Sunday, March 31, 2013

Carrot Coconut Cupcakes... HAPPY EASTER!

Carrots, coconut, walnuts.  A teeny bit of orange juice, and a whopping bit of fresh cream cheese frosting...

... here are some cupcakes that every Easter Bunny, big or small, can enjoy this year :)

Whether you are hunting for eggs or singing in the choir at church, I hope today is a very special one for you.  Happy Easter!

Recipe from Everyday Food, May/June 2003


  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded carrots
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut, plus more for garnish 
  • 8 ounces bar cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a standard 12-cup muffin tin or line with paper liners. In a bowl, combine sugar, vegetable oil, orange juice, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, and eggs.
  2. Stir in baking powder, baking soda, allspice, and salt. Add flour; mix. Stir in carrots, walnuts, and coconut.
  3. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Bake until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean, 25 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting.
  4. Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, confectioners' sugar, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. Whisk until smooth.
  5. Frost cupcakes, and garnish with shredded coconut.

    COST: $5.72        COST PER CUPCAKE (12): $0.48

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Farmer's Market Finds

Seven dollars.

One bunch of kale, purple spring onions, a mix-and-match bag of tomatoes, three little red potatoes, a bunch of large carrots, two onions, and a lemon...

Take that, Safeway.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Wednesday Files (Spring Break)

Brother and I, being the rebel children that we are...

"Ice cream for breakfast while still in jammies at 9:30. Because it's Spring Break and I can."

That's was my FB status this morning.  And it was the truth.  

Now, if you know me, you know this is an unexpected, big deal.  Heading into Spring Break I had co-workers asking, "Where are you off to this time?"  Because usually during these two weeks (yes, two weeks, I KNOW!) we jet off to Brazil or Mexico, or SOMEWHERE.  But this time I had a different answer: "My couch.  And it will be glorious."

So far, it has been.

Now, don't get me wrong. I have actually spent very little time on my couch.  That would be pretty difficult for me to do.  I get bored way too easily.  I am a doer.  In fact, except for 30 mins of DWTS and another 30 of The Voice, I have not watched a single movie or TV show.  But I will... it is on my to-do list.

Last year Spring Break found me roaming the beaches in Ubatuba, walking down the famous squiggly-lined sidewalk of Copacabana, eating pastel and drinking suco de cana.  This year it finds me with my loved ones on an empty dock over looking an equally empty lake, feet in the water.  Browsing the aisles of Hobby Lobby for my next project.  Cooking up things I have never tried before.

As my cousin commented on the status above, "Well played."  Thank you, kind Sir.  I totally agree.


How are you spending (or would you spend if you don't have it) Spring Break this year?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Risk-Taking and Crispy Goat Cheese Salad

Goat cheese.  It's one of those things that I am pretty sure I said at one point, "Bleh.  No thank you!"  Other things that were on that list?  Beets (because they smelled like the earth), dancing (because the rhythm gene was apparently absent upon my conception), and dating a Brazilian boy (because I had no desire to have some Rico Suave sweep me off of my feet just to break my heart a few days later).

Good thing we are willing to take risks, right?

I now love goat cheese and beets, dancing is one of my favorite things (rhythm or no), and that Brazilian boy?  I married him.

Take risks, Friends!  They pay off, trust me.

And if for some reason they don't, well, at least you tried.

So, if you love goat cheese, this salad is for you.  And if you don't, this one's for you.

Recipe from Everyday Food, March/April 2003


  • 1/2 cup olive oil, plus more for baking sheet
  • 3 large red potatoes (about 1 pound)
  • 1 large egg
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups plain breadcrumbs (I used Italian)
  • 1 twelve-ounce log fresh goat cheese
  • 1 tablespoon white-wine vinegar (I used rice vinegar)
  • 1 tablespoon grainy or Dijon mustard (I used regular mustard)
  • 8 ounces mesclun or mixed salad greens


  1. Heat the broiler. Brush a baking sheet with oil; set aside. Place potatoes in a medium saucepan, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil. Simmer until fork-tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Rinse potatoes under cold water until cool enough to handle, and cut into 1-inch chunks.
  2. In a shallow bowl, whisk egg with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Place breadcrumbs in another shallow bowl. Slice goat cheese into 8 rounds, and pat each into a disc about 1/2 inch thick. Dip disks in the egg and then in the breadcrumbs, coating evenly. Place on prepared baking sheet.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together vinegar, mustard, and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Slowly add 1/4 cup oil, whisking to emulsify. Set aside.
  4. Brush disks lightly with remaining 1/4 cup oil, and broil until golden and crisp, about 5 minutes.
  5. Toss mesclun and potatoes in the dressing. Spoon salads onto plates, and top each with two cheese disks.

