I actually listened to the phyllo and tossed it in the fridge before I went to work. As if that weren’t enough defrosting, the phyllo dough requires you leave it at room temperature for 2 hours before you want to use. Who has this kind of time? I gave it an hour at most. Every recipe I found online suggested I layer the dough with melted butter and cheese, but I decided to go with just butter. There would be cheese on the pizza, but what kind of a jackass needs it between every layer of crust? It’s pretty greedy.

veggie pizza on phyllo dough


6-7 sheets phyllo dough

4 tbsp melted butter (1/2 stick)

1 zucchini, sliced

4 roma tomatoes, sliced

1/3 cup baby spinach

1/3 cup baby portabella mushrooms

fresh mozzarella, sliced

salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste

I pre-heated the oven to 375 degrees, and went to work. The phyllo layering was, like, so strenuous. I mean, it required me to use the force of one pinkie muscle to pry the sheets apart, but I went in with the strength of all finger muscles at once. I ripped nearly half the sheets in the package just pulling them apart, and melted butter was involved all the while. I finally managed to layer about 7 sheets of pastry in a 15X10 in baking pan. I then went about laying the toppings in there, and misted the whole situation with olive oil. I baked for about 25 minutes, until my mozzarella was golden and the crust was starting to brown.

veggie pizza on phyllo dough

The end result was pretty delicious, despite all the labor. My roomie and her man each had a piece, and they reported back nothing but raves. Plus, the buttery dough smelled amazing while it was baking. I liked how light I felt after eating like three slices. Although it’s a bitch, I’d work with the phyllo again.

On the sweaty front, I’ve been trying to mix things up to keep myself engaged. After almost a decade of treadmills, ellipticals, and free weights, the gym becomes like an old ball and chain. Although there’s a heat wave in NY right now, a friend and I decided to run the Brooklyn Bridge on Saturday.  It was SO lovely. At times I felt as if I were running through an oven, but it was such a fun and different way to go about the same old thing. We had iced coffee in Brooklyn Heights (frickin adorable), and then ran back towards Manhattan. Sweat in the eyes notwithstanding, I can’t wait to get at it again.

I’m still not entirely over this whole Middle Eastern thing, so I made couscous for dinner last night. I decided to go spicy-sweet (shocker) with nectarines, apricots, pecans and dates:

from left: nectarines, apricots, dates, pecans


Near East brand whole wheat couscous with toasted orzo

1 nectarine, chopped

2 apricots, chopped

4 dates, chopped

small handful pecans, chopped

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp cumin

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Couscous is like the anti-phyllo, in that it requires like 30 seconds of your attention and then practically begs you to desert it for an episode of Arrested Development while it “does its thang,” if you will. Will you? That felt a little awkward…moving on. You bring two cups of water to a boil with a tablespoon of olive oil, and then add the contents of the couscous and toasted orzo. Bring back to a boil, reduce heat to low, and cover the lid for about 15 minutes.

When the couscous was done, I added all the fruits and nuts along with cumin and cinnamon. I tossed everything together with a little olive oil, and then covered the lid for 5 minutes to allow everything to get familiar. A word about that Near East couscous. I’ve had many a-brands of couscous through the years, and I am really impressed with this one. The whole “toasted orzo” component was a nice touch, and I love what it did for the flavor. Big fan.

Um, YUM. I loved everything about this dish, and it took maybe half an ounce of effort. See below for the final product:

spiced whole wheat couscous with nectarines, apricots, pecans and dates


roasted tomato basil soup and lemon basil gnocchi.

I’m not a huge fan of being approached at the gym. This dates back to my middle school days, when I would rollerblade around my lake and get honked at by creepsters with Ms. Frizzle fetishes. That’s never been the kind of attention I enjoy but at all. Also, I don’t like people looking in my general direction at the gym, or using and/or thinking about being interested in using any equipment I’m  looking to use at my leisure. I have rules.

A couple of nights ago, a trainer approached me mid-arm machine rotation. My first inclination was to hit him with the steely eyes until he cracked under the awkwardness, but his intro language was impressive. He was all, “I’ve been noticing that you’re in here every night doing the same things.” We started talking, and like five minutes later, I’m sold. So it’s something I’m considering, because my weak attempts at variety are…weak. For instance, I’ll move from the treadmill to the cybex one night out of the week. Also, I’ll do crunches now when before I was all kinds of opposed. It’s pretty clear I need a several hundred dollar boost :-/

Last week, I made some butternut squash and parsnip soup that I’m still bragging about. It was just about the most delicious thing ever, and it took me mayybe 45 minutes to make. I started with half an onion, which I chopped and cooked up in a giant pot with a couple tablespoons of olive oil. I cooked these for about five minutes, and then I added chopped butternut squash and about three chopped parsnips. I cooked them all in the pan for about 15 minutes or so, and then I added 3 cups of vegetable stock, a couple tablespoons of butter, and salt and pepper. I brought it all to a boil, and then I reduced it down to simmer for about 20 minutes.

