Thursday, June 30, 2011

Rosemarried Hashbrowns

This is a basic way to make breakfast hashbrowns, and you can add many other spices to change the flavors. We'll start with fresh rosemary.

4 red/new potatoes
2 TB fresh rosemary
2 TB flour
2 TB olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper

Rinse and scrub potatoes. If you like, peel the potatoes (I prefer skin on). Using a box grater, grate all four potatoes on a cutting board. 

Once potatoes are all peeled (it'll be messy), take a clean kitchen towel and pat the pile of potatoes. You are removing as much of the excess moisture as possible to crisp the potatoes. In a large bowl, add the potatoes, rosemary, flour, salt, and pepper. Stir until flour is soaked in. 

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil on medium high. Once it bubbles, add the potato mixture. There are two ways to cook it: 
1) Crispy: like a giant pancake that you flip after several minutes and 
2) Fluffy: a mix of potatoes that you are constantly stirring and turning. 

Do how you like but-either way-it'll take 10 minutes to cook. Serve as a side or as the main entree by adding cheese, bacon, or sausage, and fill in tortillas (breakfast tacos). Ole!

Lazy eggs over easy
 Some other herbs/spices to add to hashbrowns:
Fresh basil
Fresh dill
Crushed red pepper
Smoked paprika
Fresh garlic
Cayenne pepper
Be creative!

Green Tea Lemonade

Let's have one more beverage, shall we?

 It IS summer, and we must stay hydrated with lots of fluids. Who says they can't be tasty, too?

As do gazillions of other people around the world, Matt and I enjoy our coffee shops and juice bars. We are absolutely looking forward to living in the northwest because of the varieties of little shops (and our budget will be a little less tight to indulge a bit more!). Matt introduced me to Starbucks' Green Tea Lemonade, a citrusy happy drink. It's cool, refreshing, cheaper than a latte, and semi-healthy, too! But it's still...
 $3.59 for a venti!
(AKA not in students' daily budgets, especially when I want 2 at a time)  

So I recreated and, if I do say myself, it's pretty spot on...and it costs $ 0.71  for a venti (20 oz.)!
Green Tea Lemonade
makes 4 large (20 oz.) servings
6 cups water
6 teabags
2 TB agave syrup (optional)
Juice of 10 lemons (about 1 1/4 cups)

Boil 6 cups water in pot or teapot. Turn off burner and drop in teabags. Let steep for 5 minutes.

Add in lemon juice and agave syrup and stir. Add 2 cups ice and 3/4 cup water and chill for 2 hours. Sweeten (or don't) to taste.
Tea $3/box (20 bags)     --->  $0.90
Lemons 6/$1.00            --->   $1.66
Agave syrup $5/bottle  --->   $0.25

TOTAL:   $2.81 --->  $0.71 each!

So there you have it, a perfect summer drink that was completely not my idea. I still love Starbucks, but this homemade treat has fresh lemons and quenches my thirst for very little money. Kids love it, too. Happy sipping!!

An adult flavor: To serve as a summer cocktail, run a lemon slice around the rim of the glass and dip into sugar. Pour 12 ounces of green tea lemonade in glass. Using one of the cored out half lemons, fill with tequila (or favorite liquor) and drop, top side up, into glass. Sip and savor.

Perfect Iced Coffee

Iced coffee is a norm in New England, and I used to tease my yankee friends who would walk out of Dunkin' Donuts into 2 feet of snow with their ritual daily giant cup of iced coffee in their gloved hands. I teased them...until I tried it...then I joined them.

Coffee is an incredible crop that allows thousands of farmers to live around the world. It brings equality among all types of people, from CEOs to retail cashiers to the chronic homeless. Coffee is one of very few things that a great diversity of people around the world can enjoy. People can come to the table and make business decisions, gossip, study for their LSAT, or pour their hearts out while sipping the distinctive-tasting brew. That said, let's make some iced coffee!

Bitter? Gross
Tangy? Disgusting
Creamy, slightly sweet, a little spice? Perfect!

This is my version of the perfect iced coffee. In one of the 30 Dunkin' Donuts near my Boston apartment, I'm pretty sure I was one of few to order iced coffee with a shot of coconut syrup, but it reminded me of tropical, warm home. Iced coffee, by definition, is brewed roughly twice as strong as regular coffee. A little goes a long way! But, once you add ice, spices, and a little milk or cream, everything balances out.

