Aug 312010
Two posts ago, I wrote about some amazingggg homemade pesto I made when I visited my home sweet home in Chicago.  I’ve been brainstorming a lot of things I could concoct using this delcious sauce.   Grilled chicken with pesto is a winner, a tomato mozzarella sandwich with pesto cannot fail, or there’s this simple potato salad that uses pesto instead of a mayonaisse based sauce.
This summer side is super simple.  Cube and boil some potatoes (don’t over cook like I did), and blanch some green beans.  In case you don’t know what blanch means, see here.
Then you make your homemade pesto.  Everyone has their own recipe, but I recommend the one I used a few weeks ago at home. 
Mix the cooked potatoes and green beans with some fresh halved cherry tomatoes and top with your pesto sauce.  The pesto I used here in the picture is NOT the same as the one i made at home.  This one was too thick.  The one I made at home was a much better consistency for dressing this potato salad.  If you find yours is too thick, thin out with some olive oil.
I also topped with some toasted pine nuts for flavor and texture.  This is the prefect side dish for a summer bbq.  And if you have leftover pesto, freeze it in ice cube trays so you can use it all winter!
Pesto Potato Salad:
  • Yukon gold potatoes, cubed and boiled
  • Green beans cut into 1 inch pieces and blanched
  • fresh cherry or heirloom tomatoes
  • homemade pesto (click here for my recipe) or store bought if you MUST.
Allow veggies to cool completely.  Mix it all together and you’re done! 
Aug 252010
Thanks to everyone for the Birthday wishes!  23 isn’t necessarily the most exciting age to achieve…no special privelages, no cards at hallmark that say, “you’re 23!”, just another year deep into adulthood.  Even better when this nothing birthday falls on a Tuesday, possibly the least exciting day of the week.  Luckily I have some great friends and family who helped make it not just another tuesday.  I know you’re not supposed to bake for yourself on your birthday…but I couldn’t help myself.

One of the amazing birthday gifts I got this year was a cuisinart ice cream maker.  I know i talked smack in my peach sorbet post about not needing an ice cream maker, but I was lying.  I decided for my first attempt I could go with basic tart pinkberry style yogurt.  All you do is strain greet yogurt, mix with some sugar and let it rip in the ice cream maker.  I also made a pie crust out of low fat graham crackers, oats, flax seed, brown sugar, apple sauce, and a tiny bit of butter.

The key to this birthday treat is all the beautiful fresh fruit that went on top.  You can use any that you like, but the more colors the better.

Decorate the pie and you’re ready to go.  Just as tasty as it is beautiful.  And the fro yo is homemade!!! Can’t wait for more adventures with my new ice cream maker.

Tart Frozen Yogurt


  • 32 oz greek plain frozen yogurt (2% will be a creamier fro yo but I guess fat free is ok too)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (less or more depending on how tart/sweet you like it.
  • 10 ghraham crackers
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1 tablespoon flax seed
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar (not packed)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons applesauce

1.  For the crust, gring the graham crackers in the food processor until finely ground.  Add the oats, flax seed, brown sugar and salt and pulse a few times to combine.  Add butter (cubed), apple sauce, and vanilla and pulse so the mixture becomes crumble.
2.  Press into a pie pan (I didn’t end up using all of the crust mixture because I think my pie pan is on the small side).  Bake in the oven at 350 for about 10 minutes.  Allow to cool completely.
3.  Before starting the fro yo process, make sure you ice cream maker bowl has been in the freezer for 24 hours and that you’ve strained the yogurt.  I did this by putting a strainer on top of an empty bowl, lining the strainer with paper towel and pouring the yogurt in.  Cover with paper towels.  This will draw all the liquid out so the yogurt is extra creamy.
4.  Mix strained yogurt with sugar and pour into your ice cream maker following the directions for your machine.  Should take about 25-30 minutes.
5.  Fill pie crust and put in freezer for about and hour so everything sets.  Top with fresh fruit and serve. 