Then, I hit the whole mix with my immersion (aka handheld) blender, which is like the poor man’s version of a food processor. Except it’s, like, infinitely better than switching hot soup back and forth in order to puree.

I brought it back to the stovetop, and then I added 1/4 cups of light cream to the pot. I’m pretty sure I’m the last person to discover how delicious cream makes soup, but it was just about the thickest most amazing thing I’ve ever created.

In other news, I’ve noticed a major shift from Mexican to Italian foods in my cooking repertoire as of late. I’ve been getting down with some pasta dishes, risotto, gnocchi, et al. The 20 degree weather that “feels like 7” is making me a total comfort food lovah.

Last night, I made some delicious gnocchi and roasted tomato soup. The gnocchi took like 5 minutes, but the soup was extra needy and took MUCH longer. I started by roasting some pearl tomatoes in my toaster oven with olive oil, salt and pepper at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Apparently using fresh tomatoes for soup is really unconventional, but aren’t they lovely?:

I sauteed half a Spanish onion in my giant pot with a couple tablespoons of olive oil, two cloves of garlic, salt and pepper. Once those softened, I added in my tomatoes with a cup of veggie stock and 2 cups of water, 1.5 tablespoons of butter, and a little chopped basil. I brought it all up to a boil and then took it down to a simmer for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, I boiled some salted water, and then added my gnocchi. They cook up all delicious like in just 2-3 minutes, so when they floated to the top I knew they were good to go. I drained them and then tossed in some olive oil, lemon juice and chopped basil, and then I topped it all off with some red pepper flakes. I have to have my spicy.

I immersion blended my tomatoes and such, which took so much longer than expected. I feel like it would have taken less bicep exertion if I used canned tomatoes, but I am a fan of worlds colliding. I brought the pureed soup back to the stovetop, to which I added 1/4 cup of light cream.

Kind of incredible, although they’re both a little camera shy. See below:


roasted potatoes and veggies.

Exciting things are on tap. First off, autumn has officially hit NYC and it’s all about Gator football and winter squashes, both of which I can’t get enough of these days. Also, pumpkins are back! Welcome home, my lovelies. I missed them so. Finally, I’m getting back in the workout mindset after months of going through the motions. Maybe I haven’t mentioned it, but I’ve been all drag ass-y lately. I skipped the gym twice last week. WHO AM I?!?

In honor of change, I decided to cook with potatoes. It’s so rare for me to buy and/or cook with potatoes, although I’m not trying to spit in my Eastern European heritage’s face. To be fair, I tried to keep them on hand in college, but their whole “cool, dry” storage instructions pretty much guaranteed I’d have rotten Russets in my cabinet for weeks before I found the source of the smell. Also, they’re heavy, and I have to lug my groceries several blocks. 

I bought a bunch of Fingerling potatoes at the farmer’s market, though, and I got the kind of excited that I usually reserve for $0.99 cheese. Not only are they lightweight, but they’re way easy to clean. Who needs a dirt coated Russet? Very few people. Fingerlings are the way to go for those who loathe long meal preps and shoulder strain.

In keeping with change, I decided to buy carrots to add in the mix. I’m so wild and adventurous. I also bought my regulation grape tomatoes, and then I decided to – wait for it – roast it all. I came thisclose to getting out of that comfort zone. 

I’ve always wanted to reduce something, so I started with some balsamic vinegar and honey. I added a tablespoon of honey to 1/4 cup vinegar and brought both to a boil on the stove top. It got all bubbly and delicious:

mama's first reduction

mama's first reduction


I brought the mix down and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, I chopped the Fingerlings and cut the carrots into matchsticks. I also diced a shallot and left the tomatoes whole. I tossed all in some olive oil and roasted it in a 450 degree oven for 20 minutes. 

Since it was my first reduction, I started preparing it too early in the process. The timing was a little off, and the potatoes were still softening while the reduction was, like, halfway out the door and ready to go. I let it sit on low heat for a little and tried to trick it into thinking it wasn’t quite done, but the reduction saw through me. As a result, it turned out a little too thick and molasses-like. I drizzled it atop my veggies, but within two minutes it was solid like candy. I kind of loved it anyways. See below:


roasted potatoes and veggies in a balsamic honey reduction

roasted potatoes and veggies in a balsamic honey reduction


stuffed tomatoes and breakfast tacos.

