Friday, May 18, 2012

Yummy Greens

It's salad time! It's been a month since we planted the salad mix in the garden and it has GROWN! It's so nice to have early season bounty!

I snipped a few bits today for a taste test. I've also been reading up online about homemade salad dressing in preparation for this summer's salad fest (which is what I'm calling the forthcoming bounty of greens.) Store-bought is expensive, filled with sugar, and well, EXPENSIVE. I would rather make my own. Especially since my garden is going to be so loaded with herbs. Perfect for dressing!

I fount THIS very helpful post about making homemade dressing. I tailored the vinaigrette recipe to fit my pantry and herb garden -- I used fresh spicy oregano, fresh rosemary, and french tarragon. I also added a bit of honey as a sweetener.

The results:

Here's my recipe for Fresh Herb Vinaigrette -- remember, tailor to your own spices & herbs at will!
1/2 Cup Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Honey
1 Tablespoon Dry Mustard
2 Tablespoons total of fresh chopped herbs including Rosemary, Oregano and French Tarragon
3/4 Cups Olive Oil

Include all ingredients except the olive oil in a jar and shake (or stir.)
Add olive oil and shake again.
Separation is normal, shake up before serving! Enjoy!

AMAZING! Yum, yum and more yum!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Lamb Cake

Lamb Cake, also known as "lammie cake," was an Easter staple in our household while growing up. That delicious lamb-shaped cake with vanilla frosting adorned with coconut is something I dreamed about all year. I don't know what made this cake in the shape of a lamb taste better than had the cake been round or rectangular, but it was.

Lamb Cake is a Polish tradition, something my grandmother made for her and something I hope to someday make for my own children. My mother still has our old lamb mold. I thought about dragging it to Boston this year to make a lamb cake but I never got around to it. Maybe next year. I'll have to settle for living vicariously through others' baking adventures on the internet like this lovely lamb cake I found here:

                                                        Source: via Jillian Audrey on Pinterest

Also, a quick ebay search reveals that there are a plethora of vintage lamb cake molds for sale HERE like this beauty.

                                                                  Source: via Jillian Audrey on Pinterest

Etsy vintage sellers also come through with some fantastic options:

Have a happy Easter! xo Jillian

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Urban Garden Take 2 : The Beginning

The end of winter, the beginning of spring... it's time to stick those little seeds in the dirt and wait for them to grow. (Indoors that is, they're nowhere ready to fend for themselves in the brutal outdoors yet.)

2 weeks ago we began sewing some seeds for our plants that have recommended start dates of 4-8 weeks before the last frost.

I just finished reading Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and I'm so pumped up for our little backyard vegetable garden to sustain us through the summer. I know it will be nothing like her experiment, but I'm quite excited to have our table full our own homegrown goodness to supplement what we buy at the farm market.

Here's a bit of what we have planned for this year's containers:
- Tomatoes
- Ivory Pear Tomatoes (small cherry size)
- Morning Sun Tomatoes (also small cherry size)
- 4 types of Basil including lime and purple
- Oregano
- Parsley
- Catnip (gotta keep the kitties happy too!)
- Jalapenos
- Anaheim Peppers
- Red Bell Peppers
- Multi-colored Peppers
- Rocky Top Lettuce Mix
- Red Wonder Strawberries & Yellow Wonder Strawberries
- Pink Banannas (seriously!)
- Litchi Tomatoes (they are actually berries)
- Ground Cherries
- Two types of Carrots, Pariesienne and Little Finger
- Zucchini
- Amsterdam Prickly Seeded Spinach
- Okra
- Tomatillos
- Potatoes
- Onions

We're doing ALL of those from seed. We're also going to purchase these as plants rather than starting from seed:
- Rosemary
- Chives
- Lavender
- Mint

Holy cow, it's a lot, I know. I can't wait. 
Now I just need to sit and be patient. Grow, baby, grow.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Tonight's Menu: Love

I know it's a week after Valentine's Day, but tonight's dinner comes compliments of Whole Foods' "Share Your Love" recipes. I LOVE that Whole Foods has handy little recipes scattered all over the store -- and these ones were awesome! Even though I didn't make them for V-day (we had steak), I'm treating us to these tasty delights tonight. Yummers. (Click on each of the "whole foods" links to get to the recipe & enjoy!)



