Garlic basil butter…

At the beginning of the year I was super excited to start this blog and between then and today I’ve only had 15 entries. I have clearly cooked a great deal more than that, as evidenced on Instagram. For 2015 I will attempt to post at least two recipes a month as well as try to expand to gain more attention. Maybe this can become a hobby I enjoy?!! That shouldn’t be that difficult, right?

My last recipe for the year…garlic basil butter. Super easy and a good way to add some flavor to recipes.

1/2 cup of butter (one stick)
1 teaspoon of minced garlic
1/4 – 1/2 cup of fresh chopped basil (more or less depending on taste)


In a small bowl combine butter, garlic and basil.


Continue to mix until fully mixed together and you’re done!



Beef Wellington…the random kitchen fridge edition!

Like any blog that I’ve started in the past, months pass because I either am enjoying life or I don’t have time or I’m simply LAZY. Well, trying to get back on track with cooking (aka saving money) and just spreading my love of food once again. Here is a recipe from months ago that I didn’t get a chance to post:

Another sign of a Hell’s Kitchen obsession is wanting to make Beef Wellington. Along with the scallops, this is another meal that Gordon throws back at contestants! This recipe is very different than what might be a normal wellington as I did not include the pate part and added turkey bacon.

1/2 pound of beef tenderloin
1/2 cup of white onion
1/4 cup of scallions/green onions
1 cup of chopped mushrooms
1 tablespoon of minced garlic
4 tablespoons of butter
4-6 sheets of puff pastry or phyllo dough (puff is better but I only had phyllo)
3 slices of cooked turkey bacon
1 cup of cooked spinach
1/2 cup of sliced yellow bell pepper
1 egg yolk beaten
Salt and pepper to taste

In a frying/sauce pan melt two tablespoons of butter and saute white onions and scallions. Add mushrooms and garlic. This will basically replace a pate and mushroom mixture some might use.


Place mixture in a bowl for later use. In same pan, add another tablespoon of butter and heat the pan. Place tenderloin in pan, season with salt and pepper, and sear all sides roughly 2 – 3 minutes each side. Remove from pan. Wrap meat in turkey bacon. Most recipes call for prosciutto or a fancier meat but all I had in the house was turkey bacon. Spread out phyllo dough and place meat on top of dough.


Place on top of meat the earlier mushroom/onion mixture. Add bell peppers and cooked spinach. Wrap phyllo dough around and utilize the beaten egg to brush over the phyllo dough. Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes then reduce down to 425 degrees for another 15 minutes until pastry is golden brown.


The final product should be meat that is medium rare and looks something like this…


For the first time attempting beef wellington, this turned out pretty okay. Probably not as great as Gordon’s but tasty!

Seared Scallops with White Beans and Spinach

Over the years I have become slightly obsessed with scallops. I think it comes from watching Hells Kitchen and hearing Gordon Ramsay yell at chefs as they overcooked their scallops into rubbery messes. It then became one of my goals to properly cook them and have them hold up to the Gordon Ramsay test! Below is a recipe I saw on Pinterest with a couple of Nekesa changes. Recently I’ve had an interest in experimenting with beans so this was a tasty way to combine my love for scallops and some experimentation.

1 strip of cooked turkey bacon, chopped into small pieces (baked in the oven or fried on stove)
1/4 cup of chopped onions or shallots
1 teaspoon of garlic, minced
1/2 can of white beans (cannellini preferred)
1-2 cups of spinach
3 large sea scallops
Salt and black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons of butter

Serving for 1

Heat a small to medium pan over low heat. Add 1 tablespoon of butter along with the garlic and onions/shallots. Saute until the onion is soft and translucent which should be about 3 – 5 minutes. Add the white beans with some of the juices to the pan. Some people suggest rinsing and draining the beans because they contain lots of sodium and possibly unpleasant bi-products. However, I like the extra flavor and I don’t add too much of the juices. Therefore don’t need to add additional salt to the mixture. Add spinach, turkey bacon, and a little bit of water if necessary to help in the wilting of the spinach. Stir and let simmer for 6 – 9 minutes.


Now it’s time for the scallops! Quickly rinse scallops and put in between paper towel or a kitchen towel to absorb excess liquid. Scallops need to be as dry as possible to sear properly. Lightly season with pepper and a very small amount of salt. I say a very small amount because the bean mixture will be flavored enough with sodium that you do not need to add extra.

In a separate pan, heat the pan until it’s nice and hot. I typically put a couple drops of water in the pan and once that’s fully evaporated, I have a better understanding of how hot it is. Add two tablespoons of butter and let melt fully until it has mostly stopped bubbling. Swirl butter throughout the entire pan to coat. Add scallops searing on one side for about 3-4 minutes. Flip to the other side and swirl the pan spread around the butter and sear for another 3-4 minutes.


Once scallops are properly seared (a nice golden brown buttery color), remove scallops from heat. Plate bean mixture and add scallops on top. Done and done!


