Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Ahi Tuna Lettuce Cups

Summer. Oh how I anxiously await yuor arrival, and then the moment you appear, how I despise you. As an Arizona native, you would think that I have grown accustomed to the 115+ degree summers here. Fun fact, I have not. While I agree to accept it (because let's face it, Arizona rocks), I will never "get used" to burning myself on my seatbelt, not being able to walk outside in my bare feet, or check the mail without blistering my poor fingertips. With being said, I have been finding it rather hard to get inspired in the kitchen, because, well, everything is so damn hot. And not in the deliciously spicy kinda way. I have found some great non-oven, non-grill recipes for the summer, and this is one of them. Lightly seared ahi tuna, just a couple of minutes on the stove, and all fresh, crisp toppings make for a perfect summer meal, complete with a kick-ass wasabi vinaigrette on top. So what are you waiting for? Hike up the a/c and get to cookin'!

Ahi Tuna Lettuce Cups

  • 1 lb. sushi grade ahi tuna
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 10 butter lettuce cups
  • 1 large carrot, cut into matchsticks
  • 1/2 cucumber, halved then sliced
  • 1 avocado, pitted and thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup shelled edamame
  • 1 green onion, sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped cashews
Wasabi Vinaigrette:
  • 1 tsp. wasabi paste
  • 1 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tbsp. oil

In a medium bowl, whisk together the vinaigrette ingredients and place in the fridge until the lettuce cups are ready to be served.

Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high. Rub the other tbsp. of oil on both of the sides of the tuna, then season with salt and pepper. Press the sesame seeds firmly onto both sides of the tuna. Sear the tuna on one side for 2 minutes before flipping to the other side for another 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to rest for a couple of minutes before slicing.

To prepare the cups, place some sliced carrots, cucumber, and avocado into each lettuce leaf. Top with a slice of tuna, some edamame, green onion sliced, and chopped cashews. Serve with the wasabi vinaigrette. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

Homemade Dog Biscuits

If there's anything in this world that can get my 11-month old puppy to stop chasing his tail rambunctiously all over the house, or sit for an extended period of time while I have a slobber-free conversion with my husband, it's peanut butter. Usually it's a cone full of that super-magical spread, but after going through tub after tub, I decided to mix it up and was inspired to make our own homemade dog treats. With peanut butter. Duh.

But seriously, Oliver went NUTS (no pun intended) for these treats. Plus, how cute is that classic dog-treat shaped cookie cutter? 

Homemade Dog Biscuits

  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1 tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 8 oz. chicken stock
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • heaping 1/3 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup smooth organic peanut butter

In a small bowl, whisk together 2 eggs, oil, and honey. 

In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together the flours and cornmeal. With the mixer on low, slowly pour in the egg mixture until smooth. Then add in the peanut butter and combine until smooth. 

Roll out the dough into a 1/2-inch disk, and use a bone-shaped cookie cutter to make as many biscuits as you can. Ball up and re-roll out the dough as you need.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Whisk the final egg in a small bowl. Brush the biscuits with the egg and let them stand for 10 minutes before baking (allows them to crisp up).

Place the biscuits on a baking sheet liked with parchment paper or silicon baking sheet. Cook for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before removing from the baking sheet and placing into a container. 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Easy Shrimp & Sausage Paella

With Father's Day coming up, I have decided that this dish is my father as a dinner entree. He's totally the guy that grabs every thing out of the fridge and makes something (usually) wonderful out of it. I can't say that his peanut-butter-turkey-pickle-mustard sandwich was on my top faves, but he can make a mean skillet! So here's to you Cowboy Dave, you kitchen rebel, you!

As a first-time paella maker, I've got to say that this is such a fun and easy dish to whip up for dinner. Not to mention all of the colors! I'm not always a huge rice fan (I''m more of a mashed potatoes girl myself), but the rice mixed in with all of the spicy flavors and textures going on in this paella is a definite winner. I used some mango jalapeno chicken sausages in this version, but feel free to use chorizo, or any sausage really. Mixing it up is half of the fun! Plus, you can make this serve just enough for 2 people, or triple the batch to feed a whole crew. Feel free to omit the hot sauce to make it kid-friendly, but I honestly think the hotter the better!