    COST: $5.59   COST PER SERVING (4): $1.40

Monday, March 25, 2013

Spinach & Feta Phyllo Roll

Phyllo Dough: must be Greek for 'ingredient from Hell'

Seriously.  After tearing my tenth sheet of it and having it crumble under my fingers, I just about cried.  Cooking was supposed to be fun, and this was anything but.  Stupid phyllo dough.

I wasn't even supposed to have it to begin with.  I accidentally grabbed the box for it out of the freezer section while trying to get puff pastry.  They were side by side, and somehow I didn't even notice that I had the wrong one. But instead of taking it back I decided to do something with it.  With a little help from Google and Martha, I knew what I wanted to do.

If only I knew how tricky it was!

Sheet after sheet broke in my fingertips.  I used the damp towel, I thawed according to instructions... but I could not get the hang of it.  So I did what we all do these days: I whined and complained on Facebook.

And because of that whining and complaining I now have a date with a Greek grandma who knows her phyllo business!

Besides, when it was all said and done, the tears I almost shed out of frustration were for naught.  I thought I was going to have a botched recipe, but this dough had other plans and two delicious spinach & feta rolls emerged.

I guess we could say the ingredient from Hell yielded a dish from Heaven... Hallelujah!

** I have heard that it isn't always this hard, so please do not avoid using it because of me.  I know I have not made a strong case for using Phyllo dough, but the end result is more than worth any frustration to be had!


Recipe straight from EverydayFood, June 2009


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 packages (20 ounces each) baby spinach
  • 1 cup crumbled feta (4 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins, chopped
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 20 sheets frozen phyllo dough (from an 8-ounce package), thawed and cut to 8 by 12 inches


  1. In a medium pan, heat oil over medium-high. Add onion and cook until golden, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Transfer to a large bowl.
  2. Return pan to heat. Working in batches, cook spinach, tossing, until wilted, about 1 minute. Drain spinach and let cool. Press out excess moisture, then roughly chop. Add spinach, feta, and raisins to bowl with onion and season filling with salt and pepper. (To store, refrigerate, up to 2 days.)
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Unroll phyllo. Place 1 sheet on a work surface (keep remaining sheets covered with a damp kitchen towel to prevent drying); brush with oil. Lay another sheet on top and brush with oil. Repeat until you have 10 layers of phyllo. Spread half of filling lengthwise down middle of phyllo stack. Roll into a log, brushing the seam with oil before sealing. Brush log with oil. Using a small sharp knife, make 8 diagonal cuts on top. Repeat with remaining phyllo and filling.
  4. Place logs, seam side down, on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake until deep golden brown, 45 to 50 minutes. Cut into slices along slashes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Cook's Note

When you unroll your phyllo, check to see if the stack measures 8 by 12 inches. If not, cut the phyllo to size. If serving the pie as a main course, double the recipe.

COST: $7.30  
COST PER SERVING (16 little pieces):$0.46
COST PER SERVING (4 large pieces): $1.83 

Friday, March 22, 2013

The US Presidents and Rainbow Chard Rigatoni

I have been living and breathing information about the US Presidents these past few weeks.  Learning them in order; finding out who their Veep was and who else was on their cabinet; discovering what made them great -- or not so great -- leaders of our country; reading interesting tidbits about their personal lives.

FYI, John Quincy Adams liked to swim the Potomac daily -- in the nude.

Why do I have such a hobby as learning about the presidents, you ask?  It all boils down to a Social Studies Fair and 25 students who wanted to be presidents for the evening.  Maybe for life.

It's hard work transforming third graders into presidents -- research and reading and poetry writing along with 'interviews' they must transcribe... painting 'self' portraits as well as writing and memorizing speeches... coming up with a stellar costume. But they did the work and last night it paid off.  The Hall of Presidents was open and the public (parents and friends) enjoyed.

And now Teacher is going to crash...

But first I need to share a little bit about this rainbow chard you see here.

I hate the stuff.

Ok, ok, I don't hate it.  I used to.  A lot.  Something to do with it being the only vegetable that continually grew in our little garden growing up, making it and its super sandy texture a common occurrence on our dining table.

'Common'?  Maybe an understatement.

So when I went to Farmer's Market last week and my friend said, "Oh, you really need try this!" and I saw the nice price of one buck, I had to give it another try.