Pesto pasta with shrimp and brussels sprouts…

Brussels sprouts are one of my favorite winter vegetables. Did you know that they grow on stalks? While hated by many, they provide a great alternative to your typical “greens”. Some prepare them the same way they would cabbage while some make them into slaw or a tasty salad. Some roast them while some simply steam them (my least favorite way of eating them). I’ve already posted a recipe where I made them into a soup but recently I chopped them up and mixed them into a tasty stir fry!

1 cup of sliced white or vidalia onions
1 cup of sliced mushrooms
1 tablespoon of minced garlic
1/2 pound of brussels sprouts chopped into quarters
1/2 cup of prepared pesto (you can always make your own!)
1 pound of unpeeled and tail off shrimp
2 tablespoons of olive oil several sprays of olive oil
2 and 1/2 cups of uncooked whole wheat pasta (penne or rotini preferred – I used both)
1/4 cup of water
Salt and cayenne pepper to taste

When making a stir-fry concoction the two things I need are a wok and a long wooden spoon. I admit that I am addicted to kitchen appliances. I can’t go to Target or Costco without walking down the appliance aisles and buying something I probably don’t need (egg poacher anyone?!). The first time I went to TJ Maxx, I was in heaven! Anyways, the wok just cooks the meal a bit more evenly.

In a pot, boil water (with a little salt) and cook pasta until al dente. Drain and set aside. In the wok, heat olive oil and minced garlic. Add onions and brussels sprouts. Saute until onions and sprouts are tender. Add mushrooms and continue to saute.

Add pesto and water and mix together. Allow mixture to simmer.

Chop up uncooked shrimp. Add into mixture and toss until shrimp is almost thoroughly cooked. Add cooked pasta and continue to toss/simmer. Should make 3-4 servings.

Want to know more about brussels sprouts? 11 things you don’t know about brussels sprouts:!slide=1

Baked Brown Rice…

I can cook a lot of  things but one thing I have a hard time making is rice. I’ve tried MANY times cooking it on the stove but it’s either burnt or watery. It got so bad that I resigned to buying microwaveable rice packets from Trader Joes or Costco. One day while checking out one of my Facebook groups, someome mentioned cooking it in the oven. What now?! Who cooks rice in the oven? I followed their lead and discovered the easiest and best way to cook rice. I will never buy a microwaveable packet again! Brown rice made EASY…

1.5 cups of brown rice
2.5 cups of water
1 tablespoon of butter
1 teaspoon of salt
Other seasonings to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place the rice into an 8-inch square glass baking dish. Bring the water, butter, and salt just to a boil in a covered saucepan. Once the water boils, pour it over the rice, stir to combine, and cover the dish tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 45 minutes. Check to make sure it’s almost done and not burned. Bake for 15 more minutes. After 1 hour total, remove cover and fluff the rice with a fork.



I must say that this was probably the best rice I’ve ever made. Rice can be used for a weeks worth of recipes! I made several tofu and shrimp stir fry meals!


Roasted Sweet Pepper Soup…

At the end of December one of the local grocery stores in Chicago closed down. Along with the masses I purchased items, many that I didn’t really need, but some that I wanted to experiment with. I bought a bag of sweet peppers and while I thought I could use them for stir fry meals, there were too many of them and I was leaving in a couple of days for vacation. What do you do with food that you don’t want to go bad before going on vacation? You make soup! After searching Pinterest and making several tweaks I came up with the below recipe.

1 small onion
2 pounds of mixed sweet peppers
2-3 tablespoons of minced garlic
2 tablespoons of flour
2-3 cups of vegetable stock
1 cup of light coconut milk
olive oil spray
salt and pepper to taste

Place whole peppers on a baking sheet, spray with olive oil spray, and bake for 20-25 minutes.  Allow the skins to blacken before turning them to blacken the other side. Remove the pan from the oven and allow to sit for 15-20 minutes, or until peppers are completely cool. Coarsely chop the peppers and set aside. Dispose of tops but keep everything else. Some recipes suggest getting rid of the pepper bits, the blackened bits and membranes but I think that adds an extra kick to the soup.

IMG_2837               IMG_2838

Spray olive oil spray in a medium sauce pan over medium low heat, then add the onion and garlic and saute until transparent. Add the roasted peppers and stir to combine. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and toss lightly, cooking for 2 minutes, but avoid browning. Stir in the vegetable stock and raise the heat to allow the mixture to come to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and allow to simmer for 20 minutes. Turn off heat and let cool for 20-30 minutes. In a food processor, blender, or with an immersion blender, carefully puree the warm mixture until smooth. Return to the sauce pan, stir in the light coconut milk, and allow to gently reheat. Most recipes call for milk, cream, and some even yogurt. I always replace with light coconut milk as it does exactly what cream needs to do but has a lot less calories and a different flavor. It could also be my Caribbean roots! Season with salt, cayenne pepper and any other seasonings to taste.