Perfect Iced Coffee
1 TB shredded coconut
1/4 cup chocolate soymilk (or cow milk or almond milk) 
3 ice cubes
1 1/2 cups strong coffee, room temp or cold
Whipped cream (optional)
Dash of cinnamon

In a tall glass, add coconut, milk, and ice (in that order). Add ice cubes next, and pour coffee over ice. 

Top with whipped cream and cinnamon. Add a straw to keep your lipgloss intact. :)

We all need a little pick-me-up sometimes!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Night in Austin

So there's this semi-famous older restaurant called The Oasis in Austin that overlooks Lake Travis. I did not know of this place when my oldest friend mentioned the restaurant but, according to my mother, I've been there quite a few times but was probably in a highchair. Anyhoo, there is an outdoor shopping center that has been built around this popular Mexican and seafood romantic spot (really, really new!) and a brewpub now resides next door.

This brewpub, Uncle Billy's, was the perfect place to celebrate Matt's birthday. Craft beer made in-house, fantastic views, barbeque fusion and a casual environment. And let me just tell you, it TOTALLY EXCEEDED all expectations. (Keep in mind, four native Houstonians who have been exposed to all sorts of restaurants back home, all raving about this place...a good sign. **Fun fact: Houston has more restaurants per capita than anywhere else in the world. ***Other fun fact: Not only do we love restaurants, our big tummies show it.)

Sorry for the digression. Anyhoo, let's just get to the views of this fun restaurant: WAIT, let me tease you for a minute. Here's how the wonderful day went:




Okay, now some views (from my chair!) from Uncle Billy's:

Now that's enough beauty for one day. :) If you can, watch a summer sunset. It's a good time to just breathe and savor the moment. Thank God for these little moments.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Summer Squash

This is embarrassingly simple, but I'll state the obvious:
When you catch produce in season, you can be really lazy in the kitchen.
What do I mean?
  • Produce in season is at its peak, both in providing the most nutrients possible but also the most flavor possible.
  •  With all of that flavor, all you want to add is spices/foods that ENHANCE the natural flavors. With that said, let's cook!

Simple Summer Squash
2 carrots, sliced
2 yellow squash
2 zucchini squash
1 cup cherry tomatoes (optional)
sea salt
ground pepper
1/2 t. crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

step one: Rinse and peel (if you must) all veggies. (I tend to leave the peel on edible those nutrients!) Slice carrots and squash into 1/4-inch rounds.

step two: In a large pot, toss in veggies and tomatoes. Pour 2 cups water over veggies and tomatoes, and sprinkle sea salt and pepper over. Lightly stir. Heat on high until water starts to boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and let veggies cook for 12 minutes, or until tender. Drain, eat. 

This is so simple, so healthy, and delicious. My grandmother used to make this and, on the many days she'd pick me up from school, she'd serve this on the side of an awesome dinner. This was my introduction to fresh veggies and understanding what squash and carrots taste like, in their purest form. Of course, a 10 year old doesn't mind dousing it in shredded cheddar, too. :) 

We served this as a side with leftover chicken and buttery noodles. Happy Monday and 

Happy Birthday to our favorite NINE YEAR OLD niece, 
Which big kid is 9 today???

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Whoopie Pies

As promised, the recipes for the whoopie pies.

As you probably know, whoopie pies have been trendy lately. Their history is vague, but most likely were treats Pennsylvania Dutch farmers found in their lunchboxes. Discovering their wives had included the giant cookie sandwich, they'd yell "Whoopie!" Other names are gobs, hucklebucks and BFOs (big fat oreos). Bakeries in Lewiston and Roxbury, Massachusetts claim to have sold the first pies commercially in the early 30s. So there's a bit of the history. It is not a reference to the warnings of marriage in the Jazz classic "Makin' Whoopie" or from the silly musical "Whoopie," but its roots center around two moist cookie cakes with fluffy, creamy filling holding them together. (Most of this info from here.)

I followed Martha Stewart's recipes pretty closely, and this worked out pretty well for my first time making them. It served as Matt's birthday cake, and he helped me make it the night before, which was a lot of fun.