So I’ve been a little MIA as of late, and it’s not because I’ve been eating bland food and staying dry. Actually, I’ve been spicing it up daily and sweating profusely, but my computer decided to have un-resolvable issues and has prevented me from documenting my life away. I’ll try and condense anything notable from the past few weeks, but I’m kind of a talker so it’s a feat. Bear with me, por favor.

To begin with, I’ve fallen for the farmer’s market in my hood. Honestly, I think about it during the week and find any excuse to bring it up in daily conversation. It all started with these beautiful Beefsteak tomatoes I found a couple of weeks back:



I mean, that’s hot. I love TJ’s and all, but they never have tomatoes of this caliber. I’ve been wanting to make stuffed tomatoes since they were popular, so I started gathering some ingredients. Actually, I don’t think they’ve peaked quite yet. Their time will come.  

I started with basmati rice, which smells amaaazing while it cooks. I’m thinking of bottling and selling it as perfume, or maybe a home fragrance because that seems more socially acceptable for some reason. While that simmered, I pan fried a little diced eggplant in olive oil, cumin and curry powder.

The rice was done in about 30 minutes, so I mixed in the eggplant. I cut off the tops of my beefsteaks, and then gutted them completely. I filled both tomatoes with the rice and eggplant mix, and then topped them with breadcrumbs and some Manchego cheese.  

The original plan was to throw them both in the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes until they got all soft and…wanton? I’ve been looking for any excuse to use that word since Jude Law said it in “Hamlet” this past weekend, but you’d be surprised in how few conversations it makes sense. Therefore, the tomatoes were wanton, or they would have been if my oven was working. It wasn’t, so I turned to plan B: toaster oven. My beefsteaks proved too large for the mini-oven, so I last resort grilled them on the panini press. Weird but delicious. Behold the final result:

stuffed tomatoes with basmati rice & curried eggplant, topped with bread crumbs and Manchego cheese

stuffed tomatoes with basmati rice & curried eggplant, topped with bread crumbs and Manchego cheese

As far as the sweaty stuff goes, I got a free personal training session last week at my gym, which was kind of awesome/painful. My main lesson learned was that I loathe squat thrusts, although the name alone tells my quads they’re not interested. I told the trainer I pretty much do 20 minutes of cardio each time I gym it, and he suggested I up it to 30-45 at least twice a week. I get bored when doing one activity for such a long period of time, so I’m forced to distract myself. I did the elliptical for 45 minutes today while watching the Food Network. Typical.

Post-trainer time, I returned to my farmer’s market to reward myself. I have a lady hard-on for tomatoes these days (ha, gross), so I picked up a few non-traditional varieties including one orange and one green. I don’t know names. I then went through the hot pepper section and bought at least one of every variety, save the habaneros because I once had a habanero-to-the-eyes incident that I still haven’t fully recovered from. Anyways, my tomato and pepper situation looked like this:

local tomatoes and peppers

local tomatoes and peppers

I decided to make black bean and tomato tacos to begin with. I started with a can of black beans, which I drained and rinsed, and then tossed in a pan to warm. I toasted habanero-lime tortillas into taco shapes, and threw a little hot jack cheese up in there. I cut half an orange and half a green tomato, and half a serrano chile pepper. I mixed them all together as a makeshift salsa with some lime juice, salt and pepper. 

I threw the beans in with the toasted tacos, and then topped each with the salsa. They were delicious and fed me for three meals last week, but I much preferred the looks of the breakfast taco I created on Saturday with the remnants.

The preparation was completely the same, although I didn’t use any cheese and scrambled an egg with a little butter. To recap, it was a habanero lime tortilla filled with scrambled egg, black beans, and green and orange tomato salsa. SO amazing. See below:


breakfast taco with scrambled egg, black beans, and mixed tomato salsa with serrano chile pepper

breakfast taco with scrambled egg, black beans, and mixed tomato salsa with serrano chile pepper


gnocchi and roasted tomatoes.

When I was in Austin, I felt motivated to be more outdoorsy. I kept envisioning myself rock climbing and kayaking and all that, which is weird because there are rocks to climb near the city and I’ve never chosen to partake.