Well, maybe that sandy texture I remember wasn't as bad as my memory claimed it to be.  The taste?  Not that bad... according to my husband it was actually quite good.  In fact, he would like me to repeat this dish. Soon.  So, I guess chard isn't all that bad.  This dish isn't, that's for sure.

I guess I can't say I hate chard all that much anymore... and I can definitely say I might know more about the US presidents than the average American ;)

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Living, June 2006


  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound rigatoni, or other tubular pasta
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 small white onion, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 pounds Rainbow chard, leaves cut into 1/2-inch strips and stems cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest (about 2 lemons)
  • 1/2 cup white cooking wine 
  • 1/3 cup fresh ricotta cheese
  • 1/3 cup (about 1 1/2 ounces) almonds, toasted
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for sprinkling


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons salt and the pasta; cook 3 minutes less than package indicates. Drain.
  2. Heat butter and oil in a large pot over medium heat about 1 minute. Add garlic and onions; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in chard, lemon zest, wine, 1 teaspoon salt; season with pepper. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until chard has just wilted, 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Stir in pasta, ricotta, and almonds. Cook, stirring occasionally, until pasta is al dente, 3 to 4 minutes. Divide among 4 serving dishes. Serve sprinkled with Parmesan.

    COST: $6.27    COST PER SERVING (4): $1.57

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Wednesday Files

I cannot believe it is Wednesday already.  By the amount of posts (1) and the type of food (easy) that I shared, you can guess how things have been going...

A few thoughts/tidbits for your Wednesday:

1. Spring is here!  Not that I, living in California, have any right to complain, I know... but still!  SPRING IS HERE!

2. Speaking of being Californian, I would like to prove to you that we have snow.  We do!  Sure, we drive to it and then leave it behind, but snow can be found in many places in this great state.  Proof:

(Have I ever mentioned how difficult it is to take a normal picture with my husband? He is the king of goofing off, especially when the camera comes out.)

3. Yosemite.  It's my favorite place to see said snow.

4. In totally un-snow-related news, I tricked all of my students into eating a large, healthy salad.  How?  I taught them how to make salad dressing for a Science experiment.  Then they needed the greens to enjoy it.  Sneaky sneaky teacher ;)  (And guess what?  Most kids like it.  Who says kids won't eat their veggies?)

5. Girl Scout Cookies.  I don't think they will ever go out of style.

Help add to the list by sharing a random tidbit that is floating through YOUR mind this Wednesday :)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Easy BBQ-Style Chicken {Quick Fix}

(I placed my chicken on top of a bed of fresh spring greens coated in a Greek yogurt/lemon juice/minced garlic/dab of honey dressing.  You can pair it with anything you like.  It's versatile like that.)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The OTHER Expats

Guest posting today at Rachel in Rio's blog!  Talking expats and the many flavors they come in.  FYI -- my husband is the 'balanced' kind, which means he is practically perfect in every way ;)

Happy Wednesday, Friends!


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Garlic+Cilantro+Gouda Biscuits

Got up, went to work, felt icky, took my temperature, turned around, and headed back home.

TV, books, blankets, tissue, naps... all of those sound good but don't let it fool you.  Sick days suck.

Except when you have the stupidly brilliant (or maybe just stupid) plan to make biscuits because driving one mile to the store to buy bread just sounds like too much work.  And for some reason I forgot that making biscuits is not whipping up brownie mix...

I took Joy the Baker's jalapeno, cheddar, and chive recipe and looked in the fridge.  No cheddar, but I had Gouda.  No chives but I had cilantro.  And no jalapenos, but garlic might just give enough kick, right?


Worn out, tired, messy, achy, cranky, and temperature warming up... dropped on the couch with a plate of these in my hands.

Totally worth it.

Sick days suck. But these biscuits more than made up for that.

Recipe adapted from Joy the Baker

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 4½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup of milk + 1 teaspoon of white vinegar mixed to make buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup cilantro, chopped small
  • ½ cup Gouda, cubed
  • 1 1/2 stick unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes
  • Coarse sea salt for topping

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with tin foil.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cream of tartar and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together 3/4 of the milk combo and egg. In another small bowl, toss garlic, cilantro, and Gouda together.
3. Add the butter to the flour mixture and use your fingers to work the butter into the flour until the flour resembles coarse meal.  
4. Ad the garlic mixture and mix until well coated.  Create a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the milk and egg mixture all at once. Toss together with a fork, making sure that all of the flour bits are moistened by the buttermilk. Dump the biscuit dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly, just enough to bring the dough together.
5. Pat the dough until about 1 inch thick.  Cut the dough into 2 inch squares. Gather the dough scrapes, pat into a new circle and cut more squares. Repeat until all of the dough has been used.  (You can use a round biscuit cutter if you are fancy like that.)
6. Place the biscuits on the prepared baking sheets, brush the tops with buttermilk and sprinkle them with the sea salt. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown on top. If you have leftovers, store them in an airtight container at room temperature. You can eat them straight from there the next day, or reheat in a 350-degree oven until warmed through.