Easy Shrimp & Sausage Paella

  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1 14-oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 tbsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. hot sauce
  • 2 chorizo sausages, sliced
  • 1 lb. peeled and deveined shrimp
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 tbsp. green onions, sliced
In a large saute pan or cast iron skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add in the onion and garlic and saute until softened and fragrant, about 5-7 minutes. Add in the butter and allow to melt slightly before adding in the paprika and the rice. 

Toss the rice in the onion mixture to coat, then add in the hot sauce, tomatoes, and broth. Bring to a slight boil and cook , stirring occasionally until the rice has softened and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 15 minutes.

Now toss in the sliced sausages, the raw shrimp, and the frozen peas. Allow the shrimp to cook and turn pink and the peas to heat up before topping with green onions and serving hot in shallow bowls.  

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Greek Spinach and Feta Turkey Meatloaf

If you asked my parents what dinner I hate the most, they would tell you that it's a tie between pork chops and meatloaf. True story. I hate them both with a vengeance. And while there honestly is no hope for the ole pork slab, I have recently been trying to come around to the idea of meatloaf. I mean, I like meatballs. I like hamburgers. So why not meatloaf? Plus, 99% of humanity loves meatloaf, so I figured I would try and fit in for once. I recently made this for dinner at a friends house, and served up with green beans, and salad, it was the perfect meal. And secretly healthy! That's what I love about the 21st century (don't worry, I just had to ask my husband what century we are's been a long day), is that we can make healthy food that doesn't have to taste like rabbit food. Whole ingredients when seasoned and cooked right can taste just as good as grabbing that double double with animal fries...okay almost as good!

Greek Spinach and Feta Turkey Meatloaf

  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups freshly chopped spinach
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • 1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. dried parsley
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomato ketchup for topping

Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute the onion and garlic until softened, about 8 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and add in the tomato paste and spinach, stir to mix and allow the spinach to wilt slightly. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

In a large mixing bowl add in the turkey, egg, bread crumbs, cheese, oregano, parsley, thyme, salt, pepper, and Worcestershire together. Mix lightly with your hands, then add in the sautéed veggies. Mix to combine, then pour into a loaf pan sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Top with ketchup.

Bake for 50-55 minutes until cooked through. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before slicing and serving. 

Thank you Traina Foods for providing me with the perfect Sun-Dried Tomato Ketchup!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Traditional Baklava

Baklava always seemed like some elusive dessert that you had to be full authentic Greek to understand or be able to make successfully. I was recently asked to be a part of an outstanding styled wedding photo shoot, that was coincidentally Santorini-themed. Think of the most beautiful blue hues with pops of fuchsia, replicating vines filled with bougainvillea and fresh fruit as far as the eye can see. I thought to myself, this is my chance to show that a Costa-Rican self-taught home cook can make something with years of tradition and love behind it. I could not have been happier with the end result. Both photogenic and delicious to boot! Plus I have some incredible professional photos to swoon over and share with you all! Thanks to all of the vendors who let me be a part of something so unique and special!

Traditional Baklava


  • 24 sheets phyllo dough
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 6 oz. chopped pistachios
  • 6 oz. chopped walnuts
  • 6 oz. hazelnuts
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  •  1/4 tsp. ground cloves
Honey Syrup:
  • 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice

Heat the sugar, honey, and lemon juice over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes until the mixture thickens. Remove form the heat and allow to cool completely.

In a large bowl, mix together the nuts, cinnamon, sugar, and cloves. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 

Spray a 12x9-inch baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray and press the first layer of phyllo dough down firmly. Brush with melted butter and layer the next sheet of phyllo. Repeat until you have 8 layers of phyllo. Spread 1/2 of the nut mixture then repeat with another 7 layers of phyllo dough and butter. 

Top with the remaining half of the buts and then another 8 layers of phyllo dough and butter. Use a sharp knife to cut 6 lengthwise cuts, just through the top layer of phyllo dough. Cut another row of diagonal cuts to make diamond shapes. 

Bake for 20 minuted then lower heat to 300 degrees F and bake for another 15 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the heat and carefully cut all the way through your markings that you made before you baked it.

Pour the cooled honey syrup over the hot baklava and allow it soak and cool completely. Cover and store covered for up to a week.