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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Gluten-Free Meatballs & Spaghetti... Yes, it can be done!

You guys, I'm really successfully doing it! (I sort of half expected to start crying and give this up after a day) but now in day 3 I'm gluten-free and going strong (even though I did have a dream about bagels the other night.)

On Day 1 I made a FANTASTIC and delicious Braised Coconut Spinach & Chickpeas with Lemon and served it with rotisserie chicken (provided by the good folks at Whole Foods... they do a fabulous job of rotisserying - is that a word?) The recipe calls for a pound of baby spinach but I used 12 oz of baby spinach and 6 ounces of BABY KALE because I saw it at Whole Foods and couldn't resist (yay, extra vitamins and antioxidants?)

But here comes the real crux of my post... MEATBALLS! 

Let me tell you about meatballs. Once upon a time I was scared of meatloaf. Why? I didn't know what it was. Back in my younger days (college) I was invited over to my then-boyfriend's house for dinner and his mother fixed me meatloaf. I was terrified. My family was not a Meatloaf Family. But then I realized when she served it that meatloaf is really just one big meatball served in a pan. Also sort of like eating a hamburger without the bun. I like hamburgers. I like meatballs. Hence, meatloaf ain't so bad!

So when drawing up recipes for my gluten-free experiment I thought that meatballs would be gluten-free. Why? I was always under the impression that meatballs were just round hamburgers. Again, wrong. Apparently I have so much to learn about meat. Meatballs (and meatloaf) also include breadcrumbs. A lot of them.

I found this great recipe for making meatballs (but of course, it is loaded up with breadcrumbs) so I thought about what I could do for a substitution. I searched around my cupboard and the internet and settled on crushing up some Rice Chex (which are gluten-free!) and Rice Krispies (the gluten-free variety... NOTE: Regular Rice Krispies are NOT gluten-free, we'll get to this in my next post.)

I crushed these up, added JUST A TOUCH OF WATER, some Italian spice and baked a little so the spices mixed in. It worked out pretty well to add some "filling" to the meat for the meatballs. I added bits of sliced onion also to boost up the flavor.

Of course, this was my first time making meatballs, so what do I know? They sort of fell apart a little while cooking. Is this normal? I tried not to pack them too tightly as the recipe warned, maybe I should have packed them a little harder... either way, they pretty much stayed together enough to actually be meatballs in the end. I cooked them on the pan for a while but I was worried they were just searing the outsides and not cooking through so I also baked them for 10 minutes in the oven while the pasta cooked on the stove.

The outcome: Delicious! They were soft, moist, and very tasty! Also, the gluten-free pasta, made from rice, tastes exactly like normal pasta. Score.

Bonus: Here's my cat in a bowl. Isn't she cute? And no, I didn't cook dinner with this bowl, don't worry.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Going Gluten-Free : Day 1

First off, I AM SORRY. I know I have been an utterly terrible food blogger. Absolutely abysmal. Beyond abysmal. What's beyond abysmal anyway? Atrocious? Well, whatever it is, it's me. But don't fret, I haven't been living strictly off of Buffalo chicken pizza and other takeout fare, I have been cooking... sometimes. I do indulge in a good BC pizza now and then too, of course.

I promise to blog better. (I know, you've heard this promise before.) But really, I will. And to kick it off I have a real challenge/experiment I'm starting. I'm going GLUTEN-FREE for two weeks.

Why? Two reasons.

1. For work. In my day job I'm a magazine editor and I write a magazine column where I ask readers to offer me up challenges/things to "try." Well, we have a lot of readers with children who have special needs and food allergies so someone suggested I try a gluten free-diet for 2 weeks.