Aug 202010
Since I only started eating fish a few years ago, I’ve been really trying to expand my horizons lately and embrace all our underwater friends.  I started with salmon, then progressed to halibut, tilapia, and seabass, and now have even graduated to scallops and raw tuna.  I really love em all.  But even with all those delicious options, I still keep coming back to old faithful–salmon.  

But the problem with falling back on an old favorite like chicken or salmon, is that you can get into a rutt recipe-wise.  I’ve tried out white wine salmon packets, a chili glazed salmon, and they were all great…but this salmon with an amazing avocado mango salsa gives those a run for their money.

You can prepare the salsa in advance by combining mango, onion, jalapeno, cilantro, and lime juice.  Then, less than an hour before serving add the avocado (not too early because it will brown).  

This side dish was the perfect compliment.  Quinoa (which I recently learned is pronounced keen-wah and not kin-oh-wa) cooked in vegetable broth, then added zucchini, sweet corn, black beans, spices, cilantro, and lime juice.  

I cooked the salmon very simply, a hit of lime juice, olive oil, and plenty of salt and pepper.  Heat oil in a pan (non stick is easier) and cook the salmon skin side up first without moving for about 4-5 minutes so the fish browns.  Then flip and cook the other side.   Transfer to a platter and top with the fresh salsa.   

Nutritional highlights:  Not all fat is bad.  Salmon and avocado have the kind of fat that you want to have in your diet.  The kind that keeps your heart healthy not the kind that clogs it up.  Mangoes have tons of antioxidants, Vitamins C and E.  The combination is not only really tasty, but incredible for you.

Quinoa is so hot right now.  It’s become so popular because it’s one of the few “grains” that’s really high in protein so if you don’t have any meat in the fridge, you can put together a balanced meal using quinoa.  

Salmon with Mango Avocado Salsa:
  • 1 ripe mango, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro 
  • 1 lime
  • 2 ripe avocados, chopped
  • 4 salmon filets

1.  Cut mango into cubes.  If you’ve never worked with a mango before, read this.  Add chopped jalapeno, onion, and cilantro.  Squeeze juice from half of a lime.  If you’re not serving for a while, don’t add the avocado quite yet.  Within an hour of servin, cube the avocados and gently mix in.  Season with salt and pepper.
2.  Squeeze other half of lime over salmon filets.  Drizzle olive oil and season generously with sea salt and pepper.
3.  Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large skillet.  Once hot, put salmon in skin side up first.  Don’t move fish for 4-5 minutes.  Flip fish and cook the other side. Check doneness by flaking thickest portion of fish with a fork.  I like mine pretty well done so I continued to cook until cooked through.  
4.  Top with mango avocado salsa and serve.

Black bean and corn quinoa from allrecipes


  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 3/4 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels (I used fresh because its so good at the farmers market right now)
  • 1 (15 ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Fresh lime juice
  • Additional veggies optional: zucchini, red pepper, mushrooms…whatever you like!


  1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the onion and garlic, and saute until lightly browned.
  2. Mix quinoa into the saucepan and cover with vegetable broth. Season with cumin, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes,
  3. Stir frozen corn (or fresh corn that’s already been boiled) into the saucepan, and continue to simmer about 5 minutes until heated through. Mix in the black beans and cilantro.  Squeeze in juice from half a lime and taste.  Add additional salt/pepper/lime as needed.  Must season enough so it doesn’t seem bland but once it is it’s SOOO good.

Aug 162010
Sorry for my absence this past week.  I had a very busy and stressful 4-day work-week and 3-day trip home to Chicago.  Well actually not busy or stressful at all.  But I thought saying that would make my lack of blogthusiasm these past few weeks seem better.  So here’s a tribute to what I was doing at home while I wasn’t blogging.

1.  You can call me Marissa Appleseed.  My freshman year of highschool (cough, 9 years ago) I did an extra credit project that involved planing a tree.  I chose an apple tree because I like apples.  It was a twig.  Now it is massive and has real apples which the deers and I enjoy eating.  See below.  Newlywed brother in law and sister in the far background.