Banana Whoopie Pies with Peanut Butter Buttercream
*makes 18 whoopie pies of varying sizes* 


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup mashed banana (from 1 large ripe banana)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a bowl. Combine banana and sour cream in another bowl.
  2. Beat butter and granulated and brown sugars with a mixer on medium-high speed, until pale and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add egg and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, beating until incorporated. Add banana mixture in 2 additions, alternating with flour mixture.
  3. Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch plain tip. Pipe batter into 1 1/4-inch rounds on baking sheets, spacing rounds 1 1/2 inches apart. OR Spoon tablespoon-sized (smallest) batter onto parchment paper up to 3 tablespoon-sized (largest) onto paper.
  4. Bake until edges are golden, about 12 minutes. Slide parchment, with cookies, onto wire racks. Let cool.
Chocolate Whoopie Pies with Peanut Butter Buttercream
*makes 18 whoopie pies of varying sizes*


  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup whole milk (yes, whole milk)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Peanut Butter Buttercream
  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. Sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt into a small bowl; set aside.
  2. Add butter, shortening, and sugars to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; cream on high speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add egg; beat until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add half the flour mixture, then the milk and vanilla; beat until combined. Add the remaining flour mixture. Beat together, scraping down sides of bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
  3. Drop 12 slightly rounded tablespoons (or more) of batter 2 inches apart on each baking sheet. Bake the cookies in the upper and lower thirds of oven, 10 minutes; switch the positions of the baking sheets, and rotate each one. Continue baking until the cookies spring back to the touch, 2 to 3 minutes more.
  4. Remove from oven; let cookies cool on baking sheets, 10 minutes.Transfer with a metal spatula to a wire rack; let cool completely. Meanwhile, line a cooled baking sheet with a new piece of parchment; repeat process with remaining batter.
  5. Spread 1 scant tablespoon buttercream on flat sides of half the cookies.Top each with one of the remaining cookies, flat side down, and gently press together. Transfer pies to a tray.
  6. (Optional) Melt half the chocolate in a saucepan over low heat, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat; add remaining chocolate, and stir until melted and smooth. Transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a plain round tip or a small parchment cone. Pipe chocolate in a spiral pattern on top of each pie. Let chocolate set before serving, about 1 hour. *I did not do this.*
    Peanut Butter Buttercream (the glue!)
    *Very simple, makes 1 1/2 cups*


    • 1 1/2 cup natural, creamy peanut butter
    • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
    • 1 cup confectioners' sugar


    1. Cream peanut butter and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on high speed. On low speed, mix in sugar until combined, then beat mixture on high speed until fluffy and smooth, about 2 minutes. Spread onto cookie cake parts of whoopie pies right away.
    This recipe turned out quite well! It's a little fussier than most baking I do everyday, but the second batch literally took 1/3 of the time of the first batch, so practice helps! Also, since I varied the sizes of the whoopie cookies, make sure you have pairs that are the same size, whatever their size (or else they won't fit together with the buttercream). I learned that the hard way, haha. And for some variety, I added just a jar of vanilla frosting (with red food coloring b/c Matt loves red) to some of the cookies. There you have it, whoopie pies!

    Saturday, June 25, 2011

    Peachy Jicama Salad

    Do you ever eat jicama?

    Jicama--AKA yambean, native of Mexico and South America, is similar to the potato (you can bake, steam, boil it), but you can also eat it raw (unlike the potato).
    • 46 calories per cup
    • 6 grams fiber (25% of your daily needs)
    •  crisp, refreshing taste

    Peachy Jicama Salad with Tangy Lime Dressing
    Makes 2 sizeable salads
    2 peaches
    1 TB margarine
    1 jicama 
    1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
    1 lime
    1 TB sugar or agave nectar
    4 mint leaves, chopped

    1) Slice peaches in half and take out the pit. Scoop out the hard flesh around the pits, too. Spread the flesh sides with margarine and put face down in the toaster oven. Bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees.
    2) In the meantime, peel the jicama. I used a knife and peeled it by hand, making slices downward. Cut the inside into bite-sized strips. Layer on two plates for serving.
    3) Make the dressing: Combine lime juice, sugar and vinegar in a small cup/bowl and stir until sugar dissolves. 
    4) When peaches are soft, remove from toaster and carefully slice into "O" shapes. Layer on top of the jicama. Then pour some of dressing on top of salad. Garnish with mint.

    Hope your day's peachy! (Sorry, couldn't help myself.)

    Thursday, June 23, 2011


    Today is my husband, Matt's, birthday. It's a day of celebration, fun, and no work! Together we made...
    whoopie pies!
    Chocolate pies with peanut butter buttercream
    Banana pies with p.b. buttercream

    Matt has been such a source of joy in my life. He encourages me when I'm unencourageable, he's constantly loving, and it's an honor to be his wife. We are not too perfect people, but I cherish our special relationship. Happy Birthday, Matt!