2. In doing some research I learned that a low-gluten or gluten-free diet may be beneficial for migraine sufferers. (That's me.) And, in fact, migraines might indicate a gluten intolerance or sensitivity. Yikes.

So, here we are. My official Day 1. I ate my final gluten-full meal on Saturday with a tuna melt and then had my last taste of gluten on Sunday with a brownie, but other than that Sunday was relatively gluten-free.

I'll be going grocery shopping today to pick up goodies/snacks/meals for the week. But yesterday I stopped by Whole Foods to pick up gluten-free cereal that I plan to mix in with yogurt for my breakfast.

Oh granola, how I'm going to miss you! Good thing coffee is gluten-free. Wish me luck. I'll keep you regularly updated on my progress!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Couponing Win!

I’m writing an article for work about couponing. You’ve seen the show I’m sure, or if you haven’t you at least know about it -- EXTREME COUPONING. I had never actually seen it before… until last night. I had seen clips of it, when it was briefly being made fun of on something like The Soup, but I had never really seen it in its entirety. Well, I was in for a treat.

I knew what to expect though because two weeks ago I started to follow some coupon blogs. I started to LEARN. I came into this coupon thing as a total newbie. I seriously asked questions like: “Does Target take coupons?” “You can print coupons ONLINE?” “What is a circular?” “You can use more than one coupon at once?” But that’s all for a later discussion – and my work article.

What I’m here to tell you about is my first real coupon experience. Yesterday! And because this is a food blog, it’s food! But, here’s the catch, it’s not people food… it is kitty food.

I was a coupon superstar yesterday and was able to snag free cat treats at Target and now I’m going to tell you how you can do it too:

The usual price for the Whisker Lickin’s Cat Treats is about $2
There’s currently a SALE to $1 (until 10/22)
Target is offering a $1 off coupon on there website (which you can find & print HERE)
Final Cost: FREE! (Really, FREE! This still sort of blows my mind!)

Now, I’m not suggesting you waste an hour of your time or travel 20 miles to score a $2 bag of cat treats for free, but if you happen to be going to Target in the next few weeks, think about your fuzzy friends and maybe bring them home something special.

ALSO: There's a Living Social deal today for $20 worth of Whole Foods groceries for $10. (Click that link and buy it, seriously.) And my awesome 75% off J. Crew trench coat arrived yesterday. The world is just full of deals this week. How did I ever buy anything full price before?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Black Bean & Mango Salad

Hello loyal food blog readers, I have forsaken you and I am sorry! I have been so busy this past month (why the heck am I busy? I graduated!) that I’ve barely had time to post. But I’m back… and with a vengeance! I vow to be more consistent in my food blog posts and I’m kicking it off with a yummy recipe! (And lots of exclamation points!)

I went to Whole Foods yesterday with the intention of buying burgers to throw on the grill for dinner and stumbled upon a great (non-burger) recipe which I will now share with you. But let’s back up a moment…. That’s right foodie readers, I bought a grill. It happened over 4th of July weekend when I went to Home Depot with the intention of buying some potting soil. As you can see I’m an impulse shopper.

Anyway, Whole Foods has this awesome little flyer called “Meals for Under $15.” Since I just invested $1000 in a trip to LA for a writing conference I figured a less than $15 meal is just what I needed. Enter Black Bean & Mango Salad. Also, there is no actual “cooking” involved, it’s all chopping and throwing in a bowl. Score.

I think chopped up mango sort of looks like cubes of cheese....

This salad was so summery and delicious and I even got to use some fresh items out of my very own garden, including cilantro which has magically stayed alive! (Apparently, fourth time’s a charm when it comes to growing cilantro plants.) The salad was also a great accompaniment to the Au Poivre burgers, but I think it would also be tasty with some grilled chicken or fish.

Fresh cilantro!