2.  Tomato and tomAto are not the same.  Every year my mom grows tomatoes, and this years crop, product of a few wee plants from nature’s very own Costco, produced massive quantities of ridiculous tomatoes.  The taste doesn’t even resemble the stuff you buy in a grocery store.  I was going to attempt to bring some home but then I had a terrifying vision of tomatoe juice and seeds all over the clothes in my suitcase and I wisely changed my mind.

Instead, I decided to make brunch for my family.  I made an amazing frittata with mushrooms, tomatoes, spinach, and a mozzarella/fontina cheese combo.  My recipe:  Sautee chopped onion and mushrooms in some olive oil with one halved garlic clove to add a little flavor (to be removed later).  When just about done, add spinach and let it wilt.  Season with salt and pepper, remove garlic clove and set mixture asside to cool.  Once cool, add raw chopped tomatoes. and mix in 1/2 cup cheese (I used mozzarella and fontina).  Whisk 5 whole eggs with 5 egg whites and mix in with veggies/cheese. Pour into sprayed oven safe pan or cast iron skillet.  Bake at 350 for about 12-15 minutes or until almost set.  Switch oven to broil and sprinkle about 1/4 cup cheese on top so it gets brown and melty.  Broil for about 2-3 minutes and serve.

3.  Herb gardens are better when they’re NOT inside a 12th floor apartment window.  My mom’s thriving little pot has basil, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and parsley. 

Being the helpful daughter that I am, I decided to help my mom put them to use by making some homemade pesto.  Our recipe:  3 cups loosely packed basil leaves, 3 big garlic cloves, 1/2 cup parmesan, 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts, 3/4 cup olive oil, squeeze of one lemon wedge, pinch of red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper.  First grind the basil and garlic in the food processor.  Add the parm and nuts and slowly drizzle in the olive oil while the food processor is going.  Then season with salt,pepper and red pepper and hit with the lemon juice (my theory was that this would keep it bright in color and flavor).  Was so good that I kept “taste testing” it…aka, eating it plain with a spoon. 

Aug 102010
I don’t know who came up with the terms main course and side dish, but I think he was slightly confused.  “Main” implies that it will be the highlight of my plate, while “side” suggests that it will be a mere afterthought, there as a filler but not as a main attraction.  Think of Thanksgiving.  Not to offend the all mighty turkey, but what I really get excited for is the stuffing and the sweet potatoes.  Side dish making is an art and I think sometimes we don’t reach our full potential by steaming green beans or roasting potatoes.  So I decided to bring the side dish to center stage.   

This side dish isn’t just great because it’s called a torte which sounds très fancy.  It’s great because it has amazing flavors like parmesan, green onion, and fresh thyme.  

It’s also great because it utilizes summer squash which is overflowing in your farmers market right now.  The construction process is fun.  First you use a mandolin if you have one or a knife if you’re me to cut the squash and potatoes into thin slices.  

The layering process goes as so.  One layer of overlapping potatoes, One layer of overlapping squash, drizzle 1 tspn olive oil, sprinkle 1/3 cheese mixture.  Do it again.  Then one last layer of potato, another tspn of oil, then the rest of the cheese.  So recap, 3 total layers of potato, 2 of squash, 3 tspns oil, and 3 parts parmesan mixture.  Got it?

Bake it in the oven and let the kitchen fill up with amazing smells.  Mine was a little difficult to remove from the pan, but after a little finagling it came out in one piece.  Victory!

I served it with some yummy marinated chicken skewers and a salad with spinach, goat cheese, candied almonds, and sliced peaches.  Perfect summer meal if I do say so myself.  And I do.

Nutritional highlights:  Potatoes aren’t necessarily the healthiest “vegetable” but it’s still ok in moderation, especially when it’s thinned out with some healthy squash.  If you’re gonna eat carbs, I think something that came out of the ground is always better than refined bread or pasta.  Carbs fill you up and give you energy, so don’t hate on them.  Especially when they taste this good and look this cool.