    I hope you have an incredible day, indulge in something with chocolate and peanut butter (Matt's favorite), and count your blessings. :) 

    Recipe coming soon...
     We're off to Austin for a day of random sightseeing, tasty food, antique mall hunting, and a trip to some favorite grocery stores (of course). We'll end it with a night with two of our dearest friends. Ole!

    Tuesday, June 21, 2011

    Pantry Smoothie

    Part of the fun of cooking is finding things around your kitchen and creating a delicious meal with them. It's imagination that has no limits! (okay, you can't add the kitchen sink to a meal...) Here was my liquid breakfast this morning, a collection of simple things in the pantry and fridge.

    Pineapple Orange Smoothie
    1 can pineapple rings or chunks
    1 can of mandarin oranges (or 1 fresh orange)
    1/4 cup shredded coconut
    1 cup plain yogurt
    1 1/2 cups ice cubes

    Drain the cans and add 1 cup of pineapple (5 rings) or fresh pineapple, if you have it, to the blender. Add the oranges or use a fresh orange. Add the coconut, yogurt, and ice cubes. Blend until smooth. Garnish with orange and pineapple slices.

    A note on organic: 

    I don't talk much about organic foods because 1)it's so trendy, 2)it can be so expensive, and 3)we don't get much of a variety of organics at our local grocery stores where I live.
    HOWEVER, if you can, buy organic!

    If for nothing else, you are looking for the most bang for your buck, so a $1.00 giant cookie and a $1.00 organic apple don't compare. Or a $1.00 bag of potato chips and a $1.00 cucumber. You get so many more nutrients from produce in general, compared to packaged and processed foods, so organic produce is a bargain in that sense. Also, the latest studies I've been reading (from journal articles at the library--I know, nerd-o) have shown significant increases in vitamins and nutrients in USDA certified organic produce as compared to the "regular" produce on the shelves. I have not found a study that didn't find many more nutrients in the organic versus the regular.
    So, if you're like me, you don't want to be one of those people in the fiber commercials chomping on apples and carrots all day long...why not eat 3 regular meals with a couple of snacks and get all of your daily needs that way? Okay, that's my two cents. Cha-ching.

    Monday, June 20, 2011

    Shrimp Pasta

    Days off from work are always fun, but being off on Monday is especially great. It's like I'm breaking the rules or something! My mother-in-law, Pat, has all sorts of tricks and helpful tips to making meal planning easier. One is that she usually keeps a frozen fish or crab package (the kind you buy at the grocery store) in the freezer. It's an easy go-to when you need to make dinner but do not want to run to the store to do so. We've started doing this, always keeping a small package of chicken (breasts, tenders, leg quarters, drumettes, whatever) or 1/2 pound shrimp in our freezer. I can't tell you how convenient this has been on so many occasions! (Plus, it lowers grocery bills on tight weeks.)

    Shrimp pasta is one of those meals Matt and I never get sick of, it's pretty inexpensive, and we've never made it the same way twice.
    shrimp pasta
    20 minutes, serves 2-4

    1/2 pound (8 oz) pasta (we used tomato basil)
    3 TB cup olive oil 
    1/2 pound of shrimp, thawed (peeled, rinsed, tails on or off)
    1/3 green pepper, chopped
    1 TB butter/margarine
    2 TB water
    Dash of oregano, basil, salt
    1/3 t. black pepper
    1 t. garlic powder
    2 TB fresh chopped rosemary
    1 TB capers
    1 1/2 cups frozen broccoli, heated in microwave for 4 minutes 

    1 In a large pot, bring water to a boil. Drop in pasta and cook according to package.

    2 In a skillet or wok, pour in olive oil on medium high heat. Drop shrimp in and cook for 3 minutes. Add in green pepper and stir with wooden spoon. Next add in butter, water, and rest of spices and capers. Continue stirring and let cook for a few minutes. Add in broccoli.

    3 Drain pasta and serve shrimp sauce over pasta.

    This a light, flavorful pasta that is a meal by itself. If you have different veggies, throw those in, too.

    Some variations:
    Olive oil
    Lemon juice
    Chicken broth
    White wine

    Handful of spinach leaves
    Bean sprouts
    Snap peas
    Yellow squash
    Red bell pepper
    Green onion
    Green beans

    Matt's birthday is Thursday, and I have some surprises in store that will be shared.

    Happy Monday!