BLACK BEAN & MANGO SALAD compliments of Whole Foods

Prep time: 20 minutes Total time: 20 minutes (aka, the whole thing is prep)


  • 1 (28 oz) can of black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 large mango, peeled and chopped
  • 1 small red onion, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, minced
  • 1 jalepeno pepper, seeded and minced
  • 4 tablespoons fresh cilantro, minced
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 fresh lime, zested and juiced
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Mix beans, mango, onion, peppers, cilantro and garlic in large bowl. Toss with lime zest and lime juice, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve chilled. See how easy that was? Serves 4-6.

I also served mine with some taco chips. Yummmmm.

Happy summer, see you soon… I promise!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Urban Gardening Week 3 : Garden Expansion

I added a few plants to the little backyard garden! Things are really coming along nicely!

The full garden:

New additions:

  • Purple basil
  • Pineapple mint/sage
  • Catnip (this sent Mittsy into a fit of crazy aka she tried to maul the plant immediately. Totally a hit.)
  • Alpine strawberries
  • Cilantro (looking very sad, I hope it will resurrect itself.)
  • Arugula
  • Mixed greens


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Urban Gardening Week 2

So far so good. Mostly. I went out of town for a few days, and what blew through Massachusetts while I was gone? A tornado. Really, folks. And that tornado carried with it a storm that did some damage to my wee urban garden. But alas, all seems fine. Even if the board behind my plants fell over, causing the jumbo mint plant to fall on my small oregano plant, where it sat atop it -- crushing it -- for four days before I could come back into town to rescue it.

OREGANO STATUS: Surviving? Hanging on?


CHIVES STATUS: kitty loves them. She now has stinky breath.

MINT STATUS: growing great. I tried to feed some mint to kitty so she would smell better. She wasn't having it. Aren't cats supposed to like mint because it's a relative of cat nip?

TOMATOES STATUS: Looking plentiful.

Urban garden week 2 overall status: Great. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

(Mis) Adventures in Gardening

I'll be honest, I don't have a green thumb. I like to think I do though. I like to buy plants. Whenever I see them at a store, let's say, Whole Foods, I always stop and look at them and think, "Why yes, I could use an ivy plant in my house." Most of the time I make the right choice and keep walking. But sometimes I take a plant home.

And wouldn't you know, the very first plants I ever bought are still alive and kickin'. I was so excited to get them I even named them. Spike & Fuzz. I got them both at Trader Joe's when I was living in Tucson. These babies are more than 5 years old now. Granted they are succulents, aka hard to kill, but I still take pride in the fact that they have lasted that long. And have outlasted some of their fellow plant-mates. RIP bamboo1, bamboo2, bamboo3, indoor tree, cilantro1, cilantro2, oregano plant & pepper plant.

Spike & Fuzz are to the far left and far right.
That cilantro plant in the front died within a week.
Basil is now a beast.

Part of my failure as an indoor gardener is that my plants don't get enough sunlight. Enter: the OUTDOORS! For the first time in years I have a bit of a backyard, and a sunny one at that. So I decided that this summer was the perfect opportunity to try my hand at container gardening. I opted for relatively easy plants (I think? I hope?) that love sunlight. All of them are also edible so I can enjoy the rewards of my gardening in the kitchen.

If you couldn't tell from the above picture, the garden lineup includes:
  • Hungarian spicy wax peppers (which are supposed to be way spicy!)
  • Tiny Tim tomatoes (the perks of this plant is that it produces cute little tomatoes and doesn't need a stake/grate/cage/etc.)
  • Globe basil (smells delish!)
  • Spicy oregano (it's not spicy like the peppers are, spicy like flavorful)
  • Chives
  • Peppermint
  • Chocolate mint (seriously, omg! I can't wait for this to grow to be a beast so I can eat chocolate mint every day.)
  • French lavender (lavender is supposed to be a migraine cure, so we'll see how this does to aid my aching head.)
I'll be keeping you posted on how the garden grows. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Pistachio-Chai Muffins

Mmmmm I love a good muffin. When I saw the list of “Healthy Muffins” from Cooking Lite I knew I was in heaven. A few years ago I used to buy a blueberry or corn muffin each morning from Wegmans until I learned that each muffin had approximately 60 grams of fat and 300,000 calories (yes, an exaggeration, but it was still a lot!). Unreal. FOR A MUFFIN! I was disgusted. If you’re getting all those fat and calories you might as well be shoveling in like ten donuts and a chocolate-filled croissant.