Herbed Summer Squash and Potato Torte
Adapted from 
Bon Appetit and smittenkitchen (look at her pics, they’re way better than mine)

I halved the original recipe to make one pan as follows:
Makes 4 servings

1/2 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
3/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/8-inch-thick rounds
6 ounces yellow crookneck squash or regular yellow summer squash, cut into 1/8-inch-thick rounds
3 teaspoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray or butter two 8-inch-diameter cake pans. Set aside a handful of green onions. Toss remaining green onions, cheese, flour, thyme, salt and pepper in medium bowl to blend.

Layer 1/3 of potatoes in concentric circles in bottom of prepared pan, overlapping slightly. Layer 1/2 of squash in concentric circles atop potatoes. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon oil. Sprinkle with 1/3 of cheese mixture. Repeat with 1/3 of potatoes, then 1/2 of squash and 1 teaspoon oil. Sprinkle with 1/3 of cheese mixture. Top with 1/3 of potatoes. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon oil. Sprinkle with 1/3 of cheese mixture and press gently to flatten. 

Cover pan with foil. Bake until potatoes are almost tender, about 40 minutes. Remove foil; bake uncovered until tortes begin to brown and potatoes are tender, about 25 minutes longer. (Can be made 6 hours ahead. Cool. Cover with foil and chill. Rewarm, covered with foil, in 350°F oven until heated through, about 30 minutes.)
Cut each torte into wedges. Sprinkle wedges with green onions; serve.

Aug 062010
I think you can probably agree with me, in that in terms of healthy eating, snacking is often where we spiral down hill FAST.  Even if I plan to eat only the healthy meals I’ve packed to bring to work, around 3 pm my willpower starts to deplete and the voice coming from my coworkers candy drawer gets louder and more persistent.  Damn those talking candy drawers.  So instead of being unprepared and likely giving in to the abyss of vending machines and sugar comas,  I decided to bake some filling, delicious, and healthy granola bars that would still satisfy my afternoon sweet tooth.

I decided that this was going to be an afternoon pick-me-up granola bar rather than a breakfast granola bar, so I put in some mini dark chocolate chips, mashed banana, peanut butter, almonds, and oats of course.   I also threw in some wheat germ, flax seed, and sunflower seeds for extra protein.

The key to a good homemade granola bar is making sure you have enough “glue” for the dry ingredients.  My glue consisted of brown sugar, honey, mashed banana, and peanut butter.  Turned out to be just enough to hold the bars together but not too much that they were sticky/gooey.

Mix the glue with the dry ingredients and press them into a baking dish. Pop into the oven. 

Before cutting them, let them cool COMPLETELY.  I know you want to taste them.  You think it’ll be fine.  It won’t be.  You must let them set completely so they don’t crumble.  But if you do, the result is…

Nutritional highlights: Almonds, flax seed, wheat germ, oats, sunflower seeds, dark chocolate.  All buzz words in nutrition right now.  Even dark chocolate is ok in moderation and maybe even good for you.  I love whatever scientist discovered that little fact.  Even though these bars have some added sugar, every single ingredient is something you know and can read and even spell.  For example, ingredients in a store bought bar that I used to eat because it had tons of fiber.  Well check out what else it has.  General rule of thumb: the longer the list of ingredients and the longer the words in that ingredient list, the more you should AVOID.

Dark Chocolate Chip Granola Bars with PB and Banana

  • 1 2/3 cups rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup oat flour (or oats ground finely in food processor; or whole wheat flour if you’re lazy)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 ripe banana, mashed
  • 1/3 cup natural peanut or almond butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2-3 cups of nuts/fruits/chocolate:  I used 1/3 cup wheat germ, 1/3 cup flax seed meal, 1/3 cup raw sunflower seeds, 2/3 cup whole almonds, and 1/2 cup mini dark chocolate chips
1.  Preheat oven to 350.  Lightly grease pan…I used a little canola oil spread with a paper towel.
2.  Mix dry ingredients: oats, oat flour, salt, cinnamon, wheat germ, flax seed, sunflower seeds, almonds, and chocolate chips.
3.  In separate bowl, mix sugar, honey, mashed bananas, oil, nut butter, vanilla extract.   If it’s very thick, you can add 1 tablespoon of water.
4.  Mix wet ingredients in with dry and press into prepared pan.
5.  Bake for about 35 minutes and let cool completely before cutting.  Let me repeat, COMPLETELY.  Put in separate baggies and store in the fridge for an easy, amazingly tasty snack.  