Austin kayaker

Austin kayaker

That goes strongly against my nature (ha), for I was once the college senior afraid of camping at the cold springs near campus. I fell victim to peer pressure – twice – and actually found it to be pretty tolerable and almost fun. That could have been the 24 pack of Natty Light talking, though. I can’t be sure.

I’m a firm believer in baby steps, so I’m gradually transitioning to the outdoors via my running. I had a completely gym-less weekend, and I shunned the computer and was outside all day Saturday. Today I went for a jog on the track and did some crunches on the grass. I’m like Lance Armstrong in a sports bra.

As far as my foodstuff goes, I hit up the cheese shop today for more $1.99 gouda slices and mascarpone cheese. I always kind of skim the store for anything I can’t leave without, and this time I grabbed some gnocchi. Today I HAD to have it, whereas I usually stare it down for a few minutes and ultimately leave it be.

I’ve never prepared gnocchi myself, but I had boatloads in Italy and have had it a couple of times in the U.S. The best ever was gnocchi al pesto that my friends and I ordered in Capri. It wasn’t even on the menu, but the chef made it anyways and it was insaaaaane.

Gnocchi, for those who are unaware, is potato dumplings that have a Play-Doh like consistency. They’re so easy to prepare that they make couscous look complex. All you have to do is boil water, drop in gnocchi, and wait 2-3 minutes for it to float to the top. Drain and serve. That is all.

the baby gnocchis are boiling

the baby gnocchis are boiling

I’ ve been dying to use the food processor, so I made a little basil avocado puree for my gnocchi. I started with half an avocado, a handful of fresh basil, the juice of one lemon, salt, pepper, and about 1/4 cup of olive oil. I probably used more lemon that olive oil, but I wanted to keep it light.

On the side, I roasted some roma tomatoes in the oven with a chopped shallot, olive oil, rosemary, thyme and dry basil. I think roasted tomatoes are last meal-worthy these days. They cook up so amazingly. The skin starts to fall off, and they explode in your mouth! I don’t think I could make that sound any less appetizing if I tried, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

I roasted them in the toaster oven for 13-15 minutes at 350, because my oven is teeny and it started toying with the idea of catching fire when I turned up the heat. See below for the final product. I made a small plate for my roomie, and she confirmed that the gnocchi were delicious and had a lot of flavor. Bravissimi!:

potato gnocchi with avocado basil puree, roasted tomatoes with dry herbs and shallots

potato gnocchi with avocado basil puree, roasted tomatoes with dry herbs and shallots


a tale of two pastas.

In an effort to be more summery, I’ve decided to ban the weekend gymming. Honestly, it’s a waste of the heat. And I can handle the heat. I went for the most amazing run along the East River on Saturday. It was 70s-ish and breezy, and aside from the sweat dripping into my eyeballs – unpleasant – it was wonderful. It was so great that it’s all I can recall from the weekend. I’m pretty sure I lay in a fetal position for the other 47.5 hours, but I can’t be sure.

Come Sunday night, I hadn’t made it to the grocery store but at all. I can be resourceful if the situation calls for it, so I dug into my pantry and came up with some fire roasted red peppers. I had a few leaves of non-wilty spinach on hand, a jar of marinated artichokes, and a bag of whole wheat papardelle courtesy of TJ’s. I boiled the pasta, sauteed the veggies in olive oil, and tossed everything together with salt, pepper, and about a cup of red pepper flakes:

pasta one

pasta one

It was probably the easiest and least impressive thing I’ve ever made/eaten, but damnit if I wasn’t secretly hoping my roomies would come home so I could hold the pasta over my head like a bigass trophy. I was just that proud of its unassuming good looks.

I have a not-so-secret fear of a foodless existence, so I, like, sprinted to the grocery after work today. I spent a great portion of today researching new recipes on, but I let the clusterfuck of the Monday TJ’s scene overtake my careful planning. Meaning, I turned into one of those people who mindlessly tosses thing into her basket. I hate those people.

I walked out with some absurdly cheap smoked salmon ($2.99) and a bunch of other foods that only Suzanne Somers pregnant on Step by Step would be into. Obscure reference? Maybe. Still, I’m talking pomegranate seeds and capers. Only Carol Foster Lambert would want that when she’s with child.

I managed to gather the odd ingredients and put together a totally different pasta dish than before. The colors are similar, but the taste was so drastically different. I boiled the papardelle, and then sauteed chopped basil, tomatoes and capers. I added oilve oil and lemon juice, and then added a fair amount of salt and pepper. It was so salty and delicious, and luckily it appealed to a non-preggers pallete. See below:

pasta two

pasta two

July 2020