Anyway, I was so pleased to see these healthy muffins, and one’s that don’t seem to skimp on flavor. With my mom and sister coming into town, I decided to try out the first one that jumped out at me: Pistachio-Chai.

It gets the chai flavor from real tea bags which seemed cool to me because you can adjust the flavor based on which tea you select. All was going well in the cooking process… I even managed to work around the fact that my oven fills my kitchen with an awful gas smell so cooked my muffins with the broiler (turning it on and off at intervals to heat up the oven just enough without searing the tops of the muffins… somehow the broiler doesn’t make my kitchen stink of gas. Anyone have an answer for this?)

And then, the final reveal. I pulled the muffins out of the oven and let them cool and got ready to drizzle on the icing. And what? I FORGOT THE PISTACHIOS! In all my cleaning, stressing about the gas smell, etc. I forgot to add the crushed pistachios to the tops of the muffins before baking. *sigh* BUT they were still good. They were just Chai Muffins. Or Pistachio-Chai Muffins Sans Pistachios, if you want to think of it that way.

They were easy to make so I’ll probably whip up a new batch for myself later this week WITH pistachios. Mmmmm. Recipe is below. Enjoy!

Pistachio-Chai Muffins (Makes 12 muffins)

• 7 9/10 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 3/4 cups)
• 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 2 chai blend tea bags, opened
• 1 cup low-fat buttermilk
• 1/4 cup butter, melted
• 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
• 1 large egg, lightly beaten
• Cooking spray
• 1/3 cup shelled dry-roasted pistachios, chopped
• 1/2 cup powdered sugar
• 1 tablespoon water


1. Preheat oven to 375°.
2. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 4 ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Cut open tea bags; add tea to flour mixture, stirring well. Make a well in center of mixture. Combine buttermilk, butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and egg in a bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist.
3. Place 12 muffin-cup liners in muffin cups; coat liners with cooking spray. Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle nuts evenly over batter. Bake at 375° for 15 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes in pan on a wire rack.
4. Combine remaining 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, powdered sugar, and 1 tablespoon water, stirring until smooth. Drizzle evenly over muffins.

Source: Cooking Lite. See the rest of the muffin recipes HERE.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Farm Market / Spring Market

Oh, I am so totally craving Farm Market Season already. I love me some fresh/local/organic produce but golly Whole Foods is just so darn expensive. And I like supporting local, and browsing the crazy selection of things offered at Farm Markets that even Whole Foods doesn't stock. Can it be Farm Market Season yet, pleeeeease?

After some intense internet searching I found a mini-solution, it looks like Newton has a spring market! Huzzah! Here's the deets found on the Newton Farmers Market website

American Legion Post 440,
295 California St., Parking Lot
May 24 - June 28
12:00PM - 5:00PM

Picture compliments of the Newton Farmer's Market website...
look how pretty!

I still have to wait three weeks, but it's better than waiting until mid-June which is went my local markets, Brookline and Alston, open. If you're looking for info about Boston area markets once they open, check out my post from last year featuring area markets by the day of the week: FARM MARKET TIME!

Anyone else know of area spring markets? Please share!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Panini Perfection

I bought myself a new kitchen gadget -- a panini press! It's more than just a panini maker though, I went for the Cuisinart Griddler so it serves a lot of functions, including the fact that I can buy waffle inserts to make my own Belgian waffles. YUM.

In the past week I’ve tried it out three times, all with amazing success. I’ve made two grilled sandwiches and one quesadilla. What I love about this grill/panini press is that it has removable/reversible plates so you have the option of a flat surface or a rippled one -- I’ve learned that I completely prefer flat.

MEAL 1 : Proscuitto, Fig & Fontina Panini


  • A few slices of proscuitto
  • Fig spread
  • Fontina cheese
  • Salad greens
  • Good bread (I splurged and used $6 a loaf rosemary/garlic bread from a local bakery – Nashoba Brook Bakery -- that I got at Whole Foods. It made an incredible difference.)