Aug 032010
Summer is my favorite food season.  Oh, you didn’t know there were food seasons?  Well there are.  And as much as I love pomegranate and sweet potatoes in the fall, a hearty soup in the winter, and asparagus in the spring, nothing beats summer food in my mind.  Fresh corn, tomatoes, and basil, in particular, make many appearances in my summer menus.  This is a great summer meal with bbq feel without the bbq (although you can make it on one if you have that luxury).  And because every ones always looking for a perfect basic grilled chicken, here’s an amazing AND simple marinade and a great salad to go with.

Since the salad is a little more high maintenance of these 2 recipes, I put that together first.  Scratch that…make the marinade, throw the chicken in it, and then go to the salad.  I used baby heirloom tomatoes because they’re awesome.   

Then I cubed some fresh mozzarella, added to the tomatoes, and seasoned it with salt and pepper.  Cut a whole wheat baguette into 1 inch cubes, toss with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, and bake them in the oven for about 12 minutes with a shake half way through.  This is the “pan” in our panzanella.

But the real key to this caprese panzanella is the fresh basil vinaigrette which pulls in all the necessary flavors.  It’s easy to make other than the need for a food processor.  Toss together the crisp bread cubes, tomatoes, mozzarella and dressing right before serving.  Trust me…this is SO good. 

And the chicken.  While more subtle than the salad, also SO good.  I made it on my george forman grill this time but I’ve also grilled it outside before.  You’ll be shocked by how the marinade makes really flavorful, moist chicken which is usually mythical when it comes to grilled chicken.  When you’re looking for something simple to go with your more intricate side dishes,  sayyy caprese panzanella and sauteed corn, this chicken is my go to.

Nutritional Highlights:  These organic chicken breasts are a great source of protein and the marinade is very low in fat.  The panzanella is a very balanced side, with vitamins in the tomatoes, calcium and protein from the cheese, and whole grains from the bread.  Like a one stop shop when it comes to side dishes.  Plus, the basil vinaigrette makes everything so fresh and summery.  You could mix sweet corn into the salad too, but I served some on the side.  All these ingredients are fresh from the farmers market, meaning local, meaning just off the vine, meaning peak nutritional value.  This is why you should eat local.

Amazing Grilled Chicken Marinade:
Adapted from

  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar (I’ve also used white wine vinegar instead before)
  • 3 tablespoons whole grain mustard
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar (recipe called for 1/2 but I didn’t want it too sweet)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast halves
Directions: Mix all ingredients and pour in ziplock bag with chicken breasts.  Poke holes in chicken using a fork so marinade can penetrate.  Let sit in fridge for as at minimum 2 hours, but more is more here people.  Grill on outdoor or indoor grill and enjoy!!

Caprese Panzanella with Basil Vinaigrette

  • Small whole wheat baguette
  • Tomatoes, any kind you like, I used heirloom babies
  • Fresh Mozzarella
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 cup packed basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Champagne Vinegar
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper
  • Salt and Freshly ground black pepper

1.  Preheat oven to 350.  Cut baguette into 1 inch cubes and toss with about a tablespoon of olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper.  Spread onto foil lined baking sheet and bake for about 12 minutes, shaking pan half way until bread cubes are lightly browned and crunchy.
2.  Cut tomatoes in half (or smaller if you get full sized tomatoes) and combine with cubed fresh mozzarella (you can also buy the pre fab mini balls if you don’t want to have to cut it).  Season with salt and pepper.
3.  Prepare the Basil vinaigrette by combining last 6 ingredients in the food processor.  Blend until smooth.  Such a pretty green result.  
4.  Before serving, toss bread cubes with tomatoes, mozzarella, and dressing and serve!