 COST: $4.89           COST PER SERVING (12): $0.41

*Yes, you might have seen these pictures before.  Like I said, I was sick.  I think it is a good excuse to recycle ;)


Monday, March 11, 2013

It's a love/hate relationship these days... (Sweet Potato Pizza)


Words that are on opposite ends of the spectrum.  Well, kind of.

I would say that love and apathy are on the opposite ends, in actuality.

But let's roll with this.  We hear it all the time. "I have a love/hate relationship with ______________." It might be a person, a situation, or in my case, a food.

Sweet Potato Pizza.  It's a love/hate thing, for sure.

Let's get the LOVE out there, first and foremost.

This might possibly be the best tasting pizza that has ever graced my kitchen.  Wait, might? Nah... IS.  This IS the best tasting pizza that has ever graced my kitchen.

The blend of garlic and sweet potatoes, combined with a Parmesan and fresh greens top... WOW.  And that Trader Joe's garlic herb pizza dough?  Um, HELLO.  This is vegetarian goodness that my super carnivorous husband asks for again and again.

So yes, we LOVE this pizza.

And for the HATE?

Well, that is primarily experiential.  The first three (three!) times I made it I looked at those vibrant oranges and greens, and I couldn't take pictures of it.  Darn sun that kept setting too early!  So I had to keep making it again.  And again.  And again.  Until finally I had enough light in the day to take pictures (hooray for Daylights Savings Time -- a food blogger's best friend).  But then my sweet potato was white when I peeled the skin away.  No vibrant orange for me.  Oh, the let down!  So you will just have to trust me that this is, indeed, a sweet potato pizza.

And the other bad thing?  Easy.  It goes away too fast when all I want to do is keep eating more... because really, I can't get enough.

I guess love wins.


  • 1 pack fresh pizza dough or make your own (I used Trader Joe's... $1.29)
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and thinly sliced                                                     
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 1 head garlic, peeled
  • 1 T olive oil + 2 T more
  • salt/pepper
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
  • 1 cup fresh greens (baby lettuce, arugula, etc.)
1.       Prepare pizza dough according to directions on package.  Mix sweet potato, onion, and garlic with 1 T. olive oil and a bit of salt/pepper in roasting pan.  Cook at 400*F for 10 minutes or until soft. 
2.      Spread dough out on pizza pan or baking tray.  Brush with remaining olive oil.  Spread cooked sweet potato mixture on top.  Top with cheese.  Bake for 13-15 min. at 400*F or until lightly golden brown.
3.      Remove pizza from oven and top with fresh greens.  Cut and serve.  ENJOY!

 COST: $5.24           COST PER SERVING (3): $1.75


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Peanut Butter Chocolate Crispies

Move over, marshmellows...  There's a new Rice Crispy treat in town!

That's right, peanut butter & chocolate.  Looks and feels like Rice Crispy treats, tastes like Lil' Debbie's Nutty Bars.  Heck yes.

What do you need?  Five ingredients: brown sugar, blue agave, puffed rice cereal, peanut butter, and chocolate.

I went all Trader Joe's on this one, as I should have.  They are the ones who supplied me with the recipe after all.  Just another reason to love them.  Which I do... a lot.  Make these and you will love them a little more, too.  And with raw brown sugar, blue agave, and natural peanut butter, this is quite a healthy rice crispy treat.

Sure doesn't taste that way ;)

Recipe from Trader Joe’s Crisp Rice Cereal

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup blue agave                                                       
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 7 cups crisp rice cereal
  • ½ cup chocolate chips            *Leave the chocolate chips out to make it vegan

1.      In sauce pan, mix brown sugar and agave.  Bring to an almost boil, stirring constantly, until brown sugar is melted.  Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter.
2.      In large mixing bowl, combine crisp rice cereal with brown sugar mixture.  Stir and add chocolate chips.
3.      Pour into greased 13x8 baking dish.  Press down with waxed paper.  Put in fridge for several hours to cool, or put into freezer for one hour. 

 COST: $5.89           COST PER SERVING (18): $0.33

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