  • Spread fig preserve on one slice of bread.
  • Add cheese, greens, and proscuitto on top of spread and top with second slice of bread. 
  • Grill on medium until cheese is melty and bread is toasty. Cut in half. Enjoy!

Photographing sandwiches is hard....


MEAL 2 : Beef & Cheddar Quesadilla


  • A few slices of roast beef
  • Sharp cheddar cheese (I recommend using really good cheese, not that phony cheese stuff. The better the cheese the more delicious this quesadilla will be, and with only a few ingredients you really want the cheese to shine.)
  • 1 medium onion
  • Tortillas


  • Slice onion and sauté until translucent. While onion is cooking slice cheese into thin strips to help it melt.
  • Layer cooked onion, cheese, beef in a tortilla and fold over so it looks like a big taco.
  • Grill on medium until cheese melts and outside of tortilla is toasty. Enjoy!
  • (Note: Watch out that cheese doesn't melt too much and run all over the panini plate… mine did.)


MEAL 3 : Roasted Pepper & Veggie Panini

Before grilling... it looks like a big piece of bruschetta.

Ingredients: The best part about this panini is that you can use basically anything you have on hand. I used:

My ingredients all chopped up

  • Roasted red peppers
  • Artichoke hearts
  • 10 kalamata olives
  • Basil & sun dried tomato goat cheese
  • Salad greens
  • Good bread (I used the same bread as Meal 1.)


  • Chop up all veggies and cheese.
  • Layer all ingredients between two slices of bread.
  • Grill on medium until cheese is melty and bread is toasty. Cut in half & enjoy!

All three of these meals were incredibly delicious and relatively healthy, too! I’m so excited to make some more. Thank goodness I no longer have to do the awkward attempt to flip sandwich/quesadilla on pan and watch all my fillings fall out routine that I used to do when making grilled sandwiches. YAY!

If you have a favorite sandwich/panini recipe I would love to hear it! Share!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Pasta With Mushrooms & Rosemary

Last week a fellow Simmons grad student lamented about the difficulties of meal prep/planning on her food blog, and I couldn’t agree more. Planning meals is hard work! Especially when you have boyfriends to factor into the equation and can’t do the single girl thing of “eat a bunch of cookies for dinner and call it a night.” I have a hard enough time deciding what I want to eat for dinner on Wednesday night ON Wednesday night, let alone trying to decide that on Monday night as I pour over food blogs and cookbooks and try to plan out my week. But I’ve been trying… with some success. With such a busy schedule this semester I’m still relying heavily on take-out, but I’m trying much more to do some easy meal-prep and to shop accordingly.

I’ve also re-instituted “date nights” which makes The Boyfriend laugh when I call it that since we live together and all it’s not like we’re really going out for a date. But I insist we are… it’s a reward for my careful meal planning and preparations all week long. And it’s our chance to get out of the house.

I’ve been on a mushroom kick lately, so when I saw that Fellow Grad Student posted that one of her recent meals was pasta with mushrooms I knew I had to try it. 

After all, it already had a stamp of approval. The original blogger she got the recipe from HERE served it with a side of sautéed kale, but heeding Fellow Grad Student’s warning that pasta plus kale was a lot to cook together, I saved the tasty-sounding kale recipe for a later date and just stuck to the mushrooms and pasta. Definitely a good idea.

I couldn’t find the cute little ear-shaped pastas at Trader Joe’s so I had to settle for bow ties, which were still cute. It made an enormous batch and we had leftovers that I ate for lunch for a few days after. I liked that this recipe was so easy... it was definitely a good mid-week meal for when I drag myself home from class or writing group or pull myself away from the computer after writing/working all day long. I think next time I try to the recipe I might fancy it up a bit with some wild mushrooms to give it an extra kick.

I served the pasta with steamed artichokes and butter for dipping. Delish!
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