If you want to add an additional flavor, you can also grill a couple of shrimp, chop up, and add as a garnish!


Scallop tacos

I love scallops and I love tacos so combining them is a very tasty dinner! These tacos were a mix of leftovers that I had in the fridge that I needed to get rid of. Normally I would use light mexican cheese but I had some gruyere leftover from buying too much for a mac and cheese dish. When making tacos, I only use corn tortillas. They have a lot less calories, more fiber, less sodium, and are healthier for you in general ( Plus, I get the below corn tortillas from my local grocery store for $.38 for 12! That’s about 3 cents a tortilla. Can’t beat that!

3 scallops
3 corn tacos
1/2 cup mashed sweet potatoes (already baked and then just mashed – nothing added)
1 cup of kale
1/2 cup black beans
2-3 ounces of gruyere cheese
1 tablespoon of earth balance butter (for scallops)
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Olive oil spray

Prep scallops by completely drying them using paper towels or kitchen cloth. In order to get a nice sear on a scallop, they must be relatively dry before putting in the pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper on each side. Using a small frying pan, heat pan until hot. Add butter and spread throughout the pan. Cook scallops until brown on each side for roughly 3 minutes on each side. Regularly swirl pan so that butter moves around and helps in searing the scallops. Take out of pan and let rest. Take 3 corn tortillas and spray each side with olive oil spray. Place on baking sheet in oven at 350 degrees to heat up. After about 5 minutes, flip tortilla, add gruyere cheese, black beans, and kale to each tortilla and let bake for another five minutes. Heat mashed sweet potatoes if not already heated. Take tortillas out of the oven, add a scallop to each tortilla, place a spoonful of sweet potatoes, and serve. If you want, you can add additional salt and pepper to taste.

The good thing about a taco is that you can really put whatever you want on it! A great easy meal for leftovers!

Biscuits and gravy made with soy sausage

I do love cooking but I’m not really a fan of baking. Mostly because you have to be pretty precise when baking from scratch and the thing I love about cooking is the fact that you can be spontaneous with what you come up with. Hence why the below recipe is made with Pillsbury biscuits or whatever easy bake biscuits you want to make. I also try to minimize the amount of meat I consume (mostly only fish) and so these are made with soy sausage. If you must have pork sausage, you can as well but I would recommend browning the sausage first, removing from pan, and then sauteing onions and mushrooms in the grease hence not needing the tablespoon of earth balance butter. This is a great brunch meal!

Below is a recipe for 2 servings.

1/2 package Gimme Lean sausage (soy sausage)
Pillsbury Buttermilk biscuits
1/2 cup soy milk
1 tablespoon of earth balance butter
1/4 cup of chopped onions
1/2 cup of chopped mushrooms
1 teaspoon cornstarch for thickening (flour can also be used)
Pepper to taste
Salt to taste

Bake Pillsubury biscuits or whatever biscuits according to package. In this case, for 2 servings, make 4-6 biscuits. In a small frying pan melt butter and saute onions until tender. Add mushrooms. Crumble gimme lean sausages and saute with onions. After browned, add soy milk. Sprinkle cornstarch or flour to thicken sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste. Portion out biscuits for two servings and pour sausage gravy over biscuits.

Spinach ice cubes…

This isn’t exactly a recipe but I came up with this after buying way too much spinach one week (thanks Costco!) and not wanting to waste it. I also saw a similar post on Pinterest for freezing smoothie ingredients. Simply blend with water and put in an ice cube tray. Instant ice and spinach for morning smoothies!

Stuffed shells made with tofu and soy mozzarella

When I first made these I thought they were vegan but turns out the soy mozzarella is not vegan. It still has casein in it which is an animal bi-product. Either way, you don’t have to be vegan to enjoy this twist on stuffed shells. It’s got a lot less calories then full fat mozzarella and ricotta shells and the taste is amazing! So for that brief nine month period that I attempted to eat vegan, I was super proud of this creation!

16 – 20 jumbo shells
1 packet of Trader Joe’s soy mozzarella
1 packet of firm tofu
1/2 cup chopped onions
1 cup of chopped green peppers
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 jar of spaghetti sauce
Fresh basil to garnish

Boil a pot of water. Add jumbo shells for 8-10 minutes until cooked al dente. Drain and set aside. Chop up soy mozzarella into smaller pieces and place in food processor with firm tofu. Add the water from the tofu container. Process in the food processor. If necessary, add additional water. Add onions and green bell peppers and process until all mixed together. Mixture should have a similar consistency to ricotta. Add garlic powder, pepper, and salt to taste. Find baking dish big enough for all shells. Coat with a layer of spaghetti sauce. Stuff each shell with the tofu/soy mozzarella mixture (about a teaspoon’s worth) and place on layer of sauce. Repeat until all are stuffed. Any leftover mixture can be frozen or you can make more shells. Coat shells with a layer of sauce or as much as you like. Bake in oven for 40-45 minutes. Serve and garnish with fresh basil.