See the entire shoot here and the amazing vendors who helped pull it all together!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Lasagna Bolognese with Spinach Ricotta

Wife brag moment. Every time that my Andrew and I travel somewhere, when he says he's going to go to the airport restroom or grab a bottle of water before the flight, he ends up coming back with food magazines for yours truly. Actually, as I type this, I think he's actually buying them for himself, because whatever I make, he gets to imbibe on. Sneaky man....I think I'll still keep him. One of his recent purchases was a compilation of "best of" recipes, and this lasagna recipe is based on one of their "best ofs". Who doesn't love lasagna? A compilation of bolognese and creamy ricotta cheese, what's not to love? 

Lasagna Bolognese with Spinach Ricotta

  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 oz. chopped bacon
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 celery rib, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 lb. ground beef (80/20)
  • 1 1/2 cup dry white wine (or vegetable broth)
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 cup organic tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 tsp. thyme leaves
Spinach Ricotta:
  • 2 15-oz. containers ricotta cheese
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 4 organic eggs
  • 16 oz. frozen spinach leaves, thawed and chopped
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • lasagna noodles
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese for topping
In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add in the bacon, onion, carrot, celery, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Saute for 10-12 minutes until softened and fragrant, stirring occasionally. 

Add in the ground beef and cook, breaking the meat up with a sturdy spoon, until no pink remains, about 6-10 minutes. Pour in the wine (or broth if using), milk, tomato paste, and thyme. Stir until combined, bring to a simmer and cook until most of the liquid has been cooked down, about an hour.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the ricotta, milk, and eggs. Mix in the spinach, parmesan, salt, and pepper. Reserve 1 1/2 cups in a separate bowl for the top layer.

If using dried noodles, cook until al dente and just pliable. If using no-bake sheets, just soak in warm water for 3-5 minutes until slightly softened. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Pour a little more than 1 cup of the bolognese sauce on the bottom of the pan and spread out evenly. Lay down 2 sheets or 3 lasagna strip noodles on top. Spread 1/2 of the main spinach mixture, then 1 cup bolognese sauce, and top with 1 tbsp. shredded parmesan cheese. Repeat with  another layer of lasagna noodles, spinach, bolognese, parmesan. Top with the remaining bolognese sauce, 1 tbsp. parmesan, and the last noodles.

Spread the reserved 1 1/2 cups spinach ricotta mixture on top and then sprinkle 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese. Cover loosely with foil sprayed with non-stick cooking spray and bake until warmed through, 45 minutes-1 hour. Remove foil and bake another 15 minutes if you want those crispy edges.

Allow it to cool for 20 minutes before slicing and serving.

Recipe originated from Epicurious

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Cacio e Pepe

What if I told you that with only 3 ingredients you could have a a traditional Roman dish on the table? Cacio e Pepe, literally translates to "cheese and pepper". Add some pasta noodles and the hot cooking water and you've got a sinful pasta dish in under 15 minutes. The entire time that we were in Italy on our honeymoon, I was determined to find the best Cacio e Pepe, ordering it anytime I found it on a menu. After kissing a few frogs and finding a winner so to speak, I knew that I had to be able to recreate it back home. The next best thing to flying back to Italy to order it...though I am still trying to pressure my husband to go back!

I found that the secret to depth of flavor in this dish is to toast your whole peppercorns before grinding them. Also, the very best quality Pecorino Romano or Parmesano Reggiano that you can find. When you only have a couple of ingredients, quality is key because you can taste each one very distinctly. So now is the time to splurge!

Cacio e Pepe

Ingredients :
  • 1 lb. Spaghetti noodles
  • 1 1/2 cups freshly grated pecorino or parmesan cheese 
  • 4 tbsp. Whole black peppercorns 
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the noodles according to the package directions. 

Meanwhile, toast the peppercorns in a saute pan just until fragrant, careful not burn them. Remove from the heat and grind them in a spice grinder. 

Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water and drain the noodles, but do not shake off the excess water. Place the noodles into a mixing bowl and toss with 1/2 cup of the water and 1 cup of the cheese. Add more water as needed if the noodles appear too dry.

Plate into shallow bowls and top with the ground black pepper and top with the remaining cheese. Serve immediately. 


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