    Saturday, June 18, 2011

    Strawreo Pie

    Matt came up with the word STRAWREO--it's strawberry and oreo together, magic on a plate. We walked into the grocery, picked out a crust (I was too tired to make one), and grabbed a few other ingredients. Here's what happened:

    strawreo pie 
    )aka strawberry speckled savoriness(

    1 oreo pie crust (or graham cracker, if you wish)
    1 3/4  + 1/4 cup skim milk (or dairy free variety)
    1 regular size package of strawberry pudding mix
    10 strawberries, rinsed, tops off
    1/2 cup chocolate chips
    Dash cinnamon

    step one: in a plastic container with a lid, pour 1 3/4 cups milk and pudding mix. Cover and shake for 30 seconds. set aside.

    step two: slice strawberries in half, lengthwise, so they look like little hearts. layer oreo crust with half of strawberries.

    step three: in a small saucepan on medium-high heat, mix together 1/4 cup milk, chocolate chips and cinnamon. keep stirring until completely melted. set aside, off of the burner.

    step four: check on pudding in container. if it's firm, use a spoon and pour into oreo crust.

    step five: then, take the melted chocolate and drizzle on top of the pudding. splatter it, make designs, or whatever you like. layer with the rest of the strawberry halves.

    step six: chill pie in freezer for 45 minutes, then eat, eat, eat.

    There's my ode to my favorite character as a kid...
    Well, it's officially Sunday...pie day! Relax, enjoy, and spend time with your favorite people (and critters)!


    Oh my word, it's been a long time since I've blogged. I spent 4 days in Houston, cleaning out cookbooks galore, incredible books, pictures, and all sorts of things from my beloved grandmother's home. 89 years of life not only means many memories, but she also had so many souvenirs that took my mom and me on the adventures that she experienced through life. Some notables: a couple of classic books from the 1800s, some handwritten family recipes and a REALLY OLD cornbread skillet that I'll use soon. It was fun!

    And I ate, of course, so much...

    Jazz Brunch at Chelsea Grill in Montrose. Ah, challah french toast.

    And coming back home was fun, too.  
    Matt, who usually dislikes yogurt, liked this milkshake!
    Homemade strawberry milkshakes
    *Makes 2 large milkshakes*
    1 1/2 cups lowfat ice cream/yogurt
    1/4 cup plain yogurt
    Splash of skim milk (or almond, soy, coconut)
    1 cup ice cubes
    Dash of cinnamon
    1 cup fresh fruit (Pick 2: 5strawberries, handful blueberries, 1 banana, 1/2 cup melon, 1 peeled/sliced peach)  

    Blend all ingredients, add more ice & plain yogurt until reaching desired thickness.  Sip and smile.

    black bean burrrritos
    Something healthy, filling, easy to reheat for work, and QUICK!

    2 cans black beans, drained and rinse once
    1 can sweet corn
    1 can Rotel tomatoes (I used mild), draining only 1/2 of liquid
    1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
    1 carrot, chopped
    Dash of garlic powder
    Dash of crushed red pepper
    Dash of salt and pepper

    In a large saucepan or wok, combine all ingredients and bring to a boil on high heat. Once boiling, reduce to medium heat and cover.

    Cook for 20 minutes. Stir and serve on tortillas or chips as nachos. Ole!
      Happy Weekend! I'll bring more goodies soon, I promise!

    Friday, June 10, 2011

    Pancakes in a Can???

    Oh, yes. Oh, yes. It's called Batter Blaster, and my mom introduced it to me. Now, if you look at my recipe list, you'll see that I do love pancakes and find deep satisfaction in making them from scratch. HOWEVER, it's a little tricky to get those perfectly fluffy flapjacks with crispy brown edges. Batter Blaster, LLC, a company out of Austin, is making it easier!

    This company doesn't go in the same category as canned cheese or anything unhealthy. Here's why:

    According to Batter Blaster's website:
    2 pancakes= 80 calories, 1 gram of fat, and 5 grams of sugar
    Ingredients include: wheat flour, cane sugar, and other natural ingredients
    It's ORGANIC

    Super easy and delicious. So I have learned...don't knock it 'til you've tried it.

    Okay, we need a (simple) recipe to go with it:

    Berry Easy Syrup
    6 Strawberries, sliced into quarters
    3 TB berry fruit jam
    1/4 cup fruit juice

    step one: In a saucepan on high heat, lightly stir. Heat all ingredients until they start to boil.

    step two: When it boils, lower to medium heat and cover. Cook for 5 minutes. Juice will condense down, berries will soften, and will create a thick compote syrup.